As promised, I am back to talk about that person I kept in mind while I ran my leisurely 13.1 miles last weekend. I have to say that for the most part, I was preoccupied by the running companionship of Carla Deshaw and, therefore, did not spend the entire race contemplating my muse de jour. Carla has become a good friend of mine over these past 18 months or so. But I digress. This isn't about Carla. Other blog entries will permit me more time to discuss her. No, this one is about my sister.
I have two sisters. Both strong and amazing women, good friends, bold mothers, ethical to their cores. My sister Kim and I have shared a very special bond over the years. We were the middle children in a family with four kids. We grew up together, just one year apart. We shared a bedroom and secrets and wishes. She told me about changes and boys and all the things my mom's catholic upbringing avoided. Among other firsts, I smoked my first cigarette with Kim. In fact, it was in quitting smoking years later that I found my love for running. Ironically, I know now there is also research that links MS and smoking. I have not smoked now for nearly 9 years. Kim quits smoking from time to time too, but never for anything longer than a few years. She is ashamed of it, beats herself up about, hides her habit from the rest of us. I don't like that she smokes, but I feel like the shame she experiences about it actually prevents her from quitting. So, I try to act like I'm cool with it. Secretly, I run my next run for her, as if my efforts might somehow bank some credit into the universe for strength for her to quit, or at least to let go of her shame.
When she was in middle school, Kim ran track and cross country. She was small and light and fast. She could run long distances without seeming to tire. I envied her, being big and clumsy myself. Sometimes, I would actually try to run. I had heard that running brought a unique feeling of freedom and autonomy, something I surely longed for in my youth. I could never achieve those feelings then. In fact, on the longer distances in my 8th grade year I often snuck off to hide in the bushes and light up a cigarette, instead of making the effort to complete the distance with any consistency. Then, when I was 17 years old, my sister and I were in a very bad car accident. Not wearing a seat belt, she had been thrown against the windshield, smashing her ribs on the steering column and puncturing a lung. Over the next several weeks, she was in and out of various hospitals. It was a frightening time for our family. But all she wanted to do each time she was released from a hospital was smoke. Insidious addictions seem to run rampant in my family.
Fast forward some 25 years, and there I was at mile eleven. My friend Carla, who had told me around mile nine to keep up on my pace and not worry about her, had suddenly had her own second wind and went flying by me. I cheered for her, knowing I could not catch up with her. I envied her. I watched her get farther and farther ahead of me. Then I settled into this thought about how I learn so much from the women in my life, those with me briefly--a mere 18 months so far-- and those who had been there from the moment of my birth waiting to help me unlock the secrets of the world. And I remembered my last blog and how I had been thinking about Kim.
Yes, she is hard on herself just like I am. Maybe even more so. Actually, yes, more. And so I brought her into my last two miles to have her along for the ride, transmitting my hope into the universe for her. She saved my life almost 14 years ago (which is another story as well) and so I owe her everything. If I would not have survived, my daughters would not be on this planet, my husband would have completely different circumstances in his life, and surely much, much more would have not come to be. She has had a profound influence on my being. If I could magically give her those last two miles, make her see the beautiful, wonderful, strong person that I see in her, then maybe she could lighten up no herself just a tiny bit.
My daughters met me at the finish line and ran across with me. We held hands and smiled and carried with us hope and love. And this race was for my sister, for their aunt, for the strong and amazing woman I have looked up to my entire life. Of course it was.
Thank you Kim. I couldn't have done any of it without you.