I would not like his inability to sustain relationships—for the relationship gene, I turn to my mother. My mother had friends from the third grade. When she was maybe 70, we were walking up Madison Avenue and a man about her age hailed us from across the street. "Dellie Cohen! James Madison High!" She didn't really remember him, but he remembered her. They caught up. "Everyone loved your mother," he said. "They still do." ("Ma," I said later, "you were the rock star of James Madison High!" She smiled.) My mother had weekly conversations with at least six friends. She went on vacations and all-girl getaways about twice a year. She wrote long, fond letters to her grandchildren, bought things that I didn't need and foisted them on me regularly, and kept up with everyone who mattered to her—in a meaningful way—for 80 years. I would like that for me, too.
Neither of my parents complained about their physical health or other problems, and I am hoping to copy that as well. But there are other ancestral traits I have to watch out for, and I can sometimes feel their ivy twining around me. All my aunts, and my mother, began dyeing their hair as soon as it had more than a sprinkle of gray, and I do, too. But I check in with my daughters, regularly, to make sure that I have not followed in the suddenly-ash-blonde delusion that my mother was so fond of. Most important, my parents were not, for much of their marriage, happy with each other. Even when I was 10, and even with their dance trophies, I could see that. Their troubles led me to a too-early marriage and a painful divorce, but they have also led me to a very happy marriage—and a couples therapist on retainer.
The past is one of our clearest indicators of the future. Everything I saw in my parents—the good and the bad—has given me something. I am cursed with my mother's arthritis but blessed with my father's stamina; his toughness, her kindness. So, ten years from now: no tennis and no whining. Still working, still loving my friends and family. Still dancing (thanks, Daddy, for teaching me the cha-cha).
Amy Bloom's most recent book is Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Random House), a collection of short stories.
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