A Starting Point

To call our trip to California a vacation would not accurately capture its purpose. Perhaps “sad vacation” is a more apt descriptor.

Mark lived in Los Angeles for a year after graduating from Wheaton and being accepted into Brown’s MFA program in 2009. Returning has been bittersweet at best. Memories of our (separate) trips in 2008 abound.

As iconic as it gets.

Mark completed his first walk in 2010 at the Pacific and Santa Monica Beach. It’s fitting that our trip begins here. 

On the beach.

We’ll spend a bit more time hugging the coast, then it’s time to head for the desert. Updates will follow in good time.

A Machine Called Love

My body is a machine/
Built to force so much compassion and love and kindness into the world/that human life has no choice but to thrive and flourish.
[Poem by Mark Baumer-Day 28/Second Crossing of America]

Mark wrote this and recited it on his video from Day 28, the day following the Trump victory. He was in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. On both sides of the road were farms and fields where peas had been harvested earlier in the fall. Mark is shrouded in his green rain poncho, as the day was rainy and probably cold.

On a rainy day in November, 63 days before he was to be killed, Mark speaks about human-induced climate change, how it’s causing typhoons and droughts. He indicts the American way of life, talks about ways that we can mitigate our personal contribution to global warming and climate change. He mentions that “one of the easiest things you can do to help the environment is stop eating animal products…you can do that today…you could have a huge impact if you just stopped eating meat.” Continue reading

We Showed Up

There’s a huge advantage to living nearly halfway across the country from the rest of your clan when you are 21 and you are a brand new dad. This formative experience fosters deep bonds between you and the other two members of your unit.

Being so young and suddenly thrust into the role of parents forced the two of us to become really clear about our lives and our love for one another. Yes, I suppose we could have gone in the opposite direction, but what we lacked in money and resourceswe more than made up for in devotion to one another and our newborn baby boy, Mark.

When I look at photos of the two of us from the early 1980s, I’m struck by a couple of things. First, I’m amazed at how young we both looked. This was the stage in life when many people our age were getting started on a career, and contemplating what grad school to apply at. For the two of us, it was cobbling together enough cash to pay our rent, keep one of our two clunkers running and on the road, and later, how best to sync our dual work schedules so that Mark could have a parent home, spending time with him and nurturing his spirit.

On the steps of our duplex in Chesterton, IN (circa 1986)

After I fell out with the God people in Hammond and Crown Point, Indiana, I landed a job working in a prison. While Westville Correctional Center sure as hell wasn’t glamorous, it offered decent wages and even more important for our young family at the time—access to health insurance and our first HMO. Continue reading

The Celebration

I’ve written an obituary for our son. Then there were several days worth of interviews following his senseless death along US 90 in Florida, when he was struck and killed by a motorist. Mary has been dealing with all manner of details related to Mark’s life (and death), too.

Yesterday, we gathered with hundreds on hand at Brown University (and many, many more watching the celebration on live stream) and told what our son meant to us as parents. So did an amazing gathering of people from across Mark’s life.

Program cover-The Mark Baumer Celebration of LIfe

Two weeks out from losing Mark, today is similar to every other day since we received the news that fateful Saturday night. We’ll never not remember the date, time, and what we experienced then—a sense that time was standing still. Continue reading

Dadtalk

Mark and I had countless conversations when he was out on the road.

On his first crossing back in 2010, I’d send him emails every day. These might be commentary on the prior night’s baseball game, things I was observing across that day’s news cycle, and questions about what he was seeing as he trekked across America one foot at a time.

We discussed this in early October when we last saw each other. Mary and I had driven down to Providence and spent the day with him. It was a beautiful day on some many levels—this is was also our last time seeing him and hugging him. To be hugged by Mark was something I’ll never forget and miss so much. Oh those shoulders!

A trio of Baumers.

My routine this time had me emailing him in the morning after I’d wake up and get a cup of coffee. I’d sit in my darkened office illuminated with an overhead desk lamp and bang out that day’s first note. I’d sometimes send another one or two shorter blasts. I warned him that I’d probably send him way more shit than he had time to respond to. He knew his dad and he was probably thinking the same thing, but he’d never crush my spirit by saying anything mean. Continue reading

Death by SUV

[Due to my site being hacked, I’ve had to repost a couple of pieces I wrote about Mark, as I was processing my grief in the aftermath of his death. The world is truly a cruel and heartless place at times. This was originally posted on Jan. 25.–jb]

As a late-blooming writer, I’ve maintained a commitment to working on my craft. Along the way, I’ve read a myriad of books that spoke about the writing process. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book that talks about writing through grief, or possibly, how to put words on paper when your heart’s been ripped out and run over several times.

That’s a pretty shitty metaphor, I know. I’m just trying to paint a word picture of what I’ve been feeling since 10:30, Saturday night, when the trooper from the Maine State Police knocked on our door and delivered the news to Mary and me that our beloved son, Mark, had been hit by an SUV in Fort Walton County, Florida, and killed. Our lives as they’d been up to that moment were forever altered. Continue reading

New Rhythms

After 26 years, living somewhere else means learning new routines and local mores.

Our first weekend was a successful one. The house is starting to feel like our own. Miss Mary has the kitchen set-up and we’re working on the rest of the living (and storage) space.

It obviously doesn’t take much to make me happy. A visit to public works and picking up my brand new recycling bin was Monday’s highlight. Trash and recycling pick-up are still Thursdays for us, too, just like in Durham.

Nothing says "welcome to town" like a brand new recycling container.

Nothing says “welcome to town” like a brand new recycling container.

Moving Day

We have lived in the same house since 1990. It was the first and only house that we’ve owned—the one Mary and I dreamed of having when we were first married. Mark grew up here. The land our house sits on was deeded to us by Mary’s parents.

At one time, all of Mary’s extended family lived within two miles of each other. Her father has been gone for more than 15 years. All the family members, but us, have left Durham, for greener pastures.

For the past couple of years, we’ve talked about being a little “closer to town.” Living where we’ve lived for the past two decades means we’re always 15 minutes away from most things, at the very least.

From what we know about the couple buying our house, they’re excited to live here and have plans for making the place their own. We’re excited for them, as well as excited to be living somewhere new for the first time in 26 years. New adventures await.

Waiting for the movers to arrive!

Waiting for the movers to arrive!

Continue reading

Amish Country

Mark is passing through rural Pennsylvania. He’s in farming country. Google delivers some beautiful panoramas when I search his location.

Yesterday, we spoke by phone. He was in good spirits, as he usually is. We talked about the Amish.

The Amish are primarily rooted in Lancaster County, to the east of where Mark is right now. However, he said he’s seen a number of them pass in their horse and buggy get-ups.

One foot in the past, and one in the present.

One foot in the past and the present.

Continue reading

12 Things

Americans love their bulleted lists. As if there really are “three steps to success,” or you actually can make $100,000 and never change out of your PJs in the morning.

Yet, there are steps that you can take that may deliver positive impacts on health, offering up benefits now, and as you get older. Eating right has its perks.

Six weeks ago, I decided to see if I could take a sabbatical from meat and dairy. I blogged about this nearly three weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to set a few things straight relative to the depressing election of 2016. A lot of good that did.

So back to health and what we eat. Dr. Michael Greger, along with writer Gene Stone, published How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. It could also have been subtitled, “The Medical and Scientific Reasons to Adopt a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet.” Both subtitles lend the book sound overly scientific and textbook-ish air. How Not to Die is far from either category. It’s a primer for anyone considering adopting a diet centered on whole foods and plants, with plenty of data, but also many humorous anecdotes from Greger’s own life. I’ve found it invaluable in getting started and immersed in a brand new way of living. Continue reading