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April 23, 2013 7:12 am

The Amend Corner: Heredity

Written by Don Amend

With the assistance of digital cameras, our house has turned into sort of a photographic museum.

Recently, for want of something to do, I looked around at the photographs that occupy the various bookcases, walls and other surfaces in the family room, the largest room in our house, and counted them. It’s a ridiculously high total covering a variety of subjects, but by far the largest group, 30 pictures, is made up of shots featuring one or more of our four grandchildren.

In addition, as I type this on my laptop, I can look across at our desk computer, where the screen saver features an ever-changing mosaic of grandkid pictures, most of them taken by my wife last summer.

As a result, since I spend most of my waking hours in the family room, I have ample time to study the kids, looking for the family traits handed down to them.

None of them look like me — which is probably a good thing. In fact, except for Mattea, my daughter’s girl, who looks a lot like her dad’s sister, it’s a little hard for me to say that any of them look like either of their parents or grandparents. But Mattea and my son’s kids, Linnaea and Cormac, both have dimpled cheeks like one of my brothers does, and Linnaea sports a head of red hair, no doubt passed down from my mother through me. Otherwise, I don’t see much in the way of family resemblance, although my wife and kids might disagree.

But facial features are only part of the story. A few months ago, as I was sorting through pictures Karen took last summer, for example, I found one of Cormac walking down a sidewalk on his way from one part of the playground to another, his hands stuffed in his pockets. The memory of my father immediately popped into my head. The posture, the hands in pockets and the tilt of his head all were just as I remember my dad’s walk. Cormac doesn’t know how to whistle yet, but if he had been, it would have been even more like his great-grandpa. As it is, he has a habit of singing to himself while he plays at putting a puzzle together or moves dirt in the back yard, a habit he shares with me.

His sister Linnaea also reminds me of my dad. For one thing, her nose is quite often in a book, and when it is, that book has her full attention. She becomes oblivious to what’s going on around her. She also has my father’s habit of playing with words. After learning the meaning of the word “carnivore” when she was about 3, for example, she announced while eating corn on the cob at dinner that she was a “cornivore.”

While at our daughter’s house recently, I found it interesting when her son Arun asked her to fix the sleeves of his shirt. What he wanted was for her to roll the sleeves up away from his hands, and my daughter Erica said that’s the way he wants to wear his sleeves. Well, I can relate to that. I’ve rolled my sleeves in similar fashion ever since junior high. I’m not sure why I do it, but I’ve never coached Arun on how to fix his sleeves, so maybe it’s just a bit of shared DNA.

Arun displays a couple of other traits that remind me of my family as well. He takes his creative efforts very seriously. Given crayons and a picture to color, he gives it his full attention, and when he’s done, he wants to hang it on the wall. It’s not quite art yet, but his approach reminds me of one of my brothers, who taught art and is now a working artist.

Arun and Mattea also have a habit of bursting into song without warning, usually at the top of their voices. Recently Arun delivered a robust performance of the Alphabet Song as the family was leaving a restaurant, drawing applause from other diners. Such behavior was not uncommon around our house when I was growing up, and I remember our son belting out “Wait for the Wagon” during a stop at a Dairy Queen when he was about the same age as Arun.

Well, I’m not sure there’s much validity to my grandpa thoughts about my descendants. While the red hair certainly has a genetic cause, and maybe the dimples do, too, attributing the rolled-up sleeves and loud singing might be stretching it. But, what the heck. I’m their grandpa, so I’m entitled to take credit for the cute things they do, and certainly for the creative, intelligent things they do. And I expect to be studying these pictures some more, so I’ll probably find some more traits to take credit for in the future.

My genetic study also has given me an objective: teach Cormac — and the other three, too — how to whistle like their great-grandpa.

Gotta carry on that family tradition, even if it isn’t genetic.

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