What’s All the Fracas?

His birth certificate read “Fracas Edward Schlattery, Jr.”  According to the document, he was born to Lisa Starling Schlattery, age twenty-six, and Micah Delfino Schlattery, age twenty-three. Fracas Corbett didn’t  wonder who his namesake might have been until he reached his late twenties. He couldn’t ask his birth parents, as he was given up for adoption when he was just a few months old. They had died in a train derailment while he was still a toddler. His adoptive parents, Alex and Jolene Corbett, also died, oddly enough, in a train derailment when Fracas was away at college.  A few years after their death, when diagnosed with Gaucher disease, Fracas developed an interest in his ancestry. The doctor’s follow-up to his diagnosis prompted the interest.

“Do your parents exhibit any symptoms characteristic of Gaucher disease?”

“My parents? They’re dead.  Are you suggesting I might have caught it from them?”

“No, it’s not a disease you catch. It’s a disease you inherit.  It’s an autosomal disorder. You received the Gaucher gene from both your parents. They both were at least carriers and one or both of them possibly had the disease themselves. Did they exhibit symptoms while they were alive?”

Fracas shifted in his chair, sorting through his confusion. “Oh, I was thinking my adoptive parents. I don’t know about my birth parents. They died when I was a baby.”

The doctor explained in detail that Fracas’ relative paucity of symptoms was a good sign, but he recommended enzyme replacement therapy, or ERT, nonetheless.

“It’s in your best interests to undergo ERT. While there’s no guarantee, it’s quite likely that ERT will keep you essentially asymptomatic. I see from your chart you’re not married. Are you engaged or are you in a relationship?”

“Neither. Not at the moment. Why?”

“As I said, Gaucher disease is inherited. If you were to have children with a woman who either has the disease or is a carrier, your children would have the disease. So before you get involved with a woman to the extent that you might have children, I strongly suggest she be assessed for the disease.”

“You mean before I have sex with someone, I should check their genes?”

“Well—yeah. That’s pretty much it. Otherwise, you risk fathering a child who has your disease. And while you have few symptoms, and they’re quite mild, your child could have much more severe symptoms.”

Fracas was not planning on having children. Ever. But he wanted to know more about the people who gave him the disease. And he wondered who they had in mind when they named him “junior.”

Even with the help of the volunteer leader of the Westchester County Genealogical Society, Fracas found nothing about either of his birth parents. They couldn’t even find death certificates, though they did find a single newspaper article about a train derailment around the time they died; the article mentioned that two people, names and ages unknown, died in the crash. It was almost as if they had not existed.

Nor did they find information about any other Fracas Edward Schlattery. His own birth certificate was the only evidence of the name. As he was leaving the genealogy office, he overhead the woman who had helped him ask another volunteer, “Who the hell names their kid Fracas?” Who, indeed.

As is the case with virtually everything I write, I have no idea where this is going. It’s probably going no place. As with virtually everything I write.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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