My brother told me he loved me today. I have six brothers, so one down, five to go. I have a sister, too. She doesn’t have to tell me she loves me. I can see it in her eyes. But, the brothers—ah, yeah. There’s no point in me saying which of them called and made me all misty-eyed over a lunch-hour bowl of Cindy Lee’s hot-and-sour soup. Even if they don’t figure out which one it was, they’ll know who it wasn’t. I hope they feel terrible, because if there’s anything more motivational than love, it’s guilt. Once they read this (my immediate family accounts for a full third of City Weekly readership), I’d expect that, by this time next week, my phone will be ringing off the hook.
Or not. Because actually, how often is it that men tell men how they feel or what they desire—not counting when they talk about the correlation between rising beer prices and erectile functioning? I’ve never felt compelled to have that particular conversation, but I have talked with men about all my other maladies, including inguinal hernias, sleep apnea, panic attacks, irregular heartbeat, high-blood-pressure medications, cholesterol levels, metabolism rates, acceptable liver-enzyme ranges and hair loss. I get the last one frequently because, even at my advanced age, I have a full head of enviable, wavy, black hair. Bald guys migrate to me. But none has ever said he loved me.
Love between men—even brothers—is usually not very visible. I know there are exceptions to that rule: the Stoddard Brothers, for instance. The Stoddards are that randy bunch of Scotsmen musicians who play the summer patio gig at Ruth’s Diner, as well as just about every charitable function around. One look at them on any stage, and you know they love each other. I don’t recall watching The Osmonds or the Jackson 5 and thinking, “Wow. Those guys are tight!” Nope, with them it just looked like a money gig and if they loved each other, it didn’t show.
Not that they didn’t. I just couldn’t tell. That’s how it is between most brothers. You say, “Hello,” you eat Mom’s pie, you ask how the kids are, how big the fish was and about that nagging yip in the putting stroke. Then, with a nod and “See you later,” you’re done for the day. Or a lifetime, even. It’s rare among men to get that bolt-from-the-blue phone call and then to hear the words, “I love you.” Especially if that call comes from your brother.
That’s the way it is. At the gym or after drinks, a guy might say to a buddy, “Love ya, man,” like in those beer commercials and then depart with a chummy hug. Yes, a hug. Men hug more than ever these days, or haven’t you noticed? I’m fine with men hugging. I’m Greek. I’ve been hugging my whole life and, when I go to Greece, I kiss guys and guys kiss me. Twice. Once on each cheek. I can seldom figure out which cheek should be kissed first, and I end up bonking foreheads now and then. But, I don’t kiss guys here when I greet them or when we say goodbye. If I did, some ass would call me a queer.
Like I would care. I wouldn’t. It’s just one more thing that’s totally screwed about America: We have an entirely warped notion of what love is, and we possess an equally warped notion of what to make of people who openly express that. To wit, if two men show affection for each other, or if they are perceived to, some knucklehead will grab a baseball bat and a Bible and start swinging both with equal abandon. Yet, that same knucklehead might go his entire righteous life never once telling a loved one he loves them, never once hugging or embracing another man, brother—or wife—and he still manages to be regarded as a welcome member of God’s love chorale. A regular guy. A tough. Maybe even you.
I’m not that tough. Hey, Gary, so smart, one of Bingham High School’s greatest athletes and my first hero: I love you. Sam, my first friend, I was so sad and proud when you left for the Air Force in 1960: I love you. Dick, from the Marine in Vietnam to the engineering wizard who can build anything, anytime: I love you. Jim, who did his B-52 thing and now lives so far away and who I seldom see: I love you. Those are my older brothers.
My younger brother, the likable Terry, the Yankee and Dolphin fan, the even-keeled one, the hard working nice guy with the easy personality: I love you. Petey, really Steve, but I never called you that, who picked up Dad’s knack for fixing things from parts unknown, a nasty sense of humor: I love you. That makes six.
So, that just leaves my little sister Paula. An old Greek up in Bingham Canyon called her Cleopatra. I don’t know why because, unlike Cleopatra, she doesn’t have an urge to rule the world and also possesses a very large heart: I love you. For good measure, I love all of their families, too. And Mom. And my family, of course.
And, that’s a wrap. It’s not at all what I intended to write about today. Nor even what you may care about. But, I did get that phone call. It made me think, “Why not?” When I thought about it, I figured there was no reason not to. Beats worrying about writing something smart, that’s for sure, plus, for once, I can say I wrote something that mattered.