Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Sexagenarian Brother

I am the youngest of three baby-boomer brothers.    When we were growing up, the Smothers Brothers were popular, and we would occasionally joke about one of their routines in which the younger Tommy Smothers would lament to the older Dick, “Mom always liked you best!”   In our case, the mantle of “favored-one” fell not to my oldest brother Pete, but to the next in line, Nick.

In stark contrast to Tommy Smothers, we say this about Nick  with not even a hint of bitterness or jealousy.  It was simply a fact.  After all, what’s not to like?  Nick was always the best behaved and the most compliant.  He cleaned up after himself, did his chores, never left things half-done, and was always ready to serve his parents.  He was most likely the one who started the practice of serving our mother coffee and toast in bed on weekend mornings, which kind of obligated the rest of us the follow suit.  

The personality traits that made Nick a good kid followed him through his teens and into adulthood.  Though I was almost six years his junior and therefore not a suitable playmate, he stayed close to me and watched after me, keeping me under his wing.  I remember this most vividly from around the beginning of the seventies when he had just graduated from high school, and our parents were away a lot, tending to their dying parents in Italy.  Nick was looking after his kid brother both then and later in 1972 when he and I took a memorable trip together to Italy sans parents.

In the mid-seventies I started attending the University of Maryland.  Nick had just graduated from there and settled in the area, so I spent my freshman year living in his apartment.  I must have been a pain in the ass during that time, but he still took me in and looked after me.  Even after I moved into the dorms, he was always nearby and checked up on me.

As a government and politics major, Nick quite logically pursued a career as an auto-mechanic.  (Well, at least he specialized in Fiats and other European cars, so his minor in international relations was not a complete waste.)  My first car, a used 1975 Fiat 128, was one that he picked up for me and replaced the blown engine to make it roadworthy.  The next several used cars I drove were purchased with his advice and guidance, and of course he was always ready and willing to help me out with routine and not so routine repairs.

Though I have long since weaned myself from Nick’s assistance in all things automotive, it is so good to know he is always there.  We live on opposite sides of the Washington beltway and both lead very busy lives, but hardly a day goes by that one of us does not ring the other up, if nothing else just to check in and say “hey”.  There are certain topics we stay away from.  For example, he does not care for my politics.  

But one thing I can say for certain, though I disagree with him politically, I can attest that Nick has the biggest heart I know.  As busy as he is, he seems to find time for everyone, serving a wide circle of family and friends, whether lending a helping hand, or just being there in a time of grief or difficulty.

He also seems to find time to live life to the fullest and stay quite active.  Even a bout of cancer--which he roundly defeated and survived, thank God—was unable to keep him off the soccer field or the basketball court.  It gets me a little nervous sometimes, especially because neither of us are as young as we used to be, but I trust he does know his limitations at sixty years of age.

Yes, my brother Nick turns sixty years old today.  Happy birthday, bro.  I love you very much.

1 comment:

Leo Vadala' said...

Just one word - ditto!