Imprinted

Imprinted

Herb June 21, 2020

The whole Nurture Vs Nature argument boils down to be a bunch of hogwash. Yes, your eye color or skin color or the size of your nose can all be predetermined genetically. Most of your physical traits are likely related to how your DNA is compiled. How about your temperament and attitude? Perhaps to a certain level. But is it proper to say, “I’m German, so I was born with a hot temper?” “I’m a hot-headed Irishman so don’t get my Irish up!” Hmmm…

I think that your heritage is important but not above being an American. Years ago I did a post that was mainly quotes by Teddy Roosevelt about immigration and citizenship. I was going to try to summarize it here but you probably should just read it in the original post. It’s really secondary to what I’m writing about today but it’s good stuff. I’m trying to build up some steam to write what I really want to say for Father’s Day. So, here it goes…

I was reading an article about this man who became the “mother” to a whole flock of turkeys by a process called imprinting. Apparently with birds, as they hatch, they will think that the first thing they see is their mother. The article is about this man’s book and his findings and you can read it here: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/my-life-as-a-turkey-whos-your-mama-the-science-of-imprinting/7367/ So, birds and other animals are born with some instincts natively but are taught other things by this psychological process called imprinting. In humans, the process of imprinting is called bonding.

All the while I was growing up I watched a man who loved his wife and family. My mom had at least two “nervous breakdowns” while I was growing up and my dad was right there. I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong except we went to visit her in a hospital. To give you a peek inside her sometimes troubled mind I could probably tell you that she was the oldest of 13 kids and that all of the kids were taken away and put in foster and/or foster/adopt homes because of all kinds of abuse. My aunt, the second oldest, told me a lot more details than I could have wanted to know about. The man I grew up knowing as my Grandpa was not my biological one but rather the man who rescued my Grandmother from a horribly abusive situation. He told her, “I will rescue you and he’ll never bother you again.” We saw the records where her divorce became final on one day and within less than two weeks she was married to my Grandpa. It seems clear to me that they had moved in together prior to that date and he took care of her like he promised. He was a strong, hard-working man and would have been more than capable to deal with a drunken wife-abuser. He had successfully rescued her from a fate worse than death. Probably literally.

As we have been looking at this whole family record thing, trying to find my bio-father we have been met with reticence by some of the people that could help us figure this whole thing out. Whether it’s intentional, for fear of embarrassment of the family, or just that nobody really knows anything, we have run into some stumps. But in the doing of that, we have uncovered some of the character of some of the people involved. The DNA clues that we do have seem to point to a guy who could have been at least 20 or more years older than her and likely took advantage of her in one way or another. She and my dad were married in August of 1959 and I was born, breech, in her tenth month, in February of 1960 during one of the worst blizzards that ever hit Milwaukee. Which, using my limited math skills, means she would have been 3 or 4 months pregnant at the time they got married. I don’t know how much my dad knew or didn’t know. I don’t remember them talking about when and how or where they met or any of those circumstances. I do know that the man who raised me was not the one who got my mom pregnant, but a thing I don’t know is whether he knew or not.

I do know that I was blessed to have the father I did. He never wanted to go out on the town with the boys or visiting his friends or family without us. He never said things like, “I have got to get away from this house!” He never got impatient with all of my questions about science and the planets and my constant recitations of the planets in order and how many miles apart they were. They even got me graph paper so I could show all of the information I collected (I still won’t forgive the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for saying Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. It throws everything for a loop.) He told me the differences between bees and wasps and why I should not harm a honey bee or even a bumblebee but yellow jackets and wasps were fair game. He taught me about electricity and magnetism and showed me how to make a birdhouse. He was protective of me and my mom and later on of my brothers as well but he was a “home-bod” and the only time he ever went out anywhere was on a rare date night with my mom. He worked hard every day of his life until he finally used up his body. The older I get and the more life I have experienced, now being the dad and grandpa and, arguably, the patriarch of the family, the smarter and wiser and more loving he becomes. I wish I could have known it back then.

So, is the fact that I love Kielbasa, Sauerkraut and German Potato Salad because of DNA and the taste buds I was born with or because I grew up in a family where that was what we ate? And is the fact that I’m not a drunken, child-molesting, wife-beating piece of scum because of the blood in my veins or because of men who were rock-solid examples of what the everyday run-of-the-mill hero looks like?

12 thoughts on “Imprinted

  1. The way you’re raised, both intentionally and otherwise, has a huge impact on who you become. I don’t know that other than the speed and amount of early development you achieve, and how much it’s encouraged, nature has much on nurture. I think you’ve done well, and obviously you know a few of the people who helped you get there quite well.

        1. No. It hasn’t since the 70s. It’s an all-voluntary military. Everyone in the military is there because they want to be.

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