42 Is the Least Lonely Number


Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
Kerry Krieger Clifford

In the Glow of Yet Another Windsor State Title

My community is small, but it’s super sportsy. Anyone who grew up around me is probably surprised to hear that I ended up in such an athletic place, since it was hardly a priority for me during my childhood. My nose was pretty much always in a book, unless I was dressing Barbie dolls or taping New Kids On The Block songs off of the radio onto my classic peach boom box. I was an indoor child. My kids’ dad is more of the same, only his time was spent pouring over music magazines and reviewing CDs for a zine in the city. How we ended up with two 4-season athletes is beyond me, but it also makes me so, so happy.

In the almost two years since my diagnosis, my kids’ teammates and their families have been a lifeline. They have shown up for us in more ways than I can count. Today, I’m going to tell you the story of what I remember to be the showing-up-est day ever.

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In preparation for the last day of the JH football season, Dalton’s coach messaged me to ask about my favorite number. It seemed like a random question, but the answer was easy for me… 42. Jackie Robinson. My house number. It’s the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything, for Pete’s sake. Also, at the time, I believed it to be the age I would be when I beat cancer.

The day of the big game arrived. I was given a jersey (#42, of course) and made honorary game captain. I took off my hat and stood proudly at the front of the line of players for the anthem. I got to walk out with the other captains to flip the coin. After flubbing my simple instructions to say “we will receive,” being corrected and shaking hands, we went back to the sidelines. When I looked up into the crowd, I saw the team moms holding signs for me and another mom who beat breast cancer that same year. “No one fights alone.” I felt the truth of that statement to my very core.

At the end of the game, which our guys won, the boys did their cheer – the one they had made up for me and had been doing for several weeks at that point.

“I say Kerry, you say Clifford.”

“Kerry!”

“Clifford!”

“Kerry!”

“Clifford!”

“Kerry!”

“Clifford”

“Family on 3: 1-2-3”

“FAMILY” 

While it probably doesn’t translate in a blog, I get chills just writing it.

These young men, cheering on the mom of their friend, not caring if it was cool, just letting their support be known to both Dalton and me. Their coaches, making time in their already tight schedules to check in on my boys and to invite me into the fold. Coach’s wife, who sewed the “away” 42 jersey into a pillow that sits on my front porch to this day. The team moms, making signs and giving rides when I just couldn’t get myself down to the field. They had all spent the season watching me trudge slowly through the stands, bundled up even in 60º weather because of the chemo drug that made anything cooler than lukewarm painful on my skin, carrying my “happy meal” of chemo to go (a drug that I had to bring home in a pump so that it could infuse slowly enough into my system that it would kill the cancer but not me). They would have done anything to help me, and I know that on that day, what they did felt inadequate, but it lifted my spirits beyond measure.

"My" team

I may never have had a team in high school, but thanks to the fine people of Windsor, I am surrounded by champions of my very own at the exact time when I most need them.

(Photo Credits: Chris Cammock, official photographer and videographer of my disease)

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