Sam I am...
I met Sam Trainor when I was just knee high to a grasshopper. He was my father's best friend. An imposing structure at six foot five and some two hundred and forty pounds, Sam could devour an entire pizza pie with ease. I was impressed! He was an electrician by trade, a mechanic by nature. Sam loved a mechanical challenge. And when he solved a problem he always offered a lengthy explanation. His enormous knowledge of all things mechanical along with his incredible size, kept many a person captive for much longer than they could stand. I always enjoyed his enthusiasm and his willingness to share his knowledge. He offered advice freely and had a whole list of proverbs to quote from. "A smart man learns from his mistakes, an even smarter man learns from the mistakes of others" was one of his favorites.
He was the most comfortable in work boots and Wrangler dungarees. Leaving his house however, was a big deal for him. He was a homebody who was forever tinkering around the house. Cars were just one of his mechanical interests. He dug and finished a pit in his garage so he could do automotive work without having to lie on his back. It was a fine pit too! If you asked he would let you use it. Along with the use of the pit came the use of his tools and of course, Sam himself. You would start off doing the work yourself, but before you knew it Sam was doing it and you were watching the master at work. It was then that the twinkle in his blue eyes was most noticeable.
It seemed tall, large bodied guys were always expected to carry heavier things, do more back breaking work than the rest of the normal sized population. Somewhere in his forties this responsibility took its toll and Sam found himself with a chronic back problem that eventually put him out of work and on long-term disability. He would be a full time homebody from that point on.
When I first entered the trades I would frequent his house to talk shop. I remember him talking about the spring and how it had been his favorite time of year to work. He meant it to. Because of his disability his work had now been reduced to a hobby. He continued to search it out though, and enjoyed every part of it, bad back and all.
Sam's advice to me, a young apprentice at the time, was that I should take the part of my job I have the most difficulty with and become the very best at it, that this would make my life easier. I always think of him when I find myself mastering a skill that I once despised. He was right, it did get easier. He also told me that when I misplaced a tool to look up high, that's probably where I'd find it. So many times I find my tools on top shelves or on sill plates in basements.
Sam had two of everything. He was always prepared for a failure. When he bought a T.V., he bought two. Everything he could afford to, he bought in duplicate. I thought about it and realized that Noah had taken two of every animal on the ark. Sam was on a similar kind of mission...
I remember one afternoon visiting Sam and him slicing the two of us some cinnamon crumb coffee cake. I wolfed my piece down with a milk chaser. Sam meticulously carved small pieces out of his slice and made it last for what seemed like hours. When he was done, using only a single prong of his fork, he picked up every last morsel until the plate was so clean it looked like it belonged back in the cupboard. He was patient. He was stubborn. And he was fussy! When he was older he once set up a transit and watched some "young fellas" side his two story house with clapboards. They were much kinder than they wanted to be. Sam was uniquely genuine and hard to dislike.
Sam was one of the first people to get cancer that I knew. I would go to his house to visit him then and I'd be amazed at how even after the cancer had taken its toll, Sam still dwarfed a full size bed.
One afternoon I sat in a chair next to his bed and he asked me if I wanted to be the busiest plumber? "Of course" I said. He said "Come closer" I moved a bit closer to him. He said "Closer". I inched even closer. That wasn't enough. He demanded that I moved even closer. I was so close I was looking down his throat when he finally spoke these memorable words, "Work for nothing!" Totally shocked I pushed myself back and thought how the cancer must be doing a job on him. Then with the same enthusiasm he had spoken with for so many years, he repeated, "Work for nothing! You'll be the busiest Plumber!" It was then I realized Sam's genius was still at work. He was right again. He calmed a bit and went on to explain the fine line between being busy and earning a living.
I don't remember seeing Sam again. He succumbed to cancer.
Every spring when I'm working hard in beautiful weather, I think of Sam. When I find a lost tool in a high place, I think of Sam. Whenever I see a hot pizza pie being pulled from an oven, I think of Sam.
I'll just bet that if I look long and hard enough, I'll find Sam in a very high place too...