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Grand View, Kansas, 2014

Reven AC 52,

I want to tell you about my brother, Samuel. He was a little more than four years older than me. I was the middle child, with Chance and Sam older, Victoria and Denise younger. I looked up to Sam, as most younger siblings do towards older ones. I am sure your younger brothers look up to you. Sam and I played lots of very active games. I was full of excess energy.

We ran across the roof of the milling factory 1/2 a block away, at the outrage of the neighbors, with shouts of, "The roof is rotting away and you might fall through." We ran across it in the pouring rain. We were fearless, and I relished the thrill of being tough and strong and athletic. My parents called me a tomboy. I could take anything. I also loved softball, high jump, hurdles, swimming and high diving, and was actually petty good in all sports I tried, for a girl, that is. Sam and I swam, fished, ice skated, sledded together, often with my other siblings. I had so much fun with him. He probably thought of me as a tag-along. I don't remember him complaining. I think he liked me.

When Sam was 17 years old, he wanted to join the Navy. He wasn't liked in school by his peers and he wanted to leave. He was not of age to join without parental consent. My father was against it and would not sign to allow him to leave. After quite a bit of rhetoric, dad agreed Sam could bus up to Minneapolis and take the test to see if he could even qualify for the navy. Dad didn't think he would pass and that would be the end of it. He would have to stay in school. Dad was in shock when Sam did pass and shipped out to California shortly after that. We were all, in fact, devastated. I cried and cried…not so tough…

Many details regarding things that transpired in Sam’s life were not visible to me. My parents felt the other children should be shielded from painful circumstances surrounding Sam’s life experiences. I heard bits and pieces of conversations my parents had, though. For example, after some time in the Navy, Sam went AWOL (absent without leave). He said his best friend, a black, was stabbed to death and he was certain he would be next. Sam insisted he and the black fellow were friends but guys on board ship accused Sam of being gay. So, Sam skipped out when the ship came to port. He hitch-hiked, got out of Dodge. He was picked up in Texas and jailed on vagrancy charges. Of course, he was investigated by the police. My mother and father went to Texas. I am not sure what transpired. They didn’t tell us. I suspect Sam did some time for desertion and then was released. I remember hearing, “dishonorable discharge.” After his release, mom and dad didn’t know where he was for a long time after that. Mother wrote letters to the Navy, newspapers, private detectives (Foy Sledge being one), agonizing over her oldest son. I recognized the hell she lived, the exquisite pain she endured. Each one of us wondered where he was and wished he would return, unharmed and safe.

Sam eventually showed up in Mankato, Minnesota several years later. At the time, I had been married and Hope was about three years old. Dean and I were living in Faribault, MN (the town where you mom was eventually conceived and born). My mom worked as an accountant for an auto dealership in Mankato and secured a job for Sam where she was employed. I am not sure what he did. I do know he was drinking heavily, spending all his pay on a weekly basis in bars. He would buy rounds for everyone and lost all his money. He was a pool shark, a good one from what Denis and Grandpa Don said. Victoria and Denis were still living at home). He won money back from pool to spend on his drinking. He caused a lot of problems. He broke into dad’s desk and stole money. Mom and dad tried to help him. They would look for him when he was gone for days at a time. Once they found him at a house with a bunch of other people. Three guys came out to stand up to my father because Sam had accused dad of all sorts of things that weren’t true. My father was a disciplinarian, decidedly, but not to the point Sam had accused him. My parents were very secretive, so circumstances are very vague for me regarding different events. Like I said, bits and pieces.

Sam left the area suddenly and was simply “gone” again. Mom agonized over him even more than when he was home and she lived CONTINUOUS WORRY. We all missed him. At one point, we know he was in Montana working in an auto shop, I believe. Then he was in California somewhere. He had tested and qualified for some lowly government job. Clerk, I think. Civil Servant to be exact, whatever that entails. He wasn’t unintelligent at all.

Oh, incidentally, he loved to draw. One time during my childhood years at home, my parents were changing all the old roll-up shades in the house with blinds. Sam kept all the shades so he would have material to draw on. I saw his drawings. I was jealous… I think he used crayons, maybe chalk. I cannot remember. Some cheap art supplies all child-filled families owned. He rolled them up so I couldn’t see… I don’t know what became of them. Suppose they made it to the trash…??? Did anyone look??? Is this why mom bought me a canvas art book with paints and brushes that Christmas after Sam left???

EDIT: I have since found that these drawings were destroyed in the flood caused by the pipe leak at Grandview Police Department.

Well, in January of 1997, I received a phone call from Grandpa Don. I will quote the conversation because I will always remember the exact language. Dad, “Sam was in an accident.” Me, in rapid fire, “What happened? Where is he? He’s all right, isn’t he?” Dad, “He is no longer with us.” Silence.

Sam died near Van Nuys, California. He stole a man’s pickup, drove off the road, I think rolled the vehicle. Then he got up to flag down help. He was stunned from the accident but alive. It was an 8-lane highway going into San Francisco. According to the detective’s report, the first car that hit him, tossed him into the air. He landed on the windshield of the second car and rolled over the car onto the highway. The third car rolled over his head. I don’t know how many cars hit him. I heard 21. He was in pieces all over the highway and cars. Sam came home in a bag. He could not be viewed. We put his picture on the coffin. Devastated doesn’t come close to describing our agony. My father cried like a baby…my father…

Mother couldn’t see his body, so for years, she kept hoping he would come home. She was in denial for years. Eventually, she came to accept she would not see him alive. I can only hope that somehow they have visited recently. We are made of space and energy. Do we return to make up earth’s atmosphere? Maybe there is a way our hearts can meet up with the ones we have loved and miss the most. I am not religious but the heart must seek peace, somehow. Mother searched for peace. I hope she found it…

He did things we will never know about. It is very painful for me to revisit his memory, although I think of him often, the details are harsh. They make me cry, for myself, my mother and father. I hope Sam and mom and dad are together.

I just turned 21 years old when Sam died, he was 25. On August 26, I will be 66 years old. I still miss Sammy. His life consisted of a lot more than this.