A few weeks ago now my younger brother, Mark, got married to a wonderful woman. I was lucky enough to be co-best man (with my brother Brian). It was a terrific wedding and a beautiful setting along the coastal bluffs of San Diego. I was tasked with giving a speech (as is common best-man practice). To avoid the rambling idiot approach to best-men’s speeches, I wrote it down. It was still a bit stilted, mostly because I couldn’t read my own hand writing (and I didn’t really practice it), but I think it got the message across. I publish it here because this is my space, and I want a public record of how I feel about my brother. Anyway… this is the speech as I wrote it down, with some light edits for clarity. If you just want to see pictures of Mark, go to the end. There are some fun ones of us growing up. The pictures that look professional were all taken by Mark and Taylor’s wedding photographer (who was FANTASTIC!! https://hollyireland.smugmug.com/Weddings/Taylor-and-Mark/)
I’m going to tell a story that is a little bit against the code. It is a story from Mark’s bachelor party. During the trip we went kayaking in the bay near Key Largo. So first I have to give you a bit of information. Mark and I both love the outdoors and fishing. We both have fishing kayaks and comparable amounts of gear. However, where we differ is the amount of experience and level of expertise. As in Mark is an expert and I am a novice. So we went on this expedition which required a two mile paddle through an open bay (with waves) to Rodriguez Key (an uninhabited island on the Atlantic side that Mark thought might contain some good fishing). We had rented some fantastic Hobie fishing kayaks with pedal drives (that don’t need to be paddled), but are very heavy. Needless to say we had different experiences. Mark caught fish, road waves, peddled easy, guiding our group. I was initially miserable. The pedals were too short, requiring me to put my leg to my chest while in an awkward seated position. Mark eventually came over and showed me, again, how to adjust the pedals so that someone of my height an girth could use them with ease (I had initially ignored his instructions on the set up, thinking I knew what I was doing – which was not correct). Fixing that problem I started to have a better time. I got my fishing stuff out, I made the two mile trek across open water without incident. Then of course, I fell out of the kayak trying to answer natures call, sinking my sandals into two feet of sandy muck. But I recovered. I fished to little avail. Then it was time to return. The wind had picked up and the return trip was in a following sea. Which for me meant that about a mile into my return trip I got unceremoniously dumped out of the kayak and into the open water of the bay. So there I am. In the water. Floating. Surrounded by all my stuff. Kayak upside down. No idea if other people saw me. No idea how to get myself back into the boat. In short order Brian and Matt had come over and were helping me retrieve my stuff. But I was still floating and no one knew how to fix that problem. Luckily Mark was soon there to help. He helped us flip the kayak back over. He then propped the back of my kayak onto his kayak and told me to pull myself onto the front, then move into the seating area. With some verbal encouragement and a steady hand on the back of the kayak, Mark helped me self-rescue. (an event described as medium sized walrus returning to a very narrow beach).
That is a long story to make a very short statement: Mark is there when you need him.
He was/is/will be there to lend a hand or an ear. He flew to Houston to help me drive a u-haul with all my worldly possessions back 1200 miles back to Ohio. We talked about those major life decisions. Large leaps of faith, made easier knowing that Mark would be there. My brother, my friend. But that wasn’t always the case. I have literally known Mark his entire life. I held him as a baby in my toddler arms. I took pictures of him in his crib with a surreptitiously procured polaroid camera. I cheered him and challenged him from near and far. When we were younger, we shared many things, but mostly punches. I would annoy him, he would annoy me, I would aggravate him, he would punch me, I would punch him back, harder. It is the strange cycle of brotherhood. Then one day that all changed. In my parents front yard. I was maybe 21 and Mark 19, both home from school for the summer. We were killing time playing some basketball, which devolved into gorilla dunk basketball, which further devolved into us just throwing the ball at each other with tremendous force. Which turned into a fistfight. (one where hard and dangerous punches were thrown but few connected, and where my Dad, smartly unwilling to wade into the heavyweight bout contemplated turning the hose on us). The fight was over almost as quickly as it had begun. But that fight sparked an (r)evolution in our relationship. Fighting was no longer an option, as it would result in massive physical damage to both of us without bringing us any resolution. In that moment we went from boys to brothers. A brother is the person who is always on your side, even when you disagree. A brother is the one you want to share adventures with (like to the Amazon). A brother is the one you call when the chips are down and decisions need to be made. To every end, Mark is my brother. The one I can count on, the one I can confide in. This is, I’m sure the same man that Taylor sees, the man she has chosen for her spouse. I wanted to tell this tale, to let those of you who don’t know Mark as well as I do, see a little insight into who he is.