By Neil Taylor
Special for Capmel.com: Talking about the departed. First my father, now, years earlier: My brother. Until my father, the biggest loss I’d experienced in life. As you will read below, he was lost well before he died.
My brother Mark Taylor, departed a long time now. What there is to be said is infinite. The guy was my kind of guy. His life, his situation: He did the best he could. Things didn’t work out how everyone would have liked. No way around it, that’s just the way the world works.
When you look at life, you have to realize things that are better than other things. My father and I had a good thing. No question, that was really good. What I had with my brother Mark was interesting: He was a brother; a friend and he was a really tough mentor. If he lived longer, I’d probably be president right now. You think that’s funny? I’m not kidding. He’d be a better president than I would but he could have pushed me to try it. Instead, I’m a fishing guide. I’m fine with it. He would have been fine with it too but before I stopped and settled on fishing guide, he might have had me on the ballot.
I wrote about my father. A long article. I have had so much difficulty addressing this one. I guess that is because I’m still mad at the world really. How Mark could be taken and we are left with all these people I don’t like. Cheated. We were all cheated. A world with my brother still in it: It would be a better place. I had good times with both my father and my brother. Both gone, it has been a major change for me. With both of them. I had used both as resources. Now, I am on my own.
Later, it will be about my mother.
With Mark I found it easy and difficult. What I remember, easy to put down. Time has passed. I’m getting older. I had to think about it for a while. Ten years ago, it would have been easier.
My brother Mark was an enigma. So much smarter than anyone else, he had these human deficiencies that were quite interesting to me. Things that disappeared after he got married and had kids: He was “challenged” in certain ways during his Dating Years. A Geophysicist. A very good student in his school days. A very smart guy in his employed years. A wildcatter, his success selecting drilling sites was matched by none. Downturns in that industry pushed him out and into the investment sector. Mark was a successful broker. Great with investments. Like my father, he knew what to do and when to do it. He had the right ideas. Like everything else in life: He was good at it. Berkshire Hathaway. Precious metals. Warren Buffet.
A fraternity man, his fraternity brothers were there until the end. He was one of them: They all hurt because of what happened to him. The fall was pretty steep. The guy he was the last two years of his life was nowhere near who he was the first 46 years of his life. That was the damage. My brothers and even my father to a certain extent, had difficulty dealing with the changes. I accepted it. It was no longer Mark anymore and there was nothing that could be done about it. “Do the best you can” was my theme. Tough to tell to the people closest to it.
His kids are probably most interested in what has to be said. Sarah and Melissa were old enough to know him before things fell apart. Caroline: Right on the edge. John, in my opinion, didn’t know his father (at least not as a guy that wasn’t “affected”.). My knowledge and perception on things not always right, I’m just kind of guessing at it: I don’t think I’m that wrong. His kids having kids has started. Sarah and Tyler with a baby girl. Going to great lengths to make sure the kid doesn’t have the gene. I have to keep in mind, they didn’t know him like I did. That was an age thing. Sarah got close. Melissa just barely behind. The two youngest: I’d have to interview them to find out what they know.
The stories that make me look good: They are not going to be told. They will never be told. I had a few skills: So what. Mark getting Mary to marry him was way more notable than anything I was doing. By far. Mary brought a girl into the family: First time. And she fit in good. Mary made us all look good. No way around it: That’s just the way it was. Mark and his marriage, to my knowledge, it was all pretty good up until things fell apart. Nothing was good with anything once things “fell apart”. There were always challenges dealing with Mark but I think they were acceptable. It’s when things got tough that it became very difficult for Mary and for the kids. That’s just life.
When we were young, Mark wasn’t a fighter. One of the neighbors picked on him. It was pretty bad I heard. I was really young. Well, Les, a year older: Les took care of it and no one ever bothered Mark again. When I had my fights, Mark urged me to try to find other ways. I tried. Sometimes, it was just what I had to do. He was fine with that too. But I would say that Mark was a pacifist overall.
We golfed for more than a few years. Before his balance and walking went bad, we hit the gold courses. His condition worsening, I remember watching him hit golf balls at a driving range with zero balance. This was getting close to the time it was diagnosed in the family. I think the most fun: Panama City Beach. He took me to a different golf course every day for like five days. Golfing like I’ve never played before or since. Holes where you couldn’t see the green or the flag. I hit some (lucky) good shots. He was impressed. He was probably right. I should have taken my golfing a little more seriously. But, making my choices, that wasn’t one of them. And he was fine with that. He did like to swing the clubs. His disabilities made it challenging. Like I said, I remember being at the driving range with him and I thought he was going to fall down on every swing. He didn’t. So, it was good to see someone with challenges continuing to do things they like.
“In the family” means the Hirschbeck’s. John, the father. John, the son. Michael, Denise and the two girls. A jolt. It took John first. Treatments: Michael lived a lot longer but he had difficulties. He finally went too. This stupid disease, dreadful what it has done to people. My recent conversations with Denise, we have talked about life. We talked about Mark. She scolded me for singing the praises of Mark, that the other three of us were just as important. I didn’t argue with her. But I disagree. I shared my profession with John Hirschbeck. I became Michael’s pal during those years. I’d hoped he would live longer because he was doing pretty well. His earlier years marred with seizures. Bad and regular. The childhood form, seizures was a big thing. If I understand right, he was also diagnosed with the adult form so he would be having subsequent challenges. John: I have become closer with after baseball. Now that it’s “after baseball” for him too, it is much more regular.
I wish there were more stories. I’m sharing what I’ve got. Mark and I were pretty tight. Like I already said: A lot of it was him keeping me from screwing up my life. He was relentless. I thought I was doing things right. I was wrong. And he let me know. If he wasn’t there: I would be a guy that has a lot more problems instead of a guy who really doesn’t have any problems.
What you have to admire: He kept moving forward. That disease didn’t stop him. He was full speed all the time. High energy.
When you look at it: Mark and my father, they were from the same cloth. I was close in ways but those two guys were hand-in-hand the same. Dad liked fishing with the other three of us but I honestly believe, he liked Mark the best. I’m not hurt. I’m a realist. I’d love him more than any of the rest because he was the best. He was a better Christian. He was a better intellectual. He was a better human being, in general, than any of us. (Again, Denise disagreed, but I’m sticking with it).
Mark and “my father’s father.” They were tight. Grandpa Taylor died in 1998. Not huge opportunities for the kids to know the man. Mark had the respect. I had the respect. My father had the respect. Mark was all about Grandpa Taylor. Grandpa Taylor said to me, “I’m worried about what this disease is going to do to Mark.” That was before things fell apart. Grandpa gone: I guess it was a good thing he didn’t have to see it happen? They were tight. I was tight. With all of them, I was. I was lucky. Grandpa Taylor loved Mark, like we all did. And he didn’t like the hand Mark was dealt. Like I said: At least Grandpa didn’t have to see the final years.
Mark the man. He was a “big brother” before he was a father. He took it seriously. He watched out for us. It mattered. Those were the fun years. Later we all had our own lives: His with a wife and four kids. Mine in baseball, and then fishing. But as kids, it was a good life.
It was rare but when he was unhappy with me, it was a battle. I was going to do it my way. He was going to pitch his way. Ultimately he would join on board with me even though I wasn’t going his way. But he got his input in.
Four of us: We all picked up a rock. Three of us threw it through a window. Mark put the rock in his pocket.
He had a sense of humor that was unique. Like everything else, intelligent stuff. I found him ultimately amusing at all times. Intelligent, interesting, entertaining.
We went fishing as a family. Mark was the least likely to be into the fishing part of it. We actually stopped places to appease his Geologic desires. It wasn’t bad. Added to our lives. And it made him happy. He went back to some of those spots close to his death, something no one but me and my father seemed to notice.
He went to the University of Arizona. I went there. People I knew, going through that program, telling me about reading what Mark wrote. I wasn’t surprised. Mark might have been amused about me getting published 20 years later but stuff he wrote was probably worthy of awards. Me, my fourth book out: It’s nothing special, it is just projects I wanted to complete.
My father, always the most important in the entire equation: Mark, in full decline: I am on the phone with him and Dad said “I’m told I need to tell Mark that I love him.” I didn’t say anything. He said, “Do you need me to tell you that I love you?”
I said “No sir.” Which was the truth. My father never said it but he didn’t have to say it. That’s my opinion anyway. I never had to tell him: He never had to tell me. Like I said: It was even easier with Mark. Very likable as a friend. Very well liked as a family member. It was not easy on my parents, the last years and the end. Outliving your own child, they say, is the worst thing that can possibly happen in your life. They had to deal with that one.
Stories never told until now. It was so rough on my mother. My father too, though he didn’t show it. He was a rock. He was a rock that was hurting. Mom hurt more because it turns out it comes from her genes. So, how do you get her to A) Not blame herself and B) Not be so upset about it. The simple answer is, you don’t. We reduced the blame thing over time. How can you blame yourself for something you knew nothing about? My father’s take on it was even better: “If you did know about it, would you have still married me and had these kids? I would have.”
Mark was smart. Part of the time he was pretty serious. The more I was around the more relaxed and less serious he was: But not by much. I didn’t force it. It just didn’t matter. I wasn’t trying to change him. I didn’t want to change him. He wants to get on me for what I’m doing: I can go with that. I would have liked to see what he does with his kids when they are in their 20’s. Not kidding. He had that influence on me and I’m just his brother: What does he get those kids to do??
I still shake my head. None of those four knew him “adult to adult”. They were all still young enough when it was over, Sarah was the closest to knowing him that way but things had fallen apart earlier and even she didn’t get that chance. I feel like them missed out. If they knew him like I knew him they would have more thoughts in their minds. People die. He ended up being one of them. I wish it was me and he was still here. That would have been better. I got scolded for saying it: Mark was their favorite. I’m told there were no favorites. If you ask me it was him and it should have been him. He was better than all of us. That’s my opinion and if you push me on it, I’ll tell you it was a fact.
I would say that overall, Mark didn’t second guess his life. No regrets. Like me, he lived with what he created and he was fine with it.
Mark as a young man. He liked sports. He liked rocks. He played varsity basketball. Hustle got him on the team. He played hard. His balance issues were there as a young guy. But he was good enough to compete. His future was very straightforward: He was going to be a Geologist. No way around it. His buddies were good guys. The late Tom Hardesty at the top of the list. I rode a plane with Tom and his wife to Mark and Mary’s wedding. John Gaither. Joe Cano. All those high school guys he hung out with. Camping, hiking. They were outdoorsy. Mark, just never was that interested in catching a fish. After fishing trips, we made stops at places where Mark could hunt rocks. It added to our lives but it’s what he lived for. His youngest years through high school: Craig Poynter was one of his friends. Admittedly not close the entire time, they had a lot of time together.
Mark, the man, after the University of Arizona. His work choices took him to Elko, Nevada. Denison, TX. Eventually landing full time in Midland, TX. His wife, he met there. All his kids were born there. My visits when I was in college, before he got married: We frequented “The Bar.” I was the brash younger brother, afraid of nothing. Mark was the sage older brother, amused by it all. We had good times. It was a big deal to meet Mark, something we did after a session at “The Bar.” It became quickly obvious; Mark was better with women than I am. That continued on well and then, I had a sister. No women in the family other than my mother: Mary was a first. She became big in our family. My father would say “She’s as much a daughter as any of you are sons.” And as it would turn out, Mary got a really raw deal. A disease not diagnosed in our family until 1992. Mark had the adult form and it was at work on his system. The brain and the spinal cord. The complete personality change was the toughest part to take. It changed him. Completely. At that time, the complaints were there. I won’t name names. I would hear a complaint and I would say “That’s not even Mark anymore. You are complaining about a symptom.” It was stupid to complain. My father liked that I fought those battles. In all honesty, I had to say it to him once too. I know he was using me to vent frustration and ultimately not complaining. It was difficult. For no one more than Mary. The kids had to deal with that too. Their father had been this great Dad and he had become someone who intentionally did embarrassing things. All in all, they did the best they could. I mean really, that’s life. You always have to do the best you can.
He was not afraid to be funny. Every time there was a new girl in my life he would inevitably ask “Is she a white woman?” One time the answer would have been no, probably the only time he didn’t ask. Not sure how I would have answered that one.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Ultimately, he was just better than the rest of us. We were never treated any different, but my parents lost their best one. It was hard on all of us. Mark and I were close. Mark and my father were close. He was so insanely intelligent, he had intelligence that rivaled my father’s. I had my own skills but I couldn’t compare to Mark. Neither could the two other guys. And, Mark found God. The only one of us that really did. My mother would like to think we all did, but it was Mark. I have my own way. The other guys I would say: Have their own way but Mark was a man of God. A believer. But he was better to people than any of us were.
“In addition to getting your education, you need to enjoy yourself while you’re there.” A letter from him while I was at Arizona. My freshman year. “You need to sit down with Dad and tell him how much stuff costs. You aren’t eligible for student loans like Les and I.” He was right. Everything cost three times what it did when he was there. In state tuition still wasn’t bad but I ran through my savings in two years. Luckily that was also when I started umpiring. So, I made money a little easier than they did and that carried me through. When I decided to make it my profession, I got little pushback. Mark just wasn’t sure it would make me happy. And in a way, he was right. I hated the life. I liked it that I achieved what I set out to do but he knew I wouldn’t like being on the road for five months straight. But, becoming an umpire, he was pleased. It wasn’t a popular decision in 1993 as I was graduating with a degree in Finance and Accounting. But getting in and being successful, my brother Mark was pleased. I just wish I could have turned that corner and made it one more step. For him.
“You’ll need to learn how to work around the bureaucracy.” Also true.
Usually, I was doing everything they wanted me to be doing so it wasn’t a hard life. But he paid attention. More than my father. My father was of the sort that would say “He’ll figure it out.” Mark paid close attention. And I got support mostly because I had his backing on everything I was trying to do in life.
After baseball, it was funny. I was into some battles and he was asking about what was going on. I was telling him and he interrupted me and he said, “My God, you became a conservationist.” I said, “Yes.” He went quiet for several seconds and then said, “Well, that’s probably all right.”
Perhaps the best of the best, when I was stressing over something not that important, he said, “100 years from now, what will it matter?” That’s one his kids should hear, remember and tell to other people. It was their father’s. That was his view on life. And, when you think about it, dead on accurate. What does this stuff matter ultimately?? In the end, it doesn’t.
“Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. But the way you chose to do it, it is in fact a Sprint.” My brother Mark on my umpire career, after I’d turned the corner, got promoted three times in a year. That was umpiring. You have so long to make it or it’s over. I made my sprint. He was devastated when it was over. I was happy and relieved. Mark felt I deserved my chance to be on big league fields daily and, he was right. I proved myself. Politically, screwed, my head supervisor hated me because my cousin was president of the umpires union (a deal where this guy lost his job on the field when the new union formed. Just bad luck really. If he didn’t know Denise Hirschbeck was my cousin, I might have made it.) It didn’t matter, something other people had a hard time processing: I was happier with baseball being over.
The very early years, Mark thoughts I was a prodigy. I was a really good athlete as a very small boy. Like my father said would happen, as I got older, the other kids caught up in ability and I wasn’t so much of a star anymore. But Mark used to pitch to me. Me, with a whiffle ball bat, hitting a tennis ball a mile. Over hotels (Panama City Beach). I maintained enough; I was a three-sport athlete in high school. I played soccer until my junior year in college. Mark’s friends were around more than Mark was and they watched my career. I was team captain for both baseball and soccer teams in high school. I hit a home run in my final at bat. I scored two goals in my final game against Arizona State. The golf team? I was only on it to get free golf at the local country club. And, a country club town, I was six man. Any other high school and I’m in the starting five. It made me better at it. Mark was impressed with my golfing abilities but really, I wasn’t that good. I was just good enough to not embarrass myself.
Didn’t matter. I got to hang out with my friends who were on the team and I played well in the two matches that they played me. Baseball was always #1. My home run? Mark was there. Rehab from a bad rotator cuff tear, I re-tore all the muscles on the follow through and I never played again. Back at Mom’s house Mark said, “It’s too bad Wayne took you out, you hit the ball HARD both at bats.” True. Dad also sitting there. I said “It’s over.” My father said, “I wasn’t going to say anything.” Mark just dropped his head. Re-tearing those muscles didn’t hurt. It hurt bad when I first did it. But. I was finished. The end of a baseball career at 18. Yeah, I could have played Junior college (if it would heal or better yet, surgery). I simply wasn’t that good. And that’s what I had to tell Mark. I as OK with it. I got robbed of my glory. I should have hit ten home runs and led us deep into the playoffs. Instead, captain of the team, I watched from the bench. Humbled. Mark accepted it. I was just pleased he was there to see me hit that home run. And. The end of my playing days. That was it. Not the way I expected it to end but that’s the way it did. Mark, Les and Mom and Dad were there for it.
“This is your room now”. That is all it said on a note: On the bed when he left for his first year of college. He was turning it over to me. Classy. I lived in that room after he vacated it. A big deal for me.
I still remember his voice. If you ask me, it fit, a very intelligent voice. His laugh. Halting. Well, I don’t know if that’s the right word. It was different. He liked to be amused and laugh. He liked off color humor better than the rest. That was his style.
But he was just so kind. I have all these enemies. Always have: Everyone liked him and he liked most people. Always wished I could be more like him but that wasn’t in the cards. He was a “Big Brother” and did great things for little kids before he had his own family.
This isn’t about me. Stories of me in this should all relate to him. He is worth talking about. Me, not so much. It is just a shame he’s gone and I’m still around. I’ve now outlived him. He died at 48 and in December of 2019 I turn 50. If the world was fairer: He’d be closing in on 60 and I’d be the one that died. That would have been fine with me. And it would have been fine with all of you because your lives would be better with him in it instead of me. I say: That’s a fact. I’ll get yelled at for it but I don’t back off on it. If my brother Mark was still alive and I was the one that died: The world wins out. It IS a fact. Both of us being alive and healthy, fine. He’s gone. I accepted it.
Accepting it: Not sure how it was for everyone else. I accepted the loss of my brother about 20 months before he actually died. He had ceased to be the guy I knew. I don’t know exactly how long it was before he died but it was a while. Times spent by myself in that time period. I had my hands over my head. Staring up at the sky. No answers. There was nothing fair about it. And there was nothing I could do. It was quite honestly, the most hopeless I have ever been in my life. You can’t turn back time. My father’s gone. I can’t turn back time. Mark’s gone. I can’t turn back time. Mark had deteriorated: I couldn’t turn back time. And if I could, it would have been good for his family. My hands over my head looking at the sky, it bothered me to no end that those little kids had lost their father. He was still alive but they had lost their father. Mary had lost her husband. Loss. Loss. Loss. I’d lost my brother but it was a way bigger deal for all of them. It wasn’t much better for my parents, but I suppose, older, they had more experience with loss. I was kind of isolated in many ways when Mark was in deterioration and then died. I didn’t see eye to eye with some people. Not that it mattered.
Funerals: I didn’t go to Grandpa Taylor’s. Dad didn’t have one. I would say I have minimal funeral experience. I was at Mark’s. At the chapel: A problem. My father didn’t make it to the funeral. He stayed in Arizona. The problem, I got on the phone with him and he fixed it. It was an insurance issue. Not sure how many people heard about it. I was going to put my credit card down but Papa gave me his instead. Anyway, something that it’s just wild it didn’t come up days earlier. But it was resolved.
The people that showed up: what I expected. Fraternity brothers. Pat Duffy, particularly. His local friends. Jeff Phillips. Ben Taylor. My situation: A little weirder than anyone there knew. And remains that way to this day. This paragraph will be deleted from certain uses but will go to Mark’s kids. Only 150 people have been told in 15 years. I share the same condition. People that don’t know: Most of the world. I got it but I didn’t get it like Mark had it. It’s more of a nuisance than a major disability.
But, a ceremony to put my brother in the ground for eternity: That’s weird. We had an awful travel day getting out there for it. If not for my skills acquired umpiring, we wouldn’t have made it I struck deals, flew into the wrong city and had my other brother pick us up at that airport and drive us down. We made it but it took five hours longer and added some driving time at the end of airport time. For my mother: We needed to be there. To show respect: We needed to be there. The kids, all getting pretty big at this point, I watched them and thought about it. I was sad that they had lost their father but he had changed so much and if you ask me the “quality of life” thing had changed, you had to wonder how much of a relief it was. Sad, but true, when some people die it does end suffering. He wasn’t happy. Somewhere inside him I think he knew he wasn’t himself anymore and that just isn’t good. Mary had to deal with it the most. Like everything else, she did pretty good. Better than anyone else would have done.
Girls. Girls. Girls. I mentioned it: Mary joining the family increased female membership by 100%. Then: Sarah. Then: Melissa. Then……. Caroline. Just like that. So, number four is on the way I talked to my father about it and he said “Gotta be a boy. If it’s not, they keep trying until they get one. So. You might have nine nieces before this is over.” John came through. John was the gem. Mark so loved his girls. But Mark also wanted a son. And he got it. On the phone with him when it happened: He broke down in tears. I said, “Oh come on.” He said, “You will only understand if you do the same thing someday.” Well, I never did but I understood. It was great. It was “everyone wins.” Mark was very proud of his kids. They were all good in school. They were all good in society. My thoughts: I was sorry that Carolina and John didn’t know their father more before things fell apart. I’d actually have to interview them all. I believe Sarah and Melissa got to know their father. Caroline: On the bubble. I’d say John had the least time to know him. And none of them got to know him Adult-to-Adult like I knew him. Cheated. That’s life. But they got cheated. His humor. His intellect. He was taken before he got to transfer more of that to them.
The wheels fell off. If they didn’t, my brother alive would be sitting on $30 million by now. It was kind of a mess. He was a great provider. The problems: Created situations. Beyond his control: Things went wrong. That’s all another story. I won’t go into it. I know those stories but those can go untold. And, it didn’t have to be: You only need so much in life. He taught me that. But Mark firing on all cylinders, he was a money maker. The decline was hard to watch. You have to admire ‘what he did’ and all but you have to shake your head and be sad about how things changed. And, as I said before, it wasn’t his fault. And, as I said before, there was nothing anyone could do about it. It was just the way it was. Financial stress was part of his deterioration. He just wasn’t functioning the way he always had.
I’m not making stuff up. Some of this there are witnesses. The rest of it: Me and my brother, you have to trust me that it happened. Honestly, I wish I had more to write about. I wish I had worked harder to glean more from him in the years I had him to talk to. I failed. In life, that’s just the way it is I guess. I did pretty good. I will never forget: He told me not to be a bad person. I kind of shirked it. He grabbed me by the shirt and said, “If you end up a bad person, it’s your own damn fault and I will never talk to you again.” That was big. I think I was on the right path anyway. But if he wasn’t going to ever talk to me again, my life was over. My father took over after Mark was gone but before that, Mark was mostly “My Guy.” I would say, with Mark gone, that was good for both me and my father that he and I got closer and closer and closer. Mark didn’t let me off easy. Ever. But mostly he was upbeat. He liked what I was doing “most of the time.” Once in a while he gave me that push in the right direction.
I achieved in a lot of ways because he pushed me. I would have done all right. But I did “better” because he was my brother. And he didn’t want me to do any less than I was capable of. So, I didn’t. He won. His kids did it on their own. Their mother stepped in and made sure everything went right. A healthy Mark: He would have done for his kids what he did for me. Luckily, minus Mark, there was Mary. She got it done.
Often wonder: Mark lives, John ends up a collegiate golfer. I never saw a little kid with a better golf swing. I took John to the driving range and he was smooth. Losing his father might have changed some of the path he MIGHT have been on. Golf was just never really talked about that much in John’s future. A healthy Mark alive, I’m probably pushing him to push his son to golf. The way things worked after Mark died: Partly my fault. My father departed: Would approve. Mark, departed, not sure he would approve as much. But I made my decisions and I stand by them. But my Texas family got less because of it.
He found love. I never did. He won. I live my life this way: Never achieving what he did. That is a FACT. That might be fact, twice in bold. Anyway, he had it. I never did. I’m happy for him. Not sorry for me: I wish. I just wish I could have been more like my brother. He set the example for me. I did OK but it is really tough to compete with certain things. My brother Mark was one of those. His flaws, if you can call them that, were entertaining. He wasn’t perfect but his version of life was something to admire.
Where I’m lucky: I’m one of those kids that has EARLY memories in life. I remember all my brothers. One, closest in age, I spent the most time with. The oldest: A different interaction. Mark: That was what was most real. Most important. I’m an umpire. Call them like I see them. Right? Mark was this greatest thing and he fizzled out before he could have had his greatest impact on the world, he did it with me. Who cares? If he lived ten more years, healthy just think about what that would have meant for those four kids.
Like the Taylors before him, Mark didn’t tolerate nonsense. Neither do I. The things I am saying, he would be embarrassed. But he wouldn’t lecture me for it.
My involvement, who cares. Ultimately. With my brother: I’m sorry you didn’t know him. If you did know him, what I have said is going to strike a chord.
For his kids. Most of doing this. Because of his kids. Sarah. You should be like five years old still. But ways of the world, you and Tyler have a kid of your own (Tyler, apologize for threats and other stuff I put you through but I was approved to test you). Melissa: What a pain in the ass. Worst family member ever. Yeah, right. So, I’m a big Melissa fan. I’m a big Caroline (the joker) fan. John, great nephew. Sarah, the original: She and I had huge interaction those years. Anyway: All four of those kids are really great. Their early years, I was around a lot and we had fun. That changed. I had my reasons. And Mark didn’t stick around long enough to see most of it, which is not just too bad, it’s a crime. Life. That’s life.
Mark called Melissa “Miss”. Sarah was a huge pride of his: His oldest. My recollections fall apart. I guess as other things fell apart. A healthy Mark, I think I would have a Caroline connection. A John connection. Probably my fault in my absence. Anyway, I hope their memories are decent. I still say: Sarah and Melissa have the best shot at it. Caroline: Marginal but probably pretty good actually. John might have been cheated out of it the most. Oh, to have John spend one day with his father the way I knew his father…. Well, again, I’m wanting things that can’t happen. OK. But I could be wrong. John may remember way more about his father than I am proposing. Again: I’d have to interview him.
One of the ones I think about every week. No fail, I think about it. I was in the sixth grade. I could have been spelling bee champion for the entire school (Up to the 8th grade). I tanked it. Mark figured that out. He said “What the hell?” I basically said, what the hell what. He wanted to know why I tanked it. I said “How do you know I threw it?” He said, “No one is going to beat you. You tanked it.” The word was pamphlet. Kris Rayner won. Mark had me. I had to tell him; I didn’t want to be a nerd. He said, “You are the best athlete in the school, you think being the guy who can spell stuff right is going to set you back? You’re an idiot.” Still not sorry I lost it for some reason but he’s right: I’m an idiot. I didn’t mind being acknowledged in any way after that. He never brought it up again. But. He told my father. Papa thought it was amusing. Bringing it up 40 years later. I had no explanation and Dad didn’t really expect one. Anyway, I kind of let my brother down on that one. Can’t take it back. (Still somehow fine with not being the spelling champion). My father was funny. He said to me, “I’m happy that I can spell better than everyone else but I don’t necessarily want anyone to know about it.”
When you get down to it. Mark was just the nicest of the nicest. I have people who like me. Big deal. Overall, everyone liked Mark. 3 out of 4 people don’t really like me. He was, well, “likable.” No if’s and’s or but’s about it: Mark was extremely likable. Like I said: I just don’t match up. The people that argue with me about it, most of them just didn’t know Mark. If they did, they would understand what I’m saying.
My brother. What else can I tell you about my brother. He liked Copenhagen. A lot. A very fine chewing tobacco product, the nicotine goes straight into your bloodstream, assisted by stuff they put in it to cut your gums. I started using it when I was 15. And was he really mad when he found out: I too liked Copenhagen. Our great grandfather and great great grandfather both died of oral cancer from chewing tobacco. Mark and I were both headed that way. I quit in 1996. Mark didn’t quit at all. If things didn’t happen the way they did, he would have died from oral cancer. Just as I probably would have if I didn’t quit. His take on it: That would be fine if that’s the way he died. I can relate.
Our uncle: John, my mother’s brother. Another Copenhagen guy. He put whiskey in his, something he taught me when I was 16 years old (I had Copenhagen and he was out. I gave him a can and he taught me to put one shot of Jack Daniel’s into an older can of Copenhagen. Half a shot in a newer can of Copenhagen.) Anyway, divulging that Uncle John had me on the inside, got me off the hook. Suddenly, Mark didn’t care that I was using it too.
He had all of his sayings. The kids will remember some of it. “The Gook Borsch”, a foreign investment market. “Thanksgiving Turkey”, “Boondoggle”. He used them all the time. He would bellow out his sayings all the time. Usually to the kids.
Like me, Mark had some hard edges. Not offensive but an edge. He wasn’t out of line racist or anything. Gouk Borsch was funny even though the word Gouk isn’t necessarily perfectly accepted in this world. He didn’t shy away from being controversial. Like me, he lived for that little bit of controversy and it didn’t bother him.
He had a baseball mind. He was interested in my baseball mind. My summer before becoming an umpire, I took it to Las Vegas. He said “You bet on games?” Yep. He said, “Well, how did you do?” I said, “You won’t believe me.” He said, “I probably will.” I was correct on 29 of 30 games and won close to $19,000. He was intrigued. He thought maybe I should consider sticking with that instead of going into umpiring. An umpire, Rule 21, you are forbidden to bet on baseball. I haven’t placed a bet on baseball since then. That money carried me through my first few years in baseball.
His college years: Dining out. The buffets. Mark, “They didn’t make any money on me.” No question: He liked to eat. A lot. His tastes were heavy toward Mexican food but he liked it all.
The family money, Mark never got to see his full birthright. Papa died years after Mark. Ama hanging on now at 84. Our parents were post-Depression era kids. Their mindset and choices with money: Money was to make more money. You didn’t spend it on things you don’t need. You don’t waste it. Three of us left, once Ama is gone, it is a substantial estate. The sale of the house. The money. What Papa did in life was impressive.
One of the big things we had in common. Mark, All American. Me, All American. I was in college. I went to Midland, early in my college years, before Mary: And we were out, somewhere other than The Bar, can’t remember where. One of the “friends of a friend” probably the most liberal guy in Texas on that particular night. The guy pitched his wares. Everyone was absorbing and in Texas I am surprised I was the first one to speak. All of like 19 years old I said “Well, you could go **** yourself.” Mark said, immediately, and I mean before I was done with the last word “That’s my brother and he beat me to it.” The guy got up. The guy left. Mark and I weren’t allowed to pay. And we ran up a tab. Mark was all about America. A true patriot, his devotion was the tip of the iceberg.
He had some things going on in his earlier years but I would say overall: It started and ended with Mary. It was a huge deal for me to meet her. He wanted my input. Obviously, that went fine. And it progressed pretty quickly and a wedding was announced.
Martin Luther King. Well, he had his comments and I researched them and he was right. And, to boot, he called it ahead of its time. “Martin Luther King was a communist.” Correct. Mark also said “At some point, being a communist won’t be a bad thing.” Sure enough, now, it’s not. Fascinating. Maybe not to you but it is to me. I think you already gathered it: He told it like it is. I relate. A lot of people won’t talk to me ever again because I am the same way
My father: He stayed out of it. Mark and I: We were more involved. We didn’t shy away from it. I have been in more trouble for it than he ever was. That’s because he was better at it.
You have to look at the world, and people in a specific way. If you knew my brother, you knew that you were seeing greatness. Snuffed out but while he was here: It was greatness. So unfair. Not for me. I got to know him. I got all those years with him. Unfair to all four of his kids. Very unfair. Unfair to his wife. Their time: When it was good, it was really good.
Telling the stories: Mostly it is for his kids. The things I have left out, the very few that there are, they are just things that are between me and my brother that I don’t think anyone should know. His kids: Hopefully some of this is things that remind them of the good times. Some of it will be things they never heard before. They’re all happy. They’re all successful. They’re all doing it. If I can bring some of the things about their father back, I have succeeded. I sure knew him. Sadly, better than they did. A crime. Sarah: She had the best shot. But I think Melissa was old enough to remember some of the good. Caroline and John, I’d have to talk to them but the odds are lighter. Tragic to me. If he could have lived another two years: They all get older and they all have better interaction. But: That’s not the way the world works.
As much as he didn’t want me to be like him, I tried to be like him. That’s the way it goes with brothers, I think. He guided me but his lessons I followed less to be more like him. He really liked being my brother. Why I’m not sure but he did. I was the lucky one. He liked what I did. My success, a fraction of his: He still liked it for some reason. I’m going to get yelled at again for saying it. But it is the truth according to Neil: He was better than I am. Sorry to tell the truth but that’s the way I do it. That’s the way he did it. I haven’t done bad. But I said it before: I can’t compete.
My baseball coach was Mark’s basketball coach. Wayne called me Mark my entire career. Later, when I was an umpire Wayne didn’t still call me Mark. Wayne was very affected by what happened to Mark. Wayne was a tough teacher (math) and he was a very tough coach. But Wayne knew excellence and he saw it in Mark just like everyone did. Me, the brother, Wayne gave me some interesting perspective. He was there the whole time. He stopped by when he passed through Texas. It was a good thing. Mark was a huge Wayne DesCombes fan. No question. Me, the umpire, another connection it was all a good thing. They all liked that and it was another thing to share and all. But they were still a thing. Which was good. “Keep your eye on the ball” was what Wayne taught Mark’s kids.
Wayne was a tough cookie. But Wayne knew: Mark was special. Playing sports, it was a bigger deal that I did it better. Wayne knew Mark’s destiny was elsewhere. I had big hits in the state playoffs. Mark didn’t. Mark was still better.
I hope this is true and not just invented in my head. My earliest memory. Earliest. I had a bat and Mark was behind me helping me hold the bat and I told him “Let me do it.” My other brother threw me a pitch and I hit it hard. And high. For a kid that just learned to walk not that long earlier, the way I remember it, my brother Mark was impressed. Not sure about confirming this one but I am pretty sure it happened. I was catching fish when I was that old too, I may as well have been hitting a ball hard.
To me, it is funny: I wouldn’t say he was a ladies man in his younger years. But every woman I know from his era says they liked him. Not surprised by that. He might not have achieved in those years but I’d say (not being there to see it personally) he might have been on the timid side? I don’t know. Or, it also might not have been that important to him. Who knows? I’d have to ask Gaither and Cano. They might have insight. Not that it matters. Nothing mattered until Mary came along anyway.
I do have a number of good pictures of Mark with me and my girlfriends. I did pretty well getting my picture with him actually. All those pictures where I see them all the time. I have had to make my adaptions. Losing Grandpa Taylor. Losing Mark. Losing my father. The big three. The three most important men in my life. All gone. But. As other people would say if they were me: I got the good out of knowing them and can’t think too hard about them being gone. Losing my brother was the more difficult one. 48. Grandpa Taylor lived a long time. My father lived a long time. It was cut short for Mark. It wasn’t fair. But. That’s life.
Mary. Mark was so matter of fact about things it was a big deal when Mary wasn’t in that category. Me, the bachelor in college, I challenged him if this was right and he shot me down. He shot me down good. And that’s before they were engaged. He told me, “One day, I hope you can find what I have found. Sounds funny but it is true.” Him saying that: It’s law whatever he says. So, that’s the way it went. It was not only a good thing and “right” it was a pleasure to watch. Even though Mark annoyed Mary (intentionally mostly) they had a really good thing going. I haven’t talked to Mary about it. I don’t need to talk to her about it. I saw what I saw. I know what she had to deal with. Pretty much “it is what it is.” It was good when it was good but Mary did the best she could when it wasn’t that good anymore. It was a drag. What are you going to do? I had to deal with everything. My mother was the toughest part. My father counted on me. I did the best I could. But Mark was just not Mark anymore. These four kids. A wife. It was bad. No question and no way around it: It was bad. My father: He told me “You can’t fix this one.” And I knew he was right. We just had to watch it happen. His kids, so small, would they understand what happened? Probably yes and no. Sarah and Melissa yes. Caroline, maybe. John, I would say, no. I always hoped John was like me and had the “early memories” and he remembered more of the stuff with his father. A boy and his father. I’m speechless. John hanging out with his father right now: I would give you every penny I have. My brother and any one of his daughters: Same deal. Life: Some things you just can’t do. They did have their time: BUT it simply was not enough.
My brother: He was fun. I found that out more from other people telling me. He provided me with fun. But the stories everyone else had: Mark lived for fun and he was impressive creating fun. Honestly, I’d be happy if I died someone said the same thing about me.
It wasn’t always fun. It wasn’t always serious. It was often in between. One situation: I can’t classify. Mark’s friends. And me, in my senior year in college. This one guy was on an oration and everyone was frozen listening. I was sitting there just trying to blend in really. The guy struck a nerve with me and without knowing it, I spoke. “Shut the **** up. You dumb ***** *****er. Who the **** do you think you are?” Mark’s friends: A sigh of relief. Mark collects himself fast and says to this guy “You can go now.” The guy stood up and left. I crossed my arms and said nothing. The guys left me alone for a while. But Mark stayed right beside me. He didn’t look at me. But I knew he was happy. Now, 30 years later, I wonder: Did I do the right thing. It doesn’t matter. You act when things happen. That’s what I did and my brother didn’t have a problem with it. It never came up. We never talked about it. One of his friends brought it up to me at the gathering at Mark’s house after Mark’s funeral. I won’t share what he said. It was complimentary. This isn’t about me. He did say, “Your brother told me after that happened: You were going places.” I said, “Yeah, probably jail.” He laughed and said, “Your brother believed in you before that but that one really put you on the map.” So, just another one of those things. Probably shouldn’t have happened. My father would have passed. Mark passed. Everyone I’m related to would have passed: I couldn’t stay quiet. My brother liked it: That’s fine. It pales in comparison to how many things I admired about him.
It is hard to describe. I’m trying to get to the whole thing. One thing I’m stuck on: Showing you just how nice the guy was. To turn back time: To have you be with this guy. To see for yourself. He was a regular guy. But he was a regular guy that could talk about quantum physics if that was your thing. He was a guy that could talk about faulty contraception. He was up on everything. His family was first. Those kids: They were his pride. His wife, he knew what he had. He didn’t show it as well as some people do but it was there. He was happy with his life. Life changed. Bad. It changed for the bad. I can’t think of anything positive to spin on it. It was bad. All of it. I tried. We all tried and no one could find anything that worked. That guy. He was gone. That’s basically it. My brother didn’t exist anymore. I might have been the only one who got through to him that last two years. Not proud of it. I embarrassed him the way he was embarrassing his kids. It was a “how do you like it” thing that you and I understand really well. Gotta be lucky to get that through to a guy with brain damage.
Profound loss: Not really. To me, I’d lost my brother about two full years earlier. To me, this end result was inevitable, and I felt that it eased up life for Mary AND the four kids. Sorry, but that’s the way I look at it. To me: It was time. All the memories that came back was the only thing that made it sad. You can’t turn back the clock. I thought it then. I said it to my own father when things got worse for him. I said it to my mother last week. Time is cruel. As great as it once was, it was taken from him. That stupid disease. Adrenomyeloneuropathy. My connection to this whole thing as a family member: I watched the suffering. I participated in the suffering. Mark got the adult form so in a way, he was fortunate to live longer than 5 years of life, having the gene. But, as far as the adult form goes, he got it pretty bad. You could go on a long time without major issues. It took a toll on him. My discussions with him about it before it got really bad: He was pretty accepting of his situation and his life. You had to admire it. Not sure who else had the same conversations with him. Maybe Mary. Anyone else, I’m not sure.
After it fell apart, he asked me something I wasn’t willing to do. I called my father. I told him about Mark’s request. A second request from him I thought about it. Picking him up and taking him to the beach. Live out his last days at the beach. Now, at this point it was a serious medical situation and he wasn’t going to be released from the hospital. I’d have had to smuggle him out. I considered it. My father said, “If anyone’s going to do it, it would be me. You’re not going to do it. You are going to leave him right there.” My father telling me to do something: I never went against it. First off, he was always right. But secondly, I respected his wishes. As my elder, I didn’t push it. Ever. But I told him if he gave me the go ahead, I’d do it. He said “I’ll think about it.” Nothing ever happened. Mark pleaded. I told him that he needed to stay where he was and get the attention and care he needed. He didn’t like that. But he accepted it. As much as he could. He was a seriously changed guy and reasoning wasn’t a strong suit at that point. He was very much damaged. Things his kids and possibly even his wife never heard about. I never talked about it, except with my very best friends.
My friends, they really took it hard. Some of them hadn’t met him but they knew what I had with my brother. Upset, I talked people down. My own acceptance was above average. A very unfair situation: It was just going to go down how it was going to go down. And, it wasn’t good. There wasn’t anything good about it. It was pretty much misery if you ask me.
You could see it in him. At the end, he looked like an old man and he was only 48. He died from his injuries after he got hit by a car, riding his power chair in the street. My father had a theory on that. The woman was distracted, looked up too late and he was hospitalized most of the time after that. His best years behind him, it helped push things to a conclusion. My recollection, a conclusion that took like ten months.
I tell people every time they encounter loss: Let the positive memories dominate. I took my own advice. I didn’t dwell on how things became. I remembered how he was. Our drinking. Our fun we had. There was a lot of it. It was a shame it had to end but it is a part of life. My father lived to 82. His best years behind him too, we had to watch him fade. It was the same thing with Mark, it just happened to Mark earlier in life.
His kids went on to do great things. Every one of them educated. Every one of them a positive person in the society. It’s too bad he didn’t get to see it. It’s too bad he wasn’t around to become a grandfather. It just wasn’t meant to be. I still go with a single thought in life: Be like my father. Be like my brother Mark. If I can get anywhere close, I’m set.
Mark would have enjoyed watching what became of his kids. You want the best for your kids. He would have gotten it. Sarah was great from the start. Melissa has always been a delight. Caroline was very entertaining. John was the baby. John just gradually went through life and got there: His story will continue to be a good one to watch. John would argue with me at a young age. And he made compelling arguments. Very worldly observations for a very small boy. It was interesting. So, you just knew he was going to do well.
I haven’t spent nearly enough time with them. That transition happened after 2005. It will be talked about more later. They know why. I’m still tight lipped. One day that reason will be common knowledge. For now, I keep it tight.
That sums it up for my brother Mark. Mark Hill Taylor. He was just great all the way around. How things ended up is not the point. Who he was before that is. My earliest memories? I wanted to be like Mark. There was this guy that I admired that much and he didn’t ignore me. I was never unimportant. He was always engaged. Even with how busy he got, he never stepped away from that. Eventually I got old enough, that faded some. But not all the way. He stayed engaged. He wanted to know everything. He wanted everything to go well. Ultimately, he enjoyed my success.
I am supremely pleased that Mark and my father had their relationship. Two of the most intelligent guys on the planet. I sat quietly and just listened when it was the two of them. It was amazing.
The pain to my parents fortunately faded with time. But it never went away completely. Sarah’s baby has to help. My mother really struggled with everything that happened there. Her genetics, she was tortured as I already mentioned. Her advancing age, she has other things to concentrate on. And I think we made reasonable arguments that Mark was better off where he is than still alive with the problems he was having. A tough argument to make but it was the truth. A dog has his days. Mark’s days were good but from my point of view: They were over. Painful as it may be to read, that’s how I feel. I’d say it had been 20 months since I had a regular interaction with him. My brother was gone. Life fades away. Life continues. All this time has passed and anything I have to say about the guy is positive. All of it. I never knew any better.
My father and I reaching a great situation in his final years, I’m telling you, I never could match Mark. He would have never said so. But I’ve already said it: Mark was better than any of us. Kinder. Smarter and just generally “more.” I publish this, I’ll get scolded again. I don’t care. When you witness greatness: You speak about it. Mark was greatness.
Another one to get input from: Jeff Phillips. Over the Texas years, Jeff was closer to Mark than anyone. He would have some things I haven’t covered here.
One overlying fact I have said many times: Mark had it worse than all of us. No contest. When things were good, they were good but things changed for him and there were things that were beyond anyone’s control. It was horrific. Life: What can you do??
You move on. Moving on happened for me before he died. He had ceased to be my brother and I accepted it. Accepting the loss: The loss of what was. He was greatness. He was kindness.
The death of Papa was a reminder of what we lost years ago with Mark. They were both brilliant. They were both kind and good for the world. They were both a major loss. That’s life unfortunately. You never know when it’s your time. Papa got 82 years. Mark’s 48 were good ones up until the last couple of years. Everyone did the best they could but it was definitely difficult. The end: Relief for him. He didn’t have to live that way anymore.
Unlike other people: There wasn’t much I didn’t know about my brother. We had our time. We stayed close all those years up until things fell apart. It was a loss. When he ceased to be the same person, it was tough to absorb.
Always the way in life, the things I didn’t tell him are the things that haunt me most. The very biggest one, I just couldn’t take the risk. I’m quite certain it wouldn’t be a secret anymore if he knew about it. It would have been big for him to have known.
For his kids: Way worse for them than it was for me. I had more time with him. He was their father. He was a good father before things fell apart. They endured. As tough as it got, they just dealt with it. Mark didn’t know. He was so adversely affected in his brain, he wasn’t aware of a lot of things. That is why his passing was a relief in my opinion. He didn’t have to battle that disease anymore.
Nothing I say can make it any better. For his kids, hearing things they probably never did about their father will be a good thing. Some things were just never told to them. I was around before they were so I saw it for longer. Maybe they will get something out of it. For his kids, their memories will be interesting. They were cheated out of the adult years knowing this man. I wasn’t.
Mark Taylor was greatness. Like my father, he was the best I have ever seen. Not a day goes by where something doesn’t happen that I would ask both of them about. That’s life, as I said above: Now I have to figure it out for myself.
Neil is the owner of capmel.com. Owner and guide at Strike Three Kayak Fishing.