Genetics

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Everyone has a fear of death. Whether it’s in the forefront of your daily life (looking behind you constantly as you walk home alone at night) or if it’s subconscious (taking vitamins), everyone has it.

Beyond this innate fear, everyone has a phobia. People are afraid of the dark, or of spiders, or of heights. Until this day I have been afraid of bugs, I’m afraid sometimes of the night (mostly because of my sometimes dark imagination), and of the wind... Which I believe I inherited from my mother. Another thing I’ve potentially inherited from my mom is the thing I’ve recently become most terrified.

Genetics. Everyone has them, as everyone has their own fear of death. As everyone has their own individual beliefs about what the afterlife will be. Whether it’s heaven or dirt, everyone’s had these thoughts.

Back to genes. My grandmother on my mom’s side has recently taken a turn for the worse. She had a stroke several years ago, and although she has outlived many other relatives, her health is degrading. Gone with the stroke was her speech and the occasional comprehension issue (which was mostly caused by the speech thing).

I went home for Thanksgiving last weekend, and I visited her in the hospital. She was there because she had been having seizures (another hit to the brain’s functionality). My grandma was her normal self, and for the most part, we had a nice visit.

Nevertheless, I feel guilty. I feel this guilt because I went into that hospital hesitantly. Now my friends have all told me I’m a very private person. I keep things to myself, especially my emotions and thoughts. I hesitated and almost resisted visiting my loving grandmother, who I’d seen on a weekly basis for the entirety of my life, because I’m afraid of old age. I’m afraid of what it does to those I love.

When my grandpa Garfield fell ill of a brain tumor, I didn’t visit him with my dad. I went up once. I went into his hospital room where he was sedated (the tumor had been pressing on his brain, making him irrationally angry and therefore dangerous), and I looked at him. My parents both held his hand and spoke to him. I stayed back, afraid of this thinned version of my firecracker grandpa. I didn’t touch him because I thought he would wake up to be somewhat of a stranger. Foolish really, since he was asleep.

That was my last interaction with my grandpa Garfield.

My grandma Ruby, the woman Garfield remarried, was the best cook. We would go to their apartment, eat delicious food, and play cards. When my grandpa passed away, her  memory was revealed to have deteriorated significantly. I visited her in the hospital too. She remembered me, of course. When she died, I didn’t go to the funeral. I said I had to work, which was true. But everyone knows that if you work at Home Hardware, and your grandma dies, you could get the day off.

My grandma on my mom’s side (the one who had the stroke) lost her husband to cancer in her twenties. She dated and outlived a couple men, but her Julian was like a grandfather to me. When I was born, he was there. I saw him weekly as well. He helped me with my French, and with art projects. He was a wonderful artist. Soon he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a degeneration of the muscles. I visited him in the hospital. He turned to my mother and told her, “You don’t have a little girl anymore, she’s a woman.” Then, turning to me, he told me he loved me. I had to leave the room with my dad to cry. Later that night, Julian died. My mom called me the next morning, and I cried. He was so much more in my world than anyone could ever understand.

Now my grandma (from my mom’s side) is really sick. Her name is Pauline, and that’s about the only biographical question she can answer. She knows who I am, and what year I am in at university. But she wouldn’t remember my visit the next day. It’s not her fault, it’s her brain’s fault. The brain fascinates me beyond belief, and terrifies me at the same time. We spend our entire life learning and gaining knowledge, yet if one part of the brain is affected, everything is gone. My grandmother is literally losing her mind. Many of her female relatives did as well, which brings me to my fear.

Genetics.

My mom is my best friend. Family means the world to me, and after all the ups and downs, we’ve come out being very similar people. My fear is that she will forget everything. I’ve had so many memories so far, and there will be so many to come, and she has been such a support to her own mother. I just cannot imagine doing the same. Not that I wouldn’t want to, and not that I won’t. I rely on her through the good and the bad, she means everything to me. I can’t imagine her growing old with my dad. I can’t imagine visiting her in the hospital, and I can’t imagine her forgetting.

But if genetics exist, then she might.

My dad told me to never grow old. Not in the sense of getting married, or having children, but in the sense of dying. Now that I’m older, and now that society has written that I will move out after graduation, I have a lot of regrets. Mainly, not spending time with my dad. Every time we do, we have such an amazing experience, and I’m not sure why I’m so hesitant really. He’s never been anything but nice to me, but I know I’ve put him through a lot. I never wanted him to doubt us loving him, I always have, and I always will. I’m afraid of losing him too, to genetics.

Out of all my negative genes, I’m most likely to forget. And that’s what terrifies me the most. Not on a day to day basis of absentmindedness. But actually one day, not having certain memories in my head. I was always so fascinated and concerned with what happened after someone dies: where do their thoughts and dreams and secrets go? I never even considered the idea that maybe all of those things would disappear before I even left this world. I never even thought of it, until today. I will continue living my life as I have, but now with a new fear topping my list: the fear of genetics, the fear of forgetting.

Created: Feb 01, 2012

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