Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Mark

How do I say goodbye to someone that has been a part of my life for almost as long as I remember... someone whose life was too short? There were more smiles to smile, more hugs to give, more gossip to share, more times to see him throw back his head in laughter.

It all started back in kindergarten. I was freakishly tall... a head and shoulders taller than everyone else, except for Mark. We saw eye to eye. We were the token tall kids that got to do everything that no one else could reach. I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame because we were alike, he was kind and gentle, and when he smiled, he made me smile. Back then he said he wanted to be a dentist, so I decided I would be a dental assistant so I could work with him and be with him always.

We lived with only three houses between us and the route we walked to school ran somewhere down the middle. I would wait for him at the intersection, and we'd walk the remaining quarter mile together. After school, we'd walk home together. One particularly brazen day at age five, I kissed him at the intersection (on the cheek, as I recall) and ran the rest of the way home. Mark told his grandmother, who lived with him and his family. She said I was a wild girl, and he shouldn't be spending time with me. (I didn't hear that part until we were adults, so obviously he didn't heed her warning.)
As early, as elementary school, I knew he was special in a sophisticated, refined, vintage-y way. He always gave beautiful Valentine cards instead of those juvenile things most gave. He had an attention to detail and creativity that was different than most boys. His handwriting was impeccable. His clothes were always clean and never in disarray... shirt tucked in, collar straight, pants hanging perfectly, all layered in the preppy style that was the rage then. His hair never got too long and it was always neatly combed. I loved all these things about him, and it wasn't long before other girls noticed those things were pretty special, too. By then, I was over my crush and we had a strong bond of friendship.

As tweens and teens, we spent a great deal of time at each other's house or on the phone together. We were in most of the same activities together: band, chorus, pep band, drama, photography club, prom committee, yearbook committee, National Honor Society. Since we were part of the same clique, we went to the same parties. He was ever present in my life... we were in each other's orbit. I remember disco dancing to the Saturday Day Night Fever album on his porch. We did homework together and hammered out school papers on my Underwood manual typewriter that was so heavy that I'm surprised it didn't fall through the table and the floor. We shared secrets and gossip... we shared our lives.

He went away to college; I did not. But when he was home, we'd get together and catch up. Close to Christmas, I'd go to his family's house. He'd put on the Charlie Brown Christmas album, and we'd share an eggnog while we exchanged gifts, stories and gossip. That tradition continued long into adulthood.

We knew each other so well... 4o years of living, sharing, loving. We had numerous nicknames for each other. There were private jokes where a word or two could start the laughter.

Just over a week ago, while on the way to the hospital because of pneumonia, he went into cardiac arrest. After several days, it was clear he wouldn't recover. His family and partner said goodbye, and the machines that were keeping him alive were turned off. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I wanted more talk and laughter and hugs. I wanted more reminiscing and more memories. The pain of his death is so intense to me that it feels physical. I know that time will make the pain fade, but there are things in my life that will always remind me of him, and I will carry him in my heart forever.

This comes too soon, but goodbye, Mark, my dear friend. I hope you knew how much I love you. Too much time has past since I told you last.

10 comments:

efenz said...

Now you've got me crying all over again! Thank you so much for all those wonderful details. They make me realize how little I actually knew about him but how much I understood and appreciated. People like Mark are too few in this world and now they're even fewer. I'm glad he didn't suffer, but I sorry that we won't. Thanks for all the wonderful pictures...I'll visit them again.

jronning said...

Beautifully written!!

Anonymous said...

I can remember you two always laughing and being silly! I feel for you. Those feelings of losing him will resurface when you least expect it. I agree with Ellen, I will revisit your tribute and I've saved the photos on my computer. Take care and try to focus on the good times. Hugs. Donna

Anonymous said...

Bettina - I want to express again that I am sorry for your loss. I know that Mark was your family and your heart friend. It is lucky when we find those people who immediately make sense and enrich our lives. I am so glad you found one of yours so early in life and I can not begin to express my regret that he has passed. I appreciate your sharing, and he was special. I have a poor memory, but I am beginning to remember the twinkle in his eye when he was joking around or being fresh. I enjoyed his quick wit and sense of humor. Take care, N.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

What beautiful tribute. You are so lucky to have had him in your life. I'm sorry it couldn't have been for longer.

Liz said...

He sounds wonderful. It is always sad to lose someone special - just try to remember that your life was richer for having him in it...

Wonderful said...

I'm so sorry for your loss of a best friend. I hope you are allowing yourself to feel right now, because one day you will be ready to say goodbye, even if he's already in heaven, watching over you.

Jen Anderson said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful friend.

Not Hannah said...

What a beautiful tribute. Sending love and healing thoughts your way...

Tammy H. said...

So sorry for your loss. It sounded like the two of you had an incredible friendship.

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