SamHenry Looks Back At Family and Friends as She Negotiates the Hairpin Turns To The Next Decade

Posted on May 15, 2011

Here it is - the worst Sam has ever looked. Whew. Now that's over. Why would I give identity thieves a passport photo perfect shot? Sam is working toward a better image in the coming months.

That blogger friend I call Roo saw a picture of me with my first boyfriend in another post and said I was a pretty young girl.  I was thrilled.  I look back on that little girl and I like to like her then as well.

Having grown old and approaching the next decade of life at the waddle, I will share with you some favorite SamHenry moments each month as I ease on down the road.

I love photos – anyone’s and of  just about anything.  I studied photography briefly at university.  They are the best jumping off points for good stories.

To know the soul of SamHenry is to learn that by the time she was four, she had lived through perhaps the most horrific traumas to influence her life:  She witnessed the crash of a p-40 at the Buffalo airport while being “tested” by a friend of my late father’s as he committed suicide in front of the crowd that day.  Big, smoking crater, lots of lights and sirens and me crying unstoppably.

Shortly thereafter, Sam was alone with her test-pilot father when he had one of his first seizures.  He died 18 years later from that brain tumor that caused it.  His sister died after only a year with hers. What a lousy lineage.

I’m sure I’ve told you all of this before but that is old age – saying your memory beads each night before you go to bed so that the beast of old age won’t devour them in the night – even the bad ones.  You see, it is the bad ones that truly make you strong and have literally saved Sam’s life.  My father’s strength in the face of a long march toward death, his sacrifices for us, even when we were terrorized by some of the moments he was quite literally out of his mind – why would I want to give up in life having lived through all of that, eh?  It is the human condition – all of it.  And this other end of my life a few years ago found me begging my mother to remember how strong he had been as she faced her own end altogether too aware of what was happening as dementia closed in on her.  But she died knowing who SamHenry was.

And now the truth of the matter.  It was not just strength that got us through the tough times.  No, it was humor.  Silliness is forged in the fires of  trouble and despair.  It is a mighty weapon.  My weapon of choice.  I hope you have noticed.  When Sam’s humor is missing, it is never a good sign.  But it always comes home.

Sam's World War II Nevada years with Dad and Mom. Life as an only child would end happily with the birth of my first brother a bit later. Mom got him on sale I think.

Sam's favorite photo with her Dad.

Father of the great love of my life. Henry C was an Irish-American novelist and newspaperman seen here in the middle of a tantrum in his 90s. I read his galleys, took long walks with him and was his minder when he stopped for a martini on the QT.

Barry and Sam. From age 12 he was THE one. He was a better writer than his father but never did more than artful letters to me and good advertising copy. He will always be the other half of my brain because he helped shape it. While we could not be together for all of life, we were the closest of friends throughout all but the last two years of his. He died 5 years ago this month of a brain tumor, having supported me through my Dad's own. His persona darkened, he never told me why but we drifted. Happily he didn't take all the laughter and silliness with him. Oh, no. I have a blog full of it.

Sam triumphant at Edinburgh Castle her spiritual home, 1964 – she had survived Dad’s illness and was off to see the world.  Sorry Barry, sorry family and friends, a girl’s gotta do what she’s born to do – see as much of life as possible out there even if all that’s possible is the block on which she may end up living.  Her father and Barry taught her that.  Both were great examiners of life all around them and how it was being lived.  The pursuit of this is an art, really.  All that writers do is bottle up this essence and sell it back to us in their books.  Lovely way to make a living, yes?  But not all writers make a book.  Some just a blog.  It’s in the doing – the process – the careful thinking through or not, the organizing or not but certainly recording the important internally digested and recast parts of life -that is the writer’s joy.  That is why dry periods or so-called blocks are painful. As a filter for some of life’s precious moments, it is as if life itself comes to a standstill.   But where there is joy in the doing, it’s  hard to go off the rails and even if you do – in the end it’s just your mess and no one else’s  and you can handle that.  It’s what you are – it’s what you do.  Sam had fear of writing for 50 years.  What a waste of time.  So the joy will never dim in this human house because it has so recently been lit.  I’m so glad this is the picture that brought this out tonight.  I have wondered how to say what has happened for years.  Sorry if I confuse you but I’m clear on my side.  Stick with me.  You’ll catch it if you like SamHenry as I begin to.
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