nature vs nurture

July 26th, 2001

It’s Chico’s birthday today.

The nature versus nurture argument has always been a one-dimensional issue for me since, being adopted, I’ve only ever known one side of the equation. I’ve always pretty well felt that I’m the product of my upbringing – a good one, with love and support, comfort and opportunity.

Having children of my own has made me more aware of the nature side of the coin. My two girls, Jasmine and Rachel, share traits of both me and Clare that are often uncanny. Still, It’s easy to be convinced that nurture is the biggie.

While trying to diagnose some medical difficuties Jasmine has had since birth (now under control), we decided with our doctors that it was time to ask the government to connect me with my birth parents for historical medical information. It’s a sort of Pandora’s box thing, a decision I didn’t take lightly.

In the spring of last year, at the age of 39, I separately met each of my birth parents for the first time.

I met her first. I learned about her life and family, about a number of half siblings, one of whom I met. We got along quite well, and I learned a lot about my birth ancestry. I came to know the circumstances of my arrival. I told her about my life and assured her I was well taken care of. I expect we will keep in touch from time to time. She is a very private person and I respect that.

She told me a bit about him, too. He was a very talented jazz drummer (neat – I’m a drummer too!). He moved to California in the sixties. He’s 5 foot 3 and his family is Spanish (That’s funny as hell, I’m Edmund Brent Ashley, as anglo as you can get, and I’m 6ft tall and 225 lb.)

It’s funny how the net works. I often say to whoever will listen that you can find just about anything on Google. I’m talking to her about “him” and I finally say “So what’s his name?”. “Paul”, she says, “but everyone called him Chico… Chico Fernandez”. What a scream! Some tiny Spanish guy named Chico Fernandez spawned me?! Couldn’t possibly be more different from me. So I stick it into Google – [“Paul Fernandez” Drums], and wouldn’t you know it, on that day, www.santamonicamusic.com comes to the head of the list. This is a store that Chico and his brother Vic run together in Santa Monica. She confirms it’s gotta be him and I have the government worker make first contact.

After an initial exchange of letters and then phone calls, I scheduled myself onto a flight to Los Angeles and headed down from the Thursday evening to the Monday morning – almost four days of unbelievable wackyness and discovery.

Talk about separated at birth. It was like we were twins born 20 years apart. Sure, there are notable differences, but everybody we met was absolutely floored by the similarities. We yapped and drank and drank and yapped for the whole time. I met his wife Elena and some of his family. I had a chance to sit in on the drums with his jazz combo – it was magical.

It’s been over a year since then. I brought Clare and the girls and Clare’s mother Hazel down to California for 10 days and we saw quite a bit of the Fernandez clan amongst our Disney and Sea World excursions. Chico’s whole family is so warm and made us feel so at ease and comfortable. We’ll definitely be in touch for a long time coming.

I feel like Dorian Gray looking into the mirror and seeing myself at 60.

Whoops – I mean 61! Happy birthday Chico, or should I say Mini-Me.

One comment to “nature vs nurture”

  1. Hi Brent: It’s amazing what you can find on the net with a little spare time and a few key strokes. Hope your family is well. We missed you at the summer get together at Mom/Ethel’s cottage. Don’t know if there will be one this year. Will let you know. Happy New Year. Please say ‘Hi’ to Claire and your girls for me.