40. Cousins

What does it mean to be related?

Cousins Annalisa, Clara and Angela 1949

Why do we feel a bond to family with whom we share little but DNA? I wonder, and yet I feel very emotional when I have the chance to spend time with my Italian cousins.

Angela, me, Clara, Annalisa, 2015

My cousin Angela and I share the name of our paternal grandmother – the custom in Italy – as well as the Simeone forehead and round nose. I am closest to my cousin Clara, a retired school principal and teacher, because she still retains some of the English she learned in college. We see each other whenever I’m in Rome or Gaeta. Given the language difficulties, I imagine it’s a strain for her- it is for me- and yet it seems important for both of us.

Clara, circa 1950

We were able to get together in Gaeta this summer. In many ways, we are virtual strangers, and yet it is always an emotional reunion. Is it merely that I know how important it would have been to my father that I do this, or is it something even deeper than that, embedded in our DNA?

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