Whose Day is It?

I wonder if, when a guy has genetic testing done, whether for scientific, legal, or genealogical reasons, does he have only the Y Chromosome test done? That was the case in 2007, when a first cousin in my birth (biological) family suggested that he and I have a test done together. I think, in part, he wanted to be able to say to the rest of the family, “See, I told you we were related.” (We are – 100% – and I will always be grateful to you, Matt, for having done that. I regret I can no longer thank you in person.)

The Y Chromosome is passed down through the male line of descent. In order to track the DNA heritage of your mother’s side of the family, you have to have a Mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA) test done. I haven’t had MtDNA testing done, but have been looking into it. It would be interesting to see in what ways it aligns, and in what ways it differs from the Y Chromosome test my cousin Matt and I did a few years ago.

There are, however, things and inheritances that a DNA test cannot measure.

I’ve had two mothers in my life. Ruth brought me into this world. Dorothy brought me up in the world – her world, that is.

Dorothy fed and clothed me, bought me shoes and took me to the dentist. She and my adoptive father Harold and I went on family vacations (mostly to Estes Park, Colorado). She was my Cub Scout den mother, until I was asked to leave the Cub Scouts, for reasons unknown; unknown to me, anyway. She went to PTA meetings, and she sent me to military school for a year when I was nine. She and Harold paid for my college education, until I ran off and joined the Army in 1968. She reminded me several times over the years that she was the one who’d raised me and stayed up late at night when I was sick; not that woman who gave me up.

Ruth gave birth to me, and then relinquished custody to an adoption agency in Dallas. She had a three year old son back in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His father had been killed in World War Two. My father married somebody else after Ruth became pregnant, and moved to Miami.

I’ve never tried to quantify all this. Monetize it, as the current phrase goes. In a way, that’s what Dorothy was trying to do, by reminding me who had done all the heavy lifting of raising me; placing one level of value on what she did, and another, inferior level of value on what Ruth did.

I have to wonder, though, which of them paid a heavier price? For whom was it a greater burden? The mother who carried me for nine months, and then felt she had no choice but to give me up for adoption? Or the mother who did all that work for all those years, but who nevertheless seemed dissatisfied with the results?

DNA tests can’t answer those questions. There’s no metric, no control group; no scientific data that can be marshaled and formed up into an answer.

My love of words and books came from Ruth. She had two degrees and was a professional college librarian for most of her working life, save a period in the 1970’s, when she worked for John Wiley & Sons in New York City. When I met her in 1994, she had over 3,000 books in her apartment in Allentown, all neatly arranged on wooden shelves. Of course, I’ll never know what my life might’ve been like, had Ruth kept me, and raised me herself.

Growing up with Dorothy, I was able to spend time in the country, both in the farmland near Dallas where she grew up in the first quarter of the last century, and in the mountains of Colorado. I had a certain amount of freedom as a child that I might not have had if I’d grown up in Allentown. That freedom was rather overshadowed by Dorothy’s need for control, though, which is part of why I went off and joined the Army.

There’s no scale anywhere on which all of this can be weighed, Dorothy’s protestations notwithstanding. I had two mothers, and I’m thankful for the good, positive parts of me that I inherited from each of them – the gifts I received. Gifts can be both good and bad, and the less pleasant gifts I just try to deal with, the same as anyone who has only one mother. Am I a little more thankful for one of them than the other? I am, because one set of gifts helps balance the other set.

So, on this Mother’s Day of 2015, I give thanks for both of my mothers.

Thank you, Dorothy, for introducing me to collard greens with pepper sauce, and sweet potatoes, and corn bread. Thank you for piquing my interest in the natural world. Thank you for keeping all of the letters I wrote home from Viet Nam in 1969 and 1970.

Thank you, Ruth, for giving me life, and thank you for passing down to me your love of words and architecture, and your inquisitive mind. Thank you for agreeing to meet me, for the first time, in March, 1994.

Thank you both, and Happy Mother’s Day.

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2 Responses to Whose Day is It?

  1. I only knew one of your Mothers, but I know that she loved you so very much, even if she had a hard way of showing it. In hindsight, I think she was always frightened that you wouldn’t love her when you were grown and leave her alone in her old age. Her control “coin” was always tied to what she knew she had the most, and that was money. She tried to buy love when all she had to do is recognize it.

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