Thursday, March 13, 2014
More like your mother ... or father?
Joyce and I have spent many hours together in the car--I'm guessing we've spent months together in the car (maybe even years) during our decades of travel. We take turns driving, though I (in some ways I remain my father) like to be the one who starts out, who finishes. Sometimes it's just plain stupid, what I do. For example, when we leave Becket, Mass., a place in the Berkshires where my brothers share an old farmhouse they use for weekends and summers (and is only about 20 minutes away from Mom in Lenox), I always start out driving, even though I go only about eight miles, down to the Shell station in Lee, where we gas up and get coffee at the McDonald's that shares the parking lot with Shell. From there, Joyce drives all the way to the McDonald's at the Lord's Valley exit on I-84--some 170 miles away. So why doesn't Joyce just drive the Becket-to-Lee portion, too? Because--that's why.
Anyway, on our many long car trips we do various things. Read (I often do my daily Kirkus quota of 100 pages during one of her stints), take notes on various things, laugh, remember, stare at the scenery, try to convince the Old Bladder that he really can wait a bit longer, can't he? Please ...
But we often ask each other speculative (i.e., silly) questions about various things--questions that begin with such things as What would you do if ... ? What would have happened if you had ... ? Which movie star ... ? If you had never met me, ... ? That sort of thing. Sometimes one or the other of us doesn't really want to "play," and we've both developed very intricate strategies for avoiding having to do so. (I will not reveal mine--I will definitely need them again.)
Anyway, the other evening, we were driving along in search of a Starbucks when I asked Joyce, "Are you more like your father's family--or your mother's?" And we talked a bit about how she had the fierce work ethic of the Haberkosts (her mom's side)--but then her dad was a hard worker, too. So it wasn't all that easy an answer.
My Osborn grandparents (Mom's folks) were fastidious and organized--words that in some (but not all) ways fit me. My study is far messier than my grandfather ever would have tolerated. His study was so neat it looked as if no one used it--but he used it every day. Mine's a trash heap. Still, I know where things are--pretty much. My mother was also a very organized teacher (I was, too--after a decade or so)--though Dad was a little more laid-back in his own teaching. It's not an easy question to answer, I realized.
And then I figured out an evolutionary answer. In that same conversation, I had said to Joyce, "Just think how many simians had to survive for you and me to be here." Yes, countless protohumans (all of whom would snort in derision at my lifestyle) had to live long enough to reproduce--surviving illness, injury, accident, assaults, falling trees, hungry predators, etc. It's--to coin a phrase--mind-boggling, the unlikelihood that I'm here. If just one of them had misjudged a leap and landed in the lion's mouth, well, I wouldn't be here--and neither would a gajillion other people.*
Then another thought. Maybe you fall in love with someone who shares a common ancestor. Well, of course, we all do that, but I mean one a little farther down the ladder. Suppose love is, in one sense, kinship recognition? We already have expressions for it--a soulmate, a kindred spirit, and the like. Maybe those expressions mean something a bit more literal?
I've known since 1969--when I met her--that Joyce and I were, in fundamental ways, kin. Maybe we actually are, as well ... ?! Next car trip we'll talk about it. Unless one of us doesn't want to play.
*I actually have an event like this in my family history--a necessary Dyer escaping from Indian captivity. I'll write about that soon.