Mark Henry Bodio 1952 – 2019

My difficult brother, Mark, died in the St. Croix, in the islands that he loved last week. He died alone of lung cancer, emphysema, and general organ failure, and I expect in excruciating pain after refusing any palliative treatment or a move off the island which would have given him more time. He systematically cut himself from all family and refused all calls from family at the end. Though he would occasionally accept gifts, he would not return the favor. He never met any of his many nephews and neices.

I have been brooding on Mark for the past week. There are two easy ways to misread him. One is to see him as a romantic Jimmy Buffett character as some of the younger nephews and nieces are inclined to do.Jimmy Buffett knows that his characters are not romantic — they are sad failures justifying their failures with sad excuses.

The other way to see him is bad which is even dumber in the long run. For Mark, things started hard and they just got harder. When he was born he couldn’t drink milk, either mother’s or cow’s. He had to drink a soy preparation known as Mulsoy which he loathed for four or five years. He used to compensate by eating spoonfuls of dirt in the back yard. The doctors said he was compensating for missing vitamins. He was also unable to eat eggs. I don’t think in all of his sixty-some years he ever swallowed one.

In grammar school, although he was bright, what was mostly noteworthy was his criminality. At Jean D’Arc Academy which he attended after me, he was caught after enabling two high school girls to steal their tuition and run away to Florida and was expelled. At Bishop Sheehan he blew the doors off the men’s room walls and was expelled again. After that his brief academic career was spent at Oliver Ames in Easton. He left school permanently at sixteen. He had discovered the joys of the pot smuggler’s life, which he was to identify with ever after. My first wife, Bronwen, said the first time she met him was when he was having a fistfight with me on the steps of the Barnstable County courthouse. As he was underage and I was not, I had agreed to stand up for him. But I was furious because he had called the judge “Asshole” because of his refusal to listen to Mark’s speech on the injustice of pot laws.

The rest was doubtless mostly inevitable and a cliche — expansion, a big federal bust, acquittal by an attorney named Albert (“Bert — don’t call me Al!”) Capone, decline, exile to the Islands, and a sort of long goodbye. All this is true bu doesn’t take into account one thing: in his twenties, Mark fell in love with a girl named D. K. She wasn’t bright but she loved Mark with all her heart. More incredibly, Mark loved her back just as fervently — I’m not sure she wasn’t the only person Mark loved that much, or loved at all.

And then she got cancer. And died for two horrible years. In the end she could hardly eat or be touched without breaking a bone. I think she screamed for most of her last month. And it broke Mark, helpless to do anything about it.

He was not all bitterness and anger, of course. He was a talented if unfocused musician and even attended art school for a while. He kept ,e in touch with the music of Tom Rush, which I still enjoy. Ironically, Rush almost bought Libby’s house in Jackson Hole many years later. He enjoyed science fiction and watching birds.

So when you see pictures of “Marccus”, smiling like a shady character out of a bad movie, and are berating him for never giving a damn about anything, remember a scared little kid who couldn’t make anything come out right, and hope that both of them are at peace.

12 thoughts on “Mark Henry Bodio 1952 – 2019”

  1. Sorry for your loss. He might have been kind of a mess, but he was still your brother. And not, it’s not really romantic — you are right about the Jimmy Buffet “glow” — but at least it sounds as though he and his lady might have had a few OK years.

    I am reminded of a friend’s kid brother who lives on his boat on the Carolinas — sounds romantic, but the boat is barely afloat, and he is always broke. He beat a murder charge in Australia, came back to the US, and now, weirdly, his doing time.

    Or as the monk at St. Andrew’s School who was driving me to the crossroads to catch a bus Away From There told me, you can can escape the system’s punishment, but you still punish yourself.

  2. I too have a difficult brother named Mark. Except I do not know whether he is alive or dead. He has taken my most recent exception to his condemnation of our father as cause for excommunication.

    You are as fortunate in your forgiveness of him as he was in being your brother. My opinions don’t matter, but God bless you for it.

  3. Yes a sad story with some inaccuracies but all true. He was very fun, loved music and was a photographer with many artistic talents too! Mark could play a mean spoon, tried hard at the banjo and loved to garden specially flowers. I spent my late teens and 20’s hanging out with him. Though I just couldn’t understand many of his heartless decisions because he helped me so so many times. He exiled himself to St. Croix after trying hard in Minnesota and Arizona where DK died. His heart died with her … all the family visits couldn’t fix that; even Mom visiting and painting every winter.
    He did graduate from Oliver Ames High School and was accepted to Mass Art but College was not for him.

  4. Over here, on Union Street, the tales of The Bodio 9 and The Bodio 8 somewhat differ. We had our indiscretions as well, and there was hardly a family dinner in my youth, that was not met with a knock on the door revealing a fractured law or two by one of my beloved big brothers. Dad and Mom generally grabbed an extra plate and invited the offended party to sit for a spell and eat. This was the schooling that I got- Reality 101 -right in our family kitchen. I mourn for Marc (whom up until he moved to St. Croix I always spelled Mark) He is the first of our family cousins to pass. Not a celebrated accomplishment for any of us, most assuredly him. But I hold tight to this memory. At one of our many family cookouts, being a very shy kid myself, whom would rather play in the dirt than speak to anyone, remember “Marc” handing me a bunch of violets and a white rock from the area that I was sitting in. Just a kind gesture and no exchange of words. I remember little else about those cookouts, but I so wish I still had that rock. Regrettably, I wish Marc was still here so that I could tell him that story. May he Rest In Peace where ever that may be.

  5. Thanks Karen and Melon,
    You remind me that there are good memories too. Mark was a talented musician and artist too and he finished more things than I gave him credit for. He kept me in touch with the music of Tom Rush, which I still listen to. I think my anger comes in part because he was so hard to communicate with his last years.

  6. Steve, I lost my youngest brother who also bailed on family in his last years. He was # 5 of 10 and it was hardest on mom. I am sorry to hear of your loss. Gil

  7. No amount of persuasion could ever alter your brother’s destiny. Your brother was a maverick and there’s no explaining a maverick that will ever answer any questions to anyone’s satisfaction – they can’t be subdued or reined in, and they remain one of life’s many mysteries. It’s their worthy legacy, if you think about it – when you dwell on it from time to time. Mavericks may forever remain a perplexing puzzle; but I find a peculiar and oddly satisfying comfort in that enigma. I want mysteries – I yearn for them, otherwise cynicism is the victor over curiosity. In spite of society’s most rigid efforts to save us from ourselves, a few, like your brother, manage to break free and maybe dance on a moonlit beach to the syncopated cadence of a different drummer, or a wild and wacky pied piper, rather than to just fall in line behind a drum and bugle corps and goose step toward oblivion like so many of us. You are an exception, Stephen, and so was your brother.

  8. Each of us must do the things that matter
    All of us must see what we can see
    It was long ago, you must remember
    You were once as young and scared as me

    “Child’s Song” is my favorite Tom Rush tune and from this day forward I’ll see Mark’s face whenever I hear it. It’ll be that mischievous, pugnacious face that I remember from those days in the old neighborhood so many years ago. I never heard of the troubles he faced before heading to St. Croix. In recent years your mother would tell me about her trips to visit Mark and paint, and they seemed like such happy times for her. She always saw the best in all of us. Mark will be missed. Be well, Steve.

  9. DearSteve, We are sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept our heartfelt condolences. We are trying to call and reconnect. Hope you and Libby are okay. With love from western Massachusetts, ~Michael & Mary Lou Conca

Leave a Comment