Over the past year I have written of experiences as well as biographies of five of my dad’s brothers. Uncles Andy, George, Mikie, Nick and Angelo, each had their own influence on me as a child. Humor stands out the most to me, now. Uncle George and Uncle Nick, together at a family gathering, were Abbott and Costello, or for the young reader, Jay Leno and David Letterman. Uncle Mikie, with his loving nature, guided me through the generational gaps between me and my great-grand parents. Uncle Andy, after an occasional brew, would breakout the mandolin for a sing along. Uncle Angelo was my pal, my buddy. We hung out. When I joined the Air Force he segregated me and told me the worst thing he ever did when he was in the service was get a tattoo. That was enough for me; no tattoo.
There is a sixth brother, James. Uncle Jim, affectionately referred to as “Mimi” by his brothers and cronies, is, if I may say, different. He never married and never moved out of his parents house maintaining a reclusive life in plain sight. His days were filled with television and reading the Enquirer. Sitting on the couch, legs crossed, he would order me to change the channel until I found the station he desired. For you youngsters, there were three stations. Sports or a movie was the goal. Uncle Jim was Nana’s go-to guy for Mike’s butcher shop, too. She’d give him a dollar, and on occasion, he’d grab me and the two of us would head out. No words spoken, no hand holding. One pound of bologna, pay and put the rest on Nana’s account. As darkness fell, like a vampire, Uncle would come to life. Without a goodbye he walked to Mayfield Road to protect the privacy of a men’s club. If Uncle Mikie and I took an after-dinner stroll he would point out where Uncle Jim was, from across the street, and tell me how I wasn’t allowed to go near the club. It didn’t take me long to figure out that a private club in Little Italy in the fifties was not a place for me, although it did pique my interest.
One story I remember is that Uncle Jim was stationed in California during the Korean conflict. Uncle Nick was in the army, too, and volunteered to go overseas. By a stroke of luck, Uncle Nick’s overseas orders passed through Uncle Jimmy’s office. He called his brother and told him Korea was no place to be and got Uncle Nick permanently stationed in Alaska for the duration of his commitment.
According to my parents, Uncle Jim was never the same when he got discharged. He lacked motivation and slowly turned into a hypochondriac. He lived a life of solitude which continues today. He’s alone in his eighties. My sister, Georgeann, did get Uncle placed in a retirement apartment complex to live out what must have been a tormented life. Sorrowfully, I have to write; no human life is a waste, but some humans waste life.
By Carlo Orlando©