Genetic Legacy

Jeannie and Annie Jamison
That’s Annie and Jeannie Jamison, my maternal Grandmother and Great Aunt in about 1915. I think Annie looks very pretty — that’s obviously where I get my good looks from — but her big sister is a little plain. They also had very different personalities; with Annie being constantly active and, in her later years when I knew her, fiercely independent. Jeannie, in comparison, was easy-going and laid back all her life, and was happy for people to do things for her. Annie died at 70; Jeannie made it to 94. There’s a moral to that story.

My Father’s side of the family tend to Celtic dark hair and pale skin, with brown eyes, but I have the Nordic colouring from my Mother’s side. And eyes. Blue eyes are a genetically “dominant” characteristic, and if one parent has them, it’s very likely that the children will as well. I remember a striking moment from my Grannie Annie’s final days in hospital: my Grandmother, Mother and Sister happened to all turn to look at me at once… and they all had the same eyes. And I do too. Bluey-grey with a greeny-brown ring round the pupil. Quite distinctive.

But if the bodywork and paint job are from that side of the family, the internal mechanics are from my Father’s side. We all have an inherited flaw in the way our digestive system is plumbed-in, the effect of which is to allow corrosive stomach acid to “reflux” up the esophagus where it’s not meant to be. Nothing serious, but the burning can be a bit painful. Medicine today has a number of drugs which can safely turn off acid production all together (a doctor told me that our modern diet doesn’t need acid to digest it anyway), but my paternal Grandmother Sarah is said to have kept a paper bag of bicarbonate of soda with her at all times, and licked the dry powder from the palm of her hand.

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