Monday, November 21, 2011

The Runner

I spent much of my childhood ignoring my little brother.  I have many fond memories, but for the most part he was just in the background of the house.  I adored my older brother and was overjoyed, at the age nine, to finally have the baby sister I had wanted for all those years.  I guess I just didn’t have much time for T-bird.  Ironically, I didn’t really start to pay attention to him till I was out of the house. 

I remember coming home for summer break after my sophomore year.  T-bird, who had never been much of an athlete, was having a great season on the track team as a freshman in high school.  My father took great delight in watching T-bird’s races whenever he could.  And since I had nothing better to do on my summer break, I tagged along to the DCL Championship.  I watched my quiet, un-athletic little brother kick some serious track butt.  I screamed his name as he rounded the corners of the track and my father noted his splits.  I was hooked.

For the past ten years, I have been to as many track and cross country meets as I could make.  I went to every DCL Championship for the four years T-bird was in high school.  I followed him, standing alongside my father, at States. 

I stood in the driving rain as T-bird ran his first college cross country meet.  My phone got so wet, reporting times to my father back home, it shorted out and never worked quite right again.  I drove to small colleges throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania to watch my brother – often with my father in the passenger seat. 

I watched in agony as T-bird lost his last college cross country meet, one shoe lost on the course, coming in second place.  A second place finish that was lost to the other runner, not won.  I hugged him at the finish, sweaty and streaked with mud, feeling his silent tears at the loss. 

Yesterday, I watched one last race.  After so many years of training for so many races, T-bird announced earlier this year that the Philadelphia Marathon would be his last race.  I had to be there.  I held up a poster, Laura on my shoulders, as T-bird approached the first mile.  I screamed and cheered at the six mile mark.  I marked the splits received by text messages at 10K, halfway mark, 30K.  I waited at the finish, waited, got nervous, and finally saw him.  I saw my little brother, my brother with the quiet strength, cross the finish line in his last race.

In the next few weeks, T-bird will complete his Master’s Degree and start a new career in New York City.  I am so proud of my little brother.