Thursday, April 9, 2015

Today's MOZEN: He Ain't Heavy 4/9/2015

Photo: C Imperatore Words: F LoBuono
When seen side by side, there is no denying it. The resemblance is unmistakable. We even sound very much alike. If you telephoned our house asking for one of us while we still lived together, it might take a few minutes before you realized that you were talking to the "wrong" one. Our body language is virtually identical. People sometimes ask if we are twins. We are not. We are brothers - in every sense of the word. However, beyond the physical similarities, we are VERY different - at least in approach and attitude. We are both very much our own men. Still, we share on an elemental level that has created an unbreakable, special bond. Because of that connection, I have shared my deepest emotions with him that I would trust to no one else. Yet, on some levels, two people couldn't be more different.

My full baptismal name is Francis Joseph. In the Sicilian tradition followed by my family, the first born son's given name comes from the maternal grandfather (the Francis/Frank) and the middle from the father (the Joseph). My brother, younger than me by 2.5 years, is named Joseph Francis. Again, by tradition, the second son's given name comes from the father and his middle after the paternal grandfather, also coincidentally named Frank (Francis). So, even within our very names, there are striking similarities between my brother and I. Also, as circumstance would have it, the economic conditions of my family while we were growing up required my brother and I to share a very tiny bedroom. We did, however, still manage to have our own small beds - but only about a six inches apart from one another. So, for about eighteen years, my little brother Joe and I were about as close (literally) as two brothers could be. We have stayed that way (mostly) for over fifty five years. Still, with that said, our approach to people and life, is so different in so many ways.

From the beginning, the emotional and behavioral differences between Joseph and I were apparent - or so I am told. Where I can be hyper-kinetic, all sound and fury, my brother is a much quieter, calming presence. Our mother says that it took hours to get me to sleep and stay that way. Joe fell asleep almost instantly and slept deeply. In fact, so deeply that she would hold a mirror under his nose to make sure that he was still breathing! It's still the same way. Joe can sleep on a bed of nails. To the contrary, after a night with me, my sheets and pillows can be found in all sorts of contorted positions. Joseph's ability to sleep almost anywhere has served him well over the years in his job as a long-distance trucker. My inability NOT to, I suppose, has also served me well, too. In the news business, sleep can be seen as a liability. Joseph often laughs as he tells of growing up together when, in the middle of the night, I would be up, light on, pacing our tiny bedroom, mad with ideas. Anyone who spends the night with me now would find the same scenario.

Again, in contrast, my life seems to be a continuous barrage of words, either written or spoken. Joseph has never been a man of letters. I tell others that's so because between our older sister (another "talker") and me, there were no words left for him. But, he has a quiet, inner wisdom that's palpable. If a Hollywood central casting agent were asked to send over the classic "strong and silent type", Joseph would show up. It's one of the reasons I have never called him Joey - even when we were kids. To me, it just doesn't suit him and never will. It's either Joe or Joseph. They reflect the inner strength that he possess. That's why I have shared my most secret thoughts with him. They are respected, never judged, and held sacred.

He has a inquisitive mind but never showed much interest in formal education. Whereas I pursued my studies to the highest degree, after high school, Joe went to work doing what he loved - driving trucks. He was always most interested in just that one thing. Even as a kid, his most prized possession was his collection of Tonka Toy trucks (I think that he still has it). So, when he reached the right age, my parents re-mortgaged our home to buy him a tractor trailer and he went into business hauling freight. He never stopped. He has been driving for going on forty years now and shows no sign of letting up. I went on to earn a bachelor's degree and some masters credits. I even managed to teach at the college level. In a sense, it was a rich man/poor man scenario (although I never got THAT rich). However, even though our approach was different, we both shared a strong desire that we learned from our parents to be the best at whatever we attempted. In a sense, we have taken different roles to arrive at the same destination.

Another curious difference between us is that Joe is so much neater in appearance and practice than I am. Really. One might think that, as the "trucker", Joe would be less interested in style and grooming. Well, the complete opposite is true. He may not wear Brooks Brothers suits but he will top of the line LL Bean down jackets or Tony Lama boots. And, all of his clothes are immaculate. So is his person. He regularly showers two times a day and wears the most expensive colognes. My fashion sense can be demonstrated by my favorite store: Grace Thrift Shop of Nyack, NY. I do shower regularly and shave every other day. However, clothes shopping is not habitual for me. And, I do not even own aftershave!

We have shared adventures, many of them while trucking together all over the Country. We have laughed a lot and cried a bunch, too. We have experienced too many ups and downs together to mention - a whole lifetimes worth. And, there have been times of anger, too. There were many months when we did not speak. However, I never felt comfortable in our silence. Still, our bond is in a realm beyond words. Despite our differences, our souls are the same. And, neither one of us would have it any other way.

PS: Joe is NEVER seen without his glasses. I only wear them to read. :)

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