We receive 23 chromosomes from each parent. We also get our names. I’ve also relearned two terms: “Patronymic: the name passed down from either the father or ancestor. Toponymic: a place name, often taken from a geographical feature.”

I’ve known that Van Dyke connected us to the land of “dykes” and also knew that Michaelson meant son of Michael. Neither was linked to wealth but (depending upon the day) I was told that I resembled or “took after” one or the other side of the family. Sometimes this was good, more often than not it was a backhand. Both families named on alternate days, both were as Dutch as could be remembered, and both originated in the same north, Calvinist, Netherlands.

From both my Dutch father and mother I learned to show up on time, to be dependable. Both were reliable as clock-work. My father more meticulous and fastidious, while my mother was a  mop-the-streets-clean stereotype. My dad worked for 50 years in the same job. My mom was a natural teacher. A work-ethic is built into many Calvinists. An admirable, albeit dull, inheritance.

My mother, an elementary school teacher, had what is termed a perfect “Parker Palmer Method” writing style. The “o”s in circles; the curls beneath the p’s, q’s, and above the capital M’s, so very elegant. Her cursive script with pen or chalk from an earlier era.

Get this: I had two things going, she was good at teaching, and was an excellent model of how to practice it. Certainly she believed I would “inherit” her handwriting; and If I didn’t do it naturally, she’d badger me into it. When I graduated from first grade, she decided she’d get me to work and practice in the summer to improve. She wasn’t happy with what I was doing. She bought me a special pencil and pen which had grips designed into their plastic to help me. I worked and worked, in good Calvinist fashion as I had some required thank you notes to write. But my best never came close to her expectations. She had ignored a crucial tendency.

I had the proper environment, tools, and teaching to improve. She’d demand that I work, and I had inherited that work ethic. But from early days I had been switched from holding spoons, toys, and pens from left to right. I throw a baseball left handed and bat right. I am sure in retrospect that she was in denial that I had inherited left handedness.

Unlike my sister, who forever blamed one or the other of our parents for what was or wasn’t inherited, I have never begrudged mine. I tell the story of how my mother walked home from shopping one day forgetting that she’d driven down to do it. I became an absent minded professor for a living and have fortunately inherited her abilities to teach and to laugh at herself. No more valuable quality can be had. I laugh now at my flailing efforts to write in longhand; because there will be only a slight chance that we get what is needed from lists at the grocery store.

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