Last winter, I got an email from my cousin, Leigh. Her mother, Dorothy, is my dad's sister. Leigh and Dorothy and Leigh's two sisters, Susie & Becky, all live in Texas. (There's also a brother, David). Leigh is my age, and we great up as friends, as much as friends who only see each other once a year can be friends. Living all over the place as we did, we only went to North Texas on home leave over the summer. Nevertheless, we've always been friends. When I went to college in Texas that first year, and my parents were still in Singapore, I drove to Pampa with Leigh to spend Thanksgiving with her family.
Anyway ... now that we've established the background ... back to the email. She and her mom and sisters were planning a trip to North Carolina in January to visit some of their cousins, i.e. my grandfather's family, whom he left before the Great Depression, in Mebane. My father and his sisters had met their cousins once or twice in their lives. I mean, North Carolina and Texas are pretty far apart, and Southwest Airlines didn't exist back then. I suppose that when you get along in years you decide to go back to visit family, distant though they may be.
There are two of my dad's first cousins living in Charlotte. One Saturday afternoon we drove down to visit them, along with their siblings and children. It was a big ol' family reunion. Or should I say, a UNION. There was no "re" about it, as we had never met before.
My dad had very rarely spoken of these folks. I should have been thrilled to meet them, but I felt empty. They were strangers. As I thought about all these new people in my family, I realized there was no connection. Just DNA. After all, isn't family more than just biology? Isn't family sharing experiences, sitting around the table saying, "Remember that time when we ...?" or "Remember how grandpa used to ...?" and remembering the summers spent on the farm, or the time Uncle Raymond got a new toilet seat for Christmas? Isn't THAT what it is all about?
It made me put our daughters into perspective. Truly ... My daughters and her brothers CAN sit around and laugh about Melanie cutting her hair, or about how many times Quentin got stitches. And the trip to Disney ... and the way we used to laugh at dinnertime. At how funny Daddy looks with a beard. Isn't that what family is really about? We don't need no stinkin' DNA.