On this day, March 17, 2001, I lost my twin brother quite unexpectedly. When I received the news, it felt like the silk thread that wove the two of us together had frayed away and broke my heart, never to be mended.
In the Beginning…
We lived in a small home in the little village of Westmoreland, New Hampshire, but we were just toddlers and a family of five –fast forward. We then moved to a much larger home (to accommodate a larger family of seven) in the small town of Winchester, NH. We lived there until we were in second grade (“we” meaning my twin brother and me). Finally, our parents somehow thought it was a good idea to move to the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. So that’s what we did. We rented apartments and lived in city neighborhoods… Boy, was that hard getting used to!
When my twin brother, Bernard, was a child he loved to smile, laugh loud and make all of us do the same. When Daddy was with us, I remember the boys fishing, playing baseball, basketball and football…and all the other stuff that boys did back in the day before technology entered the picture. We still spent lots of time in our beloved New Hampshire with our grandparents and other relatives. Eventually, our parents had started building a beautiful house, but apparently, it was too late for them to mend whatever was broken between them. Sadly, Ma and Dad split up when Bernard and I were around 11 or 12 years old. Ma took us and we moved into a housing project.
Okay. It wasn’t the end, but looking back, it was the end of our traditional family living in a traditional working class neighborhood. We were now extremely poor, in a single-parent household in what seemed like a strange, faraway place, living in that housing project. Ma had to go on Welfare and that was before the Food Stamp program was created. We were so poor that we joked that we couldn’t even finish the word! We were ‘po’, but most times just ‘p’ (pronounced: ‘puh’ , like you’re losing your breath). Thankfully, however, our mother was not one to cower in the face of adversity. My grandparents, Aunt Helen and Uncle Archie also helped Ma when things got even rougher (if she told them, most times she didn’t, but they could guess). Thus, we were still able to visit our beloved New Hampshire on many weekends and school vacations (only an hour's drive away).
Ma also trained us in the best way she knew how –using the Bible. Ma taught us that we had three things against us and if we wanted to win the fight against them, we must rely on powers much stronger than ourselves. The decision to fight against these things was ours, not hers. The three things were: Satan the Devil, the influence of the ungodly world and our own imperfect, sinful flesh. The powers we needed to rely on were: Almighty God, Jehovah; His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior; and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.* She always said that we ignored this help, life would be very difficult to handle.
Time for ‘Tough Love’
Living in that housing project was depressing, tough and it affected our family. Ma was not a crier, but she cried and cried as she explained to me why she was sending my twin brother to reform school at 15 years old. It was hard living without Bernard, a part of me was missing. But Ma was hoping that some tough love would scare my brother straight.** Apparently the tough love was still needed, so Bernard then went on to Job Corps. Ma had insisted that no matter what, each of us should have a skill that we could depend upon into adulthood (especially when times got rough). In Job Corps, Bernard learned building trades.#
Still in his teens, Bernard finished his training and received his G.E.D. (General Equivalency Diploma) a whole year before I graduated high school! If he had stayed in traditional school, he would have graduated the year after me. Of course, at the time, I felt a little cheated by ‘the system’. I was still happy for my brother.
Since it’s every normal parent’s goal to raise their children to become well-adjusted adults, Ma really hoped that Bernard would steer away from the ‘street’s influence’ and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, even though he married and had a beautiful little family, he couldn’t resist the pull of ‘the world’ (as Ma put it).
Bernard unfortunately did some time in prison for ‘reaping what he sowed’. His three daughters grew up and he became a grandfather, much to his delight. Bernard still enjoyed putting a smile on people’s faces, laughing loud and hard. He received an international culinary degree and he was also a master barber. To this day, I wish he had written down his recipe for his mega-comforting mac and cheese!
Ironically, Bernard and I never lived in the same city as adults but we always loved each other deeply. He always reminded me of our bond that nothing could break apart. When my family moved to Springfield, we reconnected face-to-face and things were looking good. He had moved in with our younger brother. In fact, the day before Bernard died, my younger brother said that they stayed up most of the night watching Chinese movies, reminiscing, laughing and just having a good time.
The next morning Bernard had to go to work his barber job in Hartford, CT. He never made it. He apparently had run a mile to catch the first bus, so that he could connect with the express bus. However, the bus driver said that my brother got on the bus and didn’t look himself. It was 5:00 a.m. and usually he would joke with everyone on the bus telling them to “wake up” or say something else that would make them laugh. That morning, he sat down and went quickly to sleep in just a couple of minutes. As the bus, pulled away, he let out a loud snore, then slumped over. The driver stopped the bus and was shocked. It was a tragic and unfortunate loss on March 17, 2001. That’s what I now remember every St. Patrick’s Day.
Thankfully, though, I accepted my mother’s Bible instruction and that’s where I find comfort and hope. So, even though I remember this day as the day my twin brother died, it’s no longer a day of mourning. It’s now a day of joy and hope. A day of loving remembrance.
Ciao for Now,
*Side note: jw.org
**Even though Bernard and I definitely had the bond most twins feel, Ma always said that we were twins that were ‘different’, speaking of the different paths in life we eventually chose.
#The rest of the siblings also took Ma’s advice. Our older brother, Noah took automotive and tool design courses at a technical trade school. Our younger sister, DeVerna, started out with a hairdressing course and decided it wasn't for her. So she went to college and completed computer courses, as well as business finance and later received an MBA. Younger brother, Roy learned electronics and computers at a technical school. I continued my training in needletrades and fashion design technology; later in college: multimedia technology and design. Ma took her own advice and went to business school. She became an executive secretary (now called an executive administrative assistant) and she eventually was able to move us out of the housing project.