CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was reminiscent of a scene from "The Godfather." Except instead of Italian, think Polish. And our Don Corleone was female.
And if any of us had made a move to kiss her ring, she'd likely have suggested an alternative target.
When my Aunt Wilma makes a trip back East from California for a visit, the homage begins. Her nieces and nephews -- nearly all of whom have stayed with her at one time or another -- travel long distances to pay their respects.
Like so many families, ours is spread coast to coast. Aside from weddings and funerals, we seldom manage to gather. Organizing a get-together that works with our schedules and distances is an enormous logistical undertaking.
Yet several of us cousins somehow managed to gather last weekend to take advantage of Aunt Wilma being in Pittsburgh.
I think maybe it was the slapped-togetherness of the weekend that made it work so well. There were no fancy clothes to pack, no uncomfortable shoes. No need to cook something to bring that would impress.
We alternated between hanging out at my cousin Dale Ray's apartment -- Aunt Wilma's headquarters -- and my Aunt JoAnne's, where cousins Erik (from Florida) and Wendy (from Texas) and their people had crashed.
There was much eating and talking, a trip to Kennywood Park. We grazed through leftovers as we stayed up late and talked more. Far too soon, it was time to head home.
To some, it might sound uneventful or simplistic or lacking in color, but it was one of the best weekends I've had in ages.
When you live far from family, it's easy to forget the feeling of connection that comes from spending time with those who swim in your gene pool, along with the ones that they love. The ones who swim by default.