Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HC: The Call of the DNA

Last week I was on vacation in Oregon and saw my cousin Ellen. Possibly no big deal, but I’m 45 and was meeting my older cousin for the very first time. She is my dad’s brother’s child. I’m one of three kids, Ellen is an only child, and our other cousin John is also an only child—and I haven’t seen him in over 35 years.

Close family, huh?

I’ve never minded, because “family” has always been the people I choose to have around me, and not necessarily people with whom I share DNA. Funny thing, though, because as it happened, I loved Ellen and her husband Ken. Nice, good people. And our time together felt very special. Perhaps her DNA and mine were yelling out to each other.

My sister and I have always heard the call of the DNA. We are as close as sisters can be, even when we lived 3000 miles apart for 13 years. Now that I have children, I hope they feel connected as they become adults. Having a supportive sibling is a great treasure.

In the old days, if you moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx it was a huge insult to your family. Now, one of my best friends has moved to Oxford, England. Another friend moved 40 minutes away and it sometimes feels like 400 miles. Luckily email keeps us all in touch, but it’s not the same as just hanging out on the stoop.

So, cousin Ellen is on the other side of the United States. We email each other about two times a week, and I miss her. She looks a lot like my Aunt, and has memories I don’t about people we’re related to. When she says “Uncle Paul” she’s talking about my dad. When she says “grandpa” she’s talking about my grandfather, who I never knew. I’m already trying to talk Ellen into coming to New York for a visit. I’m also thinking about visiting her in a few months. This particular DNA is very loud.

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