Me And My DNA…
By Bill Barnes
Dear Mr. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA):
My name is Billy Swails Barnes (Bill) I was born in 1943. It pleased my mother and grandfather that I appeared to be a healthy, normal baby boy (my father was in Italy fighting the Nazis and would not meet me until September of 1944). He, too, seemed very proud of me when we met.
You were discovered in the late 1860s, Mr. DNA, but the conclusion about your structure wasn’t identified until 1953. Around the age of 30, I discovered I had trouble swallowing certain foods. So what, no big thing, I could muscle myself through it.
In 1991, I turned 48 when blessed with a stroke! “What happened?” I asked. The neurologist replied, “You just inherited a bad gene.” Over the next three years, during months of therapy, I was thankful that you provided the strength to regain much of my body’s functions, Mr. DNA.
So, with limited fine motor control, reduced surface sensitivity on the right and aphasia I was still able to see joy in my future. I concentrated on shifting my senses to the right hemisphere on the brain that you in your infinite wisdom designed to be separate but equally qualified to guide me.
All was not always bad. I released my misguided feelings of control over my life and the lives of others. Actually, the post-stroke life has been, for the most part, exciting, adventurous, and loving.
A few years ago, a doctor attempted to help with the Achalasia (remember the swallowing difficulty) by employing Laparoscopic surgery to ease the lower esophageal sphincter’s job. Although improved, the sphincter still will show me who is boss from time to time, especially with acidic meals. However, over the course of the journey, you decided for me, Mr. DNA. I learned more from my doctors about the “essential tremor” you installed during my embryo stage.
My unfeeling right hand doesn’t shake (although without fine motor however it’s awkward) but the feeling left hand shakes like a tired crap shooter nervously shaking the dice to roll for his last dollar or an inexperienced bartender shaking his first martini.
Please don’t think I am not thankful Mr. DNA for the survival genes you offered because for more than twenty years the universe has treated me kindly. But as the song says, “You gave me a mountain I may never climb.”
It’s now February of 2018, I am 75 years old, almost 27 years after your wake up call to me—Unable to write, eat without embarrassment, socialize properly, and insert keys and a myriad of other things I press forward, Mr. DNA. If it was a lesson you intended, I got it. Mission Accomplished. You have humbled me.
However: With the kindness of others, many of them strangers I will enjoy this place, day, person, and animal for as long as I can. I still appreciate the world and I smile, Mr. DNA!