Sam: Being responsible

“I had a very responsible childhood.”

Sam was 17 when his mother died by suicide at age 39. In 6th grade, he realized his family was different from other families.

Mom was in the hospital a lot, but it wasn’t to fix a broken leg. It wasn’t for cancer treatment. My dad, my sister, and I would go visit mom on Sundays in the hospital. It was a huge building and as a little kid I would have never found my way out of it if dad hadn’t known the way. Sometimes mom was very sad and sometimes mom was good-natured.

He recognized that other kids did not visit their mother in the hospital on Sundays. His mother, Miriam, would show him the artwork she had done while in the hospital. He wondered why adults were in the hospital doing art.

Recently, Sam’s father, Joe, died at age 86. In his reflection for his father’s memorial service, Sam wrote about his father’s strength and stoicism during his mother’s manic episodes and hospitalizations. He describes Joe as never harsh or critical. Joe provided emotional support for Sam and his sister, Joann, who was four years younger. Although Miriam’s behaviors were very troubling, including having affairs and spending money, Joe never spoke badly about her. Years later, Sam asked his father why he did not get divorced. His father replied, “Back then to get divorced, the woman gets the children so I didn’t want to not have time with you and Joann.” Sam viewed his father as a “tremendously dedicated man.”

More of the Story: Growing Up with Mom