I’m the only one
Yesterday was Aunt Edythe’s funeral. It was at an old cemetery in a residential neighborhood in Connecticut. I’d never been there before, but others in the family were certainly familiar with the location – her husband, her parents, her brother, and her niece all now call that peaceful locale their home for eternity.
People arrived from all over: from down the street to across the country, and even from Canada. At one point in the ceremony, anybody in attendance who wished to speak was given the opportunity to do so. I didn’t say anything, but from listening to others, I learned this: what I wrote on Monday doesn’t even describe one-tenth of how wonderful this person was. Her obituary is unlike any other I’ve read, and I’m not just saying this because she’s family. It’s really magnificent.
I mentioned earlier how Aunt Edythe existed in a simpler time, and when I was standing in that cemetery, so did I. Seeing the headstones of my great-grandparents, whom I’d never met, affirmed that. The old, uneven asphalt walkway affirmed that. Hearing the sound of a rooster crowing in the distance affirmed that. Even seeing an old whiskey bottle on the ground, presumably unearthed when the grave was dug, affirmed that.
But the family was anything but simple. They are among the most brilliant, accomplished individuals I’ve ever been in the presence of (or, as someone more learned than myself might correct me: “…of whom I’ve ever been in the presence”). Among those who were there, whether paying respects or eternally at rest, were the following (all relations are from the perspective of my Great-Aunt): Her husband: a physician. Her brother: a physician. Her son: a doctor, biomedical engineer, and inventor. Grandson: biochemist. Another son, a college professor. Another brother, also a professor. And among those whose relationships I couldn’t quite define, more doctors and professors.
My connection to the family is through my grandmother, and perhaps since most women in that era generally didn’t pursue such academically lofty goals, our branch on the family tree isn’t adorned like the others.
But still, there is a connection. And as I looked at all of these doctors, I took interest in their specialties: cardiology, radiology, psychology. All kinds of –ologies except for the one that interests me the most: endocrinology. Knowing that people generally gravitate towards a field where they have some interest, I drew the following conclusion (which may or may not be right): that no one else has any interest in endocrinology must mean that no one else in the extended family, prior to myself, has (or had) diabetes. I’m just a random fluke. An unfortunate circumstance. Nothing in my DNA caused me to contract diabetes. Essentially, I’m alone.
Put in the context of family (despite the occasional lack of understanding that I described on Tuesday), that’s wonderful news. It means that there’s no D in my DNA. And that means that I can’t give it to my kids.
If you haven’t seen the disclaimer on the right side of the page, it basically says that I’m not a doctor and when I speak medically, I probably have no idea what I’m talking about. In fact, this post may end up posted on the bulletin board in the cafeteria of some hospital, where renowned endocrinologists and geneticists laugh hysterically at my flawed logic. But that’s OK with me. In some twisted way, it gives me peace. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
(Oh, and remember how I said that most women in that era didn’t pursue such goals? Not Great-aunt Carolyn. She’s part of the family by marriage, not by blood, but she was a practicing doctor in her younger years. Yesterday, she turned 99, and we all went to her house after the funeral. A truly amazing woman.)