My brothers and sisters brought home lots of strays over the years – hell so did mom and dad for that matter – mostly dogs, occasionally we would sneak in a cat or snake for a day or two – dad is allergic to cats and deathly afraid of snakes – we had a monkey, goats, rabbits, gerbils, turtles, birds, lizards, frogs, salamanders, crabs, hamsters, fish, dogs and cats – my sister brought a dog home one time and she thought the dog was so beautiful that the only name that would fit would be her own – so she named the dog after herself! She also brought home Mark. She was 14, he was 14 – just a few months difference in their ages. Mark had been going to Jr. High with her, and he was cute and fun and everyone loved hanging out with him – besides he was the new kid in school and that offered all sorts of possibilities since his parents didn’t know who was who or what was what. It was 1969 – summer of love and all that. Mark had recently moved in with an uncle in a foster care situation – his single mom of 5 boys and 1 girl – all hellions couldn’t handle the older three boys anymore and shipped them all out to foster care. Mark and his twin brothers – Uncle was not the best foster parent on the planet – well in fact, he really wasn’t equipped to have any kids around – some people have to learn in baby steps and having a few teenagers plunked on your doorstep isn’t much of a baby step. Mark’s first twin (btw, they are the least connected twins I have ever been around, it’s impossible for people to believe they are twins) was last out of uncle’s house, but ended up with some great foster parents that kept him for the rest of his growing up years. The other brother bounced from here to there and eventually just ended up on his own, which he always did very well anyhow. He had been born overseas, in Germany, a military brat. I don’t really know the story on his biological father, they lived with their mom and grandmother – the grandmother was quite the hard ass – the boys rebelled big time – and it being the late sixties, there were plenty of creative opportunities for rebellion. Mark came to us – it didn’t take my parents long at all to decide that they could do a lot more good for this boy than the uncle was doing. Mark had already been in quite a bit of trouble with the law and had a few habits that continued getting him into trouble – and it was 1969 – a lot of kids were getting into trouble. Eventually Mark ran away (I think it was more “running to” for those kids in those days – at least the ones in my family, cousins, inlaws, sister, brothers – they were always running to some cool event that they weren’t going to be allowed to attend – maybe even a long-term, open-ended return on a sneaking out – they weren’t running away from anything, they were running toward an opportunity to be a sixties kid) one too many times for the foster care people to put him back in our house – they sent him to a boy’s home – but he never lost touch or quit participating in the family. He eventually fell in love with a great girl and had two beautiful babies with her. My first niece and nephew – both parents themselves now. The relationship didn’t last – Mark drinks too much and the passion fell away from their young love and they parted ways – but Mark never lost touch with his kids, and neither did we – we saw them all of the time, at times they spent huge chunks of their summers or other vacations with us. Mark shared so much of his life with us, it was like a puzzle piece we didn’t know we were missing until he filled the spot. Mark eventually married again and had another daughter – she lives with her mom in another state – that marriage ended also. Mark loves very passionately, he falls very hard for the women he falls for, and then he usually gets his heart broken very deeply. It’s been hard to watch him fall and hurt and heal over and over, but it has never dampened his spirit – he continues to love passionately, all of his family, to share anything he has with anyone he loves, to be there to help or support regardless of what you’ve done or how inconvenient it is for him to get there for you. I know that any of my brothers or sisters would do ANYTHING for me – you know “help me bury the body” type of help – but Mark would be there first, and he would stay to the end making sure I was okay – even if it meant missing work or traveling a long distance – it’s just part of his passionate way for things. And he is always up for some sort of party – he loves people, women, talking, drinking, dancing, music – he may not always be the first to arrive at the party, but he is generally the last to leave. I have so many fond memories of hanging out on the beach at the lake, drinking beers and listening to George Thurogood – going to the racetrack to watch he and my other brother, or just to watch the races even if they weren’t driving and then drinking in the pits till the early morning, always laughing, always singing. His children hold a very special place in my heart, watching them grow, seeing them become beautiful wonderful passionate people like their parents, and watching them grow more beautiful children with that same amazing passion for life and love.