My twin brother was dead. In 32 years of life this was the first time he was not with me on the earth.
We stood there in the hospital, next to his bed, touching his broken and withering body, as his wife and daughters held his hand. I had my hand on his shoulder as he looked at me and with his last dying breath asked me to take care of his wife and daughters; and I said "yes" and he smiled at me and then he was gone. Everyone heard his request and my response. We all cried together. I felt a part of me died, the cosmic tie was broken for the first time.
My older twin brother, by nine minutes, was gone. We did not even share the same birthday, which freaked people out. He was born just a few minutes before midnight and three minutes after that it was a new day and six minutes after that I was born. Identical twins, with different birthdays, is what we were. It gave us two days to celebrate because our parents would have a party for each of us; not many twins have that! The really best part is that it was a leap year and he was born on February 28 and I was born on February 29. People went nuts when I celebrated my birthday on March 1, but only three years out of four. Now that is way cool. So if we went out to a bar on our birthday I would bet the bartender that I was entitled to a free drink for me and my brother, if he refused to give me one on my birthday. That is a bartender sort of thing. Then I would point to the calendar, there is always a calendar, and ask where February 29 is on the calendar and not only did I get a drink but my brother did too. Or we would walk into a bar on his birthday and we would both get drinks because the guy would think twins and pour us both a drink on the house. It worked that way for my brother too. We were always pulling that stunt on people.
We were more than brothers, we were best friends and we had this thing, this cosmic link, and that joined us. I knew something was wrong before I even got a call. I was packed and on my way when Mali called me on my cell.
An accident had taken him from us.
Because we, I still think of my brother as we, were still young the funeral was a huge affair with literally thousands of people from the small towns around where he lived and we grew up, turning out to honor him and say good-bye. Mali, his wife of almost eleven years and now his widow was from Thailand and she and her parents had moved to our town when we were in the tenth grade. My brother Jonathan was immediately smitten with her and for the rest of his life there would be no other "true love" for him. Oh, there was the occasional split for a while and they both dated others, and had some casual sex during the separate times, but the real love was Jonathan and Mali and they ended up together knowing what was out there and knowing that it was nothing compared to what they had together.
But an accident took all that away. The funeral was as much a celebration of their life together as it was his passing. All of the family that was alive was there. He was a much beloved man.
Mali had decided to relocate and immediately put her house up for sale. I've lived in a different city, almost 100 miles away, for more than four years so she decided to stay with me for a while and bring along her two ten year old twin daughters, my nieces, too also live with me. After all they heard his request, my agreement, and they were my responsibility now too.
Mali's parents no longer lived in the town and my parents had died, so there was no family for them there. I was it, at least in this part of the world. They did come for the funeral and tried their best to get Mali and the twins to come to live with them but that was a lost cause. Eventually they returned to Florida.
I had plenty of room because I had a nice size of house and since the divorce it was all mine. Despite the fact that Mali's daughters would have to go to school in my town, the move was made. They hated to leave their home but they were familiar with mine and my neighborhood and town, as well as the kids in the neighborhood. After all we were a real family and they had spent many years here for weekends and summers, and vacations too.
I had been there when the twins were born and despite being so far away the last four years I had seen them constantly since their birth. I was always in their life. I baby sat them, and I changed their diapers and fed them. I sang them songs and took them to the doctors. I carried them around when they were so tired they could not sleep, they were part of my family, my life.
Weekends were frequently spent with one of us at the other's house. Jonathan and Mali helped me during my divorce and it was only right I helped them now, as I promised. That is what family does. Funny but it is hard to remember my brother is gone.
Mali had decided that she was going to go back to Thailand for an extended visit so moving in with me and letting the twins stay and go to school here sounded like a good temporary idea. When she got back she would take the money from the sale of her house and any settlement from the accident and buy a home close by me, or not. It was not like my brother could give her away; I was there to help and only help. If she stayed around I would be an anchor for her and my nieces, until she married again. Damn that would be hard to take, Mali marrying a man who was not my twin brother. Well when she did it would be my job to make sure his daughters never forgot about him and what a wonderful father her was.
For now, the girls were given their own rooms as was their mother. Actually they were given the entire house and I got my own room. Living with three females results in loss of -- well everything you thought was yours. I had originally bought the house with an eye toward lots of children so it was not like I did not have enough room. Actually they had enough room and I was sort of short on room myself.
We spent the first few months getting used to each other in our daily life. Even though we saw each other constantly before Jonathan died, there is something different when you live together. School took up much of our time and then there was something called work, which I had to do every day. Mali did now what she did when Jonathan was alive; she took care of the twins and the house. Even that is strange. "The twins" had become their alternative name, just like it had been with Jonathan and I. Some twins don't like that name but others revel in it. Jonathan and I loved it and the twins do too.
I was an engineer and was able to do a lot of telecommuting but still I had to go into the office two times a week and out on site to look at the projects and come up with solutions to real life problems the rest of the week. The telecommuting was just my not having to stop into the office on the way to the field, so I actually ended up commuting five days a week to work. Work just changed addresses for me. Once in a while I used the home office.
It was fun dealing with the two angels and learning what ten year old girls do every day is a feat in patience for a parent, or an uncle. Mali handled it well but she had been a ten year old girl and as a ten year old boy I did not pay attention to them at all. "Yuck" or "Yucky" was part of the vocabulary for a ten year old boy when talking about ten year old girls.
There were sports after school, and dance lessons, music lessons and trips to the mall because at ten you really need mall time. There were friends I did not like and they did; and almost friends that I liked and they didn't. At ten they are not small adults they are more like large babies. You have to treat them firmly but not break their spirit. You want to keep them safe but you have to know they have to learn what it feels like to fall off the bicycle all by themselves, but you still try to catch them when they do fall. I still remember that hollow watermelon sound their heads make when the fall on the floor when they slip or are learning to walk. They have to go through it but if you knew when it was going to occur you would be right there with them to catch every misstep.
I, on the other hand, had a few problems and homework was one of them. Getting the kids to do it was a pain so every night we sat down after dinner at the same table to go over what the assignment was and if they did it. Mali would bring desert and getting desert was part of doing homework. Ok it was bribery but it worked. Part of my job was to make sure they did it right and understood it. Usually they did it immediately when they got home, but with sports and all the other things they had to do, well after dinner would have to do. No TV or phone calls or computer until it was done.
But my real problem was the words they got use to hearing, "You are not wearing that out of this house." Those words were said by me so many times that everyone would recite them with me. It is hard telling ten year old girls that what they wear on TV are "costumes" and not everyday ware, even if the program shows the characters wearing it "everyday." I mean even the Disney channel can look like "young slut whores in training" sometimes.
I was hit with the obligatory "You are not MY father" or "You are not OUR father" more than once. I did not bat an eye, or shrink in shame and fear. They were immediately hit with, "Young lady as long as you live under my roof you will follow my rules."
All I had to do was remember those stupid fucking things my parents said to me and repeat them back. To them it was new, they would learn. There were times I almost broke down laughing at some of the things I said. It even confused Mali as she did not grow up here. She was a great mother and she kept them in line on the girl things that are outside a man's pay grade.
.... There is more of this story ...