This Father’s Day, my husband and I brought each of our parents “23 and Me” DNA tests to learn more about our family’s heritage. Inspired by a friend’s results, which connected her family history back to the ancient Silk Road trade route, we felt this was a gift that would spark great thought and perspective in the family. 

It is hard to imagine my dad having exotic origins. I think he was cut out of stone. He is immovable, a solid man of principle and loyalty. There wasn’t a tollbooth operator in Illinois who didn’t hear his displeasure over paying 40 cents at a tollbooth in the 1980s. He refused to put a Nabisco product in his mouth after the company moved out of the Southwest Side of Chicago. 

If he lived in Forest Park, he would not care about a “Welcoming Resolution” and would wonder why anyone would take issue with video gaming. He would be disgusted that Forest Park limits residents’ ability to build whatever they choose on their property  — whether it’s new fencing, a concrete parking pad, a third-story addition, or adding a second level to a garage. 

His point of view is very black and white. He has never lived in Forest Park, but he would find his tribe here.

Labor was divided in our family by gender: I made the beds, did the dishes, set the table. My brothers mowed the lawn (with pay) and had access to the table saw, the lathe, and the drill press.

When Anthony Clark, a citizen advocate, asked me once about discrimination as a woman, I couldn’t answer, not because I didn’t understand what he was asking — I didn’t understand why the question was so simple. He didn’t know that my own father, the artist, texts his cartoonish Hillary Clinton illustrations with references to Benghazi and her private emails for his own entertainment. It is part of the way he shows me he loves me.

Listening to right-wingers, left-wingers, opinions of people who identify as “disenfranchised,” opinions of those with power and just feeling uncomfortable with other perspectives is part of my normal life experience. 

I wouldn’t have this comfort with discomfort without my interactions, as a woman, with my unambiguous father.

No matter what my father’s DNA reveals about his biological heritage, his social heritage was formed by his Uncle Gus, who never took a sick day in his over 40 years working in the steel mills, his aunt who was a cloistered nun, and his grandfather who once owned the land now known as River Oaks Mall and who bootlegged during Prohibition.

We all are shaped by both our biology and our experiences. One is not more significant than the other, but together they combine to tell a unique story. How we identify with our heritage and contextualize ourselves within our community or family and choose to express them in the present is our significance. 

Forest Park is a town filled with outsiders. How we choose to share our community together at this moment in time is entirely up to us, each of us bringing our unique backgrounds and experiences.