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!
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.
I did tell him that he could feel free to tell me to “back off” and lessen my output if it ever got too much. I knew he’d never do that either. I also made sure to say that he didn’t have to respond, but that I’d keep sending my thoughts his way.
I loved getting emails back. Whether they were short—a few lines, or a bit longer—always with Mark’s trademark reflection and attentiveness.
We always told each other that they were loved. I’m so thankful for this practice.
I’d give him a rundown of what his parents were up to. I always asked about his feet, how he was feeling, and if he was finding enough food to fuel him. Our conversations and exchanges were always much more than sports and the mundane, too. Every one of these myriad exchanges—whether over the feeds, or by phone—touched down on common themes. Food (or plant-based diet and practice), politics, economics (was it possible to build a more equitable system other than capitalism), and then, we’d end with how we loved and appreciated the other. I was proud of him and I told him. He’d also reciprocate something similar.
One of my last emails included a synopsis of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. The book had resonated with me, offering me a deeper insight into our past and our nation’s practices of genocide.
Mark responded with this email:
So happy to hear you’re doing yoga. Eating plant based and doing yoga are very inline with each other. Everything you can do to do relieve the stress of the world we live in is beneficial. We’re inundated with so much each day so the more time you can set aside to relax and slow things down the better.
I really want to read that history of indigenous people. America is so good at forgetting its past. In some ways that would be healthy if we truly lived in the presence and we’re conscious of the decisions we made but we’re so disconnected from out decision making that all we are doing is piling on more trauma to the trauma we’ve hidden from ourselves already.
Love you and proud of you!
I love you and miss you. I’ll especially miss being able to have the chance to talk to you face-to-face again.
Rest in power, our son!