|"The Bothersome Man"|
Alone in the world, at home in the wilderness. I was not sports inclined, nor a book worm, preferring instead to spend time in the woods behind our house. It was my refuge. When at home, I would fill sketchbooks with imaginary characters, giving them names and back stories. I took piano lessons from the church organist and performed in recitals, sometimes playing duets with my sister. I took trumpet lessons for a short time, when they offered them through the elementary school. I no longer play a musical instrument, but music is still an integral part of my being. It soothes the savage breast and makes me feel pretty good, too.
When I was six-years-old, my chores included feeding my father’s hunting beagles. One overcast evening, I went upstairs in the barn to my dad’s workshop to feed a beagle that had been separated from the others, because she was “in heat.” The dusty shop was very quiet and I saw the rope, which had been tied to the dog’s collar, leading out the hayloft door. The weight of the dead beagle was very heavy to my young hands. I left her at the end of the taut rope and went to the house to tell my parents, stopping to pick up my father’s pen, which I found on the dusty workshop floor. I found it quite difficult to put into words that the beagle was now hanging from a rope at the back of the barn, its claws flecked with the red paint, as it scratched in panic during those last moments of life.
In July of 1973, our family piled into our Dodge van and took I-95 south to Washington, D.C. for a vacation. One evening, arriving too late to visit the wax museum, we found a nearby pizzeria. I had been riveted by the Watergate hearings on television, so it wasn’t too surprising when I glanced over and recognized Fred Thompson, then serving as minority counsel to the Republican senators. My parents encouraged me to go over and introduce myself and the next thing you know, Fred Thompson was putting my family on his guest list to attend the hearings the next day. My siblings slept through it, but I was too excited. They were questioning Attorney General John Mitchell that morning. I also spotted Daniel Schorr and the courtroom sketch artist.
I did not enjoy high school, so instead of dropping out, I earned enough credits to graduate in three years. I then found myself with nowhere to go and nothing to do, making me the ideal candidate for military recruitment. I met with the local Air Force recruiter in Taunton and – with my parents written permission – I agreed to serve four years. I was the only seventeen-year-old from Rehoboth, Massachusetts on that Eastern Airlines flight from Boston to San Antonio in December of 1978. After training, I spent my remaining years in North Dakota, working on the Minuteman III missile systems, getting drunk on Southern Comfort and cursing the prairie winters.
I was the only Mark in that adoption agency office in Alpharetta, Georgia, on that February morning in 2006, holding my son Justin for the first time. I may have made some mistakes in my day, but becoming Justin's father is not one of them. Justin is compassionate and kind. He’s funny and gregarious. He will also challenge anyone to a game of PIG on the basketball court. Anyone. He was once my little Buddha baby, but very soon he will be taller than me. Being a parent is not easy. I have a hard enough trying to guide myself through this treacherous world, never mind trying to light the way for others. But if I can lead by example than that’s a start.
I have been married three times and that is certainly not a singular achievement. More like three strikes and you’re out. Time to sit on the bench for a couple of games and observe from the sidelines. Get back to the basics. I do hope for the sake of all atheists that I was the only one to marry a Jehovah's Witness. I wasn't thinking critically, I can assure you of that. For someone, who claims to enjoy solitude, I never took much of a breather in between relationships. I was letting fear control my heart rather than being open to bigger possibilities. It’s that whole fear of abandonment shit.
It’s time to strip away all unnecessary distractions and attachments. The news, my to-read list, the queue at the library, the remnants of a failed marriage. When I let the daily strife drop away, I can feel the sun on my face and the earth beneath my feet. When I let go of my anger and resentment, I can walk taller and a smile forms on my original face without any effort. I am happy to be alive and breathing in the air that is allotted me in this lifetime. There is tragedy enough to go around, but love seems to be lacking lately. I’ve got some extra, so I’ll send it out into the world today. Postage paid.