This year’s birthday started off with a phone call from Ted, my non-biological twin. Really…our mothers met in the so-called Labor Room at the Peekskill Hospital. They were both women from someplace-else who’d married Peekskill natives and were having their firstborns without the benefit of having their own family nearby, so they became each other’s family that long night and remained lifelong friends. My earliest birthday-party memories are joint parties at Ted’s home–because by then he had two younger brothers. (The emotional temperature of those early memories is Overwhelmed…not only was I an only child, I was a quiet-to-the-point-of-noncommunicative only child. Put me in a room full of three brothers and I became a statue.)
But Ted’s father moved his family away when Ted and I were six or seven (things are a bit blurry at this distance) and although our mothers stayed in touch, we did not, at least not directly: once the Annual Christmas Letter Tradition became a national pastime, we got the obligatory one-paragraph summary in the family-update section. So, I knew that he had married, had children, and found his vocation in the Episcopal Church. In time, though, I was in Michigan or Oklahoma while my parents were in Florida and I didn’t read the ACLs again until I moved to Florida in 1997 by which time Ted was getting a whole page in the ACL because he was a Canon with an AIDS/HIV ministry in South Africa.
With our mothers’ help, Ted and I managed to exchange email addresses about ten years ago and, after about a half century, we were communicating directly (for the first time, because I really wasn’t communicating directly at those birthday parties). Needless to say, we never missed a birthday exchange or had to ask, How old are you, anyway?
Ted left South Africa a number of years ago, but he didn’t return to the US until 2010. I think we both had the idea that we should try to make actual eye contact with each other, but we hadn’t gotten around to it until this past February when Ted let me know that his job was bringing him to Florida to do an oral-history interview with the oldest living alumni of the Boston University School of Theology (I hope I got that right). He said he’d be doing the interview in someplace called Leesburg and wondered how far that would be from where I lived. (Another joy of the Internet–one can be in fairly regular communication with someone and have very little idea of where they really are.)
I said that it was unlikely that I lived more than five miles wherever the interview was happening. As it turned out, it was closer to a mile-and-a-half.
His schedule allowed only one night in Leesburg and we spent most of that talking because there truly was that sense of instant connection that long-separated family members talk about and although the surface biographies read quite differently, we are remarkably alike at the core. And we’d comethisclose to bumping into each other more than once. We have friends in common, too.
It’s almost enough to make me wonder about astrology: it’s not nature, it’s not nurture, but we were born under the same stars.
So…Happy Birthday, Ted. As we start another circle around the sun, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.