Mother’s Day recently passed while Father’s Day is around the corner. My mother and father are amazing people but my mind lately has been on my grandfathers.
The influence of a grandfather on a little girl’s life is one I have missed. Due to advanced colon cancer, my paternal grandfather died the last day of December 1976 and my maternal grandfather died of a heart attack three weeks later. I have lived my life with stories of who these men were but never realized the special interaction I missed until seeing it between my daughter Hannah and her grandfathers.
My maternal grandfather was an incredibly kind man. I am proud to be his granddaughter. His actions and mine are similar in some ways. He could not stand to spank his children so he used my grandma as a way of keeping his children corralled. I do the same with my children.
It is my paternal grandfather I have thought the most about over the past few weeks. I suppose it is only natural for him to be on my mind since learning my children also have Cowden Syndrome and my sister did not. Because odds of a PTEN mutation are 50-50 with one positive parent, this does not mean my father is without the condition. Based on family albeit vague, three geneticists have said the extra A nucleotide in the PTEN gene came from my grandfather’s lineage.
Last night I was working on a family chart and noticed other signs the syndrome was there but not diagnosed. My grandfather’s uncle died of colon cancer at a young age which our strain of mutation has been identified in. He also lost his wife in childbirth. Larger headed babies run on the Thompson family line as they do with those who have a PTEN mutation. Another uncle lost his wife for the same reason.
After researching the tree, I took out a photograph of my grandfather circa 1974. He had many of the same physical features as me though it was difficult to see his skin due to indistinct 1970’s photographs. I stared at the man I never met when it struck me that if he had been diagnosed with Cowden’s thirty years ago and screening were available then as now, he would likely be here. I would have at least one grandfather and that hole I feel from their absence would be gone.
The tears of frustration finally came but along with them, hope. It isn’t 1976 any longer. I do not have to fear working hard and enjoying life only to have it end young as his did. I have asked my family about my grandfathers because a weird twist of fate took them from us so close together before I was developed enough in my mother’s uterus to hear their voices.
Though certainly I wish it could have been something different I inherited from my grandfather a small part of me is proud to know 100 percent certain I did inherit something. This man and my other grandfather have been placed on pedestals at family story time due to the proximity of their deaths with my birth. The Cowden Syndrome diagnosis humanizes my grandfather and in an odd way connects me to him even without him being here.
The story of a family is mostly environmental but as my article has shown it can also be genetic. I understand many of my articles have been about Cowden Syndrome and the PTEN mutation lately and plan to change that with the next article. It is time to move on and write some interesting stuff that applies to more people. I’m healing from this rude awakening of my children being affected with the syndrome and am ready to fight life head-on no matter what it brings.
(Picture coming to go with this after I visit my grandmother to borrow one).