What would Mark do? I find myself asking that question as I encounter day-to-day issues and problems that I've never had to deal with before. It's comforting to think about what he would advise or do in certain situations; then, there are other times where I know I must step out of my comfort zone (and definitely out of his) and make a decision based on what's best for the Howell family, party of three.
Case in point: the decision to buy a storage building for our property here. For years, I have asked, pleaded, begged for Mark to consider purchasing some sort of storage shed for our yard. He would always politely decline, telling me that we would be moving to Kansas in a short while, "where there are storage buildings out the wazoo!" In other words, no, that was money we weren't going to spend. After his death, the riding lawnmower positioned on my back porch just outside my dining area windows taunted me on almost a daily basis. My garage is full. I have an office full of Mark items at TPWD that need to be boxed and brought home at some point. So, I made the decision to buy a storage building. It's amazing what one can do with a credit card and a high-speed internet connection. Long story short, it was delivered last week, constructed Saturday by an able-bodied group of men from our church (thank you, guys!), and is ready for filling. That decision is not one he would have made; nevertheless, it's one I had to make in the best interest of my sanity and our family.
Case in point, two: My dryer broke last Friday. Well, to be specific, the rotary start switch broke. Again, the wonders of the internet continue to astound me. I was able to diagnose the problem, get the part number, called to various repair centers to get the best price, ordered it, picked it up today, and $9.63 later, I fixed the problem. Hallelujah. It felt so empowering, a woman fixing a large appliance. No service call, no high priced installation. Just me, the switch, and a screwdriver. Took less than thirty seconds. That's something Mark wouldn't have probably attempted...he would've called the repair man and paid the service call.
Case in point, three: 2011 World Series. Between the Texas Rangers and Mark's and my favorite childhood team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my two favorite teams, going head-to-head in the Big Dance. Every year, we'd look at the Rangers schedule, hoping for an interleague series between the two powerhouses, but no luck. Until now. If Mark were alive, I think he would've been scouring the internet for he & Andrew a couple of World Series tickets. Mark loved to tell the story of how, at age 12, he was taken by his grandfather on a train from Kansas to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play. That was a memory he never forgot. That story kept replaying in my mind as I prayed and deliberated today. Do I bite the bullet and see if I can swing two tickets to Saturday night's game? Am I crazy to justify paying that amount of money for "just" a baseball game?
Well, it's not "just" another baseball game. Andrew breathes, lives, and loves baseball, particularly major league baseball. Quite probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an opportunity to make the kind of memory for us that Mark and his granddad had. So, I bit the bullet. Pulled out the credit card, took a deep breath, and purchased tickets to Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. My son and I, we'll go with our two closest friends, the ones that stood by me as Mark made his transition from earth to heaven. And I hope that I'm doing what Mark would have done, even though he would've hesitated initially on spending the money. There are some things you can't put a price on. My hope is that someday, Andrew will tell his children (our grandchildren!) about the 2011 World Series game that he and his mom attended, shortly after the death of his beloved daddy. And I hope he tells them he had the time of his life.
So, as I'm looking out my bedroom window at my new storage shed, folding clothes I just removed from my newly-fixed dryer, contemplating on what combination of Rangers/Cardinals clothing to wear on Saturday night, I feel both melancholy and happy. Life is still good, even without Mark's physically being around. But it's also extremely hard, and sad, and lonely. I never fully understood the meaning of "bittersweet" until I lost him....because bittersweet is what I will feel as I sit in the stands of Section 314 Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, happy that I'm at the game, but wishing it were Mark there with A.J. instead of me. But since he can't be there, I will be doing my best to make it the most memorable night our 9 year old has ever had. I imagine that Mark will be watching us, smiling from ear to ear, nodding his head, and hopefully approving my decision.
Because if I've learned one thing this year, it's that life is indeed short. You never know how many days the good Lord will let you hang around. So live each day to the fullest. And if you have the opportunity to make a memory with someone you love more than anything, don't let a little thing like money stand in your way. Just do it.