Jilly D.

Happy Birthday Sam Warren

In Anniversary and memorials, Pictures and memories on December 6, 2011 at 3:10 am

Born December 6, 1951, Sam Warren was one of a kind. He’d be 60 years old. Sam would have been ornery, irritable, crochety and downright nasty about getting that old. Miserable old coot, he’d cuss and mope about the big six-o.

From the day I met him, Sam was an old soul trapped inside a younger man’s form. While he never read Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau, he lived their 19th century ideals.

Sam Warren

Sam in Summer

Sam hated getting older. To me, he’ll be forever 57.  His hair will never grey; long golden tendrils. The smile lines around his eyes and mouth remain soft and supple. His moustache and beard still strawberry blond. It’s his birthday and there’s no cake and ice cream party at his mom’s this year. I can’t buy him supper at the Glenwood Pines. He ordered the same thing every time we went there: Delmonico steak and shrimp, baked potato with butter, tossed salad with ranch dressing, and a Black Velvet and 7-Up. And please warm up the bread and bring extra butter.

He used to call his mother at the hour and minute of his birth from wherever he was on his birthdays. In the last 15 years of his life, he called from his phone sitting by the pond up to this parents’ house on Buck Hill Road.

Sam didn’t just call his mom on his birthday. He used to call her at any hour of the day or night; just every once in a while to check-in as his way of saying I love you. Now she misses his calls. And I miss listening to Sam talk on the phone. I’d stand there at the sink washing dishes and he’d call his mom to tell her some news. I’d turn around and he’d give me a big smile and those eyes twinkled with a wickedly happy glint.

Sam took me to the LeHigh Valley Restaurant for his last birthday. Prime Rib. He told me about coming there with his family when he was a child for New Year’s Eve. He didn’t come into Ithaca until he was 11 or 12 years old, he’d told me. In its day, the LeHigh Valley Restaurant was a pretty fancy place. Named after the train line first established here in the 1800s, this establishment closed just a few months after Sam died.

I close my eyes and remember the white table cloth. Sitting knee to knee at a table for two surrounded by people talking, eating, joking, singing. The linen napkins and white china and Sam’s freshly washed hair and clean shirt.  Relaxed and calm, he told me about the LeHigh Valley Bar and Restaurant and his image of it as a high society place to gather and celebrate. He liked that years earlier it was the nearest hotel and restaurant for those traveling by rail to Ithaca. And he liked that in his 20s he’d built the canal across the road, operating large equipment, and that he and the guys on a crew would stop in for lunch break . He had never taken me out to the LeHigh Valley before and he said it was a good birthday.

Happy Birthday Sam. It’s a good day to celebrate you.

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