Shared Genes

I think the strangest part of meeting anyone biologically related to you for the first time is noticing small characteristics that you share with them. While I think I look completely different than either one of my adoptive parents for obvious reasons, people tend to tell me my nose looks like my dad or my face shares similar qualities with my mom’s, probably because they think they’re complimenting my parents before they find out I’m adopted. I don’t see it. Maybe it’s a mental thing that prevents me from seeing any physical similarities, but I don’t think we look anything alike.

When I learned about genetics in seventh grade science class, one of our assignments was to take look at a list of physical characteristics that are caused by dominant or recessive genes and decide what traits we inherited from our parents. Small things like ear lobes, hair lines, and even eye and hair color don’t mean much to most people. For me, I hated assignments like that because no matter what I answered, it wouldn’t be accurate because I had no idea what traits I shared with the family I was genetically related to.

The same day I was writing and having slight panic attacks, I was overwhelmingly curious about what my birth mom would look like. I had been told all weekend that I looked very similar to her (even that I smelled like her- if that’s a thing), so I wanted to test those claims for myself. The only picture I had seen of her previously to this meeting was a photo from twenty-six years ago, so I was fully aware she wouldn’t look the same. Then there was her son.

I found out I had a half-brother when I found my birth mom over two years ago. With him being younger and not knowing about me, that was one part of the original story that I left out. I had sent some baby and toddler pictures to my mother when we first got in contact, and she said that he and I looked very much alike when we were young.

It’s always been a peculiar sort of thought- the idea that there are people somewhere out there who look like you. It’s even more peculiar actually coming face-to-face with those people for the first time. During the first meeting that I wrote about a few days ago, I kept searching my birth mom’s face when she wouldn’t notice, looking for any similarities we shared. We have the same cheekbones, and we have the same type of hair even though mine is much lighter. She had already told me that my eyes were very similar to my biological father’s, but I haven’t been able to see that for myself. I was able to notice the shared traits between her son and myself much easier, mostly just because I was able to compare that stage of my life to his twelve-year-old self. We share the same nose, the same lanky pre-teen frame, and similar facial expressions when we’re frustrated or our glasses are giving us trouble. It’s funny, the sense that you’re almost seeing a similar version to yourself moving around. It’s good, but it’s so strange at the same time.

Even though I know that looking like someone doesn’t automatically create a familial bond, I feel more put together having met them. There were so many questions I couldn’t even fully put into words, but they’ve been answered anyway. The sense of peace that’s swelled over me is the best thing that could have come out of this trip, so I’m continuously happy that I was stubborn enough to do this on my own.

Schooner Zodiac in in Bellingham, Washington - June 2015
Schooner Zodiac in in Bellingham, Washington – June 2015

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