I was talking to Dad today. Dad gave blood today, see.
Dad believes very highly in giving blood. He does it on the exact day he’s allowed to every…whatever it is, three months or something? I don’t know. I’m not allowed to give blood. Because I have mad cow disease, remember? (If you read that – well, the formatting is terrible. I just don’t have time to go back in and fix it. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am sleepy and need to go to bed, like, immediately. Pardon my rudeness.)
So he was telling me this WHOLE DETAILED STORY. And you guys. YOU GUYS. Listen, it was so like reading one of my blog posts or listening to myself talk. And I was just seriously in tears of laughter.
“So I went to give blood, because it was TIME, and the first lady asked me a whole bunch of questions, and then they sent over this OTHER lady. And she was trying to be my FRIEND. I didn’t want to be friends. I just wanted to give BLOOD. Because that’s what a person DOES. Unless they have MAD COW DISEASE. Because they lived in ENGLAND for like half a YEAR and a person couldn’t even TALK to them because of the TIME difference. So the lady first asked me a bunch of questions and she kept laughing but the answers weren’t even FUNNY. And then she told me to lie down on the table and then she told me my veins looked better when I was on the table. Do you think she was flirting with me? Because she was old and kind of strange-looking. Then she asked if I was allergic to iodine. WHO IS ALLERGIC TO IODINE? Only maybe people in the CIRCUS. So then she said ‘you have to let me rub this on your arm for thirty full seconds.’ That seems excessive. I’ve been giving blood since I was old enough to. I KNOW ABOUT IODINE. Also, did you know when you get old, your blood doesn’t flow as quickly as it used to? I don’t even win awards for the fastest blood anymore. I think my blood is the kind of blood a person has right before they’re about to die. So then she said, ‘are you ready for a little poke?’ NO ONE SHOULD SAY THAT. Don’t TELL someone they’re going to get a poke. DON’T DO THAT. Then she said, ‘ok, you have VERY THICK SKIN!’ and POKED ME SO SO HARD. My feet FLEW OFF THE TABLE. And she said, ‘did I hurt you ha ha?’ and I think that needle was very dull because I have EXCELLENT skin. Then when it was done she said she was sorry she hurt me and I said, ‘I am very tough. You didn’t hurt me. You SURPRISED me, that’s all. Where’s my coupon for free ice cream.” AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANY MORE COUPONS. They gave me a coupon for a free oil change at that place where they screwed over your mother that time and we don’t go there because they’re dead to us so I will burn it in the stove. There’s a story for you, now I’m going to go have some cheese. Your mother bought me CHEESE today. CHEESE, Amy!”
This made me think about genetics. And also learned behavior. Nature vs. nurture, if you will. (And also how nice it would be if someone bought me some cheese.)
The things we get from our parents – well, we get lots of things. I have my dad’s eyes and my mom’s face and my mom’s widow’s peak and my dad’s cleft chin and my dad’s feet and my mom’s smile and am built from the waist up like my mom’s side of the family and from the waist down like my dad’s side of the family. So I’m kind of like a Build-a-Bear. A weirdly-shaped Build-a-Bear. (Don’t even ask me where my unruly hair came from. I have no idea who to blame for this nonsense.)
But then we start acquiring other traits once we get old enough to learn things. And that’s where it starts getting really interesting. Because we can’t do much about the genetic stuff. I mean, well, I suppose we COULD, if we wanted to spend money on plastic surgery (or, on a smaller scale, hair dye, or something.) But we CAN do something about the learned traits. Or we can do nothing and allow them to become part of us, if we want.
I somehow got very little from my mom (which, as I’ve mentioned, is ironic, as she was my primary caregiver growing up.) I got my work ethic from her, I think (although Dad has a pretty kickass work ethic, too. They’re both pretty worky.) She’s more accepting of the “other” (“other” what, Amy? Other anything. Beliefs, races, etc. Dad’s…more…slow to…um. Be accepting. He does not like things that are different. DIFFERENCE IS SCARY!) I’m kind of trying to think of what else is Mom-influenced and I’m at a loss. Mom and I kind of run in different circles.
Now, I’m not talking about what we LEARN from our parents. Like crocheting or cooking how to change a wiper blade or something. Not things that we’re taught on purpose. I’m talking about things we see and imitate, either consciously or subconsciously.
I might not have gotten much from Mom. Dad, however? Dad and I are sympatico.
We might not agree* (*completely disagree to the point of screaming at one another) on things like politics and women’s issues, but you know how some people are all “ZOMG I AM TURNING INTO MY MOTHER?” Yeah. I’m turning into my Dad. (NO NOT IN A WEIRD WAY. I’m not growing chest hair or something. Wait, am I? No. No, I’m not.)
Dad is insanely loyal. Dad has a very small group of very close friends for whom he would do just about anything (and has, and would continue to.) Dad’s people’s enemies are his enemies – heaven help you if you cross one of Dad’s friends, because you bought yourself TWO enemies, bub. Dad is sarcastic just about always, except when he’s being sappy. Dad wants a lot of attention but also he wants you to leave him alone. Dad tells these long, convoluted stories (see above.) Dad doesn’t believe in telling people things – not unless they’re for sure. NO COUNTING CHICKENS FOR DAD. (And honestly just about ever. He’s horrified I tell strangers things online. UTTERLY HORRIFIED. Every once and a while I’ll find out something about him and I’ll be all, “WTH? Dad? Why were we not telling me this for like, my whole life?” He’ll shrug and say “Didn’t think you needed to know.”) Dad has very little time for pompous blowhards. (And often makes faces at them behind their backs. Not that I’d ever do that.) (I always do that.) Dad refuses to give people compliments when they’re making that face. You know that face, right? That, “I just got a haircut DON’T I LOOK PRETTY TELL ME TELL ME!” face. Dad will give compliments – but only when they’re genuine and unsolicited. (I refuse to give false compliments. If you hear/see me complimenting something, or you? It’s genuine. Because false compliments are like ashes in my mouth. I hate them so much. They make my soul feel dirty.) Dad is a performer – not onstage, so much, but at parties and in social gatherings and such. He’s the one everyone wants to talk to and he’s the one that’s the life of the party. Thing is? He hates parties and social gatherings and it’s all a front. He comes home exhausted because he’s been acting all night. Dad doesn’t talk to kids like they’re adults with brain injuries – he talks to them like they’re little people. (Watching him and The Nephew is such a joyous thing, I can’t even describe.) If someone he loved once betrays his trust (and it’s an utter and complete trust, the trust we give to our people), they are dead to him. DEAD. (I’ve seen this happen. It’s uncomfortable and it’s not pretty. The other day, one of my friends said, “Oh, Amy’s the best friend ever – but don’t cross her. She’ll kill you with her eyes if she hates you.” I WILL, TOO. Don’t even tempt me. I use mind-bullets. So, yeah, the dead-to-me thing? I do that. I do that, too. And people know. And it PETRIFIES them, apparently. I should probably feel worse about this, and I don’t know that the person saying it meant it as a compliment, but mostly my first thought was, “well, that person shouldn’t have pissed me off. Also, I AM the best friend ever. I’d want me for a friend.”)
These may not all be NORMAL things, but they’re all things I grew up observing – and I picked them all up. They’re all mine now.
This tickles him to no end. “Oh, I do that!” he’ll say when I act a certain way or do a certain thing. It just utterly delights him. He can’t for the life of him figure out how he’s partially responsible, DNA-wise, for a bleeding-heart liberal feminist who wants to live in a big city and loves theater (he blames the government, of course), but he loves that despite these “flaws,” something of his stuck.
“Of course you don’t give people compliments if they want them that badly,” he’ll say. “That’s just begging. You don’t give to beggars. That just encourages them.”
“Of course people are dead to you. Listen, if you are friends with someone and they’re your friend, that’s like an unwritten contract. And you don’t break that contract. That’s not something we do. But if that friend does? Well. They’re dead. DEAD. Sometimes they apologize, and I guess you can decide whether or not you want to forgive them. But some things are unforgivable. So they should just not bother, because who talks to dead people? Only people who see ghosts like that douche on that ghost hunter show you’re always trying to get me to watch.”
So when people debate nature vs. nurture and such, here’s my thought.
You pick up things from the people that raise you. Then you can decide what you keep and what you don’t. Maybe it’s that you keep more things from the people you admire? If that’s the case, well, yeah, that works. I admire my dad. I admire him a lot. Most little girls want to be their moms when they grow up; I always wanted to be my dad. (Only with boobs. I wanted to be a lady-version of my dad. Like when Bugs Bunny wore the lady-clothes, I guess.)
I jettisoned (almost immediately) the religion and the political ideology and the small-town-ideals. They didn’t fit in my backpack. And you have to carry that backpack with you through your whole life. You really have to make sure you have enough room for everything.
But I kept a lot more than I threw away in that backpack.
And when I look in the mirror, I might see my mom’s face (mostly) looking back at me, but I see my dad’s twinkle in my eye. And my brain works like his. And I love my friends to the point I’d jump in front of herds of stampeding water buffalo for them, and I tell The Nephew long words like “antiquated” and he laughs and laughs and repeats it which makes my heart sing and if anyone messes with my people I go all Sharks and Jets in my head (and sometimes more – I’m all give peace a chance unless you dare hurt my loved ones, and that is a fact, so probably don’t try it) and I play my personal shit very, very close to the vest. (Yes, I write about stuff on here. The things I DON’T tell you, though. Whoo, boy.)
I’m a lady of a billion weird contradictions. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
So I guess, if you like the blog, even though he’d never admit it and probably wants nothing to do with it?
You’ve got to thank Amy’s Dad.
He’s the original storyteller.
Even though he’s apparently on the way out. Because he’s got slow old-man blood.
(Title from The Story’s lovely “So Much Mine,” which sometimes I listen to and it always makes me melancholy. When I was younger it made me think of myself. Now I’m old and it makes me think of The Nephew. And it’s the CIRCLE of LIFEEEEEEE!)