Proving Society Wrong, Gattaca-Style


Ever since I first saw the 1997 film Gattaca, it's stuck with me.

Ever since I first saw the 1997 film Gattaca, it’s stuck with me.

In it, children were genetically engineered in labs to be the smartest, strongest, and most talented kids that humankind had ever seen. The story’s hero, Vincent, got his start in a drive-in theater-like setting and was born “genetically inferior” to the “valids.”

As an “in-valid,” Vincent got to sweep the floors of the space academy that he wasn’t allowed to attend because he couldn’t possibly be as smart and physically fit as the valids. He assumed the identity of a valid, attended the academy, studied like Brainiac, trained like Rocky, and went to Saturn, proving his society wrong. I love it when that happens.

For years, I was told by professionals what my son wouldn’t be able to do. I distinctly remember taking a parent-child survey when he was about 3 years old, and then watching 2 doctors swap glances with each other after interpreting the results and proceeding to tell my wife Sheryl and I that, “He’s not going to be the greatest reader or writer in the world.”

My “Grammar Queen” wife had a look in her eye that said, “Over my dead body.” During the ride home, we swore to each other that we’d do whatever it would take to make our son Julian a productive and independent human being.

Julian has carried a few labels around over the years. From what I remember growing up, I was on a similar path, but because it was the 1970s, they just threw me in school and I figured it out.

Julian needed help along the way, but he also just needed to grow into himself. Sometimes, father knows best.

Julian turned 15 years old last month, and it was like someone flipped a switch in him. All by himself, he made honor roll and absolutely dominated Bach’s Prelude in C at his piano recital, both within 3 days of each other. His arpeggios were absolutely flawless, and it didn’t just happen; I’d never heard him practice a song so much.

That weekend was 15 years in the making. He had so much help from the North Pocono School District over the years, and every single one of his teachers and therapists cared enough for him to make sure he didn’t slip through the cracks.

Special thanks go out to Julian’s music teachers, Frank Torquato, Dante Marmo, and Michelle DelPrete, as well as his piano instructor, Erica Castaldo. Music opened up his mind and set the foundation for his self-discipline. Music teachers tell you what they want, when they expect it to be done, and good luck; the rest is up to you. Frankly, that’s why musicians always wind up ahead of the game.

After Julian’s recital, people came up to me and shook my hand. It felt like the dad of a state championship quarterback, but I certainly gave Julian all of the credit.

All I did was let him borrow some of my DNA sequence. It may not be Gattaca, but it seems to be working out.

“All the way to the moon and back,” my son. All the way.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, saw this coming.

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