The fourth of July has come and gone once again with a bit more of a bang in Michigan than usual; the legalization of airborne fireworks reducing neighborhoods to the quiet relaxing sounds of Afghanistan and Syria, not to mention rampant pet terror at what could only be “The End of Days”. All this culminating as I sat watching the Kentwood Michigan fireworks display with an uneasy feeling as to the development of my baby girl in utero and my own evolutionary failings.
For those of you who haven’t gathered from the above pseudonym I am fond of, Deafilosophy, I am an 85-90 percent deaf atheist with no memory of ever having full spectrum hearing.
The reason my handicap is important for a post about the evolution of a tiny life has to do with genetics, mutation, protein mis-folding, and bullying. I know that last one is a bit of a stretch but, patience grasshopper, all will be tied in a neat little bow before long.
As was mentioned last we spoke of such things, the conception process starts with two pieces of biological material with genetic strands ready for recombination as well as usually a shower and some general foreplay (remember the Chinese food analogy, it’s not over till you both get your cookies). The recombination process involves the male and female sex cells equipped with 23 chromosomes ready to pair with each other to form the human prerequisite 46 total; that means unless your cousin is a different species you can’t keep saying that he is missing a few.
One of the most amazing parts of the whole formation process of these sex cells are actions known as segregation and meiosis where after cell replication (identical copy of whole cell) the maternal and paternal (mother and father) chromosomes are identically duplicated. Then through segregation or crossing over those identical pairs are jumbled up after what is called a Chaisma breaks. The resulting haploid cells or gametes will each contain a homologous chromosome (complete and unique jumble of 46 maternal and paternal segments or 23 pairs).
The end result here is a series of unbelievably unique and complex genetic variations in our sex cells, the much championed and vilified random nature of human evolution, all giving our potential offspring something to truly be proud of: they survived. These pairings and recombinations have probabilities that favor dominant and recessive genes which results in the natural selection we all see through fossilized past evidence, the real time evolution of the world’s ecology, and in the future that we may or may not be around to observe (my apocalyptic prediction would be during a Ted Cruz Presidency).
The part I am worried about in all of this is when non-homologous chromosomes (irregular, unsimilar, paired incorrectly) experience something called translocation. In translocation a non-homologous chromosome segment detaches and connects to another non-homolog creating a mutation that can potentially cause cancer as well an many other issues. Thus the genetic mutations necessary to make a super baby capable of evolving just a tiny bit more than the rest of us is just as likely to weaken or cause fatal illnesses.
What interests me in particular are the genes and chromosomes that properly turn on all the switches necessary for our senses. This is the reason I wanted to teach you about all the genetics a moment ago, all those things have to go right to have a child with all the working parts (the warranty is incredibly LIMITED and returns are generally refused).
Having lived my life with a disability which I have tried my best to accept, live with, laugh at, and learn from I still fear two things. The first is that my child will somehow have a higher genetic potential for deafness and thus have to experience the hardships I blundered through as a child (more on that in a moment). The second is that I will not be able to understand my daughter for much of her childhood.
This last one was brought to light last night under the darkened sky, broken only by the colorfully lit smiles of my friends, their children, and my wife. The whole night my friend’s daughter was talking, I mean the whole damn night, it was an amazing little stream of consciousness erupting from a tiny human frolicking to and fro. At one point under the fireworks while everyone was quiet she was trying to talk to me and there were no words just sounds. I knew she was speaking words as I had heard her speak clearly and competently earlier but even then I could only make out one or two in a sentence. So much of my hearing is visual in that I read lips and facial adjustments to fill in the gaps from what I can’t hear, but with children there is no visual as they never sit still, it’s just me looking to others uncomprehendingly.
They comfort me, my friends and my wife, saying that we will teach my little lady to look at daddy when she speaks, but I still have to ask my wife to repeat things if she is just sitting at the dinner table right next to me. We will see, maybe science will figure out a way to repair my faulty auditory nerves through stem cells so I can be in one of those videos where a person hears, truly hears, for the first time and cries like a blubbering infant.
The other part of this genetic misfortune that leads me to panic attacks is the bullying. I will state this clearly for the record, I was a victim of bullying, I cried myself to sleep as my parents looked on with tears in their eyes from my bedroom doorway. I am not saying I was special or unique but the children were relentless, malicious, and downright filled with cooties. It helped form me into who I am today, a proud misfit, borderline anti-socialite, and someone who immediately negatively rage mongers at anything popular. I like to think I overcame it better than most but I can’t imagine, I can’t fathom, I refuse to conceive of my daughter experiencing such primitive and instinctual diatribe. Her options will not be in the scope of mine, I fought, cut, bit, and, if given the chance, maimed my accusers to prove strength overcame their misconceptions.
I never escaped the black sheep status but they finally just left me alone. I can genuinely say that all of this passed through my mind under those superficial fiery man made stars of independence, the explosions so loud I didn’t need to hear them, I could feel them, and so could everyone else, including our little girl in my wife’s beautiful belly. Those little recently formed ears heard their first fireworks through the warmth of her temporary home and if those ears never hear anything else, even if I see her from the doorway, tears in her eyes as she comes home from school, I will never forget that moment when everyone was smiling at the noises in the sky, including her…