I come from a family of three girls whose childhood dream was to visit Prince Edward Island. In 2003, I married a man with three boys whose dream was to see Michael Jordan play basketball. Unfortunately, he retired, the second time, from the Chicago Bulls in 1999. However, Jordan went on to play for the Washington Wizards and was to permanently retire in 2003. As the last opportunity to see Michael Jordan in action, we took the family to Washington DC. Of all the historical sites to see in D.C., the boys had two items on their agenda: Washington Wizards game and to eat at Michael Jordan’s restaurant. Sporting their new Wizards #23 jerseys to the restaurant, the boys were coming out of their skin with excitement and peppering the restaurant hosts with questions about Michael Jordan’s meal preferences, when completely unexpected to us, the host asked the boys, “Would you like to see his private booth?”
I don’t know if you can imagine the spike in energy of three young boys from an already high level, but it skyrocketed. We were then guided upstairs to Michael Jordan’s private booth. Pulling aside the very thick draperies revealed something akin to a luxurious apartment. The boys bounded from one thing to the next, marveling over every single item. When we finally left the restaurant, the boys continued to bounce on air, chattering incessantly and reliving every single detail as we moved down the sidewalk. Suddenly, the youngest piped up, “Yeah! And I got his DNA!”
Now, if you will imagine that rocket suddenly stopping and reversing course straight back into the ground. Everyone stopped in their tracks and stared at the youngest, completely dumbfounded, “What?”
“I got his DNA!” he repeated. In response to our quizzical stares, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a toothpick. We continued to stare. He further explained while gesturing his actions with the toothpick. “I stuck it into his chair, like this.” Yep, while everyone else was reveling in the ambiance of Michael Jordan’s private booth, this 9 year-old had taken a toothpick and repeatedly stuck it into Mr. Jordan’s personal chair, to collect his DNA.
For non-science types, DNA probably seems incomprehensible. My husband has backgrounds in physics and genetics, so it wasn’t completely unfathomable for his 9 year-old to understand the function of DNA. My own fascination with DNA began in childhood but more as a means of uncovering family history. With one branch of my family belonging to the Mormon faith, the love of genealogy was definitely passed to me. As one of my friends once said, “God gave us Mormons so we could have genealogy.” Well, I thought it was funny.
Genealogy is a fantastic hobby for midlife and beyond as it keeps our minds active and gives us purpose without punishment to our joints. My grandmother spent many, many hours at the genealogical library in Salt Lake City. Now, in the 21st Century, there are multitudes of online resources making this hobby much more accessible to everyone. Of course not every person will be interested in genealogy. If not, I highly encourage each and every one of you to find another hobby of interest to you. Katy Kozee offers great tips in her blog, Midlife Rambler, on how and why to find a hobby as an adult.
DNA has been used to free wrongfully-accused prisoners, to catch serial killers from long-ago cold cases, and reunite families who didn’t always know they had additional family members waiting to be found. Mostly, the ability to have your own DNA sequenced is exciting and good, but of course there is always “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. What if insurance companies use your genetic history to uncover health risks to raise your insurance premiums? Thanks to the Affordable Care Act you can no longer be denied insurance based on pre-existing conditions but they (insurance companies) can certainly make it more expensive for you. What if your DNA is used to tie you, or a relative of yours, to a crime you didn’t commit simply because your DNA was present at the crime scene? Or what if a future employer discovers something undesirable in your genetic history? As in most debates, for every positive scenario, there is also a negative. Personally, I’ve decided to camp with the Pro-DNA testing group but that doesn’t mean every person in my family will feel this way. A few years ago, I gifted a DNA test to my father. At the time, I told my husband what I’d done and acknowledged “either he will love it or will never speak to me again.” It was a risky gift. Thankfully, he loved it. So this year, I gifted one to my mother. As I type, her results are sitting in my inbox and I am SO excited to open them!!! Cue the rocket, I’m off!