One day in July of 1988 I received a call from my sister-in-law Julie that, from my blurred memory of the call, went something like this:
“Willy has been in an accident. He’s in St. Cloud Hospital. You need to come quick because it doesn’t look good.”
Willy, my then 15-year-old brother, had been involved in an accident with a car that plowed into him and his bicycle.
He came down hard. On his shoulder. And, his head.
Of most of those things during those difficult days I remember with little detail.
I recall the car ride to St. Cloud that took forever in a day and age when cell phones were not ubiquitous in our lives. Not knowing whether he was dead or alive. Assuming, of course the worse.
I remember running into the hospital. Getting to the floor where my family was assembled. And, simply, and weakly, collapsing into the arms of my brother, Karl.
Those first few days were not my finest hours as a strong and capable brother. I was an emotional wreck. Every bit of news that followed seemed worse and worse for Willy.
The swelling was too much. The shunt wasn’t working. The extent of the injury too vast.
Slowly, through the grace of God and the talent, dedication and commitment of Willy’s doctors, nurses and others who supported his healing, he survived his injuries.
Throughout the years Willy as grown, flourished and found his place in the world. In the twenty-eight years he has no long come to be known as Willy.
Unless I want to annoy him. Which I do from time to time.
This past June Will and I ran in Grandma’s Marathon. His first marathon. My fifth.
Ten years younger than I am, Will has worked hard the past few years to develop himself as a runner.
He is, like most of his Mische siblings, someone who rarely does things halfway.
His first foray into running lead him to have hairline fractures in his feet.
He stopped for a while, but continued to work out at the local gym not far from his home.
Then, he started running again.
Telling him to pace himself and take it easy is like telling me to stay away from butter brickle ice cream.
It’s a failing task of admonishment.
I’ve watched Will over the past couple of years as he has trained. I am struck by the determined nature and his seriousness to his craft.
I say “craft” because for him that is what it seems to have become.
I run because I can.
Will seems to run because he must.
I was built to run short distances of about 10 to 12 feet and not too quickly, I might add.
Will was built to run forever.
He has a runner’s body. Lean, long legs and arms.
His time at Grandma’s Marathon was amazing.
I could not have been more proud of him.
Since then he has run an urban Marathon in St. Paul and this weekend he runs the Twin Cities Marathon.
I can tell he is thinking about his race. How he will run it.
At Grandma’s he barely slept the night before. But, when it came time to run he was ready to go.
I know he is ready to go this weekend.
He has become a part of a runner’s community. It is fun to watch his engagement with that community.
I have five brothers and three sisters.
I am proud of each and everyone one of them. I consider each of them the smartest, most interesting, kind and remarkable people I have ever met.
Throughout our lives, at one time or another, each of us has leaned on the other for something to keep us moving forward in a world that can all too often be cold and distant.
My mother’s constant admonition to all of us is to “be kind to one another.”
Twenty-eight years after his life nearly ended on a road in St. Cloud, Minnesota, my brother Will hits the road this weekend to run the Twin Cities Marathon.
He does so as someone who has, as my recently departed friend Mary O’Neill would say, “respected the distance.”
He trained for it. He understood it. He embraced it. He is ready for it.
Whatever Will’s time is this weekend. Wherever he places. Whenever he crosses the finish line.
This much is true.
My brother Will has earned his place in this race we call life.
My brother, Will.