My brother Mark was (and still is!) kind of the practical joker in our family. He always enjoyed thinking up practical jokes to play on anyone and everyone and even probably gave our dad a heart attack or two and some gray hair, hiding behind things and jumping out. Where Bryan's corny jokes left off, Mark's crazy pranks picked up...between both of the boys, our house was definitely never, uh...dull! haha One memory I still laugh at today is the time Mark took a kleenex box, cut a hole in the bottom, stuck his finger through and squirted ketchup inside. Then he knocked on the door to my sister's room and acted like he was in excruciating pain and his finger had just been cut off....LOL...She was not as amused as the rest of us were!
Mark graduated high school and left for the Marines the summer before I went into third grade. But before he graduated, I have so many random (and good) memories! I can remember going to his football games and cheering him on as he played (#62 I think?) and also watching him march with his trumpet in the band. I remember thinking he must be the strongest guy I knew because he lifted weights a lot at school. He (like all my siblings, except me!) worked at Mc Donalds for a little while as a teenager and might or might not have given me an extra chicken mcnugget or two in my Happy Meal when we came through the drive through once in awhile. ;) And, like Bryan, he had a stylin' car! A copperish colored Thunderbird, that is. And with both of those gracing the presence of the street in front of our house as well as my parents' two vehicles and then later my sisters' we could have easily passed for the Whitaker/Carlton Used Car Lot! I'm sure our neighbors loved it...haha
I have some funny memories - of times when he brought a girlfriend to dinner, and I asked her some kind of embarrassing question/made some comment (just doin' my job as baby sister! haha) He also loves to tell a story about the family at the dinner table and me in another room of the house, but I'll leave that one for him to tell! Another favorite story we share is the time he took me to school one morning, already running late and trying to catch his bus to the technical school, and just as he was about to drive away I started screaming, "Wait, wait, wait!!!" with urgency. Then suddenly I burst into tears and he stops, thinking something is really wrong, and I say "I forgot my lunch and it's hammmmmburrrrrggeerrrrrrr dayyyyyyyyyyy!" between tears. Thank goodness for Dr. G who happened to be walking by and took me to the office to call my mom. :) Ah the traits that sometimes come with being the baby...oh well!
I remember when Mark decided to enlist in the Marines that we used to drive to monthly meetings at Lebanon and stop at Army Surplus, so I thought it was so cool to go there since my big brother liked it. I was so sad when he left for Boot Camp the summer before third grade, but the time passed, and in August, our whole family traveled (on an airplane for my first time!) to his graduation in California. It was really fun to visit Disney Land, the beach, and some other places, but it was not so fun to eat at Jack 'n the Box EVERY day on the base (there wasn't much else to offer, I guess...haha)
I know I have many more memories, but just like I wanted to be like my brother Bryan in many ways, I also wanted to be like my brother Mark. He tried to teach me things about being "tough" and sometimes I tried hard to fit into that toughness....but it never stuck much! haha What did stick was the fact that, my brother Mark is one of the strongest, most determined men I know. During his time in the Marines, it would have been easy to give into the things his peers did for entertainment and down-time. He could have had a LOT to drink and been part of lots of parties. He probably could have even found a girlfriend/wife there. But instead, he chose the hard way. He never (and still has never as far as I know) had a drink of any alcoholic beverage. He didn't go out with girls just to have fun or pass time. He didn't party or find ways to get in trouble. Instead he watched cable t.v. and made videos of all the shows and movies we didn't get at home and mailed them to us so that we had a stash too! haha (I still have and watch some of that stash!) And sometimes I know he was lonely.
But it's that very thing that makes me look up to him most now, I think. I admire and respect my brother for sticking to his Christian and moral values. I strive to be like that too. Even after getting out of the Marines, he still had to live on his own and work for a few years before God brought him a beautiful wife and blessed me with another super sister-in-law. (Another funny side story - once I was visiting my brother and sister, and we went to some of their friends' house. My (now) sister-in-law Kristin was there and had a huge crush on Mark and was so bummed because she thought I was his girlfriend....LOL...I was only like 15 or 16 at the time, I think! Needless to say she was relieved to find out this was NOT the case!) Anyway - I say all that because I know my brother Mark trusted God, even when it was hard, or he made a mistake, or he was lonely. And a lot of times, I feel like I'm in that boat now. I make a lot of choices that are different from people my age...and I'm not too worried about changing to fit in. Not that I feel "better than" any of my peers for the decisions I make, but I just mean I am firm in staying strong in my moral and Christian beliefs too. And even when I feel lonely and long for a relationship, I can look and see the perfect timing God had for my brother Mark and his faithfulness in waiting for that and know that God will be faithful in my life too...and when He is, I know you'll be the first one to "interview/intimidate/approve" of the man God brings into my life! haha Hopefully God's preparing whoever that is for such brotherly approval and intimidation! lol
So - I know this has gotten kinda long, and I know that it's a little sappy (but secretly underneath the tough Marine there is just a little sappy in my brother too....shhhh, don't tell! haha) but like I said in my brother Bryan's post, I am so thankful God has given me this time in my life where I can share adulthood with my siblings. I love watching them and the ways God is using them/teaching them now. Mark and Kristin have two beautiful and fun children, a boy and a girl. And I am learning so much from watching them raise their children and model a godly relationship and marriage. I know things are not always easy or perfect - they aren't for any of us - but that is what teaches me the most...seeing the two of you work through and trust God each step of the way.
I'm thankful God gave me two awesome brothers and that you're one of them, Mark! I love you and have looked up to you since I was a little girl...and I still do now!
Love, Your Baby Sis (who is about to be 10 years younger than you again in May...until January, of course!)
I couldn't find a picture of Mark and me by ourselves, but here's a great picture of my two awesome brothers riding in the tea cups with me at Disney World during our family vacation when I was little!