The Gulf Coast (Week 11)

For my entire life I have been asked what it was like to be a twin. I don’t really have a simplistic answer to that question, so I usually answered it by telling them that “I don’t have anything else to compare it to” or “I don’t know any other way”, because I don’t.

Let me start here: Our parents were young and thought that they were having one baby until shortly before our delivery. Sonogram and ultrasound were not done back then, so they found out via an xray that was ordered by the obstetrician 6 weeks before our due date. My dad had built one baby bed and a matching chest of drawers only to find out that it would not be enough. We were also the first grandchildren on both sides of the family. They would provide the support system that my parents needed to care for two babies.

My dad named us, Alissa and Melissa. I was born first so my dad considered me the oldest child of the family. He gave me the title and the responsibility even though I was only born minutes prior to my sister Melissa. I don’t know how other families handle twins and birthright, but that is how it was in our family. Otherwise, we shared everything. Everything. Along with the same face, we shared the same womb, same room, same bed, same car, same friends,etc. We were so close. We would go to bed every night and talk until we fell asleep. I thought everyone did that, so when I got married, I was shocked when my husband asked me to be quiet so that we could go to sleep.

My mom made us matching clothes and dressed us alike until we were in kindergarten and told her that we didn’t want to be twins anymore. We had no idea that it was not a choice. Nevertheless, we decided at an early age that we wanted to be considered separately and not as a package. We spent the rest of our childhood fighting for individual identities. Some people allowed us this privilege, but others would always package us together. We were expected to like the same things and act the same way. I wanted so badly to be recognized as Alissa, not the twins. It didn’t seem like anything helped, we were the Stiles twins. By the time that we got to middle school, everyone called us Stiles. I guess it was easier for them to call us by our last name instead of taking the chance of calling us by the wrong first name.

I believe that being a twin affects psychological development. It is difficult when you are never recognized. I stopped approaching people to say hello because they never knew “which one I was”. That has continued into adulthood. I always answered to both names (Alissa or Melissa) because sometimes they were talking to me despite calling me Melissa (I am sure that confused people even more). It also affects communication skills. We never completed any sentences when speaking to each other because we anticipated what the other was going to say and had already answered it before they finished their sentence. My family would say that we had our own language because it was difficult to follow our conversations. This has continued into adulthood as well. I quickly grow frustrated when I have to finish a sentence when speaking to my husband. I expect him to already know what I am going to say.

We graduated college with different career paths which helped with our “identity crisis”. We were making new contacts that did not include each other which meant that we no longer had to tell people which one we were. I suppose this is part of what I have enjoyed with travel nursing. I have traveled to new places and made new connections. These people “know” me as an individual person.

Melissa is the loss that I have referenced in my previous posts. She is no longer with us. I have not mentioned it until now because I didn’t (and still don’t) have the words to discuss it (hence the word vomit that I have created here). Even though our adult lives were not intricately entwined as they were in childhood, I feel a lost/disconnected sensation. I guess it is expected since our very existence began at the same time and same place. The worst part of the entire thing is that my existence is now painful to people that knew us. I went from not having a separate existence to an existence that pains people. I expected it to be strange and uncomfortable at the funeral because people would look at me and see Melissa. See her mannerisms, hear her voice. Trust and believe it was difficult. What I did not expect is for family members to avoid holidays and not invite me to events because I would be there, and I remind them of her.

Putting everything into words is impossible. I debated even writing this. My hope is that it provides a cathartic release of some type. I am ugly crying right now and can’t breathe through my nasal passages (my least favorite bodily function). But, I am always searching for hope. The picture of this double rainbow appeared shortly after she passed away. I have seen double rainbows before, but I have never seen a double rainbow end-to-end like this. Ironic? I don’t think so.

10 responses to “The Gulf Coast (Week 11)”

  1. I love you. I’m sorry for your pain. Much love from Aunt Lu

    1. Oh, Aunt Lu! You were such an integral part of “us”! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  2. Bless your heart, Alissa. I joined your blog as a retired RN and always wanted to do travel nursing, but never had the guts. I have enjoyed your posts.
    This one I can relate to also. I lost my 33 year old so two years ago. There is no situation of grief easier than another, but losing a twin has to be unique. I am glad you talked about your sister, your relationship and her passing. It does help to talk. Even if on a blog.
    We nurses don’t have much training in taking care of ourselves. I encourage you to take care of yourself and keep talking. There is always someone ready to listen. You didn’t mention when you lost your sister. It was over a year before I could talk at all about Adam. I joined a grief recovery group and being and talking with others is helping. There is no timeline. I hope your making this blog post has helped.
    Talk about word vomit(!) Maybe we nurses are known for that, too.
    Just know I’m listening and I care


    1. Hi Darrene! Your comment is incredibly special to me. Thank you so much for your support. IYKYK

    2. I am so very sorry at the loss of your precious sister. My beloved sister-in-law was an identical twin and she and her”twin” (as they always referred to each other) had much of the same experiences growing up. They stayed extremely close as adults and had the most special relationship. When my SIL (Gwen) passed away a few years ago, her twin (Gail) was devastated. To this day, Gail doesn’t want to celebrate her birthday because “my twin) isn’t there to celebrate with her. I’m sad and angry that some people are so thoughtless to exclude you from gatherings because you remind them of your sister. I’m just the opposite…I like to be around Gail because she DOES remind me of my sweet SIL (and, I really like her). These people obviously lack compassion and think only of themselves. Thank you for sharing your story and, as a recently retired RN, thank you for your dedication. Hugs

      1. Thank you for your kind words. It is a painful situation, but I don’t judge their response because they are handling the grief process in their own way. Unfortunately grief can be destructive in its own way.

  3. I understand. I lost my sister this year. There was 2 year age difference but we were always close. Shared a room and a bed. Her husband and her bought the house next door to me 44 years ago. I miss her terribly. Just looking out my window and seeing a light on or off different than her usual.

    1. Oh, Dawn! I can’t imagine that! It must be difficult every single day!

  4. Retired nurse who knows how we care for others before ourselves. My daughter died 6 years ago. We celebrate Christmas with just her siblings and us. I don’t want to be with other family members. For the longest time I could not listen to music. I started meditating 2 years ago and that is helping. You will find you have 2 lives now. The before and after. Each different. Breathe deep. That’s the hardest part

  5. ❤️❤️❤️

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