My Poppy's older brother Joe passed away last week. He liked being recognized as the oldest, and at 94 he had every right to brag. He was the last of John and Tessie's boys, and it's too much to think that now all the stories of the boys when they were young will be second-hand. The stories are legendary, but told by actual Naclerio brothers, they were fascinating, hilarious, and always more interesting than anything I could ever tell.
Uncle Joe and I had a lot in common. We were both into photography, gardening, cats...he even enjoyed tinkering with my Lego train set, but we also got our computers around the same time and I think I learned more about Windows because of Uncle Joe calling me up and asking me what everything was for than I would have on my own.
Uncle Joe loved to drive so much that his car Bessie pretty much knew the way home all by herself, which was good as I used to fall asleep halfway through each three-hour drive to and from his house. The day he drove to the Bronx, picked us up and drove us to Moriches so I could figure out why his computer was speaking German, then drove us home and then turned around and drove himself home should have gotten him a medal.
Over the summer of 1993 I seemed to spend more time on Long Island than anywhere else, taking pictures of all the places I followed Uncle Joe and Nan and Mum, and it was during those long trips to sunny places that I learned my limitations. Crashing and burning, I think it's called. Uncle Joe didn't seem to mind as long as I assured him I wasn't mad in my cheeriest slurring, but sometimes I wonder what he really thought when he showed me a hat with a lobster through it and said, "Isn't this your sign?"
I said, "Yeah!" because I had heatstroke.
Of course I still have the hat. I guess hats were our thing. I first met Uncle Joe at my uncle Johnny's wedding in 1983 but it wasn't until my Poppy's funeral that he started greeting me with, "Where's the hat?" every time he saw me. He used to wear hats too, and my cat used to greet Uncle Joe by pushing his cap off his head. Being the cat lover he was, Uncle Joe was impressed by m'man, and what he wrote to me when he heard m'man had gone ahead to the great catnip pastures beyond is something I'll cherish until the day I join them.
This past week I've been playing the Windows solitaire games Uncle Joe used to love to play when we first got our computers. He showed me how to play them, and I haven't won a single game but it's been nice to remember the good times.
Those boys, in that picture up there, they did good. They left their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandkids, great-grandkids and every generation after with some great stories. I'll never forget them, and you can be sure I won't let anyone go without telling a little bit about them.