Nancy & Charlie
Do twins have special bonds?
I've heard it said that twins have a special connection not afforded to other siblings, a bond that forever keeps them spiritually linked and close, no matter how many miles may separate them. This bond is uniquely important since it's a relationship that really started in utero.
Twins learn to play together in the womb, while sharing a mutual space and maternal sustenance. In very subtle ways, their relationship and personalities with each other are being formed in the womb.
Once twins are born, it is important to be aware that while they are young, a balanced relationship is developing. It is not uncommon for the passive twin to become dependent on the caregiving, or dominant twin. The disposition of the twins will determine how their roles as both passive and dominant twin are embraced. A calm demeanor will serve the caregiver well; whereas, a fussy, dominant, and/or passive twin might find being a constant caregiver stressful.
There are documentations, but no scientific proof, that some twins feel the pain of the other, or that some twins are psychic. For example, Terry and Linda Jamison, twins from West Chester, PA, claim to be The Psychic Twins. They do readings on their radio show, but only they know if they are truly gifted. Some twins end each other's sentences while others intuitively know what their sibling is thinking. Nancy and I did not share these unique attributes.
Nancy & Charlie Taken During World War 2
My earliest memories as a child are of my twin sister, Nancy, with visions of her playing and caring for me whenever I was in need of comfort. I was very thin and, at times, painfully shy. Being a Gemini, I am never one person too long.
Having a weak, roving eye, I was obliged to wear glasses that blacked out the stronger eye in hopes of strengthening the weaker one. My feet were turned in drastically forcing me to wear corrective shoes that looked more like Frankenstein's boots. To add insult to injury, I had a blood condition that caused boils on my arms that were lanced and bandaged as seen in the picture below with my grandmother Flora Negron.
Woodycrest--The home for friendless children
Knowing that I was overwhelmed or frightened, Nancy would help me. Just knowing she was near was always comforting.
When we began elementary school, I immediately had difficulties keeping up with the basic curriculum. I couldn't concentrate or grasp basic information. Consequently, I couldn't read or write--I was illiterate. I was embarrassed and often felt deep shame in the classroom simply by not knowing how to read, write, or answer basic spelling questions.
I was laughed at and made to feel stupid. I quickly learned that bullies don't like to be challenged. At that point in my life, I decided I would rather take a beating then be disgraced further. Being so young, this humiliation was too much for me so I stopped attending school, even though I was only 6 or 7 years old.
When Nancy came home for lunch, she would make us something to eat and then try to encourage me to come back to school for the afternoon classes. She was always understanding and kind to me even when I wouldn't go back to school. On one occasion, she stayed home with me after learning I had been walking the streets of the Bronx alone during school hours. She expressed her concerns and asked me to come to school with her, so I did.
My sister, Nancy, appeared to be calm and happy most of the time. I cannot recall one instance in which she was harsh to me--ever! Of course, there were many times during our lives when I disappointed her and let her down, but she never openly judged me nor expressed anger towards me.
Our New "Home"
Nancy and I were just eight-years old when our mother, Elizabeth (Betty) Negron, decided she was unable to monitor and care for us properly. She had a full-time job in Manhattan that required her to leave before we woke in the morning and often arrived home after we had gone to bed.
The school we attended, PS 90 in The Bronx, and the Board of Education insisted that my mother make certain I was back in class. My mother could no longer take time off from work to attend meetings with the principal so she decided to put Nancy and I in a home--a politically correct word for an orphanage at that time.
Woodycrest, associated with many success stories, was a godsend for many of the abandoned, neglected, and forgotten children living there, but not for me.
When our mother brought us there, I had no idea where we were going nor why. I was given no comforting explanation as my mother took my hand from hers placing it in a pleasant, matronly woman's hand. Another woman proceeded to take my sister's hand, walking away with the only person whom I felt loved and took care of me.
My heart sunk and a piece of me left with my sister. Fear and emptiness would soon turn my emotions to stone! I lost a profound piece connected with being a child for I would no longer be the little boy who walked into Woodycrest that night.
Years later, when I was clean and sober, writing a fearless and moral inventory as part of my ongoing recovery, I asked my mother to clarify her intentions regarding placing my sister and I in Woodycrest.
"Why did she choose not to explain to us that it was not her intention to abandon Nancy and me, but to have us in a safe environment in lieu of being home alone?"
"Why didn't she tell us that we would return home in a few years?"
In her letter, she communicated that Nancy knew we were going to Woodycrest for two years and that I was the cause due to my unwillingness to attend school. My mother did not address a reason as to why I was not informed of her plan.
My sister never said an unkind word to me even though I was responsible for her being uprooted. My experience in Woodycrest was dramatically different than Nancy's because unbeknownst to my sister, I believed I would remain there forever, but she knew we would be going home some day.
The History of Woodycrest
Woodycrest--The home for friendless children
In 1901-02, Woodycrest, sometimes referred to as Woody Crest, was built by the American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless.
The mansion was in the shadow of the old Yankee Stadium in the Highbridge section of The Bronx. It was constructed by a prominent architect, William B. Tuthill, who also was the chief architect for Carnegie Hall--one of the most famous concert halls in the world.
How Woodycrest Affected Me
Nancy, Betty, & Charlie
In the early fifties, there were no computers or adequate systems to share information about people. Over the last few decades, it has come to light that known child predators were transferred from one orphanage, church, or school to another without regard for the children's safety.
For a short period of time, Woodycrest was home to one of these predators. He was hired as the head of our dorm. I cannot imagine what those 8, 9, and 10 year old boys have gone through as adults--not only reliving being seduced, but also being taken advantage of their innocence and desire to be loved.
I saw my sister, Nancy, at meals, but could not talk to her in the cafeteria. We were only permitted to talk on our way to school. While at PS 73 in Highbridge, as far as I knew, my teachers didn't even know I couldn't read. As time passed, I fell even further behind with my studies.
Charles & Betty Negron
I was broken. My parents' had been divorced so my father had already moved to California when Nancy and I went to Woodycrest. I was emotionally numb from trying to comprehend...
"Why does nobody want me?
Woodycrest closed the door to my heart, yet sadly opened another which defined my future interaction with the most important relationships in my life.
It was wonderful being home with Nancy and my mother. We only spent two years living at Woodycrest, but to me it was a lifetime.
Growing up with Nancy
Until Woodycrest, Nancy and I had slept in the same room as newborns in a dresser drawer. Later, we shared a bedroom in a small, Bronx apartment. Nancy and I lived in that room until we were 18.
I had terrifying nightmares as a child and I was often too scared to put my feet off the side of my bed believing there were monsters there. When I needed to go to the bathroom, I would quietly call my sister's name. Nancy would get up, turn the light on, look under my bed and assure me nothing was there. Then, she would walk me to the bathroom, wait for me, take my hand, and lead me back to my bed.
My battle with dyslexia and ADD
In the years after I arrived home, I learned I was dyslexic and had ADD--although those terms were not used in the 1950s to describe my challenges. My mother put me into a private school for students who couldn't function in a traditional learning environment.
Without my knowledge, my mother located The Yoder Reading School in Manhattan. In order for me to attend, she had to pay 1/3 of her income which she did as she wanted me to have this opportunity to receive the help I so desperately needed.
I would take the overcrowded rush hour subway from 167th Street in the Bronx to 125th Street in Harlem, change trains, and continue on to 42nd Street in Manhattan.
Once I arrived, I would walk from the subway into Grand Central Station. The architecture was powerful and exhilarating. I was fascinated by the hundreds of people from all over the world who gathered waiting for their trains to depart. I then continued on my way to school entering the Chrysler Building, which I feel is the most stunning building in New York, and exit the building. Just four more blocks and I arrived at The Yoder Reading School.
I was only 12-years old and had to learn how to read situations a child my age should not have even been around, but I so desperately wanted to learn to read and there was no one to take me.
Within three years, I was able to catch up academically and begin Junior High only one year behind my original class.
Off To College
I blossomed personally and academically in college and made friends I still have today. Leaving New York for California to attend Allan Hancock College and play basketball became an empowering, life-changing decision. It was the first experience in my life without the comfort of my sister being near, but I was ready to take that step.
When I returned to school for the second semester, my life in California became fuller giving me little time to return to New York.
Nancy was working, engaged to be married to James Patrick Dean, and was caught up in her own life. We were young adults, embracing our separate paths in life. It was inevitable and natural for even twins to find themselves on different journeys.
As the years passed, California became my home. Nancy moved to Wanaque, New Jersey, into her new home, her new life.
Too Numb To Care
I made a decision that went against everything I believed in. I didn't smoke, drink, and would have never thought of doing drugs. In 1967, the Summer of Love, all that changed when I made the choice to get high with a group of people I found fascinating, but barely knew.
My wonderful twin sister Nancy found it too painful to see me loaded. I was ashamed and didn't want her to see me that way causing us to grow apart. Years, in fact decades passed, before I was able to put down all that was killing me.
A Twin Reunion
On our 50th birthday, Nancy and I were reunited. Nancy supported my efforts to re-establish myself in the music business when I began touring again in 1993. I would hear her in the audience laughing and calling out requests. My sister was fun to be with and it meant so much to me when she attended my concerts and I truly miss that!
Twins At Concerts
Having Nancy in my life again was a gift from God. I am truly grateful for the time we shared and all her love, understanding, and kindness.
Nancy had been battling cancer for several years while simultaneously caring for our mother who could no longer live alone. In fact, our mother lived with Nancy through her chemotherapy treatments.
When Nancy's cancer returned, she was prepared to fight it again. Her strength and resolve was a comfort to me. I believe Nancy tried to spare us all emotionally by masking her discomfort and fears.
I will always cherish the week I spent with Nancy before she faded into unconsciousness. That week, we talked and laughed vigorously enjoying being together again.
At times, Nancy would talk in her sleep so I would encourage her to talk more. I would say "...and what happened next?" This would go on until I realized she had been awake and was messing with me. We laughed and laughed revisiting those moments.
Our last picture
It was time for me to return home to care for my 11-year old child as well as perform at several concerts. A few weeks later, I returned to say my goodbyes to Nancy.
The last days I spent with my sister, she was quietly falling away on her journey to be with God. When I had to leave for home, I knew I would never see my sister again.
"Nancy was not only a sister, but also a friend and a mother to me when we were children."
Losing her was more distressful than I was equipped to handle. Upon arriving at the Newark airport, I walked down the escalator. I collapsed a few steps from the bottom causing the people behind me to go tumbling over me. Some fell on top of me or other travelers. I was helped to my feet, but my legs could barely hold me.
Having my sister taken away was beyond my understanding. It ushered back the hollowness I felt back at Woodycrest. It evoked emotions in me similar to an 8-year old child trying to comprehend being given away--akin to a child saying his first prayer in hopes of mending a broken heart, but not knowing how to begin.
Living with the Loss
You learn to live with the horrific emptiness and sorrow by unknowingly repressing it because there is no one to console, nurture, nor help you navigate through these undeniable, yet overpowering feelings.
When the feelings become too much to endure, an appalling anger might rise up to push the pain and crippling fear away. This buffer could be the only way a child knows how to get some relief. A sorrowful yet disconcerting truth might be a grown man depending on the information of an 8-year old to lessen his anguish, confusion, and disappointments with anger, for he knows no other way.
Let's hope we can shield our children from events beyond their comprehension. Nurture and guide them through the mine fields in life with patience and love!
I was graced with a twin who treasured me, who endeavored to provide me with care and kindness.
When I lost Nancy I began feeling I hadn't been there for her the way she would have for me under similar circumstances. Nancy was a kinder, more thoughtful, loving caregiver then I ever was to her! When Nancy lost her battle with cancer, I knew the best part of me went with her.
The loss of my twin sister, Nancy, was crushing; yet my emotional despair is, at times, veiled by a lifetime of loving memories--monumental moments when Nancy was everything to me and I was everything to her!
Exceptional people give more than they take. My sister was one of those people.