A man named Mark

Let me tell you a little story about a man named Mark.

Mark is the firstborn son to a couple that started their family in the mid-fifties, and in true Catholic tradition didn’t stop adding to it for quite a while, not until Mark was the oldest of seven. Son of a teacher and a news photographer and erstwhile leader of the band of siblings, he had a storied youth in a waterfront town, the whisperings of which even now keep slipping forward into the future. Mark grew up, got married, became a firefighter, and had children.

Where some people will spend a good portion of their initial working years jumping from job to job, Mark went with fire fighting, and he stuck with it. It takes a particular kind of person to fight fires, to run into a burning building while others are rushing out. To help those others get out, and then try to prevent the utter ruin of their worldly goods. Mark also became and EMT, the better to help folks in need.

Son of a teacher and a photographer who went back to school late in life to also become a teacher, Mark learned a lot about learning. He learned a lot about teaching. Every day and in his own way, as his small children grew, he sought to teach them – starting with the little, essential truths that every parent tries to instill in their child:

Be kind.

Be thoughtful.

Don’t hit.

Tell the truth.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Then, as those children grew, so did the depths and complexity of the lessons:

Choose a seat where you can see a lot of the room.

Be quiet, be still, and see what you can learn while people talk over and around you.

Always ask for and use your waitress’s name, and leave a good tip. They work hard.

Be kind.

This is how a lever works.

This is breaking strain, these are different kinds of rope.

This is how to cast your line into the shade under that tree just along the brushy shore, where the fish probably are, without getting it caught in the tree.

This is how to be still while you wait.

Be thoughtful.

This is how to tie a knot. This is also how to tie a knot. This is how to tie another knot. Here are some other knots as well.

Water mains are large and hoses are small for volumes of water, as well as for pressure.

People are under pressure, just like water.

Don’t hit.

This is how to drive stick shift, check your oil, change a tire.

Think about what your friends are asking you to do, and about what could happen. Take a step back and imagine consequences, and don’t just follow the pack.

Tell the truth.

This is how to transplant a tree so that the roots get enough water while it settles in its new spot.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

This is how to mix cement, and this is why people stick pennies in them.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

The total lessons were so much more than that, and in so much complexity. Mark was teacher and father to his children. He pushed them not just to do their best, but to be their best. He led by example as well as words, teaching them how to work, how to stick to it with things that are hard. How to act and react with dignity when things go wrong. How to live, how to love. To respect others. To talk, and to listen.

How to teach, and how to learn.

Today Mark is 56 years old, and without him, I would be nowhere near the person I am today.

Happy birthday, Dad. And thank you.


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