Z definitely gets her eyes from her daddy. I could stare into their eyes for hours, watching as the color changes with their moods, the light in the room, the color of their clothing. Sometimes the dark brown center dominates, other times it is reduced to a small starburst at the center of a green sea.

Her feet look like her Nana's. Petite and pretty with a high arch. Nothing like my grizzled, flattened feet, large and ungraceful even before they were damaged by years of dancing.

Her lips look like mine when I was her age, I think. Before the charming new above-the-lip wrinkles appeared. (W. T. F.?)

She's got her Daddy's beautiful wavy hair. I love to watch them both get curlier before my eyes as the humidity rises.

She definitely has the long torso/short arm thing that runs in my family for which I have already started apologizing. I'm sorry, sweetheart, but most clothing isn't made with us in mind. Waists on dresses are always too high, sleeves will be perpetually rolled up, midriffs are often unwittingly exposed.

These are the obvious inheritances. The fun ones.

Before Z's birth, we would conjure her up in our minds, piece by piece, as if we could pick and chose from a menu of our combined genetic material. We always focused on the good stuff.

She'll have your eyes-

No, YOUR eyes!

-and your mom's skin.

My dad's laugh!

Maybe your cousin's hair?

We were imagining, hoping, seeing only some of the possibilities.

I am now haunted by the not so positive possibilities. After a summer of loss, I can't help but look at our girls a little differently: what genetic curses might be lurking inside them? Our combined genetic pool now looks murky and terrifying, with sharks lying in wait. Will something grow and metastasize slowly like what killed their great grandmother? Or will something unexpectedly burst like what killed their grandfather? Will the same shark that took down my cousin emerge someday in their waters?

As I lie awake at night wondering what pieces of genetic code might prevail to bring our girls hardship, pain, and illness, I sometimes feel guilty for having had them in the first place. We brought them into this world knowing all the terrible things that could befall them. This responsibility takes my breath away. So, in the dark, clutching my pillow, I try to train myself to think like a Buddhist: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The curse of being human is our inherent imperfection, our inescapable mortality. Much as I wish to in the early morning hours, there is little I can do to change the known and unknown genetic traits we have bestowed upon our girls. I can only try to guide them through their own blessed, imperfect life.

If I really could take back Z's long torso, would I?

If I could have known what exact form their inevitable pain will take, would I have chosen not to have had children? (Anyone care to help me rewrite that sentence? After 347 rewrites, I fear it is beyond hope.)

I look forward to discovering whether E's fingers will resemble my Grandma's once they leave their chubby sausage stage and whose voice hers will echo and whether she will escape the plague of the long torso. And I pray for the strength to accept our girls' every other inheritance, too.


Sarah said...

I always feel bad that Addy has so clearly inherited my tendency towards OCD like behavior. She cries when people mess up her perfectly made bed or her lines of perfectly matched shoe pairs, and I remember doing the exact same things at the exact same age.
But I feel overall that this life offers a lot of gifts and joy, at least for the vast majority of people, so I still feel that in general I have done a good thing by bringing my kids into this world.
Provided it doesn't all go to hell in a handbasket soon due to pollution and global warming and terrorism and chemical byproducts, of course...

GratefulTwinMom said...

This is so beautifully written. Even the sentence that you rewrote 337 times hahahaha. It captures the essence of what you are feeling for sure.

I see so many of my weaknesses in T1 as he struggles with expressing himself and then having an overly sensitive reaction. I don't see any of myself in T2 and I worry that her personality, emerging directly from her genetic make up, will cause her to be misunderstood by her peers all her life.

I love your Buddist response. Acceptance is the answer. Willingness is the key to change when acceptance is unacceptable.

Again, so sorry for your losses this year.

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