A to Z Challenge: Sam

Character sketches that are fictional, but based on real people, like us.

I knew his car had been stolen – the agency had the decency to call and tell me that yesterday morning. By why hadn’t he shown up last evening. Surely he could have found another ride in that amount of time. Where was Sam?

I depended on Sam for most of my husband’s care. Since having a stroke six months ago, the husband’s 200 lb. body had been in bed, at home, most of the time. He was on tube feedings, incontinent, and unable to communicate clearly. I had been lucky to find Sam during a time when shortages were causing crisis in all the local hospitals and nursing homes.

Tall and husky, moving easily and obviously strong, Sam had been a godsend. He not only helped clients move physically but he had an air of authority that produced mental compliance as well. My husband never gave him any trouble but Sam was full of stories of those who did. “Marines are the worst.” he would say. “They don’t want to follow doctor’s orders and are just plain ornery.” Or sometimes it was family members who thought they knew better. Sam enjoyed inviting them to take over if they would like. Most chose not to.

I didn’t know a lot about Sam’s life outside of work, just that he had married a woman a little older than he was, who had six kids. She must have been something special to get him to take on a tribe of that size. One of the kids was old enough to have a young one of her own. She lived at home. So at 30 something, Sam already had a grandchild in his house. He obviously had a thing for kids, even if they weren’t his own.

Somewhere along the line Sam had become a caregiver. He drove trucks for a while, and having a love for machinery of all kinds he started mowing lawns and doing yard work for people when he wasn’t driving truck. His family ran a service much like Visiting Angels so it was natural that he started picking up work doing home repairs, cleaning and doing errands for their clients. Once in a while an emergency came up where he actually had to sit with a client who was sick. He gained experience and so it happened that he started doing personal care for those who didn’t mind that he had no credentials. Their company was always up front about his status. There was such a shortage of workers in the healthcare field that people were glad to have Sam help them. He was way better than no help at all.

“I’m going to pull you towards me and then roll you over, buddy”, he would say. His voice was always a couple notches louder than any other noise in our house so he had a way of waking a place up and getting the work going. “Work with me now. Put your arm into this sleeve.” These explanations were part of why my husband liked Sam. There were no surprises to startle him.

He liked to talk while he worked, telling stories about his kids mostly. They knew what he did but I got the idea that it didn’t win him a lot of respect in their eyes. Just the other day he had told the youngest boy what he did at work and the kid said “Eeew, you have to change people’s diapers?” Sam told him, “yeah, and I changed yours too, so what?” That shut him up.

He was also big on apologies. He hardly ever did anything really wrong. He apologized for misunderstandings, for being confused, for not being quick enough, even for heading toward a doorway at the same time I was. I heard him say “sorry” so many times it started to jump out at me, so I told him to quit it. He apologized. I guess it was all his mom’s fault for being a stickler about politeness. She got a lot of credit for his work ethic too. He was quick, thorough, and had an air of kindness.

So where was Sam and why wasn’t I hearing from him? It was not going to be fun looking for a replacement.

Saving: A Relationship Building Tool

There are people who don’t have a soft heart toward animals (I think we call them psychopaths). We are not those people. From their earliest days, my girls and I have been saving one lost animal after another. Our collaboration on this mission has helped our relationships grow stronger. After all, if we will do it for an animal we will probably do it for a person. We trust each other’s soft, compassionate heart for things that live.

This has been on Mom’s refrigerator for years. I think that’s why I must have started picking up strays.

Giving kittens a good home was one of the girl’s first projects. We had (way too many) barn cats that usually could not be caught, unless they were very young. The girls were “kitten tamers” so that they could be given to good homes. They were mostly successful, except for the one that had to go growling and hissing into a box, fastened shut. We prayed it would not be returned to us.

Baby birds, found near dead, were nursed back to life. I was commonly looking for recipes for baby animals and conferring with veterinarians on their care. Wounded squirrels found refuge at our house, in spite of being little terrors and biting us. One even got taken to the family chiropractor in hopes that his weird limp and inability to walk a straight line without falling over could be corrected.

Yes, even ants. Activism’s early beginnings.

Kitten tamers and dog trainers, they excelled in their saving of animals, and the animals got bigger. Julia brought a Wisconsin horse home to Florida, not knowing it was pregnant. Her herd started that way. Years later, she has four horses she cares for, plus two ponies, two donkeys, four sheep, two goats, three dogs and two cats. It is a good thing financially that she is now a large animal vet, but it also means she is always hearing about one more animal that needs to be rescued or put down.

Esther has become a greyhound expert, having given two of them a good home while they were alive. She has a third one now, and has had a couple of other dogs along the way as well. She has a passion for training dogs to have good relationships with people, so they aren’t a burden on others and can have forever homes.

I am going to give credit to our experiences saving animals, building trust relationships with them, to our ability to relate in good ways to people. After all, most of the same principles apply, and should be applied. Love and attention, reliable boundaries, consistency, proper care and feeding – doesn’t that sound like what you and I want? Yes, all that. And, in fact, we often buy pets for children in hopes that they will learn to do these things and be responsible for their animals and their people.

It is true that those skills in being compassionate do bleed over into concern and care for people. Both Julie and Esther value their close relationships and tend to them responsibly. It is a joy to watch, and also a comfort to consider as I get older and closer to needing “saving” myself. We’ll see how that works out.

Rescuing animals can be a good tool in teaching about relationships. It was for us, and has been for many others, maybe you? Sometimes it’s enough to send a check to the Animal Rescue Society, after watching one of those commercials about starving, shivering puppies tied up in the snow and mud. For the most part, we do have something in us that longs to save. I don’t believe it’s an accident that we were created that way. Just sayin’…

Once homeless, Shadow lives with me.