Sister Spirit

My sister woke me up early today. She wasn’t here. She was 25 miles away at her own house. But I knew she was awake. I could feel the sister spirit  prompting us to get ready for the day. Today Kaye takes her mother-in-law to the Trinity Nursing Home. She is nearly 96 years old and sadly lost her husband about 2 years ago. She is a remarkable woman. She isn’t on any medication and as Kaye has said, walks around like the energizer bunny.

She just doesn’t remember. She remembers some of the old times. She remembers how to smile. She has a delightful sweet spirit and an infectious laugh. She doesn’t remember to turn off the stove. She doesn’t remember how to get home. She will forget to eat if someone doesn’t assist in setting out the meal.

We had to place our mother in a Nursing Home. I prefer the name “assisted living facility”. Nursing homes can carry negative memories for many people. Assisted living sounds more pleasant. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is a place to go where you can be loved and safe-but it is away from your home where you nested for decades.

Maybe if this was the first time Kaye had to do this, the sister spirit wouldn’t have gotten me up so early. They don’t go until around 10. But Kaye will not just be taking Marion to Trinity. She will be taking mom. Every memory of the broken, confused expression when you take them to their new room will come flooding back. The words ” I want to go home” will thunder around her heart.

The sister spirit knows, she just knows. I wish I could explain it. I wish I could package it and give it to everyone. But I don’t know exactly what it is. I just know it surrounds us and comforts us and encourages us. It tells us how the other is doing. If one of us is struggling, the other feels anxious. So, she woke me up early. Today is a day that will take extra-ordinary grace and strength. I had to be awake to comfort Kaye.

I will go to work. Kaye will go to Trinity. Twins-who else can be in two different places and yet be together at the same time?

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Twin giggles

I have heard it said, Laughter is the best medicine.

I call it  ‘laugh therapy’.

Research has claimed it reduces the cortisol level-which is a hormone that can cause destruction of neurons-and increases the levels of endorphins and dopamine-which provide a sense of pleasure and reward. (Medicalnewstoday.com dated April 28, 2014) Those are a lot of words that basically say:

It is good to laugh.         It makes you feel better.        It reduces stress.      It lightens the load.

That is one of the wonderful things about being a twin. We laugh together. We get each other’s humor. We don’t have to explain the joke.

The day I was moving into my new little cottage house, my boyfriend came over to help me set things up. My twin and her husband came as well. They had not met Joe yet, but they had heard plenty about each other. I might mention that Joe is an engineer. He plans, builds and is responsible for the safety of people as they enter into what he created. He takes his job seriously, and always carries a measuring tape.

My twin and I ‘eye ball’ the wall when we put up a picture. Consequently, behind most paintings hanging on our walls will be multiple miss-placed nail holes. We figured, it didn’t matter-the holes were behind the picture!

So when the time came to put up the paintings in the new house, Joe reached for his measuring tape. My twin and I began to giggle. Our giggle burst into laughter. What we instinctively understood, was the value of measuring, and the in-efficiency of ‘eye balling’. Yet we continued the old ‘eye ball’ method for many years; despite the injury to our walls. It is fun to laugh together. But we have learned that we often have to explain our humor to others. I immediately let Joe know that we were not laughing at him, but at each other. How appropriate to use a measuring tape. We just never thought of it!

I have learned to use a measuring tape. It is a very efficient little tool. I bet an engineer designed it.

When life gets too challenging, we need a twin fix. A time to get away with each other. We give each other energy. One way we do it, is through laughter. The great thing is, we really don’t need any particular reason to laugh. One will begin to laugh because the other one is. Or because we had the same thought, or we had the same ‘look’, or we simply were tired of being sad.

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”   Bill Cosby

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”  William Shakespeare

 

 

Never Walk Alone

My twin sister and I have already lost our mother. She died of Pick’s disease-which is a type of dementia. It was heart wrenching to see parts of her slip away. Our grieving started 2 years before she died; because a piece of her died every day. That was nearly a dozen years ago.

I recall with tears the days that we had to take precious things away from our mother: her beloved Buick, and her home. She had lost the ability to drive and to live safely in her own home.

Now, my twin sister is facing the sorrow all over again. Her mother-in-law has senile dementia. She is 95 years old and lost her husband about  2 years ago. She is no longer safe to drive, or to live alone. She has moved into my sister’s home. They didn’t have a downstairs bedroom, so they had to empty the den and create a bedroom. It is warm and inviting, but it is not home. Her mother in law misses her home. She misses driving. She asks every day where is her car? She needs to drive home. It is time for her to go home now. Every day my sister has to sit down and lovingly go through the same answers she gave her a few hours ago.

As we journey through life, there are days when we feel as though we are alone on our path. And we may be on the path alone, but people can stand by the wayside and offer water, fruit, and encouragement. Sometimes when people fall,  onlookers are allowed to assist them until they can carry on by themselves again.

I wish I could take my sister’s sorrow away. I wish I could make it not be her path. But it is her path. It is part of her journey. In some ways, I think it could be hurtful to a life journey to take away and alter what we are supposed to do. So I walk along the side. I offer water. I offer food. I step in when she starts to fall. Once she has gained her strength again, I have to go back to the sidelines and walk along the side. I watch to see when I am needed. I want to be ready to give her assistance.

I am close by. I believe our mother is close by. We stand at the ready.  Something wonderful about twins…what ever is happening to the one, the other feels it as though it were happening to her. So, while she may technically be alone during those long hours of concern and sorrow, I am with her in spirit and in energy.

I am reminded of the Rogers and Hammerstein song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high,

and don’t be afraid of the dark.

At the end of the storm is a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown,

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone, You’ll never walk alone”

And that is what it feels like to be a twin.

Tennis Shoes

While I lived in Texas I made a trip home to Ohio to see family. My daughter was only 6 months old and had already had two surgeries. She was born with spina bifida and her first surgery was to close the opening in her back. The second surgery was to place a shunt in her brain to drain excessive cerebral spinal fluid to protect the brain cells from hydrocephalus. We had driven home for Christmas to spend time with family.

On our last day there, my mother and sisters decided to go shopping. My husband kept our daughter and son and I saw this as a great break from the day to day responsibilities of a young mother and relished the opportunity to be with my sisters and mother. We talked and laughed and had a relaxing time. It was so refreshing.

When we got back to the house my husband said Kristen had been really fussy. This was not like her. She was a very good, and generally contented baby. When I held her, I knew the problem. I could see the ‘bubble’ of the shunt had collapsed. We needed to take her to emergent care. Off we went to the local children’s hospital to find a neurosurgeon. We discovered she would need emergency surgery to replace the shunt. Family got word and they all met us and stayed with us while she underwent the surgery.

It is so difficult to turn over your small, helpless, baby to people you do not know. To let them take her into the cold sterile room. They don’t let you in there-you have to trust them.

Surgery went well. Everyone but Kristen and I went home. I slept beside her in a little cot. Early in the morning, when my eyes were just opening, I could see under Kristen’s crib to the other side of the room. There were little white tennis shoes silently rising and falling with the rhythm of the wooden rocking chair. I rubbed my eyes, and sure enough someone was quietly sitting with us-My Twin.

Somehow that memory is logged in my brain. It is one of the portraits in the art gallery of my mind. It comes to me often. I think it is because it made me feel watched over. Here she was, I am not sure when she got there, but she patiently waited and watched over us. Ready at any moment to be of support and assistance. I was rather new to this world of special needs. It was the third of 13 surgeries. No matter what surgery waiting room I was in, I never felt alone.

When I feel a little unsure, or a little overwhelmed, I can see those shoes. I know I am not alone.

Twin Trip!

Our birthday is about to arrive! Over the last few years we have started a tradition of going on a trip together for our birthday. Our first trip was to French Lick in Indiana. It is a delightful spa with a fascinating history. It is set where the natural sulfa springs were. While there we rested, talked, laughed, dined, and enjoyed the spa. We found a book that was written by an author while he stayed there. “So Cold the River” by Michael Koryta. Very good-highly recommend it.

We would wander to a pretty spot and read that book, get up, wander to another pretty spot and read….another pretty spot and read. We read they whole book while there. We were inspired! Somehow that experience motivated us to start writing together. We booked a room at the sister spa in Indiana-West Badin for the next year. West Badin is a fabulous place. It has a huge dome and is full of flowing statues, and again with a rich history.

For two years we returned there for a writing retreat. We completed a manuscript that is under review in the self-help-memoir genre.

This year we go to Pennsylvania. The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. We will start the brainstorming on our new book. The amazing part is our thought process. As identical twins, we think so much the same, yet we have somewhat different perspectives. Thoughts can be jotted down before they are completed…the other one instinctively knows what the first one was saying! So we accomplish a lot in a few days.

We will giggle, laugh, wine and dine, rest, and come home with a complete book outline of chapter summaries!

It is so much fun being a twin! Happy Birthday Sister!

Ski Lift

Life was different in the pre-cell phone days. One had to place a call from their home and pay for any minutes used. Twins had the advantage. They didn’t need a phone at all. They have their own means of communication.

My daughter was born with Spina Bifida and required many surgeries while an infant. My family is a very close and supportive family so even though we lived 1,000 miles away from home, I always felt as though they could be with me if needed. They were certainly with me in spirit. As one might expect, my twin and I were always tight with such things.

Most of my daughter’s surgeries were of an emergency nature. I might get up in the morning and by the afternoon we would be traveling to the neurosurgeon office and hospital for surgery. While my twin sister was away on a ski trip, one of these emergent surgeries was required.

I called my family to let them know but I could not reach my twin. She was out-of-town on a snow skiing trip. So, for the first time I went through this surgery without any contact or communication with my twin. Somehow that felt bad. We shared our joys and we shared our struggles. Here was a struggle and I could not reach her.

My daughter had her surgery and recovered very well. She was able to go home in just a couple of days. On Friday night of that week my twin called. There was no ‘chatty greeting’…just a very concerned, “How is Kristen?”. I said, did you talk with dad? “No” she said. ” I was going up the ski lift on Tuesday morning at 10:00 and I just knew that something was wrong with Kristen. Something was going on. I started to pray and send healing wishes and energy to her.” Kristen’s surgery was at 10:00 Tuesday morning.

It is an amazing thing to think so much like another person. I imagine that there are times when we might  frustrate other people in a group conversation because we frequently don’t have to finish a thought or a sentence for the other one to know exactly what we mean. We can barely get a joke out before we both bust out laughing!

Twin telepathy….and it is free.

First Trip

The television personality, Monk, would say, “it is a blessing, and it is a curse” when he is asked about one of his natural talents. I find that expression true. My mother said it, ‘there is good and bad in everything’. One of the most beautiful things about being a twin is that I have always been with someone else. Other than the 6 minutes that I was born before my twin was born, I have experienced life with someone else.

Recently I was asked to remember my first trip away from home by myself. Others in the group shared their memory of their first day at school…their first field trip….their first day at college… It was hard for me to remember the first time I went somewhere alone. I entered my first day of kindergarten with my twin. I remember being very happy about that. Hand in hand we walked into that big new room. Each new school year, we went together. Eventually, the school administration put us into our own classes, but by then we had established friends and walked into class with them.

One of my early careers was a consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics. They met in Texas for their annual meetings. My twin was also a consultant. We flew together to the meeting. It was my first time to fly and I remember being very excited about the opportunity to fly. Again, I was experiencing something new, not alone, but with my twin.

I did move away from home after marriage. But I was not alone then, I was with my husband. But I remember going to the family house the night before leaving town and as we pulled the car out of the driveway, I cried and looked at my family whom I would miss dearly. I was excited about the new opportunity, but so sad to be leaving my twin and my family. But I wasn’t alone…

So, I didn’t really get to chime in with the conversation of the recollections of my first trip alone. I had to give it some thought. Over the years there has been time when I traveled by myself, or stayed at a conference by myself, but I always felt connected to someone. From the womb, I was connected to another. I went from sharing a bedroom with my twin, to sharing one with my husband.

I really wasn’t alone, until my 50th year of life. My husband and I divorced and for the first time in my life I found I was alone. I slept alone, and I was in the house alone. It was a unsettleing feeling. I went from angst to anticipation hourly.

I discovered that I was my own person. You see, as a twin, it is sometimes difficult to see yourself as an individual. You are so often linked together. You are so connected to another person, you can lose sight of  yourself.

I found peace with myself. I found I had strength to face what I needed to face. I realized that while I had companions to cheer me on as I went through my journey of life, I myself had to walk the journey. My companions – family and friends were still there cheering.  I just learned to let go of someones hand and walk by myself.

I still feel some uneasiness if I have to enter a room by myself. It is so much more fun to enter it with my twin, or someone I love. But I have learned that I can do it. I have also learned, that while it may seem like I am alone, I am never really alone. I have people who love me. People living now and those loved ones who have gone on. I am surrounded by their energy and their love for me. That creates a presense that comforts me and guides me.