When we were little, Mark was going to marry Jenni Bolton. He loved Simba from the Lion King, and gogurt, and macaroni and cheese. He played with his Legos, and Playmobil guys before that; he had a rocket-ship comforter on his bed, and his closet (then and now) overflowed with toys and clothes. The drawers on his dresser are broken and off-track after years of slamming them or overloading them with old clothes, which is ironic, because he hates shopping and logically shouldn't have that many clothes.
In elementary school, he used to put rocks in his backpack to make it heavier, so it felt more like a big-kid's backpack with books inside. He used to give away his money to his friends. A few years ago, he loved pennies and collected a big jar of them.
We did the plays at church together. In 4th or 5th grade, we did "Good Kings Come in Small Packages," or something like that, about Josiah, and Mark was Josiah, and I was the narrator/cook. He was good; as good as elementary school kids can be after practicing for a week during the summer. I can still picture him, a little boy on a big stage throne.
Either his door or mine had to be replaced when, during one of our knock-down-drag-out fights, he rammed the prow of his big action figure Peter Pan pirate ship into it. The door on the bathroom got replaced, too, after one of us tried to beat it down to get to the one hiding inside. We cussed at each other, using the few cuss words we knew.
We used to push the couches together in the family room to watch movies, so they made a couch-boat, and we would pile pillows and comforters in until it was as comfortable and soft as possible. He hated watching Disney princess movies. When we first got cable, when I was in 7th or 8th grade, we spent the summer watching Sonic the Hedgehog, Men in Black the cartoon, and something about Egyptian gods on the WB. All I remember is them saying "By the power of Ra!" and turning into something more indestructible.
Mark has a skateboard (or two) and a trick bike stored away in our garage (or did we sell them at a yard sale?) For most of growing up, he didn't find anything he wanted to stick with. He took piano for a week; played baseball up until 5th or 6th grade, soccer for maybe 3 years; he took trumpet lessons in middle school, then a few guitar lessons in high school.
He hated school, and I hated the way he acted when it came time to do homework. My parents bought him a PlayStation 2, and I told them to their faces that it was the worst decision they'd ever make in parenting. I believe I was right; without video games, he would have spent a lot more time with his friends and family and in the outdoors, and without the string of more advanced game consoles that came after the PS2, he would never have been able to play Call of Duty for hours at a time.
When I got to do something, Mark had to do it. Didn't matter that I was older. If I got to stay up and watch Friends, Mark had to, too. If I got to stay home sick from school, Mark wanted to, too. And the reverse - I still haven't forgotten this; in Disneyworld in 5th grade, we wanted to rent a 4-person bike/carriage thing. But Mark was too little to help pedal, so we didn't get to do it. Then when I was in early high school, Mark got horseback riding lessons and I didn't, even though I'd wanted them forever. My parents said he didn't have all the things I got to do - piano and soccer and drama. I said he didn't stick with any of them, and it wasn't my fault. I was angry at that practice for so long.
I was angry at so much for so long. I was angry at how he treated my mom, how he didn't care about his schoolwork or responsibilities at home; angry at how he refused to do his own dishes or clean his own room or put away his own damn video games. I was angry that he dropped everything to hang out with his high school girlfriend but couldn't be bothered to come to church with us.
How many years did I waste being angry at my brother, instead of trying to be compassionate, to be understanding, to help him succeed when he was struggling? How many years did I spend hating him for being the opposite of me, for having different priorities?
I want to go back and change it -- yell less; include him more. Fight less; laugh more. Belittle him less; tell him I loved him more.
He's a good kid, he really is, even though he still gripes about having to do his dishes and has to be reminded 7 times to even bring them over to the sink. He's funny and caring and fiercely loyal and generous to a fault. He's a freakin badass and could kill you with his thumb, and it's a good thing our knock-down-drag-out fights ended when they did, because if I'd tried to fight him after he started working out with the Marines in high school, I would've ended up with broken bones. He knows military history, knew everything you don't want to know about guns even before he joined. He's smart; didn't like school, but now he wants to be a history teacher, maybe.
I want to be able to call him about my current Sons of Anarchy episode. I want to be able to text him about the silly/embarrassing things our parents are doing. I want to drag him up onto the couch next to me to take dumb photos on my PhotoBooth. I want to practice jiujitsu moves on commercial breaks. I want to buy more Mike's Hard for him, and sit downstairs feeling like rebels when Mom&Dad are upstairs asleep.
Oh, how I'm going to miss my brother for the next 7 months (no more than 7 months; no, not a day longer, because he'll come home; he has to come home). Why do we have war? Why? It's not his war; it's not any of these kids' war. Mark still looks like a 16-year-old kid; he has no business carrying a gun and going into battle.
All my life I been waitin' for
I been prayin' for, for the people to say
That we don't want to fight no more
One day this all will change
Treat people the same
Stop with the violence down with the hate
One day we'll all be free and proud
To be under the same sun
Singing songs of freedom like
One day, one day, one day
One day, one day, one day
One day, God. Make it soon.
3 weeks ago