When I was growing up in nearby Westchester, the Hinsdale family lived next door. The Crowes were a big Catholic family, but the Hinsdales were much bigger. I was the youngest of six children, but they had 11.
On Bristol Avenue, the Crowes did some crazy things, but the Hinsdales, given their sheer numbers, were capable of doing far more.
Nothing criminal mind you, but more mischievous things, like when I saw one young Hinsdale, probably age six, climb out of a second floor bedroom window, somehow cling to the brick wall and launch himself into the adjacent window. Or when a Hinsdale tyke got into the family car, turned it on and backed it into a tree across the street.
Toward the end of the line, the triplets were born — one of whom was named Margaret, but was known to everyone at Divine Infant School as Muffy.
Margaret grew up and moved to San Mateo, Calif. She married and raised a family there. She must have inherited the Hinsdale sense of risk taking, because 10 years ago she became a triathlete. Margaret competed in Hawaii and was an experienced half Ironman competitor.
One week ago, Margaret and her brother-in-law participated in the Vineman Half Ironman in the wine country around Sonoma County, Calif. Something went terribly wrong at the beginning of the swim in the Russian River.
When people get into trouble in a triathlon it almost always happens at the beginning of the swim. It must be a combination of the cold water, the crowds, the adrenaline.
An emergency crew pulled Margaret from the water. Though in perfectly good health, Margaret apparently suffered a heart attack and died the next day. She was 50 years old.
I heard about this the way people hear about such things these days, on Facebook. Someone from the old neighborhood posted the news.
While the Vineman Half was last weekend, the Vineman Full distance Ironman is this coming Saturday. This is my "A" race and I fly out Thursday.
The news of Margaret Hinsdale's death causes me to ask, why do it? Why put my 52-year-old body through the stress and risk?
Part of me says that everything is risky, even being a couch potato who never exercises. As we learned from the recent tragedy in Colorado, there can even be a risk in watching a movie in a theater.
But that doesn't quite get to the heart of it. I imagine that Margaret found great friendship in the people with whom she trained. You cannot ride a bike for six hours every Saturday without being on intimate terms with your fellow riders.
Another thing, triathlons, especially Ironmans, are really hard. The big honking goal of finishing pushes us out of our comfort zone, physically and psychologically, and turns our mundane daily lives into a kind of adventure.
Margaret's death is of course a tragedy. I can't imagine anything that would console her children. But like the 6-year-old Hinsdale kid who jumped from window to window, Margaret found a way to make her life adventurous. I will be dedicating my race day to her memory.