Mark Bledsoe had the personality of a Golden Retriever. He would bound into room, a big smile on his face, happy to see whomever he would run into, loving life and everyone in it. If he had a tail, it would have always been wagging.
It didn’t take much to make him happy. A chance meeting or a phone call from an old friend could just make his day. He used to wake up Grace by saying in her ear, “Wake up! Something good is going to happen today!” I’ll never forget him sitting in his recliner, feet up, a baseball game on the TV, a good book in his lap, and a bowl of ice cream in his hands, and saying to me, “Life just doesn’t get better than this.”
Although he was easily pleased, he was also the luckiest man alive and won many things: from an Ipad and an Ipod to a sweater for a bottle of whiskey and a year’s supply of powdered buttermilk. The drum set created a brief rough spell in our marriage, but the trip to New York City and a Yankee’s game brought us closer together.
Speaking of our marriage, what can I say? It just worked. We were the living example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We had a lot of interests in common, but were very different in some ways. I’m a little shy until I get to know people, while Mark has never met a stranger. I’m a worrier and fret about things like paying bills; Mark used to say, “We can’t be overdrawn, we still have checks left!” Together, the bills got paid and we didn’t stress over it.
Every once in a while, I would worry that maybe we didn’t really truly love each other, because our relationship looked nothing like the movies. Not that we didn’t have moments of passion. But maybe true love isn’t like the movies. Maybe it’s warmth and acceptance and support and trust and contentment. That’s what we had.
Mark did many things in his life—fireman, disk jockey, lobbyist, association executive, professor. But his favorite job title of all was “Daddy.” His “Sweet Pea,” Grace, was the great joy of his life. For the first year of her life, her favorite sleeping spot was Daddy’s shoulder. He wore his formula-stained shirts with pride. He was always reading books about parenting daughters. He loved nothing more than cheering Grace on from the sidelines of the soccer field, or crawling in her bed with her to read a book together.
Mark was a great collector of things—baseball memorabilia, micro-brewed beers, political memorabilia, books (oh Lord, the books!). But his most extensive and most treasured collection was his collection of friends. He had his political friends, his education friends, his artsy friends, his Scouting friends, his church friends, and on and on. Someone recently told me she thought there is probably only one or at most two degrees of separation between Mark and everyone else in the State of Oklahoma. And he loved to bring people together. One friend would need a job, another friend would have a position to fill. Or he would decide that one friend who is an artist really needed to meet another friend who owns an art gallery. Nothing pleased him more than bringing people together like that. In those awful days at the hospital, I would often spot our friends in the hallways, putting their contact information into each others’ phones. Even now, he is still bringing people together.
I know with all my broken heart that Mark would not want us to be weepy and mopey. He would want us to smile and laugh and hold our loved ones close and do the little things we can to make the world a better place. That really is the most fitting tribute to the best man I know.