A Nomad's Notes: Singing Sam’s praises

You know that kind of love you have for someone where, when you think about them, you just grin and say, “I (expletive) love them so much!” I do this every time someone mentions my cousin Sam. I’m set to see Sam next week for the first time since Christmas, and I am freaking ready, because I (expletive) love him so much.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin when talking about Sam. I don’t even remember Sam as a newborn, and I was 5 at the time. Earliest memories? I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you we grew up together, and the amount of memories and anecdotes I have about him I could recall for hours. So, in the spirit of my column about my dad, here are some of my best memories of growing up with Sam (sorry in advance, Sam).
1.    I don’t really care about video games. I’ve had a console and haven’t touched it in in about four years. But going to Sam’s house meant turning on the Nintendo 64 and playing the only good types of video games there are (aka the only video games I have a tolerance for): James Bond or Tony Hawk. With both games, I basically just smashed buttons to extra emphasize what I was doing, and on James Bond I usually wound up dead, but with Tony Hawk I would often achieve some sort of move that is probably physically impossible in the real world. I can still hear the weird, echoey creepy music of James Bond in my head, and I can definitely still hear “All I Want” by the Offspring playing in the background behind the sounds of skateboard wheels as we played the games in Sam’s bedroom or in the basement. What I wouldn’t do to play those games again!
2.    When my dad and stepmom got married, Sam and his brother Alex (I could write a whole column on Alex’s comedic genius, and probably will), who’s my age, were of course at the wedding. Sam was only 6. But I’m telling you, even as a 6-year-old, the kid could dance. I don’t remember much about that wedding except wearing a dress that slimmed me down a bit, my stepmom looking so pretty and happy, and Sam’s dancing. I don’t even remember the moves, but I know they were memorable enough to be one of the only memories I have from that wedding nearly 15 years ago.
3.    One thing that always connected me and Sam was our obsession with 1980s-1990s “Saturday Night Live” skits. Back in the mid-2000s, that was our thing. I’d go to his place or he’d hang at mine, and we’d watch these DVDs I had. The two main ones we watched were Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy. “Sprockets” was one of the best skits we’d ever seen (still one of them) Eddie Murphy’s “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” was seen so many times it was memorized, including the one with Mr. T. “The word of the day … is ‘pain.’” I’m almost tempted to put this column aside and put one of those DVDs in again for nostalgia’s sake.
4.    In August 2009 my cousin Sam and I went together to see my aunt in Illinois. At this point in my life I was utterly consumed by Star Trek. I didn’t think about anything else, essentially, except for the bare necessities. And of course, that meant Sam didn’t hear the end of it. I even made him watch my favorite Star Trek YouTube videos with me. The details are so fuzzy eight years later, but I don’t remember Sam making fun of me once, and I remember he was one of my favorite traveling companions. Ever.
5.    One thing about Sam that I can’t forgive is, he loves calamari. I don’t remember when he specifically picked up the habit, but he became notorious in the family for his love of fried squid. I remember years ago one night we all went to a steakhouse as a family, and right after drinks, a calamari appetizer was the first thing ordered. My dad really wanted me to try it, saying, “It doesn’t taste fishy at all!” Because for the record, I hate all seafood. I live by the sea, but I won’t eat its creatures. But because my dad wouldn’t shut up about it, I finally took a bit of one … and promptly felt it coming back up. I’ve not had much seafood in my life, but I can tell you it was more seafood-y than fish probably is. I did manage to keep it down, but only just, and I downed a Sprite immediately just to get the taste out of my mouth. So yeah, Sam. I don’t get it. But I bet if we go out to eat together, there’s at least a 30 percent chance it just might be part of your order.
6.    I don’t know how it started, and I don’t know how to explain it without having Sam with me to demonstrate, but we used to say goodbye to each other with this really weird sendoff, almost like a goodbye secret handshake. We grab each other’s shoulders and scream “righteous” three times before walking away from each other like it was a huge mistake. I know, it doesn’t make sense in writing. But it’s still one of my favorite things ever, and I exaggerate a lot, but not about this. Sam is a very smart adult now, in fact so much so I’m put to shame, but I hope someday we can do this again.
I know there are countless more memories, but they all fade together after a while, and really you’re just left thinking about the person and how much you (expletive) love them and who they’ve become. Sam is such a serious individual now, and I’m so damn proud of him. Not only am I proud that he’s doing well in college, but I’m proud that he’s so well-read on social justice issues. He understands the importance of Black Lives Matter and he genuinely is striving to make a difference, both now and when he’s done with college. And I know he will. I can actually feel it. It’s going to happen.I know our grandparents and his grandparents on his dad’s side are proud of him, wherever they are.
He’s younger than me, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s someone I look up to as a role model.
Sam, you put us all to shame with your goodness, your potential and yes, your righteousness.