Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

This DNA Was Never Meant To Be Mixed – The Story of Me (Epilogue)

I actually considered writing this in third-person, but it sounded and felt weird, even for me.

According to the laws of nature, my parent’s DNA was never meant to be mixed. It is either through God’s design or evolutionary factors that compatible people produce offspring. My parents were thrown together by unusual circumstances. So, as the children produced as the result of rape or invading armies are unique and somewhat dysfunctional, so it is … 

When I started this series, I thought I would tell a basic story that I knew well. But in examining those situations closely and feeling the emotions they felt, I gained fascinating new insights into who my parents were, and thus who I am. For example, how do you feel when you are in an impossible financial situation, and someone hands you a big check that eliminates the problem?

I would come to the part of the narrative where I thought I didn’t know something, and then I would remember a story that my mom had repeated long ago, and then I had my answer. My mother was a good storyteller with a great sense of humor, and my father was as well. And their son writes humor books full of stories. Ain’t it funny how life turns out?

An important revelation in reviewing my life was realizing just how intelligent my mother was. No one realized this, and most people underestimated her, being a woman without a college degree. But she was smart and crafty. Her secret was never sharing her intelligence and insight with people because this was not to her advantage. Better for you to think she was just an average girl. There was only one person in her world who she would bless with her wisdom because in this case it benefited someone she loved deeply.

Therefore, I am the product of a genius father and a highly intelligent mother. I didn’t inherit all my father’s brainpower, but I got most of it. But these brain cells came from two very different people. I’m not right or left-brained, it’s more like I’m two-brained. I can switch between the analytic and creative instantaneously. This gives me the ability to solve difficult problems, explore all sides of an issue and see things other people miss.

However, there are two voices inside my head at all times, and they seldom agree. This results in important decisions being delayed and critical issues not getting addressed. I second guess almost all decisions I make, even when they turn out well. This creates indecision and a lack of confidence. And in a crisis, the competing voices create “brainlock” and I freeze instead of reacting, which at time can be dangerous.

My brain has a mind of its own (pun intended). It is always active, like a hard drive spinning rapidly and never stopping, due to my mother’s hyperactive mind. This sometimes allows my brain to keep looking for answers to difficult problems in the background and suddenly produce solutions out of nowhere. I have even solved problems during my sleep.  Yes, that’s nice. But my hyper-active big brain prohibits me from successfully hitting a golf ball – focus on only one thing at a time? And I don’t like to watch movies because I have to stop thinking for two hours and my brain doesn’t like to do that. I force my brain to rest once a year while on vacation, but it doesn’t always behave.

I was my parent's only child, the one they thought they would never have. I was cherished. I was the “chosen one” and raised accordingly.  Yes, it was a tremendous environment, and I had a wonderful childhood. However, all those negative traits of only children are present in me, some in excess. Spoiled? – Oh heck yes! And I am tremendously selfish, often expecting the world to bow to my will.  I hide these negative traits well, but often get glared at by my wife when they inevitably slip out. (I pity anyone married to an only child)

As a child, I was seldom criticized, which means I don’t take criticism well – just ask my wife or anyone I’ve ever worked with. Interestingly though I was seldom praised. In the last semester of my sophomore year in college, I received straight “A’s” for the first time ever in any grade. I had worked hard that term and expected my parents to be greatly pleased. My dad smiled but didn’t say much. Pennsylvania Dutch values say if you praise someone, they might become proud, and that is one of the worst things you can be. My mother smiled and said, “That’s nice.” The message to me was clear. “You have finally met expectations. You don’t get rewarded for hitting the standard.” You may think this was harsh, but the woman was crafty and knew how to motivate her son. In my last two years of college, in the harder classes, I only received two grades below an “A”.  

The mix of white-collar and blue-collar DNA sent me out in the corporate world with a college degree combined with those Pennsylvania Dutch values. And those values are not valued much in the business world; they are disdained. Those values are best suited for the farm, not the board room. In every large company I worked for, “powerful” people tried to press me into their image, tried to get me to sell out those values in exchange for the almighty dollar. And they failed. Naturally, my career suffered due to this. I had to use my brains to survive, but of course the brains prevailed. And to all those bosses and executives who tried to change me and failed: Hey, I’m good. No, literally I’m still good.

I am unique. (Some would even say my style is “goofy” as someone recently wrote critiquing a work presentation) My dad was proud of me, and if he could see me now, he would be even prouder but would be uncomfortable with the amount of self-promotion necessary to be an author. My mother was pleased that I always pursued the standards she set for me, even though I never quite achieved them.

Chronicling the bizarre circumstances of how I came to be, reminded me that life is a precious gift. It is sacred and should be cherished. It should never be cheapened or taken for granted. And when I look at the improbable union of my parents, I realize I am a miracle.

But guess what? You’re a miracle too. I know my circumstances because it was only one generation away. But I guarantee you, somewhere in your lineage was a chance encounter, a missed bus, a bumping into, a random seat assignment, a healed disease, a bullet that just missed, or something else that resulted in the unique DNA mix of who you are.

My story may be unique, but yours is too. One regret I have is that I didn’t ask enough questions of my mother about her story while I could. If your parents are still living, may I suggest that you have those discussions.

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