Nick Orlando. Nick Orlando. It is very difficult to say his name without the corner of your upper lip tweaking. Those who knew him could not deny his sense of humor. As a young boy, with constant visiting privileges, I was the recipient of uncle’s love, generosity, and his bed. That’s right, his bed. Back then, in the 1950S, he shared his bed with his youngest brother Angelo, and me. (Picture that today.)
Rising up on Sunday morning was always a treat. He would sneak up on me and whisper, “how ’bout a ride to Penny’s?” Penny’s was a small, local restaurant and I believe he had an eye for an employee. Oh, yes, I should mention that Uncle Nick was quite the bon vivant. Today we would say a “legend,” at least in his own mind. After pancakes and milk, for the guys, we would go to Presti’s and get a dozen warm, fresh glazed donuts for the rest of the family. Sunday was second only to a national holiday.
Uncle Nick had a hand in my success as an entrepreneur, too. At a tender age he taught me that doing an excellent cleaning and shining of his good pair of wing tips was the difference between a nickel and a quarter. (Today that’s a lawsuit.)
Burned into my memory is when he returned from the Army and presented his mother with a crucifix ring. Just Nana, me and Uncle. She cried, I cried, he turned away after the kiss. I loved the moment and the ring. Upon the passing of Nana the ring was presented to me as my connection to her and uncle Nick.
Now I’m sixteen. I slept on the living room floor. August 15, 1961. Cocky, hormonal, and have inherited a bit of Uncle Nick’s “legendary” traits. One of them being my fondness of the young ladies. The problem I had staying at Nana’s so often was my inability to pick-up any dates I could have made. I had no car. Uncle Nick to the rescue. After a few questions he recognized my dilemma and asked if I could get a date if I had “wheels.” I looked at him with a glint of Gable. He smiled and handed me the keys to his shiny, two-tone, ’56 Oldsmobile. No lectures, no threats, just the keys and a full tank of petrol. When I returned a few hours later with my holiday date, a slight nod of approval from him was the prelude to a wonderful evening.
I must admit, though, the defining moment in my relationship with “Greek” was when I inexplicably referred to my dear father as my “old man.” I was probably fourteen of fifteen years old and full of myself. Well, Uncle Nick was not impressed with my utterance. He sat me down, alone, and expressed his displeasure and disappointment with me. He scolded me because I disrespected his brother. Family values. Uncle Nick knew I had the greatest respect for him. I have carried that life lesson with me for well over fifty years.
Words are very powerful and I have tried to choose them well. Thank you Uncle, I trust I made you proud.
By Carlo Orlando©
Photos provided by Georgeann Orlando Butler©