by cheri sabraw
I’ve written about certain genetic mutations in my family which have manifest themselves in dramatic behavior rather than in physical maladies. You may remember that my Grandmother Rosalie (1900-1992 A.D.) passed down FFN Syndrome to me.
My mother Joan, the first member of the family to openly exhibit the symptoms of the Disappointment Gene (DG), expected polite behavior from her husband and children, reciprocation of dinner invitations and thank-you notes, a sincere interest from strangers in her well-being, a sagacious ability to just “know” how she was feeling, and worst of all, a genuine appreciation for her efforts and love. What a set-up for misery!
Very soon in Joan and Hugh’s family of four selfish and precocious children, it became apparent that she had DG and we did not.
A sad look would begin to spread all over her petite face when we didn’t meet expectation, which was as often as human breath. She would sigh and look up to the sky or over to Dad as if hoping that we were at a séance and in the presence of Edgar Cayce.
Surely when one puts such effort into being the best Joan/Mom she can be, her children and husband would naturally recognize such angelic predisposition and maybe, just maybe, thank her, bring her flowers, offer to empty the dishwasher or clean up the dog poop, or fold the mountains of laundry that had built up daily like an Alaskan snow drift.
Like Ancestry.com or 23andMe, one might begin to wonder about our ancestors and what goodies they have left on our double helix.
I realized I had DG while a member of the public school system as a child and later as a teacher. Why was my 7th Grade English teacher so boring? And years later, why do some members of my English Department not correct papers and still keep their jobs?
Despite the animus that erupts when infected with DG, there is an upside: those of us who have this gene perform way ahead of most other people. Our expectations for ourselves do not find us at Base Camp. No, No. We summit. We not only summit, we do it without oxygen. But we may need a psychologist after the climb.
The therapeutic process tells us that when expectations aren’t met, like a bad meal at a highly rated restaurant, we are told to lower them. That’s right. Accept mediocrity and over-dressed salad. Instead of being purple or red, we are told to be beige. Be a Buddhist: have no hope and you will never be disappointed.
Joan, wherever you are at the summit, you will be distressed to learn that you have passed DG on to your great granddaughter.
This past week, we had the pleasure of visiting our two adorable granddaughters in Portland, ages 7 and 5.
We planned a movie night in which the whole family would descend to the play room, eat pizza and guzzle milk (wine), enjoy a movie together, and cuddle up in blankies and pillows.
Somehow, the adults did not make it down in time.
As we guiltily went down the stairs, on the sofa, was a sad face that I recognized, full of disappointment, tears brimming over those luscious green eyes.
“This is NOT what I expected; this is NOT a family movie night” she stated as if arguing a seminal case in front of the Supreme Court.
“Come over here to Grandma Cheri, ” I said. ” I totally understand how you feel. You were expecting all of us to eat pizza together and watch a movie but it didn’t happen.”
Just the utterance “It didn’t happen” sent this child into a paroxysm of angst.
An old remedy wafted into the room.
“I have an idea!” I said, “We still have one more night together!! We can try again tomorrow night!!!
I, of all people, understood. The Disappointment Gene had flared up in a familiar time-honored way.