Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living Proof and Baby Bowinkles

I am a person of few friends.  I know a fairly significant number of people but have only a few people who I am fortunate enough to be able to call  my friend (or more properly to have him/her call me his/her friend).  Go figure; right?  Someone who spends his day spreading sunshine such as I do not ending up Homecoming King or being voted Most Popular!  Tell Geraldo to put down that empty soda bottle he scored from Capone's vault.  He has just been handed a real scoop. 

For most of my life, among the people I have been lucky enough to call "friend" is Mark.  He and I have known each other for more than thirty years now.  Perhaps it is the generally sunny disposition of the Scots and the Irish that has bonded us together for so long.  Perhaps it is the fact that I am long-winded, he is deaf in one ear and we have for years positioned ourselves at bars in such a position that I can talk all night and he can hear about 10% of what I say that has enabled each of us to go home happy.  He and I have a friendship that has survived some stuff that one might ordinarily expect to be the death knell of a friendship - including a lot of stuff that happened when we were both considerably younger men than we are now.  It did not.  We simply scuffled our way through it and came out on the other side.  None the worse for wear.

The best thing about Mark is that he and I can go extended periods of time without seeing one another and slip back into the stream essentially at the point where we last left off.  I realized, thinking about him this week on the occasion of his birthday - he turns 44 today (and if he was not in fact younger than I am I would make a snarky comment about his age) - that I last saw him more than four years ago.  He came to our house on the occasion of my 40th birthday.  Bowinkle being Bowinkle, he brought me the largest bottle of scotch whiskey I have ever seen in my life - and Bowinkle being Bowinkle, it was of course Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  He goes top shelf or not at all. 

While we see each other infrequently we chat on a regular basis - usually via e-mail or text message.  In all the years I have known him I do not think we have ever had a telephone conversation of greater than three minutes.  He is a conversational economist and while I have not - and will not - ever be confused for being such an animal myself, I recognize it in him and respect it. 

Over the course of the almost two decades that Margaret and I have been married, he has helped the Missus and me out in any number of ways.  He is a gifted mechanic and knows more about automobiles than anyone I have ever met (with the possible exception of my brother-in-law Joe with whom he might actually share the gold medal podium).  A number of years ago, Margaret was shopping for a new car.  I know less than Diddley about cars, which might go a long way towards explaining Skate's presence in my driveway, and Margaret knows about as little as I do.  But she knew what she wanted.  She also knew that she and I would have no idea whether she was getting a good deal or not, considering we had never been to this particular dealer and had no relationship with anyone there.  I called Mark.  He met us at the dealership, asked the sales guy questions about the car that he had no hope of knowing the answer to, and basically embarrassed him into giving us the vehicle at Margaret's price.  For just one afternoon, I got to experience how Joe Torre and Joe Girardi have felt all of these years summoning Mo in from the Yankees bullpen.  When you have a world-class closer on your side, you fear little.

There are few people I know who work so hard, so relentlessly that they make me feel lazy.  Mark is at the top of that list.  He is blessed with a truly amazing work ethic.  It has served him well all of his professional life. 

And it will no doubt serve him well in a brand-new role:  fatherhood.  Saturday he became a Dad for the first time - and in typical Mark fashion he did two times over.  He reports that Mom and both babies (a little boy and a little girl) are doing well.  I did not need to ask how he is doing.  I know.  That is the nice thing about being friends with a person for most of your respective lives.  There are certain questions that need not be asked because the answer is both known and knowable without having to do so. 

In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused

Searching for a little bit of God's mercy, I found living proof.

He has indeed.  And in doing so, has finally answered a question that has seemed beyond my grasp the entire time I have known him:  what do you buy Mark for his birthday?  Peace.  He wears it well.  It fits him perfectly.


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