Well. The first three-quarters of November were quite eventful for me.
My divorce was finally finalized, after an unforeseen legal snafu held up what everyone thought was a done deal; I ran the New York City marathon; and all this was while other personal and professional change was afoot. I quit my job, and I accepted a new role that represents a very real, new and wonderful jumping-off place for me.
And so here I am, trying to juggle all the balls at once, and I am still trying to act as if nothing at all is changing.
All in a day’s work, I suppose.
The Friday before the Marathon, there was a stir outside my front door. When I opened it, my brother was standing there, having flown in from Los Angeles to watch me run the New York City Marathon. It was strange, to see the man my brother had become standing on my doorstep when, just 3 years prior, a gaunt, listless addict had shown up on my doorstep — heaped upon me by surprise (via voicemail and a JetBlue flight) while I ran in Central Park.
This year was the first year that I ran the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge since the summer when my parents had gone off to Naples or Paris or wherever they’d been. This was the first year I ran since the year that my brother had come to stay, unexpectedly — back when he was still very sick, and I had had to be compassionate and disciplined; I had had to be mother and wife; sister and social worker.
At the end of that long, hot summer, when Matthew left and everything descended into even more chaos, I looked at my then-husband, desperate for feeling, desperate for compassion. And instead of feeling supported and grateful for his help, I felt nothing. I stared into his blank brown eyes and was socked with more want, more need. I was plumb tapped out.
But why can’t you give me what you gave your brother? Why can’t you love me like that?
Because I’m your wife.
When my brother went back to California at the end of that bad summer, things went from bad to worse, and then from awful to better to good to best — in a gross oversimplification of the process.
I would be lying if I said that the whole thing — three years from doorstep to doorstep — wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through; that my family’s ever gone through. That it hadn’t been a test of faith, and physical strength, and a challenge of will, and flesh and spirit. That I hadn’t been broken, and bruised, and that there hadn’t been moments when I hadn’t screamed out for clemency, mercy; when I hadn’t begged for a reprieve.
But I have always had faith. Part of being a runner, a lawyer, an eternal optimist is having faith in getting to the finish.
Many people know about my list of fifty things I wanted to do in ten years — the list that ended with me crossing the finish line of the New York City Marathon last year. But most people do not know that the list also included “having a relationship with my brother.” Which was something that I couldn’t do until he stopped having a relationship with drugs.
And so when I opened my front door, two days before the 2010 New York City Marathon to find not the dessert I had requested, but instead, my little brother — my healthy, strong brother, who had come of his own accord to surprise me, and support me in Central Park…I could not have asked for more.
Seeing him at my door, three years and the prospect of 26.2 more miles felt like nothing, and everything. Like the story of addiction, itself, has been a distance run, and we’ve survived. Maybe even thrived.
If you have ever loved an addict, perhaps you know that feeling — that warm, remarkable, wonderful feeling — when the tipping point has been reached, the tables have been turned, and suddenly, you trust that he loves you more than he loved what ailed him.
Not every addict story has a happy ending — so many of my brother’s friends have died. I’ve gotten phone calls that have brought me to my knees; I have attended funerals for beautiful little boys who grew into hollow-eyed men. And this story is far from finished — every day is a new adventure.
On Sunday, 7 November, 2010, I ran. I finished the New York City Marathon in under 5 hours, and it was a pretty good run. I saw my friends along the way, and I was happy, grateful, for the support and thrilled to have another marathon experience.
This part of the tale that began with a four mile run in Central Park on a sticky June evening three years ago, ends on Sunday November 7th, at Tavern on the Green after 26.2 miles and five boroughs, and three glorious, painful years of transformation. And the sick boy that turned up on my doorstep that day in June has grown into a man I respect and admire.
We walked out of McKeown’s on Marathon Sunday night, with my group of friends laughing and joking, and taking silly pictures — my brother fitting seamlessly into the crowd; tousling my hair and yanking my marathon medal off of my neck — begging me to let him borrow it so he could use it to pick up girls.
I hate that you run marathons, because people ask me if I run. And that makes me look bad. Just let me borrow your medal so I can get some play. I swear I’ll fed-ex it back to you!
Then he took a long drag on his cigarette, and laughed hysterically, wrapping his arm around my shoulder.
He did not take the medal with him. I did eventually get the knots out of my hair. And for all that we have been through, together and apart, we are better people, better siblings, and better friends.