My nephew's birthday present was my quest; he wanted a drum kit, my sister gave strict orders against, and I was considering risking her wrath by getting him a pair of sticks as a compromise. Mark and I talked for about half an hour, and now, oh...how I wish I could recall every word. He dismissed my worries about what kind of sticks a kid might need, and said that the best, most important part, is walking through the halls at school with drumsticks in your back pocket. Said how absolutely any kid could become instantly cool, if he was in the band. Assured me that eventually, my sister would forgive me, and my nephew would figure out what instrument he wanted to play; probably not even be a drummer. In his soft, calm voice, with just the hint of a smile tweaking his cheek into a dimple, he pointed out that the Hot Sticks solid hickory 2B in glossy, shiny black, would be the coolest. And by extension, that would make me the coolest aunt. They were, and I was, however briefly, and I can picture that day so clearly right now. There were streaks of sunlight coming in from the front windows, giving just enough light to catch a glimpse of a twinkle in Mark's eyes under his shaggy hair. His slight chuckle while reminiscing about school band days. His sincere interest in my nephew; he suggested that I bring him to the store, or down to the Grill, catch him up into the music scene early.
I know we all die, got that, Mark. We've talked about that often enough. I just though we had more time with you here. I'm regretting now all those times I settled for a smile and a hug, instead of really talking to you. I miss your voice, the way you always smell like tobacco and old cars, how you always manage to come up with that one other way of looking at things that nobody else does, those dry, wickedly funny little comments you drop in so quietly. Dammit, Mark.