Family – The Magic and the Burden

See Through Each Other, But See Each Other Through

The Magic of Family is that they are an open book, are not really ever much of a surprise, but because we are Family the way we help each other is magnificently manifest only in Family’s special way.

Family is born to us; we are born to family.  We gather loved ones to us and make them family.  Family gets thrust upon us, like in-laws, or curiously placed at our feet like children of divorce and remarriage, and yet, somehow because we call it Family, and we make it so, a kind of Unity of Purpose makes us all synergistically better than we were before.


Broken Bones, Flowers and Wounded Ones

Family can be an incredible burden.  Individuals can sometimes stick out like a broken bone that has pierced the flesh.  And yet, because we hunker down, pay attention to the “aching one”, somehow it redounds not only to the helped, but the helper, and the rest of the closely associated ones.

When a little flower of family has grown up and about to go into a new phase, it is family that is there to honor and bring note to the singular soul trying to face life and its challenge.

When a wounded one, broke and wasted and about to become a statistic is pulled up by family and succored in the warm embrace of comfort from one or two or more, the family knows that its healing white cells will surround the one and bring it back to wholeness and vitality.  And family knows that this takes time.  Somehow Family tolerates.  Family puts up with the noise of Expanding Self and also realizes that there will probably “lots of Thanksgivings like that!”  After all isn’t that what family is for?  To know the cards we are all going to play, and happily sitting down to play cards.  Why, because it has its own joy, its own fun, and…it’s family!


Yes, family meets at funerals and weddings and baptisms and graduations, but family also notes through multi modes of connections private victories, joyous promotions, raises unexpected and just cozy fun reminiscences of defeats that were not total, delays that built patience, hindrances that ultimately had meaning.  Family explores all of those.  The rhyming, the sense, the clarity and the humorous wonder — family explores all of that with each other.

And so, because we DO see through each other, we CAN help each other through.

Yes, you are going to tell a story a hundred times in your life.  Only family lets you do that!  Yes, you are going to come to a “new outstanding epiphany” – you know, the one you came to last year, that was unique and outstanding and never before understood, which also happened about 5 years before the one from last year.

Families’ Joys and Tolerances

And yes, family tells each other we “look like we have lost weight” and we “look well” and are somehow “wiser and more clever” than we used to be, and truly, just more “happy looking” than we ever have before.  Thank God for Family that it weaves illusions, happy and frivolous ones, delicate silken flowing sheer drapes that color the daily ways and the redundant ways life comes around at us.   And because of the flavors and aromas of special family ambience we can gather in the smells of the essential oils of family that make the ultra ordinary a little more special, serene and deeply satisfying.

We can sometimes feel that family makes things more humdrum, more predictable, less interesting and completely unfascinating, but alas family doesn’t make life that way, LIFE can get that way.  It is just that family puts a little bow on the package with a little note that says:  “Hi, we love you”, and you know what?  If you were completely alone, (it’s easy to think that you and your utter singularity) you might pose that things would be much more interesting.  But really, it’s much more like taking a cotton to “our particular kind of boredom”.


It’s like family takes your “REMOTE” away from you.  It’s one of those days.  The kids have the remote and you decide:  “Because its family you will allow yourself to be bored and let the tedium take over”.

And then, like as not, you get swept up in some silly conversation that makes you laugh, and some nutty comment makes everyone say “Euwwww”.  And you realize that family has made you just a little drunk with its own kind of admixture.  No, it’s not your usual beer, but a glowing little blonde green-eyed kid comes up and sits in your lap and draws magic marker all over your face.  Then you decide:  “It aint my beer, but it’s a sweet liqueur”.

And, since the world really doesn’t care about you, family is there to be a weather vane.  Are you getting “agoraphobic”, are you becoming too “irritable”; do you care at all about the rest of the human race?   Family will tell you in its own tiny little ways from all the lights that flash in their multi-colored ways at your ship of state as it courses through the waters.  Or are you just a puttering little tug boat?

The Trending Machine

Family is the ultimate TRENDING machine.  All of its members with all of their ages, and all of their particular little worlds, which in fact make up the BIG world, tell you how you are going over.   Try your notions on family.  See what you get.  Like as not big disapproval from the noisy types, kind silence from the ones who think you are actually really nuts, positive pats on your pointy head from those that know you need help, reinforcement, love or just “little criticism”.


But taking the “lack of respect” that we all get.  Think about the hot and cold running animosity that sits in the hearts of men and women.  And besides that don’t forget about jealousy.  Don’t you think Family can be full of jealousy?   And yes, envy?  And yes permanent deafness?

And then there’s that old “I know what you are going to say, don’t think I think you’re so smart!”

There is “Core Family” – Those that you see and talk to on a regular basis, and “Larger Family” – Family that you touch and touch you at ordinary and happy moments, and “Extended Family” – all that surround the relations and act like the little hurricane around us.

A Prophet is Not Without Honor Except in His Own Country

No, Jesus did not get respect in his home town, but if they grew up with him, even if he did “good works”, there was this gravitational pull of “hometownness”.  And perhaps this is the curse of family.  The statement that issues from Family is often like a genetic disorder.  It says:  Don’t go out and try to do TOO much different.  It upsets the family order.  This is when the Family Order is actually the Disorder.


It is only the best of family that wants someone to write a novel, or get an award, or leave town and make lots of money, seek fame and “make a name for oneself”.  All of those things that we all know about.  Some families have members that do not fall prey to this disorder.   However, most families have many members who give way to the super gravitational effect of ordinariness.   Family in a sense represents “generational continuity”, and sometimes Family is not up to the INDIVIDUAL breaking free from the “family identity”.  When this happens, either the family adjusts and blesses the search for greatness or individuality, or it sits back in the sofa and fights over the Remote and makes mumbling comments about the new novel, or the emptiness of the new degree, or the hollowness of the search for fame.

“If Jesus Can Handle It, You Can!”

The only way to conclude the negative aspect of the family discussion is to observe that if “Jesus could handle it, you can.”  You can’t get rid of family when they disappoint you.  Remember the continuity that family represents is there because it “represents” the ordinary individual and provides a safety zone against too much achievement.  Why?  Because family guards against its own dissolution.  Unconsciously of course, but still it is there.

One of the blessed aspects of family is that generally it is still there when you come back from New York, or Hollywood.  I don’t mean literally, but in some cases I do.


When you break your leg, lose your job, lose your hope, fail at your second novel, decide to change your life, or just get real tired of being an “outstanding individual”, family is there to invite you to Thanksgiving and fight for the remote.    And when you need to lick your wounds, have a place to sleep, hide from creditors, get a loan, start a job search or just plain stay alive; family is there.

Yes, in predictable ordinariness we can “see through each other”, but then in helping when we are desperate, we do “see each other through”.

dna project

DNA – I Meet 50 Relatives through a Saliva Swab

Honestly, I did not “DNA Meet 50 Grandparents”, but that is the shortest way to declare that I met the most surprising relatives in a new DNA search.

All of my life I have said, “Oh, I’m Irish and Northern European.”  Well, yes, those are in there, but here’s the shocker.  They are numbers 12 and 15 in emphasis.  You won’t believe Numbers 1 and 2 and 3.


The Study of the Human Genome – The Amazing Project

Within a span of only 13 years, an amalgam of public and private researchers was able to successfully complete the Human Genome Project. Although these scientists used a number of different methods in their work, they nonetheless obtained the same results. In doing so, the researchers not only silenced their critics, but they also beat their own estimated project timeline by two entire years. Perhaps even more importantly, these scientists inspired an ongoing revolution in our fight against human disease and provided a new vision of the future of medicine-although that future has yet to be fully realized.

The HGP was a 13-year-long, publicly funded project initiated in 1990 with the objective of determining the DNA sequence of the entire euchromatic human genome within 15 years. In its early days, the Human Genome Project was met with skepticism by many people, including scientists and nonscientists alike. One prominent question was whether the huge cost of the project would outweigh the potential benefits. Today, however, the overwhelming success of the Human Genome Project is readily apparent. Not only did the completion of this project usher in new era in medicine, but it also led to significant advances in the types of technology used to sequence DNA.


Initial Principles and Goals of the Human Genome Project

From its inception, the Human Genome Project revolved around two key principles (International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, 2001). First, it welcomed collaborators from any nation in an effort to move beyond borders, to establish an all-inclusive effort aimed at understanding our shared molecular heritage, and to benefit from diverse approaches. The group of publicly funded researchers that eventually assembled was known as International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (IHGSC). Second, this project required that all human genome sequence information be freely and publicly available within 24 hours of its assembly. This founding principle ensured unrestricted access for scientists in academia and in industry, and it provided the means for rapid and novel discoveries by researchers of all types. At any given time, approximately 200 labs in the United States were funded.     In addition, more than 18 different countries from across the globe had contributed to the Human Genome Project by the time of its completion.


What is the 16-marker Genetic Profile and how is it Derived?

The technicians identify the allele pair values at 16 of an individual’s autosomal DNA loci. The 16 allele pair values make up the genetic profile.  Allele pairs are the genes inherited from each parent`s chromosomes; their values are your variations of inheritance.

DNA loci are simply ‘genetic addresses’ pinpointing the alleles’ location on a given chromosome. The FBI initially selected 13 of these 16 loci to be the core ‘markers’ of its widely adopted criminal justice database CODIS (Combined DNA Identification System), partly due to their very low rate of mutation from parent to progeny. The same system is employed in paternity testing, relationship testing and criminal justice, including emigration validation.

AutosomalDNA locienable both female and male clients to be tested for all ancestral lineages. (Earlier mitochondrial / Y-chromosome methods could only test for extreme matrilineal or patrilineal ancestry, and Y-chromosome methods only work for males.)


Back to my 10 Top Grandparents

Of course, as you can see the technology of this can be embraced in volumes and volumes and volumes, so I will put this to rest, only to encourage you to do your own study if you are interested.  Back to what to ME, is a fascinating story, and why you should pursue this if you have any interest at all.

It turns out I am first of all, mostly BASQUE!

How did that happen?   This may be the most unique family tribe on the planet.  They have a language that does not relate to any other.  They are filled with RH negative, which makes it difficult in child birth and pregnancy.  They come from “the Atlantic”.  What I mean is, NO ONE KNOWS.  They have been in the Pyrenees Mountains for “aeons”.  They have a distinctive physical appearance.  Again, I could go on and on, but how did I become BASQUE?  Let me pause here to say that this is Number 1, and therefore fascinating to me.  Everyone gets their top 50.  The list of 10 is below.

At any rate, I immediately Googled and found the Basques had emigrated to Nevada, Montana, Wyoming because they were sheepherders.  BUT, they were also WHALERS.  Turns out my people, when they were done whaling and the era itself was over, just stayed in Northeastern Canada.  So along come my father’s side of the family of Scots and Irish heritage and for 7 generations they intermarry with the residents.  Out comes a preponderance of Basque DNA in both my father’s father’s side and my father’s father’s mother’s side, etc, etc.  from the 1770s to the present day when my father’s father emigrated to Boston, along with many other of my father’s family who also came to Boston during that time.


Surprise to me, I am heavily Iberian and Italian.  I have a Brazilian Indigenous Grandparent, probably from Florida, lots of Italian, an Iraqi and a BERBER.  They were the Semitic settlers who stormed across North Africa, in the day.  Deeper in my 50 there is also Gypsy, South Asian and Southern India.

1. Iberian Peninsula – Basque Basque European
2. Spanish – Andalusian Andalusian Spanish European
3. Iraqi Iranic Middle Eastern
4. South African – European – Capetown Dutch European
5. Italian Italian European
6. Algerian Mozabites Berber Middle Eastern
7. Egyptian Arab – Cairo Egyptian Middle Eastern
8. Spanish – Cantabria Northern Spanish European
9. Spanish Spanish European
10. Brazilian – Non-Black – Florida Brazilian South American
11. Italian – Tuscany Italian European
12. Italian – Piedmont Italian European

I write this not because I am interesting.   I write it to stimulate interest in your own profile.  And I also write this because an amazing thing has happened.

Affectionately Visualizing My South Indian, Vietnamese, Indigenous Brazilian, Andalusian and Gypsy parentage

I have begun to affectionately visualize these “grandparents”.  I embrace them.  A favorite stentorian old timey preacher in my past used to talk about the “Empirical Self”.  Lots of people think and discuss the “empirical self”, but William James was a pioneer. “We see then that we are dealing with a fluctuating material. The same object being sometimes treated as a part of me, at other times as simply mine, and then again as if I had nothing to do with it at all. In its widest possible sense, however, a man’s Self is the sum total of all that he CANcall his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank-account. All these things give him the same emotions. If they wax and prosper, he feels triumphant; if they dwindle and die away, he feels cast down, – not necessarily in the same degree for each  thing, but in much the same way for all.”

My sense of “who I am” has been broadened by this experience.  You can call it a game or an extremely vivid personal experience, but I have stopped thinking of my physical self as from my four or eight or sixteen grandparents.  I know see my physical “walking around self” as a marvelous concoction of human interplay, in the most basic way.

When I saw an Iranian on TV recently, I said, “hey Cuz!”

When I saw a burly massive chested, thick armed Basque on “Longmire” on A&E TV tussling in the mountains of Wyoming, I really said:  “Hey Cuz”.  I am going to go look them up, since I live in Colorado.

This “Hey Cuz” thing may wane, but at this moment it has greatly impacted me.  And this topic, I could also go on and on about.

I am this wonderful Genetic Soup.  We are all the wonderful Genetic Soup, and the more we feel and become cognizant of this idea, (again, in our own special way, with our own special “gumbo”, “goulash” or whatever you want to call it), it comes out tasting GREAT!

I am reminded of a commercial in the 70’s:  “Try it, you’ll like it”.  You won’t need Alka Seltzer after consuming; it will make you feel good.