Tuesday, May 09, 2006

All Style

Like many of you, I have thought of Mark almost daily for the past several weeks. I'm hoping for a flood of memories to surface and trying to make sense of his life/death and the lesson in it for me (or all of us). Though I have searched the deepest parts of my mind, my memory will not serve up many specifics. Maybe I didn't know Mark as well as some, maybe my exhausted brain has atrophied from becoming a mom seven years ago, maybe I haven't yet evolved through the sadness surrounding Mark's last 10 years and his recent death...My recollections of Mark are really more about his unique characteristics, his attitude/style. Here's what I loved about Mark:
*the way he'd saunter-shuffle up from behind, drape his arm around your shoulders, walking and talking you through campus
*when the rest of us looked just plain scary, he actually looked good for an 8:00 a.m. class with bedhead and full facial hair (if you doubt this, look again at this blog for the "don't mess with us" entry!)
*how he could make you laugh, even when he wasn't trying to...
*sandals - always!
*how anxious he was to get the group moving toward any spontaneous outing
*the way he was constantly in motion - either beating a rhythm with his hands &/or shuffling those feet
*how he made you feel comfortable "being yourself"
*how he played his instrument with eyes closed most of the time, knees waggling and jittering and peacefully "in his element"
*his crooked sometimes sly smile and that laugh of his, which I can still replay in my mind...It was the best!

Mark was always the one person "cool" enough to not have a date and still comfortably tag along with the group, plus, he was usually the guy with the wheels (a.k.a.- the one who got us there). It seems we were always packed into his gold Bronco (or was it a Blazer?). One time Mark let my boyfriend (now husband), Frank and I hitch a ride down to South Carolina on spring break. He was headed further south to Florida with a friend. It was me and three great guys...on a very long trip. Though I offered many times to do my share of the driving, I was not "allowed" to take the wheel. I was however good enough to be Mark's pillow in the back seat when his shift was up. Mark was a good snuggler and a sound sleeper (just ask Aaron - about the latter).

Aaron, this is the part I tried so hard not to include...so roll your eyes at me now! For everyone else reading this, Aaron gets very cranky everytime I bring up this next memory, but I could NOT pass up the opportunity to state, for the record, that Mark and his buddy still owe Beth Stewart and me a pizza! We four were in religion class together - thank goodness, because it was an early one and not extremely invigorating as I remember. So the boys sat behind us and kept us awake, and laughing a good portion of the time. Beth and I were a bit competitive academically and by the end of the term had become tired of the taunting and testosterone slung at us. So we bet them we could collectively score higher grades on an upcoming test. We did, of course! I'm pretty sure Aaron had trouble getting Mark to study, especially since the winners were to receive just a $5 pizza from the local joint - anybody remember the name? Paradise Pizza? Wish we still had an opportunity to cash in on that deal - good friends sharing a laugh and a greasy, cheap pizza...what happened to those days?

On a more serious note, I must say that there were many times I wished Mark had kept up with our college group's "life stages" - if not for him to find "the love of his life", then for the more selfish reason...he was good company and I wanted him to continue to be a part of all of our lives. But now, I'm realizing that maybe Mark didn't want "mainstream", and certainly attachments to places and people have their own set of complications. I truly respect his need to live life on "his own terms", to "cut his own path", and to follow his sense of adventure. I'm glad he had many opportunities to embrace his passion for music, continue his journey of "wander lust", and frequently exercise his love of the outdoors. Most of all, I like knowing that rather than following any social norms or individual set of expectations, he made up his own. Though Mark's life was cut too short, I think Mark lived much of his 35 years as he wished and to the full extent possible, even in the face of adversity. That's a lesson I will continue to hold close to me for many years to come...

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