I saw a friend recently who asked about my relationship with Sam. She never met him, just read about him here: “He seems like a really neat guy. Reminds me of Tuesdays with Morrie.” Sam would be so pleased. 🙂 He read the book right after he moved into the nursing home (2001), and shared it with as many people as he could. Sam was my uncle: chosen family, not blood. We had a hell of a connection, he and I. He met my dad while the two were in college, was at my parent’s wedding, knew me as a child. When my parents moved us from the northeast to Colorado when I was 3 1/2, we would see Sam once or twice a year when he came to visit family (apparently sneaking in a visit with us in Denver before heading to their neck of the woods).
When I was 13, my family moved to Florida, and that was the end of visits with Sam. The end, that is, until I moved to Vermont in 1993, almost 20 years later. Dad must have told Sam I was coming, because a month or so before I arrived I received a phone call from Sam, and once I’d settled in I made my way out to (re)meet him at the Putney Diner. I knew things about Sam that he didn’t know other people knew (or that he’d forgetten they might know). As we navigated those potentially treacherous waters, the depths of his integrity shined brighter than anyone I’ve ever met. Literally – before or since. Sam and I were kin in ways I’ve never experienced with anyone else, including my blood family, including lovers and friends.
He was such a role model. The most powerful thing he ever said to me was that he had decided “to love generally and not specifically.” The thing about Sam, though, was that he didn’t just say things. He lived them. I often wondered when and how he learned that lesson and made that choice. I guess he was somewhat younger than my present age, although it is possible he always knew. He was wise about the value of pleasure and made it a point to make people happy. He never let on how much energy it takes! Well, that’s not entirely true. 🙂 He might admit it, but the admission was never an actual complaint – it was a descriptive statement of his experience. The expenditure of energy didn’t deter him, even if it wore him out he would persist. He never forgot how much it matters to make the most of every moment no matter what the emotional state of the people with whom he shared it. Even me! “He never shared the misery,” Pat said, the day we cleared out the last of Sam’s things from the nursing home.
I’m not so solidly put-together, but I hold forth the hope that by starting now there’s a chance (small as it may be!) that by the time I’m 80 I’ll also be able to live as fully and lovingly and irreverently as Sam. Yes, they all three go together. 🙂
I miss him, and – I have his LiveStrong bracelet (thanks Lee!) and much of his music. Plus the memories and the example. When I struggle, I consider “what would Sam do”? I’ve not got his gift for saying the incongruous thing that makes everyone laugh, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got a wee bit of his spirit floating around in me. I’m positive I’m not the only one. Some of my friends, and Sam’s grand nieces and nephews have been posting their own remembrances. He wasn’t perfect, but he was closer to it than most.