The Disappointment Gene



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 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.




About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in clydesdale horses, Education, Life, My childhood, Parenting, People and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to The Disappointment Gene

  1. Aunt Tiffany says:

    I can imagine the scenario playing out and hear the “NOT”! Good save Grandma Cheri.

  2. Carol McCann says:

    I think that we are all born with the DG gene. We just need to learn to manage it.

  3. shoreacres says:

    There was a time in my life, decades ago, when I used to tell myself, “If you don’t expect anything, you’ll never be disappointed.” This is Buddhist? Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. I figured it was from the Stoics or some other old, old-timey group.

    Actually, the DG didn’t run rampant in our family, but my mother was the biggest “What-iffer” in the world. She could imagine scenarios that would curl the toes of a middle-of-the-night AM radio talk show host.

    I can tell you this. I never, ever would be disappointed by one of your ukulele concerts. Never!

    • Cheri says:

      You are entirely well-adjusted and would never suffer from DG. I also understand the WI Syndrome that your mother exhibited. I suffer from and offshoot of WI. It’s called WITWTTCH.

      • shoreacres says:

        I’ve been working on this, but I still haven’t broken the code. I’m only as far as “What if the world…” Or, perhaps: “What in the world…”

        • Cheri says:

          Good and mighty try! What is the worst thing that can happen….
          I find that using this mantra helps in times of stress.

          • shoreacres says:

            Ah, of course! I’ve used that one, too. I still remember the time I chose to use it when one part of a two-part epoxy system didn’t look quite “right.” When the danged stuff didn’t cure, I had to scrub it all off a cabin sole with solvent. It was a memorable experience.

            • Cheri says:

              Now that sounds like a stressful sticky smelly job. Tasks with glue or agents that must “set up,” along with precision….I guess the worst thing that can happen is you have to get it off, somehow.

              • shoreacres says:

                Yup. And when you do it in an enclosed space, the fumes can leave you in a state that allows a rolling stop at a stop sign, in full view of the nice officer who was keeping an eye on things.

  4. ShimonZ says:

    Ah yes, we’re all imperfect, flawed, and bound up in syndromes… but if we can get our hands on the right instrument (or horse) we may enjoy ourselves, even if we’re impossible. How sweet to hear you took after your grandma and not your horse.

    • Cheri says:

      Ha!! Funny comment, Shimon. My horse, Cricket, had many wonderful qualities—courage, energy and style. She was a good keeper and didn’t put up with horseplay.

  5. Lue Perrine says:

    Awe…I hope your last nite with your cuties was totally blessed! 👩‍👧‍👧💞
    Awesome writing Cheri! Your humor is wonderful!😄

  6. manofroma says:

    Hi, I have been lurking for a while. Always a pleasure to read you. And you left me wondering if I have this DG or not.

    • Cheri says:

      So wonderful to hear from you again after all these years. I hope you and your family in Roma are doing well. Last time I checked your blog it was in Italian. What are you writing about these days?

      • manofroma says:

        Well, I am translating some stuff from my old blog in English but basically I am trying to tell the story of my family’s past in case my daughters may be interested in the future. One grandchild arriving in August by the way. Cheers to all.

    • Richard says:

      It’s good to see you again, Giovanni. After your little rest, are we to see more of your prodigious, kindly and enlightening output? They were heady days.

  7. Dan OBrien says:

    I love reading your posts. I felt your article was too short… So naturally it left me, disappointed.

    • Cheri says:

      Ha!! Another super-witty reader. I greatly appreciate your continuing to read after all these years. Hope all is well with you in the desert.

  8. Too fun n y Cheri I remember it all.

  9. Brig says:

    Thank God, finally a fellow traveler in the DG world!

  10. Richard says:

    In actual fact, this is a lesson never to disappoint yourself. Strive for the impossible, if good, and never give up, despite setbacks. Failure is part of this process, but it sometimes tells you your ambition is misplaced.

  11. wkkortas says:

    I remember the Disappointment Gene’s ascent into dominance coinciding with the use of my middle name, which was never a good sign.

  12. Cheri says:

    You are a funny witty w.k.

  13. Chris says:

    I have a similar gene FDN. My son’s have requested O not forward depressing news

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