When I was doing the dishes and listening to good, wholesome radio tonight (country music, of course), I heard a song that reminded me of what I missed last year.
Life went on last year without me. I just missed most of it. Being in Iraq, I tended not to be affected by the tragedies that people faced here in the US. Even things like deaths in the family. One of my uncles died last year when I was gone. My reaction to the news wasn't too deep. I was busy and was focusing on staying alive myself. There was enough death around me that news of Mark's death was more of a blip on my radar.
When I was young (middle school age) I was a "gopher" at my grandfather's plumbing company during the summers. "Gopher"? It's like this... "Hey Seth. Go get the ladder.... go get the hammer... go get the plunger..." I was told to "go for" stuff a lot. And that was about all I was good for. Anyway- at the time Mark lived across the street from us. When I was over at his house one day, and I have no idea why I was at his house, he said something that I still remember. What he said caused a mix of emotions that I wasn't ready for. He told me that even though the couple guys I rode with complain about having to babysit the bosses grandson, they both said that they are glad I am there.
I am naive. It never occurred to my 12 year old mind that these plumbers would be anything but ecstatic about driving me around all day. So, at the same time that I find out that I am a chore to them, I also find out that they think of me, if nothing more, as at least a good worker. I always appreciated Mark telling me that. It also marked the first time in my memory that an adult talked to me as something more than a kid.
After I joined the Army, we always tried to make it back home for Christmas (at least before kids). We started doing the Christmas Eve thing at Mark's house. Mark, being the host of the evening, always asked me to say the blessing before we ate. I really appreciated that. He again made me feel like an adult. He would also always find time to talk to me about whatever Louis L'amour book he had just read, or about a military history book he was reading. I'll miss Mark when I go back to Knoxville.