Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Story of a Life

Yesterday I picked up the complimentary copy of the Lafayette News that is thrown on our driveway each week. My favorite sections are the Police Blotter and the Obituaries, which they call each "The Story of a Life". These sections are shared by the Louisville News, Lafayette News, Erie Review and the Superior Observer. So you get the full report of Crime and Death in East Boulder County.

I found out an old neighbor of ours had passed away. His name was Mark McWilliams. When Robin and I first were married we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Louisville. It was an interesting place to live. The train came right by the Christopher Village apartment complex. We got used to it but if you were on the phone as it passed the other person would inevitably ask, "Is that train coming right through your house?" We had no a/c, mice and a landlord who made promises he never kept. And we had a neighbor below us named Mark.

We heard Mark the first night. He was yelling in a gruff voice, "My way! You are gonna do it my way!" Robin wondered if it was dad yelling to his son. I thought perhaps he was practicing for a play. After meeting him we realized he was disabled and had either dementia or schizophrenia.

I wasn't far off because it was like having a theatre below us as he played out scenes in his head. We learned from our absentee landlord that Mark imagined himself as being the security for Christopher Village, often reporting crimes and suspicious behavior. If when I came home from the office and he was sitting out on his garden level porch, he would look me over to make sure I belonged there and knew he was watching my every move. Sometimes he was "Mark" and we would talk about how the Rockies were doing or the bad weather we were having.

When 'role-playing', his favorite phrases were: "You're not a cop, I'm a cop" which we imagined he had heard several times before. He would also warn about the dog races in Boulder and how crooked they were. I wasn't planning to go to any dog races and didn't know Boulder had a track but appreciated the tip nonetheless. Sometimes he would yell in the middle of the night but after a while we got used to him. It was just background noise like the train. We even forgot to warn a friend, Allyson, who stayed over one night. I don't think she slept at all wondering if a stray bullet would come through the ceiling.

We moved in December 2001 but every once in a while I would see Mark walking around Louisville or waiting for a bus in front of the Wal-Mart in Lafayette. I'd say "Hi, Mark" and offer him a ride from time to time but he would just look at me suspiciously so I knew he was on duty and would just drive on.

Mark, may you rest in peace.

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