(Note: I’m not sure that this blog post flows all that well. It’s been a rough week, and my reaction to the subject of this entry probably makes for crappy writing. Sorry about that.)
Today, I lost a friend I never met in person. But we had a lot in common.
Mark Marinelli was a year younger than me (he was 39).
He was a resident of Bethlehem, PA (where I lived and worked for several years).
He lived with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy, which robbed him of the ability to walk at 15.
(My pyoderma gangrenosum flared for the first time at 16 — but I was lucky. After three months of incredible pain, I was eventually able to walk normally. Despite several flares and giant ulcers on my left leg, I’ve been mostly fine with walking since then.)
Clearly, my disease was/is nowhere near as bad as Mark’s.
In fact, he wasn’t supposed to live to see 19. It’s a testament to his strength of will and character that he more than doubled the doctor’s expectations.
The biggest common bond we had was the Philadelphia Phillies — whom we both rooted for and often discussed on Twitter. (It is worth noting that the Phillies are the losingest franchise in the entirety of sports history, with more than 10,000 losses on record.)
As men born in the early 1970s, we each lived through a wildly up-and-down period in Phillies history:
* 1980 = The Phillies’ dominant run atop the National League East in the late ’70s culminated in the 1980 World Series championship.
* 1983 = The “Wheeze Kids” included a bunch of, um, “not young” players that went to the Series again but lost.
* 1993 = Somehow, the 1993 squad of dirtballs, tramps and thieves scratched its way to the Series again — but heartache came in the form of Joe Carter.
* 2008 = Another dominant run in the East led to another World Series title.
In between those four highlight years, there was a lot of mediocrity and a bunch of lousy players.
And unfortunately, it’s pretty likely that the Phils’ “window of opportunity” is closing, as the stars of 2008 are mostly fading as they get older.
When it came to his health, Mark had a strength and spirit that we can all aspire to. Naturally, he had dark times and went through periods of doubt and depression. But I will always remember his “presence” on Twitter — smart, witty and always ready with a joke or insight.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much you plan — life WILL throw you a steady diet of 12-6 curveballs. What’s important is how you deal with them.
At bat, a good hitter recognizes that a curveball is coming and in a nanosecond, alters his swing and hits the ball to the “opposite field.”
In life, a person who handles adversity with dignity and humor is someone to be admired and respected. That’s what Mark was to me, even though we never hung out live and in person.
I admired and respected Mark Marinelli, and I will carry inspiration from him for the rest of my life.
Mark’s blog: http://icantwalk.com/