When you have meets, several high schools come to each meet and you see the same competitors multiple times a year. The way it panned out was I came in first several times, but whenever these two sisters from a school 40 minutes away were there, the old McCloud would come in first, and I'd be second. Every time. I never could quite catch her. The younger sister McCloud got better and would be threatening my standing a few times too. In fact by my senior year, younger McCloud came in second at the state open, I was fourth and the older sister was fifth. I guess that one time, I was able to beat my nemesis, but of course, the sister took her place ahead of me.
So my dad, who like me loves spreadsheets, sent me all these track scores from back then, and I get to wondering what those girls are doing now. The had a smooth poise about them, the ran with a mature focus, there was no gritty rivalry because they were better than that. I remember once, after really IDing her as my "person" who I couldn't beat, I cycled through thinking of her as that damn wavy haired bitch to, surrendering my feistiness and thinking, she's just good. She's consistent and clean and just good. I'm pretty good, but she's better. So I told her so. After one race that she beat me, I told her afterwards that she ran a good race and she's a good runner. After nonverbal acknowledgement of this girl for so long, I never heard her speak, didn't know if she was a bitch or not, but she stopped and genuinely told me I did well too and I was awesome. You really have no idea what people think of you until you say something. Who knows, maybe me tailing a hair behind her all the time kept her pushing herself. I always wanted to reach her, she always wanted to escape my pursuit.
Of course later, it wasn't just her, her darn sister was hot on my trail. If it wasn't one it was the other, trading off around me.
So I looked them up because you can google anything. The older one went to Dartmouth and has a PhD in behavioral pharmacology from Johns Hopkins and works there now. Friggin slacker. I found that the younger one went to Barnard at Columbia University and is the Director of Worldwide Training for Subway restaurants at their headquarters in Connecticut. She married the love of her life and had a daughter in 2008. I knew they'd make something of themselves, they just seemed to have that focused maturity about them. Their parents did a good job.
But I went back to google the younger one and I found an obituary. Young McCloud passed away a year and a half ago, at the age of 29 from breast cancer. I was shocked, dismayed and downright sad. She was diagnosed at 26. That is crazy unheard of young. She went through some rough treatment and was clear for maybe two years then it came back and took her life in 6 weeks when her daughter was 4.
I remembered her as the attractive, vibrant young runner. And now she's dead. When I was 17 and running along side these girls, all of us adorning our school tank and shorts, spiked shoes, toting our blocks, stretching on hurdles, punching our chest out over the finish lines, we were competitive, determined and thought only of the next race. And after coming back to our bench out of breath, we reflected on the race just passed - we were lit up, pissed off, humbled, proud... and either way, so very alive. We held an assumption that went without ever saying or being conscious of- that all these young people around us would be alive later on. We'd all grow up, do something, have some job, maybe have kids, maybe meet a mate, but we'd be alive for goodness sake. And after one simple google mission, I've knifed the scene in my head and decapitated that assumption.
I ache for her husband because I'm a wife of a cancer survivor. I ache for her daughter because I have my own little piece of magic packaged up in a girl I bore. I ache for her mom because when I told my own mom this story her first response was, "oh, her poor mother." And her father, for
when I mentioned this to mine, he felt an unheard of sense of guilt for his fingers over a decade and a half befor that typed her name on those spreadsheets, noting the unfairness. Aside from that I feel for her and her family as a human. I don't really google these random people from the past, so what drew me to seek these sisters is a curious thing, but as I was reading "It's Always Something" Gilda Radner's autobiography, I learned of another woman who has died too young, too unexpectedly, and I know that although there is abundant tragedy, I still have my husband. We shouldn't feel guilty for that, I should be greatful and joyful. Because if I ever lost my husband, the last thing I'd want is for every other wife to be depressed they were still with the mate they loved. We should honor what we have because others aren't so fortunate. Here's to Greatfulness. And god bless the selfish, short-sighted teenagers who are thinking about the next meet, party or test - it can be a beautiful time!