UP TO THE EDGE AND OVER: A Tribute To My Friend Mark Williams #70

Mark Williams In April 1975

Mark Williams In April 1975

There is a you tube video of # 70, Mark Williams racing at San Jose, CA-He is in the 1st and 4th race and about halfway through the video you can clearly see # 70 come around the corner into the camera twice. It is also the same track that he broke his back at. Here is the address:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC6trfdDIyc

I doubt there are very many people my age that don’t remember the lines from “Brian’s Song” that begin the movie which is a quote from Ernest Hemingway, “that every true story ends in death. Well, this is a true story.” Well this quote wasn’t exactly accurate because this is actually what Ernest Hemingway wrote in Chapter 11 of his 1932 novel, “Death in the Afternoon,” “All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true story teller who would keep that from you.” Well that is a very true statement but not nearly as dramatic as the interpretation of it that was in the movie “Brian’s Song”. I always knew that my friendship with Mark Williams would end in his dying before me, if it was to be of natural causes, which is what happened, his body gave out after 36 years of being paralyzed from the waist down. But this was in addition to the 25 years he lived before the accident that claimed the use of his legs, this brave man who lived life on his own terms to its bitter end at 61 years of age, despite, or perhaps because of, doctors telling him that people who sustained the type of injuries he had only had a likelihood of living five years. Well, instead of depressing him and giving up, it really pissed him off that they told him that and he proceeded to live another 36 years just so he could tell them they were freaking wrong!

Mark Allen Williams died at 61 years of age after having lived a very full life, one that was full before the accident he had that paralyzed him from the waist down at the age of 25. Mark was born on January 14, 1951 and by the age of 15 he was a professional flat track motorcycle racer and a year later he was earning around $24,000. He was nationally ranked at the age of 19 and he became a “national number” in 1970. He made a lot of money and he lived life large and in the fast lane. He bought a house with an in ground swimming pool and got married.

Mark Williams Swimming Pool

He continued on making a name for himself in the world of AMA racing and he attained the official position of number one in the nation in April of 1975, at the age of 25, and appeared on the cover of AMA magazine. In September of 1975 he was running a practice lap for the one-mile National Dirt Track Championships in San Jose, California, when he hit a wet spot on the track while traveling at a speed of around 125 miles per hour on the recently watered dirt track. He started to slide and all he remembered was trying to get away from the motorcycle. He didn’t get away from the motorcycle and he ended up smashing into a wall. The wreck broke his back in several places and he all he remembered after he started to wreck was being in the ambulance and someone telling the driver that they better hurry if he was going to make it to the hospital alive. After spending a month in a San Jose hospital and another month in a Portland, Oregon rehabilitation center he was out of the hospital to try and learn how to live being paralyzed from the waist down. He pushed his wife away and since he had money he set out to try and find a “cure”. He went to the Philippines tried “faith healers”, the ones that are supposed to be able to put their bare hands inside your body, he was desperate to not be paralyzed but all of his searching for a cure was to come to his having to deal with the fact that he was never ever going to walk again. He then started what would be his string of interests for the next 31 years, buying and riding anything that could go fast. The first thing he bought was a racing sailboat, which is something he was doing when I first met him and when he invited me to go on that boat with our mutual friends I fell in love with sailing and Mark and I started a beautiful friendship that lasted until he died.

Mark's J24Sailboat

Mark’s J24Sailboat

He also took up riding snowmobiles and even though he couldn’t through use his legs to throw his snowmobile around to guide around the corners at a hundred miles an hour he had impressive upper body strength and his natural racing ability from motorcycles allowed him to leave able bodied people behind him in his wake. I went riding behind him one time and it scared me to ride blind around the corners of the trails through the woods at the speed of 90 miles per hour which is what he called taking it easy because I was sitting on the snowmobile behind him. I passed on doing that again, once was enough, but Mark continued to ride snowmobiles for twenty years. He also took up Kart racing, riding four wheelers through the woods and at the beach, if it had a motor and Mark could ride it he did and he continued living a full and busy life for the 31 years after he was paralyzed.  Living that long after becoming paralyzed was something doctors constantly told him wouldn’t happen and that he should only expect to live 5 to 10 years after having that life changing wreck.  The fact that those doctors kept telling him that “really pissed him off” and if it is possible I think that he lived to be 61 years old was to prove them wrong because he thought that their telling him he was going to die was a really crappy thing for a doctor to do, and I agree with him!

I have a million memories of the life and times we spent together and because I think his life and indomitable spirit to continue to live life in the “fast” lane even after he crashed and burned should be an inspiration to everyone to not give up just because you are told you should.  Mark told me stories about his life before the accident as a teenager who loved to ride his motorcycle way too fast in the little town he was born in and onto many stories of life being a young professional athlete that spent a lot of time on the road.

I am writing this story about Mark so I can document his inspirational life for others as well as so I can enjoy reliving the experiences I had with him in the retelling of the great adventures as well as the everyday life of one of the best friends I will ever have.

His death has created a very large gap in my life that will never be fully filled because we spent an average of four days a week together for a minimum of a couple of hours and frequently the whole day doing fun things like swimming in his pool with friends, playing board games with those friends all evening long, sailing on his sailboat, we would go for drives in the car and go to car shows, he bought a drift boat to go fishing in the rivers, he bought a jet boat to go fishing in the ocean and to go fast on the lake.  We became very good friends, through good times and bad ones and through thick and thin, from almost the very day we first met and that never changed until he died.  Maybe by accident or some kind of grand design I am not privy to, the 21st of January is a date which several events in my life have occurred on.  My father was born on that day in 1925 and he died thirty five years later on January 20th, just one day short of his 35th birthday in a plane crash.  My sister’s youngest son was born on his grandfather’s birthday, January 21, in the year 1989.  Just coincidence but I have wondered if it is a “cosmic” coincidence though that is not what I am writing about.

Back to remembering my friend Mark and the very full and busy life he led.  The reason I call this piece up to the edge and over is because that is how he lived his life. It is also how he taught me to ride an ATV at the sand dunes one afternoon, he paid for an afternoon for the two of us to go the coast and ride on the dunes as a birthday present to me and also as a way to go do something he enjoyed doing also, seems like a good way to go to me and Mark did invite friends to go do things with him and he would buy just so he could buy himself a good time since he couldn’t do those things by himself once he was in a wheelchair. It really was a win-win because Mark had money that he knew he would not live long enough to run out of and most people didn’t have enough money to indulge in the kinds of toys Mark loved to play on, fast boats, cars, snowmobiles and pretty much anything else with a motor. I had never ridden a motorized item with hand controls ever before we went to the Oregon dunes to ride them. We stopped at the little office and parking lot the company had right near the dunes and signed our “waiver” and showed them our drivers’ licenses and then we were off riding the two blocks from the rental office to the bottom of the miles of sand dunes we were about to ride on. When we got to the start of the dunes and I looked up at the approximately 20’ immediate climb from the parking lot I was very intimidated. Mark was first, of course, and he started roaring up and his ATV sputtered and he came back down and told me that we needed to go back to the office and have them bring another ATV out for him to ride. So we rode the two blocks back and I was starting to get the hang of operating the hand controls for the gas much better than when I started out. We were told they needed to go to where they kept the rest of the ATV’s and pick up another one and it would take about 30 to 40 minutes so since it was about 11:30 by now we were hungry so we went to a little restaurant and bar about 5 minutes away to get something to eat and have a cocktail. We had some great clam chowder and I had a Bloody Mary, Mark had a Crown Royal and 7-Up (the only drink he liked other than a strawberry daiquiri by his swimming pool in the summer) and then went back to ride the ATV’s again. After having ridden the little bit I had already done, and after having one drink of liquid courage, I was way more confident driving down the road to the mighty dunes and when Mark took his ATV up the dunes I followed him and much to my surprise it was much easier than I had feared earlier. After we got to the top of the dunes Mark very seriously explained safety tips to me, and the one that was the most important was the one that inspired the title of this story. He told me to ride up to the edge of the dunes, stop and look at what is down the other side and then proceed on. This was his approach to most “obstacles” he faced in his life.  There are many fun stories about Mark I wish to share eventually but for now I am just now coming to terms with his presence I miss so much being gone from my life and want to share with others who didn’t know him some the indomitable spirit in which he faced going from a life of riding on a motorcycle as a professional racer riding at speeds over a hundred miles an hour to being a young man forced to live life on the 4 little tires on a wheelchair that didn’t go fast enough for his taste and doing so with an unbreakable thrill seeking attitude and virtually never feeling sorry for himself and to quote from Brian’s Song “How he did live!”.  Here’s to you my dear friend, may you forever ride fast wherever you may now be roaming!

Mark Williams walking San Jose Track

Mark Williams walking San Jose Track before he wrecked on the track!

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I Am Not A Rock Nor An Island!

When I was around eight years old a song was released by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel called “I Am A Rock” and because my mother was a fan of them it was an album that was played in my house soon after it was released.  I was a scared, confused and lonely child and this particular song hit home for the way I felt about my life at that time and for many years after it was first released.  I was comforted by listening to it because it did make me feel that I wasn’t alone in the feelings I had about my life and the world I lived in.  I could really relate to the idea that I was a rock and an island unto myself  because I didn’t feel like anybody in my life understood how I was feeling, and they probably didn’t, but as you get older you realize that is a normal state of affairs and no one can totally understand what you are feeling but you do find out that there are whole lot of people who have experienced very similar experiences to yours even if they are not exactly the same.  And I have also discovered through the years that I am not a rock and not even close to being an island and I do need friendship and it doesn’t always cause pain.  It is still a song that brings back a lot of childhood memories, some good and some bad, as is the nature of all things in our world.

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,
Well, I’ve heard the word before.
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Thank you to the author of this lovely and lonely song!

The darkness of sunset is my friend!

The darkness of sunset is my friend!

My Little Black Address Book-(Or On Transferring “People” From My “Old” Tattered Address Book)

Every year I send out Christmas cards, cards that I design and print myself and they always contain photos of my pets (my children) on them and sometimes of my pets and me.  This is to let my friends know that I am thinking about them even if I don’t visit them, haven’t visited them or called them in a long time. It is always a bit of a laborious process to update the addresses on this fairly long list for various reasons, every year no matter how hard I try I always get a couple of cards “returned to sender” due to someone having moved and I didn’t know it, or the way the address has to be written has changed, besides the adding of new friends I have made or deleting friends who have died during the year, and because SOMETIMES I just plain screwed up writing the address on the envelope – like the times (yes I have done this error more than once) in which I addressed it from me and to me (usually this is about card #50 and you would rightly think I should notice this error when I go through the cards and put the postage stamps on them to mail them that I would catch this error but NOOO, at least not always anyway!).  When I add new friends I usually start by looking up their physical addresses on the internet version of the phone book and then when that fails because they are not listed then I have to call them and get their address the old fashioned way, by asking them for it. I usually send out around forty to sixty cards every year because I try to include all of the people, the ones in my family and old and new friends, that are in my life and play an important and emotional part it as well as the ones who have been in that position in the past so are still important in my life even if it is in the memory portion of my life. I like to let these people who hold a significant place in my life as I read their names in my address list, and it is unimportant whether that memory is from current events or past ones, as they are all equally important to me in my desire to let them know that they still hold an important place in my heart and my feelings about them, even if our lives have changed to the point we don’t have time to see each other anymore that they are still important.   I want them to know I remember them at least this time once in a year, maybe it is more for me than for them but I do hear from a lot of those people that they look forward to receiving my cards and none of them ever tell me to take them off my list.  I try to keep a hand written address book up to date with all the addresses I need for my Christmas card project but there always ends up being some names missing and some that I have no idea where they moved to and it can take a lot longer than I would like to get all the addresses correct for the cards I want to send out. In spite of my best efforts I still always end up with a few that I can’t locate and then if I get lucky and they send me a card because they have moved but still like the “Christmas Card Contact” we have shared through the years (and that always reaffirms to me that my Christmas card project is a good thing to do) when I get those cards they get pulled out and added to the current card list.  Every year I think that I should call every one of the people on my card list and arrange to have lunch with them, some of them have held very special places in my life in the past, some of them used to be my best friends and every year I don’t end up calling them, not that they try either but still… It could be kind of interesting to look up all the people in the address book and go visit them during the year for old times sake, or actually I guess for new time’s sake. And every year when I don’t I always say to myself I will do it next year and next year comes and I still don’t do it. Maybe I will do it this year. Maybe someday will come and wouldn’t that make fifty or sixty interesting stories for me to tell?

My Little Black Address Book

The Ocean

The ocean is the most mystical part of nature for me.

It contains more secrets in its depths,

more knowledge in its soul,

than a mere mortal man can ever hope to experience in ten lifetimes.

It is to me the very essence of eternity,

for how can it ever die?

The tides ebb and flow in a perpetual cycle,

peacefully coming in and gradually going back out.

There is nothing so serene,

nothing so restive,

nothing so unruly,

as the sea,

 when its waves roar and bellow,

when the breakers incessantly beat themselves against the beach.

The ocean,

where life began,

where all life may cease to exist,

not dying but returning to everlasting freedom.

The Ocean

The Ocean

Part Of My Story….

The reason I want to share my story is that I hope by telling the things that I have survived that I can somehow inspire or help someone else who has had similar life experiences and is having trouble dealing with them to know that they are not alone.

Lots of people seem to imply that there is a “deep” reason for major events happening in their lives. I believe that everything happens for the same reason, the reason is that “things” just happen and we have very little control over them. Not “no” control but usually it isn’t any thing mystical, it is just that “life happens when you aren’t doing anything else”, so to speak. 🙂

I will never forget the time about 6 years ago when my mother and I were talking about some event that was going on at the time and she told me I was too positive. I was like “Huh” , how can you be too positive. She didn’t mean it like I had too optimistic or an unrealistic viewpoint on something, she literally meant she couldn’t understand my having an optimistic attitude on the outcome of the situation we were talking about. Of course this was coming from a person who assumed their dog was run over and dead if it was missing for 15 minutes, the glass was almost always empty I guess. I have always thought that you should think of the best outcome first and the worst last. It doesn’t make it so but it gives everything a whole lot better of a chance of happy outcome if that is what you expect. If you always expect the worst someday it will happen and if you always expect the best you will be happier more often I believe. You can’t be too positive!

I was born with what is now known to be the most common neuropathic disease there is, more common than MS, that no one has ever heard of. I was 3 years old when it did its initial damage to my body so I have never known anything different than having this disease. The major symptoms are that it makes the person with the disease, Charcot Marie Tooth, have very weak muscles in their hands and ankles which makes us very unstable on our feet and unable to climb things like jungle gyms when we are children which of course you no longer care about climbing as an adult. My sister was born without the disease, there is a 50 % chance that children born to those who have the disease will pass it on and there are 2 children in my family so we are the typical 50-50, and she grew up with my mother giving me more attention because she had to and it has made her into a person with many more psychological problems than me because as a child she didn’t know I got more attention because I was “screwed up” physically and thought it was because my mother liked me better. Obviously as an adult she knows better than that but the damage had already been done to her “psyche”. I have been able to live a much happier life than her, despite my physical challenges, because I had to be stronger to survive. I don’t know if it is necessarily a good thing that I am better able to deal with life than she is because of having been born with this disease but it certainly hasn’t made my life any harder than her life because of the inner strength I was forced to develop. I know that there are many people with more debilitating disabilities than I have and I can’t imagine having to deal with any more than I have had to so I applaud the strength of the human spirit in all of its forms.

 I was molested by my stepfather when I was about 13 and for about a year I believe, but I believe my mind has protected me somewhat by my not having an exact memory of exactly how long it occurred. I didn’t say anything to my mother during that time because I knew she had to know it was going on (out house was not very big and my bedroom was right next to my parent’s bedroom) and yet she didn’t do anything to stop it from happening. The only reason I eventually said something was when my sister, who is 3 years younger than me, told me he was doing the same things to her that he had been doing to me.  I have always been my sister’s protector, she was younger and needed my protection, emotionally if for no other reason. My mother didn’t even question whether or not her husband was guilty when I went to her and demanded she stop him from doing what he was doing to my “little sister”.  Her solution to this “problem” was to buy locking door handles for our bedrooms so we could lock ourselves in at night when we went to bed. How f***ed up is that? What I took away from that was that my mother was so afraid to be alone and of having to take care of herself that she would do anything to avoid it so I never have allowed myself to depend on a man to take care of me for anything. I do not dislike men at all, in fact I have had 3 boyfriends since I turned 18 (I dated a few men that did not become boyfriends) and they were all long term (first one for 3 years, second one for  5 years, and last one for over 10 years) but I do believe I never married any of them because of my inner fear of being like my mother. I don’t believe that my having the hereditary disease was detrimental at all to what I would call being “broken” as far as my inability to trust in someone in order to let them “really” be a part of my life. in fact  I think the disability I grew up dealing with gave me the strength I needed to deal with my stepfather molesting me better than what my sister as able to deal with.  She is not handicapped and I think that dealing with my disability for my whole life before my stepfather molested me gave me the mental strength to deal with it better than my sister because that was the biggest adversity she had ever confronted in her life because she was 12 when it happened to her and she didn’t have the early life hardships I had that made my being able to deal with the feelings that occurred from my stepfather molesting us better because I already had the experience of dealing with hard feelings to handle, whether you are a child or an adult, and the feelings of anger towards our mother who failed to protect us from him. My most negative thoughts about being molested by my stepfather are the thoughts I have about my mother staying with him and not confronting him about the horrible actions he took towards her daughters, and as I found out many years later, he had also committed the same acts to his “real” daughter he had with his first wife who was 10 years older than my sister and I who are his stepdaughters. I also found out that the ex-wife also never confronted him about molesting his own flesh and blood daughter just like my mother didn’t do so about his molesting his step daughters.   Through the years I have always wondered what was wrong with my mother that she allowed her husband to abuse her daughters and stay quiet about it for the most part until she died at 80, and she never left him.  I never forgot but have learned to let my anger mostly go as it accomplishes nothing.  The human spirit can overcome a lot, it is just so unfortunate that it should have to.

If you have experienced any of the type of things I have I just hope you have the strength to overcome them as there are a whole lot of good people in the world that would never do the “evil that some men do”.

Being positive and living a good life is the best thing you can do for yourself and do try to let go of the past as it does no good for you to hang on to it.

 

AN AFFAIR I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER

When she first met him she thought he was interesting to talk to because he was intelligent and from an entirely different background than hers.  At first she didn’t really feel particularly attracted to him physically, he was better than average looking she thought but she didn’t have any particular physical attraction to him.

He, on the other hand, knew from the first time he met her that they would end up together.  She was different from any other girl he’d ever met.  She was cute, smart, confident and direct in her speech and actions.  She made an impression on him that he didn’t forget.

They met at a social function they both attended which was brought about by a mutual friend of theirs.  He was five years younger than her.  She had recently recovered from a relationship she had been in which she had cared about the man more than she had ever allowed herself do as quickly as she had with ever done with anyone else before in her life and it when it hadn’t worked out she was very wary of relationships in general after she had let her guard down before and had been crushed emotionally after doing so.  So she was not looking for any involvement with anyone for any reason.

It would be six months after that first meeting that they would end up seeing each other again, and once again it was through the same mutual friend they had first met through.  Later they would talk about that friend and both agreed the friend they had in common was a friend who they both had a lot of distrust of for various reasons.  By the time the second meeting occurred she had put her bad relationship behind her and found the man more attractive this time than she had in their previous meeting – but it was still only on a mental level with only an interest in friendship for her.

They had attended a few social events through their mutual friend several times in the next four months and a mutual attraction began to grow between them

One hot July afternoon she called him up to see if he felt like having her come visit and have a  beer or two with her.  He responded enthusiastically so she bought a six pack and went to visit.  When she got there he was thrilled she came over and he asked her if she would like to go for a short drive to out to the country to visit a place where he had just purchased a piece of property.  They went there and had a couple of the beers she had brought and then went back to his house.  They had many interesting conversations and a physical attraction started forming between them.  He finally told her how he felt about her and how attractive he found her and she told him she was interested in him also but she was afraid of getting involved with him because he was fairly inexperienced in relationships and she was afraid of getting hurt again because she always gave too much of herself in a relationship once she committed to it.  She said she would think about what he wanted to have with her, he said he understood and would accept whatever she decided.

In about a week she decided she did want to go ahead and see him romantically.  They had a cautious first date, then went back to her place and made wild passionate love and spent the night together.  She didn’t hear a word from him for about 3 weeks after their first romantic encounter.

He told her he had liked her too much and was afraid of how he felt one they finally saw each other again.

They dated once more after the first sexual encounter but now they were playing something of a distancing game with each other, both of them seemed afraid of committing themselves more than anything else.

Time passes……

As she lay there is his arms she finally felt at peace.  The fear and the pain started fading away and a ghost of hope started growing in the distance.  It was faint but nevertheless it was still there.  This vision had eluded her for so long she hadn’t been sure she would be able to recognize it if it came.

He held her close to his chest and felt her tenseness slowly disappear.  He had felt her fear and hoped that the quietness was a sign that she was winning her battle and was not giving up.

The rain started beating down on the roof of the cabin creating a peaceful rhythmic sound.

They awoke in each other’s arms, neither had moved during the night, sleeping calmly with the sound of the continuous storm outside, but there was calm within.

Then they made love with a passion and electricity that was all enveloping, overtaking every part of their bodies.  Wrapping them in warm and exciting feelings – nothing else existed but their togetherness.  They laid and caressed each other’s bodies for hours, listening to the soft and sexy sounds of the music of acoustic guitars and having their bodies feel like part of the music.

This was everything they had missed and fantasized about in the months they had stayed apart and had tried to get each other out of their lives.  The ups and downs of their affair over the years had built to a crescendo neither was able to handle so they had decided to be just friends and not romantically involved.

They made it for five months but they both thought about each other constantly and wanted to give in.  It was hard to be around each other and to feel the lust and passion and not give in to it.  They both knew it was there but thought it would go away in time.

One afternoon they were visiting at his place and he asked her to just lay there in his arms and she did because she was hoping he would ask.  I felt so good and so right – how could it be wrong?  The feelings seemed even stronger than ever but she was determined to keep only the magic part of their relationship and not let reality ruin that special quality.  She knew they it could never really work for them to be together so why not make the time they did spend together special and have it be an escape from reality?

She knew that no matter what they had together it would eventually have to end because it wasn’t reality and fantasies all end – she just wanted it to last as long as possible and end in the most pleasant way possible.

My lover Tom!

My lover Tom!

Broken But Not Broke!

I had a boyfriend tell me that he was always amazed at how many people tell me about very personal, and frequently very horrible, things that have happened to them. I believe it is because people can sense that they can tell me these things in confidence and I will talk to them and help them without judging them. I know that I am able to talk with people who have had traumatic things happen to them because I have had those things happen to me and I am comfortable talking about those things because I have come to know that I did nothing to deserve the bad things that were done to me and that the only way to deal with them is openly accept that they happened and discuss them so that some good can come from the bad. The good is being to heal yourself and to help others to heal themselves and realize there is no shame in having bad things inflicted on you that you were helpless to prevent. Because so many people tell me very private thoughts before they know I have gone through similar experiences I believe I must somehow project an open helpful aura. It makes me happy to help someone through a bad experience and to be able to deal with it and not be afraid of their feelings or afraid of other people’s feelings about what they have experienced. It makes me feel better about the things that have happened to me by knowing that by having experienced them I can talk about them and help other people.