DNA Will Out

Because I write police procedurals, I try to keep up with forensics. To that end, I watch a lot of true crime on TV. I had seen several programs devoted to the Golden State Killer who literally got away with murder for decades until advances in DNA, specifically familial DNA, came calling and nailed him.

In the aftermath of that arrest, I’ve been a fascinated follower of the career of CeCe Moore. She started out doing familial DNA work in order to reunite long-adopted children with their birth parents. Now her career has morphed into something else, and she’s currently working as a cold-case detective uncovering murderers who, like the guy in California, have remained hidden in plain sight for years and sometimes decades.

But this week, a piece of familial DNA popped up and hit me smack in the face.

When Colt, our grandson was born, he was the spitting image of his father. In the past few years, however, that dynamic has changed. A year ago, at a junior high band concert and shortly after Colt started wearing glasses, I saw his profile under the lights and noticed how much he resembled my father, his great grandfather Norman Busk.

Colt has been growing like a weed. When he showed up at a recent bowling tournament after a four month bowling hiatus, the guy in charge took one look at him and dubbed him “Stretch.” And it’s true. He’s all legs these days, and in that respect he resembles my three younger brothers who, as they were growing up, were known for their “Busk” build—scrawny and with outsized legs.

Both my paternal grandmother and great grandmother were six feet tall, and I’m right in line with that at six-one. For the time being I still have an inch or so on Colt in terms of height, but his inseam is a 38—four inches longer than mine. So there you go. That’s one side—the lanky side—of the family tree.

But then there’s that other side. Colt’s paternal great grandfather was a guy named Herman Teale Janc. I’m relatively sure that when Colt’s paternal forebears arrived in this country, most likely from somewhere in eastern Europe, whoever was doing the paperwork lopped off the part of the last name that they could neither spell nor pronounce. So a name was supposed to be pronounced Jance like dance ended up being mostly mispronounced as Jank like tank. After my first husband died, the kids and I went to court and there, for a mere four hundred bucks, we bought that final E for our name so people would pronounce it correctly.

But back to Herman. He was a relatively short guy, only about five seven or so. He had a headful of coal black hair of which he was inordinately proud. He was working at the Nevada Test Site when he died of a heart attack at age 53. When my mother-in-law, Mary Grandma, went to clean out his locker, she was furious when she discovered a bottle of hair dye hidden inside. So much for his coal black hair!

I really liked Herman. We’d sit at the breakfast table, drinking coffee and talking for hours on end. In 1972, I named my baby girl after him. There was no Harry Potter at the time, so I wasn’t about to name my newborn Hermione. Since Herman was out, I used Teale instead, naming her Jeanne Teale. (That’s the French pronunciation, so it’s more like Zhun Teale than the Americanized Jeannie.) Herman saw his namesake only once—the week after she was born. He died three months later, and I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and named her after him.

But back to those long conversations over coffee. Herman loved to pile one spoonful of sugar after another into each cup, and he always sat on the kitchen chair with one leg folded and tucked under the other.

Last week when the family’s post bowling tournament quarantine ended, Colt and his mom came to dinner. We were out on the patio where Colt was helping with the grill. When he turned around to down, there it was! He folded one of those incredibly long legs under him and sat on it, just like his great grandfather Herman!

So there you have it—familial DNA at work in a handsome young man who, as it happens, may have his father’s bronze hair, but who also resembles BOTH his great grandfathers!

As for his grandmother? I couldn’t be happier!