I haven’t managed to shake my sadness, since I learned of Sam’s death — by drowning. I heard he left a note saying he’d had a good life. I could say ‘I’m not sure why I’m sad’ — but that would be a lie. I’m not alone in that sadness — he was well-liked by a lot of people. But for me it’s at least partly about aging. Sam Sueshi Miya was 84. I thought he was “only” my age — 73.
Sam was cool. He was what some would call “a character”. Witty, and very observant. An artist. You could see a certain sensitivity in his glance. He was not above a little flirtation. And he was not enjoying aging.
We had talked about a few things that most young people don’t talk about, like fearing the approaching winter: “those damn Toronto sidewalks”, for one. This is urban Toronto, and they don’t clear the sidewalks. It bugs me, because I’m from Montreal where they do. It’s easy there to walk in the winter.
It’s challenging to walk in winter here, if you’re “elderly” — or if you have a lot to lose by a fall. Like me, with my beloved stainless steel hip — the best thing since the internet. But if my wondrous mechanical joint breaks, that’s major surgery, lots of pain, and months of recovery. Or like Sam, with his difficulty in walking, his “previously mended” body — He had already been through long recovery from some pretty significant accidents. Walking was difficult for him in the best of weather. It was getting harder every year to face Toronto’s winter.
When a young person falls on an icy sidewalk, it might become an anecdote. If an elderly person falls, it can mean the end of life.
Trying to arouse interest or concern on the subject makes me feel old and tired. I think the only people under 60 at all interested are those who use wheelchairs, for example, or those who’ve experienced a temporary vulnerability, like a broken leg — or someone pushing a stroller.
But you’ll always hear the objections to the costs (tax dollars). I wonder if a ‘big picture’ analysis might help. How much might be saved by fewer falls, fewer emergency room visits, fewer deaths in hospital from pneumonia — resulting from those falls. Are these recorded in studies? Does “StatsCan” analyze such data? Does anyone under 60 ever think about it? Not in Toronto, apparently.
There were 27,415 Toronto emergency department visits by seniors in the 2004-5 period. The peak period: December and January. How many tax dollars might we save by doing the sidewalks?
And Sam. I can’t say for sure he killed himself because of the sidewalks. But I know clearing them would have made life more livable. For me too.
My condolences for your loss. I’m getting older too, and am becoming aware of the physical and mental aspects of aging.
Thanks 🙂 Incidentally, if you googled Sam you’d no doubt get a sense of his charm. You could say he was a part of the neighbourhood identity…. Sad that neighbourhoods always change — just like we do…. Isn’t that supposed to increase our wisdom? I’m waiting!! 🙂
We just learned of Sam’s passing at Hanna’s (Phila Optical) soiree earlier this week. We lived in the hood and in the fall moved to Hamilton. We were so sad to learn of Sam’s passing, and that we didn’t know of the memorial, or we would have been there. You don’t seem to have your name anywhere but I see that people call you Pat. You don’t know me, but my husband suspects you are the Pat he met through Ellen Moorehouse. His name is John Bentley and you may remember our dog, Oso — a beautiful blue Chow. Sam will surely be missed. It was quite the shock to hear that he is no longer with us. This was lovely and thank you for posting it.
Oh yes, John with the Hasselblad! Yes, I am that person 🙂 We have Monica in common too! Sam would be glad he missed the winter (so hard to walk!) and I think he would be unhappy about the disappearing old neighbourhood, wishing he could go to Hamilton too, I’ll bet. Some of us are talking about exploring Hamilton before the fall. Hope you’re loving it!
I’m 32 and care, I can walk, and run and also lend a hand when I see a senior struggling on our winter sidewalks, I do as often as I can.
Sam was also my uncle, and at times the closest thing to a father or sempai as I could find. He missed my grandmother dearly and I can’t help but wonder at the timing, her birthday was approaching.
He was reliving memories best left to the past in recent years, allowed bitterness to creep in and squeeze the characteristic mirth further and further into some dark place.
He told me nobody would care if he was gone, I told him I would, and a week later he was gone.
I might go down to the lake in a few weeks and tell him a joke about life, maybe he will get it.
I am so happy and moved to read your words! I find it nourishing, somehow, that his memory is so alive in you — someone who clearly loved him. Wouldn’t he be surprised to know how many people cared about him!