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Here is the satellite picture of Wichita weather,  

To set the mood.

We have a big winter storm,
cold wind blasting us from the north,
wind chill at -15,
snow coming down pretty heavy,
drifting between the old drifts,
drifts not yet melted
from the big storm last week.

And my neighbor,
the other Mark,
is dead.

He was a pain in the ass.

No,
correct that,
he was a royal
fucking
pain in the ass.

He called me so often,
sometimes
I just turned my phone off.

I'm old enough to remember,
(wasn't it just yesterday?)
when I had no phone in my pocket,
anyway.

I'd rather have my phone off,
and miss calls from Bev,
rather than trying to deal with
the annoying calls,
the spam like calls,
from the other Mark.

He called about ten times a day,
I would try to listen to his messages,
and I couldn't,
because,
right in the middle of trying to get through the backlog
of eight messages,
he would call,
again,
and interrupt the process
of checking the messages
from him.

Of course,
it's not hard to figure out
why he called me so much.

He was bored,
and he loved me.

He adored me.

At the first of every month,
I would take him to the pawn shop,
a few blocks away,
where he would cash his SSI check,
and pay his celphone bill,
and get a money order for his rent.

Then I would take him to the landlord,
to give them the money order,
and to the cable company,
to pay his cable bill.

We stopped at a convenience store
along the way
to get a carton of cigarettes.

Then to the supermarket
to buy Coke
and fudge bars,
and a little cheese
and yogurt;
two big boxes of Honey Smacks cereal,
and four boxes of Crunch N Munch.

About once a week,
most weeks,
I took him to a food pantry,
set up especially for those with HIV.
It's called Positive Directions.
And that made him so happy.

He would get eggs and milk,
and some canned goods
and boxed dinners.

That's where most of his pile of food came from,
the food I wrote about further down in this diary,
Positive Directions.

I wonder if they'd want the food back?

I might ask them.

Anyway,
we had a good time.

We'd pick up his friend,
Roy,
at his apartment complex,
a few miles away,
and we'd all go to Positive Directions.

We had a good time.

He saw me,
bigjac,
as a bright spot in his life.

Mark's background:

He was born the same year as our President,
1961.

He was an army brat,
his father was a sergeant.
Mark still calls him,
Sergeant (blank blank)
even though I would assume
his father would be retired from the army by now.

Mark ran away from home when he was a teenager,
and nearly starved,
living on the streets of San Francisco.

In those days,
he would sell himself
for a little money,
for food.

That may be how he got the HIV virus.

More than ten years ago,
I think it was 1999,
his mother died,
and he decided to come back to Kansas.

He was a tattoo artist.

I paid him a carton of cigarettes
and an old TV
for a tattoo,
PAM,
in big letters,
on my left shoulder.
(For those of you new to me,
bigjac,
I'm a widower.
Pam died about three years ago.)

Now my tattoo
is a reminder
of Pam,
and the other Mark.

(Once again,
for those of you who don't know me,
my real name is Mark,
that's why I call the other Mark,
the other Mark.)

Mark was in a car wreck,
years ago.
He rolled his van.
His back was injured in such a way
that gave him chronic pain
for the rest of his life.

He wore a Fentonyl patch
at all times,
and he had morphine pills
and methadone pills
in his pocket.

He also had marinol pills,
to increase his appetite,
but they didn't work too well.

He hoarded food,
but ate very little of it.

He lived on cigarettes
and Coke
and fudge bars
and bowls of cereal.

By the way,
last winter,
or the winter before,
he nearly died of pneumonia,
and he's been on oxygen
ever since.

He would take his oxygen tank along
when I took him for these errands.

Picture Mark,
feeling weak,
out of breath,
putting on his oxygen canula,
on his nose,
riding shotgun,
in my car.

Then,
a few minutes later,
he craves that jolt of energy a smoker gets
from the nicotine
in a cigarette.

so he takes the canula off his nose,
turns off the valve on the oxygen tank,
and lights his cigarette.

It seems to me
he went from nicotine jolt,
to sugar rush,
to oxygen,
to coffee,
all day,
every day,
for the two years I knew him.

I suppose he hoarded food
because of the time,
in San Francisco,
when he was so hungry.

He never wanted to be without food,
again,
ever.

He died with his cabinets,
all of them,
jammed with food.

I mean,
the big cabinet in the corner,
down low,
where most of us would have pots and pans,
he had canned goods.
in the upper cabinets,
wher we would have dishes,
he had canned goods,
ramen noodles,
mac n cheese,
spaghetti sauce,
hamburger helper,
manwich,
sloppy joe,
soup,
pasta roni alfredo,
and all this,
filling all cabinets,
and taking up all space on the counter tops,
on top of the fridge,
and some on the couch,
the easy chair,
the coffe table,
and the living room floor.

Plus a cabinet,
like a bookcase with doors,
full of food.

With more food stacked on top of it.

And his freezer is jammed full of meat.

I asked the law enforcement officer,
who was waiting for the coroner,
about donating the food
to the Kansas Food Bank.

The officer said,
they most likely will not want it,
since Mark was HIV positive,
and had hepatitis.

I have the day off Thursday,
maybe I'll call the landlord
and ask if they're throwing it all out,
and if so,
maybe I could find room for some of it,
for me and my roommate, Bob.

To avoid feeling like a vulture,
to avoid feeling like I'm taking anything from a dead man,
to avoid any conflict with his brother and father,
who live in California,
to avoid that,
I'd rather let them throw it out.

But Bob wants the meat from the freezer,
at least.

Well,
the other Mark is dead,
and I'm rambling on about his stash of food.

A better topic:

Will his brother and father
travel from California
to Wichita, Kansas?
To make the phone calls,
make the decisions,
regarding his embalming,
or cremation;
his burial,
or an urn for his ashes;
a memorial service here,
or in California.

About the cause of his death:

He fell and bumped his head,
pretty hard,
about two weeks ago.

He had very blurry vision,
and bad headaches,
lately.

I talked with his nurse,
Frank,
about that,
and Frank said that a brain bleed
shows severe symptoms
within 24 hours,
and would cause death
about that quick.

There will be an autopsy,
Frank asked for it.

I talked with Mark's nurse,
Frank,
about an hour ago,
and he asured me
that Mark thought very highly of me,
talked about me all the time.

I told Frank,
yes,
I know,
Mark loved me.

He adored me,
just as Pam adored me.

Anytime anyone lets me know they don't like me,
I can look at my tattoo,
and remember,
there have been those,
Pam and the other Mark,
who liked me
a lot.

Thanks for reading.

Originally posted to Smarter Prepping With Big Jack on Tue Feb 08, 2011 at 03:49 PM PST.

Also republished by The Grieving Room.

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