He worked out foolproof plans on how to save us from the zombie apocalypse.
Before that he was the world's leading expert on dinosaurs and could show us exactly how a tyrannosaur could walk.
He planned the world's first zooquarium on wheels.
He earnestly decided to become a Power Ranger when he was older, although becoming Bob the Builder would have been a second choice.
He made friends easily and had a level of coolness that put the Fonz to shame.
And he accomplished all this well before his first decade.
Now he has completed his second decade and I don't think he (or any of us) now worry about the zombie apocalypse. He is more concerned on surviving college than zombies. Rather than dinosaurs, his interests now lie in running and in soccer, both of which he is very good at. He doesn't have to become a Power Ranger because he has become something far greater -- a genuinely warm and caring human being. Although he can be very shy, he still makes friends easily and has perfected an unconscious level of coolness; eat your heart out, Fonzie!
In the beginning, though, it was scary. He had one of those births of which nightmares are made. We came disasterously close to losing both he and Christina. It was a forceps birth and that instrument damaged some muscles on his face and left behind a mark that is barely visible today if you know where to look. The damage interfered with his learning to speak. He had a number of holes in his heart that required monitoring; luckily they closed during infancy without any lasting damage. When he was two, he had early intervention therapy to help him speak. (His first word was "bubbles" and came after several sessions of the therapist blowing bubbles -- go figure.) From there, still just barely two, he went off to a special needs class five days a week. A school bus picked him up and confidently boarded it each morning with his backpack of diapers and a bottle. The special needs class had kids with all types of problems. His best friends were Joey, a bright, friendly kid with muscular problems that had left him in clunky braces and a history of multiple surgeries, and Melissa, a sweet girl with mental retardation -- the teacher called them the three Musketeers, and Mark was extremely protective of both his friends. I often think that this is where Mark developed his ready acceptance of every type of person. He grew up without prejudice or hate or fear of others, a shining quality that is the essence of Mark.
After a few years of early intervention and special needs training, Mark entered the regular classroom. Although still very shy, he made friends easily and impressed his classmates, all of whom thought well of him. He developed a quiet albeit sharp sense of humor, something he has perfected to an art form today. His wit can be both subtle and awe-inspiring.
As a kid, he tried a number of sports. He was five or six when he tried wrestling. THis first match had him literally wrestling a boy who had no arms or legs; Mark lost. He didn't care for football so that lasted only one season. Lacrosse was better; his coach said he wished every player on his team would put ehir heart into the game as Mark did. He found soccer and that was it. He found his groove after his first few seasons and excelled as both a striker and as defense. (He did not really care for being a referee, though, although he was certified as one and reffed a number of first-year games.) He was a sophomore when we moved to Florida and was too late to join the school soccer team. By that time he had discovered running, something he excelled in. He has run a gazillion races now, including several marathons, and has always done well, usually coming in among the top in his age group. We were a little concerned about his first marathon and Christina, Jessie, and we marked out spots along the route to be sure he was doing okay, then moving to other spots further along the route; we needn't worry -- he did great and came in well ahead of most others in his age group, stiff and sore but happy.
He's still running while in college, but often races without having time to have practiced. Thanks to Covid-19, his school is closed to on-site classes and activities so he now has time to practice his running.
Christina and Walt had a difficult time coming up with a name for him. One would suggest a name and the other would hate it and vice versa. Anyone who had to name a child can relate, I'm sure. Finally, the choice was between Mark and Thomas and they were torn between the two. Then the light dawned (thanks to a not so subtle hint from Kitty) -- why not give him both names? And so we had Mark Thomas. Purely by coincidence, that had also been the name of one of Kitty's cousins, Mark Thomas Burns, who had been tragically killed by a drunk driver several years before. Mark Burns was one of the finest men I ever knew. A radio program manager work was also a talented musician, he seemed to know everyone and was loved by everyone. Mark could go anywhere in the country and there would be a friend to give him shelter. Our Mark embodies much of the earlier Mark's personality that it is spooky. The earlier Mark was kind, generous, friendly, empathetic, smart, funny, loved...everything you would want in a person. Our Mark is just the same, although our Mark is no way near as musical. (Come to think of it, Mark Burns was a singer and drummer; our Mark doesn't sing but was a pretty talented percussionist in school before sports won out.) Neither had an ounce of hate in their bones -- well, Mark Burns did actively dislike one person, Richard Nixon. The fact that both Marks are so similar is a tribute to each.
What else can I say about Mark?
Well, he is extremely good-looking. I'd like to think he gets that from me, but he actually gets it from both his parents.
And we love him. Always have and always will. He makes us proud. He makes us laugh. And just by being near him, he makes us better people. Osmosis, I guess.