Sam: Reconnecting with Family

Sam “ran away emotionally” from his family, going to college after graduation with the intention of never coming home again. His dad remarried two years after Miriam’s suicide. Although his sister Joann came to visit Sam in college, he felt he had to shut down emotionally for his own survival. Now they communicate and do get together occasionally, but are not close. He feels closer to others in his lifehis coworkers, friends, children, and fiancé. Sam believes his family “stopped being in a family in 1971” when they did not know how to talk about loss.

No one knew what to do. And it’s a year. And it’s five years. And it’s 20 years. And we still didn’t know what to do. In fact, my stepmother wouldn’t allow us to talk about our mom so that still angers me. I shut down, didn’t want to take much risk of more hurt. After I stopped being numb, after five years perhaps, my new family was my peers.

Sam explained he was angry with God for all that happened in life for a long time. One day he stopped being angry with God.

Then I got better. It doesn’t pay to be angry with God forever. I think that’s when I decided, well does it make sense? I’ve thought about it as much as I can and more than I can. Okay, God, I’m not doing so well without you. I’m back.

In his father’s later years, they would play golf together in the summer until his father reached his 80s (five years ago). As they played golf, Sam would often ask his dad questions about his mother and his childhood. His dad shared stories about his mom’s childhood in the economic depression. Sam learned that his grandparents were burdened by the birth of twin girls and economic strain.

Sam often told his dad, “You’re my hero.” Sam’s definition of a hero is about relationships.

A real man’s measure isn’t by how quick he can change a race car tire or how straight he can push a wheel barrow, but it is if he can hug you and say I love you. He was my support because he was logical and he was always there and he was consistent. I love my mom but I didn’t know who my mom was going to be. I loved her. She loved me. But it was unpredictable.

His dad’s stories helped Sam understand his mother’s lifelong need to feel special. At his dad’s recent memorial service Sam gave a eulogy, explaining his dad was his guide and taught him lessons from life. In the spirit of sharing golf together, Sam wrote, “Dad’s insights and solace were an oasis amidst the sand traps and water hazards.”

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