Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Good News: My 200th Post

I was saving this post. I was hoping I'd get those pictures off that stupid zip drive, or come to some decision about how to get STILL: Life back up and running, or maybe not talk about it at all but instead type about how August 20th would have been Patsy's 78th birthday...

But instead I'm going to talk about Mark Ratliff.

Mark Ratliff was (at one time, anyway) one of the three Mark's in my small elementary school class. (The word "small" in that sentence can be interpreted to be modifying "school", "class", or "both" with no real misinterpretation.)

I don't know what year he moved in, and I don't remember what year he moved away. I know we talked about it when I saw him here in Kansas City a few years later... but my memory fails me.

And now he's not around to clarify.

Mark had a car accident early Wednesday morning, and didn't survive it.

Mark and I didn't always (or usually) get along as kids (he's one of the few non-family-member physical fights I had as a kid), and I remember thinking his father seemed to be a really nice guy. I also remember when his father died, and how I realized you could still feel bad for someone you didn't usually get along with.

I was enjoying an evening out one night a few years ago when Mark walked up to me and said he bet I didn't know who he was. I didn't. When he told me, I say "no way" a lot (with another word between the "no" and the "way", as I recall), and he had to show me his driver's license to prove it. I may have even written about it here. I haven't taken a moment to check.

At any rate, I remember thinking at a date shortly after that (for we talked/e-mailed after that, and I made it to at least one party at his place) how he'd turned out to be a lot like his father (in the fact that he seemed to be a really nice guy). I even shared this thought with Mark at least once.

I last saw Mark... sometime within the past year. I was out one night, he came up to me and we chatted a bit. He introduced me to a friend. Just normal stuff.

The big plan was to get together with Tricia and have dinner. He really wanted to see her again, and really wanted to see... well, lots of people from his late elementary school years. We just never got the schedules to mesh, and I was busy, he was busy, life is busy. Busy, busy, busy. And so on.

As I mentioned, Mark and I got in a physical fight once. I'm trying to think if I've been in more than two (non-family ones, anyway). If it was only two, I can now say that neither person I've fought is no longer with us. It's very strange to say that. It's very strange to think of former classmates being gone.

And people do it every day. This life thing... what a pip.

Anyway, the fight was such a strange event. I can't tell the story without my confused-face on, as I never understood it. We were at the ball diamond, watching a game. Maybe we'd had a game before, but I don't think so.

Mark came up to me and told me he wanted to fight. We were in 6th or 7th grade at the time (or, between 6th and 7th... maybe 5th and 6th). I replied that I wasn't really interested in fighting, and I'm sure the face I'm making now is the face I made then...

That is to say: confused-face.

But he pressed on, saying, "Come on! I want to fight!"

And I kept saying I didn't want to (and continued to be confused (as I do even today) about what this was all about).

Finally, Wade (who was nearby) egged me into fighting him, and so we went over past the 4-H building and fought.

I kept punching at his face, and he kept turning his head, so I punched his ear. I don't remember if he hit me or not.

Again, I spent this whole time confused as to what in the world this was all about.

Anyway, Mark had tubes in his ears (or that one, at least), and he could only take so many of these hits without being in a lot of pain.

I remember walking away, very confused about the whole thing... and not feeling good about my part in it... and worrying that his dad would think I'm not such a great kid, since I got in a fight with his... and then going back to wondering what the heck the whole thing was about.

I asked Mark about this when we were hanging out here in K.C., but he didn't have a real answer to it, except to point out he was a bit of a... um... we'll go with squirrel and call it done. Yes, he pointed out he was a bit of a squirrel at that age.

Also, he once told Patsy to "go suck an egg".

Another fun story. She was our baseball coach. We had 9 players at that game. I don't remember where we were, but I know it was an away game.

I don't know what my mom said to prompt it, but he loudly snarled at her, "go suck an egg" (a very popular expression among us kids that year... and maybe the one before and the one after). Mom yelled, "Ump, do I have to have 9 players on the field?"

The umpire replied in the negative, and Mark spent the game on the bench.

Again, as an adult, a very nice man. What you'd call a good person. Would probably give you the shirt off his back if he thought you could use it.

Anyway, Mark's gone. Door closed for now.

So, readers, what does this all mean? How am I feeling?

Numb, as is my way. It's fun how I get to sorta carve through the numb to get answers about what are simple questions for many people.

Mostly, the me that thinks more than feels is just irritated at the ways of life. Time must pass, we must move on, etc., and part of me rebels at these concepts.

Mark had nieces and nephews, friends and other family... and this is just... irritating.

When I get to plan my own universe, I'm SO doing it differently... that's all I'm saying.

And my heart aches for my own loss, his family's loss, the loss of close friends... and the loss of Mark, Tricia, and I, never getting to have that dinner and accompanying walk down memory lane.

In answer to Andy's comment to my last post, when we were spreading the ashes of Patsy (she who refused to go suck an egg), what I mostly felt was that change sucks... and that's not a feeling, it's a thought. But the farm was all different, and the post office was long gone... and the ball diamond was all different, too. So the feeling was (and is now) a huge sense of loss, and not just for me or my youth or my history, but for... all the loss in the world, I guess.

Loss, in general, sucks.

But, if the book "Tuck Everlasting" teaches us anything, it's that life has a cycle, and the cycle has a purpose.

And Mark, I'm glad I got to know you as an adult.

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