Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Getting Outshot by Moose, and 'A Small Medium at Large'

Yesterday, I went shooting with Moose.

No, I did not take a giant herbivore to the range; Moose is the nickname of my youngest bio-son. His first name is Mickey, and we would have called him Mickey Mouse, but he was 10 pounds, 9 ounces at birth, and that wasn't a mouse. That was Mickey Moose. Over the years, he maintained his status as the biggest, and today, at age 25, he stands 6'5" and weighs over 300 pounds: he's the Moose.
I taught him to shoot when he was 9 years old, and for birthdays and Christmas, he frequently wanted, and received, either a firearm or ammo. We did baseball, soccer, scouts, and karate when he was younger, but the shooting sports stayed with him to this day.

For various reasons, we took a total of three rifles and eight pistols to the range with us. Some had never been fired, others had only been fired by one of us, and still others were just old friends that we love. And for the first time, with EVERY single firearm...

...Moose outshot me. It wasn't even close. He outshot me with his guns, he outshot me with my guns, he outshot me with guns he had never fired before. It was funny to me, but it bothered Moose a bit. He was used to Papa being the man when it came to the range. He started making excuses for me! I actually had to stop him, and pass on one of the basic life truths:

"At some point, sons are SUPPOSED to exceed their fathers. It's how the world gets better."

And now, I have to go to Stephanie Osborn's wonderful book, "A Small Medium at Large," and there are GOING to be SPOILERS.
By the way: there really is not a medium in the book; there is an alien masquerading as a medium, and that is the reason for the pun in the title. Actually, it's the other way around, I think: in order to get the pun in the title, the alien character was given that role to play. But I digress.

Here is the guts of the book: Special Agent Omega (Megan) was kidnapped by a Bug-Eyed Monster as a child, and for reasons best known to him, had her DNA modified to include that of seven people and five animals the BEM had killed. The net effect was to make her stronger, smarter, faster, and more resilient than other humans, yet leave her completely human. Now, whereas I rather think those would be nice characteristics to have, there were initially other side effects that weren't so great (like wanting to kill her partner) which she overcame through grit and determination. And when she discovered that the reason for her abilities was due to the alien tampering with her DNA, she felt unclean.

Meanwhile, she finally admits to herself that she is in love with her partner, and unbeknownst to her, the feelings are reciprocated. But JUST before she admits her feelings, she discovers the truth of her DNA, and not wanting him to be disgusted or show her pity, she keeps her feelings to herself.

And the book ends with the relationship unsettled.

Now, at FIRST, I was rather impatient with Agent Omega's dithering. After all, the doc had reassured her that she was completely human, and her partner and boss had both gone to great lengths to confirm that she was in no way responsible for the fates of the seven individuals murdered by the BEM. Why can't she understand that? Why must she persist in feeling unclean and unworthy, when there is a perfectly good life partner eagerly awaiting her?

Why can't you just GROW UP, Agent Omega?

Well, it turns out, it ain't that easy. 

Moose inherited other things from me, in addition to his proclivity for firearms. One of those things is HLA-B27, a fragment of DNA we can trace back to the Neanderthals. Remember all those pictures of cave men, hunched over with bad posture? That understanding was based on a few knobby bones found in Neanderthal burial sites. They appeared to be heavily arthritic, and as it turns out, carriers of HLA-B27 have a tendency to develop auto-immune diseases, and in particular, ankylosing spondylitis. I have it, and Moose has it. Coming back from the range, we talked about the  back pain we were both experiencing, but how this wasn't something that could kill us, unlike some of the other auto-immune diseases.

I did not have any idea when I was about the business of conceiving children that I had ankylosing spondylitis, that the chances were good that I would be passing along a crippling disease to them. But what if I HAD known? I've spent quite a few hours in excruciating pain, and I had to retire from a career I loved because of the complications associated with the disease and treatment. If I had known that my children might have similar experiences, would I have decided NOT to procreate?

If I had known that I would have to look on in helpless GUILT as my child suffered from pain from a disease inherited from me, would I still have had children?

It's a stumper, isn't it?

Well, fortunately for me, I did not know about the clinker I was passing along, so I didn't have to face THAT particular quandary.  And as I look at my children now, I am so grateful to be in a world in which they exist. It's a better place because of them. And I did everything I could to give them the tools they would need to live long and prosper. And I think that's about the best any parent can do. And while I wish things could be otherwise with our pain levels, that's just the way the genetic dice rolled for us. And we have to play the hand we are dealt.

And that's the REAL message of this blog post: play the hand you are dealt. Do the best you know how to do. 

And to return from the real world Moose and I (and you) inhabit, to the fictional world Stephanie Osborn has built for Agent Omega, I hope that's the message she eventually allows herself to hear. Choose love, Agent Omega. Nobody has any guarantees, not of anything. So: choose love.

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