October 7, 2013

As Long As You Don’t Shit On The Floor

Giacomo & Slick

Giacomo & Slick

Words Of Love

What you do is far more important than what you say. It’s similar to the old show and tell rule. You can tell people all day long how scary facing a rattlesnake would be, but if you drop one down in front of them it takes on a whole new light. The same thing holds true for words. It’s not what people say to you that has a lasting impact, it’s how they treat you.

Quite frequently I hear people say, “love you,” when they hang up the phone, or “love you,” when they say goodbye after lunch. “Love you, love you, love you…” People spit those words out with no thought, no reason, and no emotion. Maybe the first time you hear it, it means something, but after a while it has no affect. It’s like having ice cream every day.

A Different World

This is foreign to me. I grew up in a time when expressions of love weren’t thrown around like they are nowadays. But, and here’s the big thing, we didn’t necessarily need them. Maybe it was just my neighborhood. Hell, maybe it was just my family. I don’t know. But I have the greatest memories of childhood and none of them involve anyone saying “I love you.”

I have been married to my wife for 44 years. We’ve been married since we were teenagers. But if we say “I love you” to each other once a month, it’s probably for a special occasion. On the other hand, there’s no need to say it. I know she loves me and she knows I love her. I think she’d rather me say, “I’ll help you weed the garden.”

I  know some people will think it appalling that we don’t express our love every day, but this method works for us, and has been working for 44 years. Getting back to the neighborhood.

Uncle Jack & Aunt Margaret

Uncle Jack & Aunt Margaret

Uncle Jack…

…was married to my father’s sister and they lived in the house next door to us. These were row houses and in that neighborhood, at that time, no one kept a door locked. We went in and out of each other’s houses as if they were our own. When I was eight-years old, my father had a heart attack. Back then when someone had a heart attack they were hospitalized for weeks, minimum. My mother had her hands full with three boys and a newly born girl, so I went to stay with my cousins next door for a while. On the first night, as I came in the door, I said, “Uncle Jack is it okay if I stay here for a few nights?”

Uncle Jack often had a serious demeanor, and yet he had a humorous side to him also. And when he was happy, even if he wasn’t smiling, you could see the smile in his eyes. In this instance, he didn’t bother with nonsense. He just looked at me, narrowed his eyes, and said…

As Long As You Don’t Shit On The Floor

It was the best thing anyone could have said. It was better than a hug, or a pat on the back, or any silly “I love you,” type saying. What he said made me laugh, and when you’ve got things to worry about, nothing is better than laughter.

Over the course of the next several years, I had occasion to spend the night at Uncle Jack’s house a few more times, and he never failed to remind me that I was welcome to stay, as long as I didn’t shit on the floor.

When I was 28, I moved to Texas, and a few years later Uncle Jack and my aunt came to visit. My wife picked them up from the airport and brought them home. I waited at the door. When he came up the sidewalk, I stepped out and said, “Uncle Jack, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you don’t shit on the floor.”

He laughed so hard he began coughing, but I could see the smile in his eyes. We had a great visit, but when they went home, it was the last I ever saw of Uncle Jack. He passed away shortly after that.

I don’t ever remember Uncle Jack saying, “I love you,” but there is no doubt in my mind he did. To paraphrase a quote from Maya Angelou: “People might not remember what you said to them, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”

To this day, whenever I think of Uncle Jack, I picture him with those smiling eyes. And that makes me smile. And then I hear his words in my head, “You can spend the night—as long as you don’t shit on the floor.” And that makes me laugh. So even now, thirty years after he died, a memory of Uncle Jack brings a smile and a laugh.

I can’t think of a better memory to have of someone.


Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of:
No Mistakes Resumes
Murder Takes Time
Murder Has Consequences
A Bullet For Carlos
Finding Family

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”


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4 Responses to “As Long As You Don’t Shit On The Floor”

  1. I’m laughing out loud because I can picture Uncle Jack (and you) saying that.

    Actually, I can picture a lot of people I know from the NE saying something like that. It’s typical of the area. But you hit the nail on the head in saying there is an underlying meaning that’s understood (and doesn’t need to be said).

    He could’ve said “Of course! You’re like one of my own kids.” But he got that message across more powerfully by letting you know you could do anything but “sh*t on the floor”.

  2. You’re right, Aliza. I can’t tell you how many times I stopped while writing this and smiled or laughed, remembering Uncle Jack.

  3. This was my house growing up too. And now that I think of it, for the first 24 years that’s how it was between Greg and me–up until we moved 300 miles away from each other.

    Once we lived apart we said I love you every chance we got. I suppose it was our quiet insurance, in case the unthinkable happened and one of us died away from the other.

  4. Maria, I agree. That old saying about absence and the heart growing fonder holds some truth also.

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