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Filtering by Tag: genetics

I DON'T EVEN PLAY ONE ON TV

Cindy Maddera

I had this actual conversation with my brother over the weekend:

Randy: "Do you have access to liquid nitrogen where you work?"

Me: "Yeah, but I'm not sure I have a liquid nitrogen container. Why do you need it?"

Randy: "I have this mole on my face I need to burn off. Maybe I could just come up there the next time we visit and you can burn it off for me."

Me: "or you could go see someone who knows what they're doing...like...I don't know...A DOCTOR!"

Here I was thinking that my brother wanted some liquid nitrogen for some cool project he was working on. When I found out he wanted it for self mutilation purposes, I started laughing. It was so completely a Dad thing for him to say. Our Dad was constantly asking me for medical advice. He'd say something like "Hey Cindy, I've got this thing on my elbow. What do you think it is?" I would look at it and say "a dangerous mole you should have the doctor look at." Then Dad would say "oh...no...maybe there's something you have at work that you could put on it." To which I would respond "Dad, I'm not a doctor." My Masters in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics was the equivalent to Medical Doctor according to my Dad. It was one of those things Dad did that made me simultaneously laugh and roll my eyes. 

I was walking down the hallway recently when Grief walked up and punched me hard in the gut. The air rushed out of me as I crumpled to the floor, gasping for air and trying not to throw up. I thought "Grief, you fucking asshole bully, when are you going to leave me alone?!" Then I remembered that Grief is not a bully, but a chronic illness. The holidays are not easy. Chris and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in the first house we'd just signed papers on. The next day he turned yellow and it was all down hill from there. Oklahoma Thanksgivings after that are scarred by the memories of the times when driving to Oklahoma became an all weekend affair. The car ride did not end once I had made it to my parents' home. That was just a pit stop before heading even further south only to spend half an hour or so with Dad before turning around and heading back. The Thanksgiving before Dad died was the last time I visited him where he was still Dad. He still had his sense of humor. He still knew who I was. I didn't have to remind him that Chris was gone. I didn't have to remind myself that Chris was gone. It's like Thanksgiving has become that last barely decent holiday before everything falls to shit. 

I remember how Dad would call just about every thirty minutes whenever Chris and I were driving from OKC to Tulsa and ask us "Where are you? How much longer until you get here?" It would drive us crazy. He was our phone version of the kid in the back seat saying "are we there yet?" every five minutes, but then we'd reach a point where we'd just start laughing about it. Dad could just be so ridiculous. My brother has started to resemble our Dad more and more. Not so much physically as in behaviorally. I noticed it the last time we were all together at their cabin near Branson. We were all sitting around outside, reading or playing games on our phones, except Randy. He was up and futzing around the camp trailer adjusting this or that. It was something our Dad would do. Whenever we were camping, Dad was always futzing with the camper or messing with the grill or making trout lines. I guess I do this too at times. Our lack of stillness is genetic.

Randy thinks we're teasing him when we call him Bud (my Dad's nickname), but what he doesn't know is that when we say that he's being so much like Dad, we mean it in a good way. Or at least I do. He's taken on those things that Dad would do that makes me laugh and roll my eyes all at the same time. It keeps Dad's memory alive. When Randy does a typical Dad thing, it makes me smile and laugh more at the memory than at Randy. I need those memories. I need to be reminded of Dad's goofball sense of humor and of the things he'd say and do that would make me roll my eyes.

THE COLUMBIAN PEANUT

Cindy Maddera

We found a used ticket to Columbia and an old wrinkled map. The three of us: me, Randy and Janell. We were confused by our find. "When did Dad go to Columbia?" "Why would Dad go to Columbia?" None of us ever remember Dad traveling further south than Tijuana Mexico. We decided to go to Columbia and retrace Dad's steps and figure out why he had been in Columbia. The wrinkled map had a couple of towns circled and some lines drawn from here to there, which gave us a start. We flew to Columbia and then rode on a crowded bus through the jungles and up into the mountains. We came to a place where they had carved benches into the side of the mountain and there was a narrow twisty road running down the side. The nearby villagers would all gather on this mountain on Sundays after church to watch car races down the side of the mountain. It was crazy dangerous and slightly illegal, but officials can be bribed. We walked through the crowd, showing people Dad's picture and asking "Have you seen this man? Do you recognize this man?" There were many head shakes and down cast eyes. People were suspicious. Finally we showed Dad's picture to one man and he said "Peanuts! Get your fresh Peanuts!" Dad had gone to Columbia to sell peanuts.

This was the dream I had the other night, a few days after receiving the results of the blood work I had done recently. I have high cholesterol. Yup. You read that right. I have borderline high cholesterol. Ever since I got the news, I've been looking at everything I eat with suspicion. Veggie burger. Zero cholesterol. Slice of cheese that I put on that veggie burger. 30 mg. The USDA recommends consuming no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. Last night Micheal looked at every label in the fridge. "This block of cheese? You can eat this whole block of cheese. You could also eat most of this jar of mayo and three packages of this goat cheese." We both figured that I maybe eat 300 mg a week. Maybe. I sent a text to Katrina telling her that she needed to make Randy go to the doctor and then I sent a text to Janell telling her to get her cholesterol checked. I did this for a few reasons. First there have been several studies linking high cholesterol to Aß-amyloids. Aß-amyloids are the peptides that show up in plaque formations on the brain in Alzheimer's patients. Secondly, I am obviously living proof that you can't change genetics. It's quite possible Dad's high cholesterol had little to do with his frequent consumption of chicken fried steak.

When I sent out that first text to Katrina, I felt I was sending out a call to action of sorts. "Here ye! Here ye! All of those children born of the Peanut Man! You must be tested immediately for high cholesterol!" Fine. Then what? Well..for me it means fish oil. My doctor wants me taking two fish oil pills a day. Then, in three months, we test again. If the fish oil doesn't do the trick, he said something about a generic cholesterol fighting drug that isn't as bad as some of the other statin drugs we all hear about.  I'm not too thrilled about that happening. I'm too young to be on statin drugs and it's a pill that I'd have to take every day. I already do that with my birth control pill. One should be enough. Part of me feels a little gypped. We've always been told that everything would be fine as long as you eat a healthy diet and get some exercise.  Not necessarily all lies. I suppose I could have actual high cholesterol as opposed to borderline high cholesterol. It's also one of those pull your head out the sand moments, when you realize that you can't ignore things just because you're doing all of the so called right stuff. Frequent check ups and tests are important for more than just babies. 

I'll swallow the pills because I'm just not changing my diet. I guess I could take out that tablespoon of cheese I eat once a week, but some times that tablespoon of cheese it the only thing that's keeping me from stabbing someone. Further change to my diet would just be sad and ridiculously restrictive. I'll swallow the pills because I may have Dad's high cholesterol but maybe I don't have to have his brain disease. 

THE GENETICS OF HANDWRITING

Cindy Maddera

As I filled a garbage bag of leftover bits and pieces in the attic, I came across a bin of papers. From the top it looked like trash. Mice had eaten away at things and most of the papers were so old they crumbled when touched. But I stopped and took a moment to go through the box. I pulled out a crumbling photo album, Janell's very first baby picture and few other things. I realized then that it was time to take a break and go through this container with a little more care. I carried it downstairs so we could all go through it at the dinning room table. 

Mixed in with the garbage and the pictures, I pulled out a few letters. One of the letters was the very last letter that Memaw sent to Mom. It arrived after Memaw had passed away. My mother has never read the letter. She said it was just something she couldn't ever bring herself to do, so I took it. It was opened and had been read by someone at some time. The first thing I noticed about the letter was the handwriting. It's the same handwriting as Mom's. If I didn't know better, if all I had was the letter and not the envelope it came in with Effie McCool in the top left corner, I would think this was a letter from Mom. Except it's not. 

It's a letter from a woman I never knew telling a simple tale of daily life and the current happenings of Louisville MS in November of 1977. They'd all had colds, but were better now. A new Wal-Mart store and a new Piggly Wiggly had just opened. Memaw and Pepaw had spent a day cleaning up the Tucker family grave sites at Mars Hill Church. So and so had a new baby boy and some couple had separated. Memaw wanted to know if we were planning on visiting at Thanksgiving, but then wrote something about having already mostly finished this letter after talking on the phone with Mom about that very thing. At the end she tells my Mom "be good and hugs to all. We love you, Mother". I love that she's still telling my thirty something year old mom to "be good". 

I never knew Memaw. I was one (going on two) when this letter was written and she passed away. I've heard all of the stories from cousins and my brother and even Mom about how wonderful she was. They speak of her as if she were Mother Teresa. She was the grandma that you baked cookies with. She probably was the type that could have brushed my hair without me throwing a fit. I'm sure I would have sat for hours in her lap. Instead I got her wedding rings, her china and now her letter. I inherited her ability to make the perfect pie crust. And, if I take my time and don't rush the words, I notice that I have also inherited her handwriting.