Last week I promised to share with you the story of my birth.
My mother and father married on March 20th, 1976. On the second anniversary of their marriage, mom was in St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy, Illinois “awaiting the birth of our twins.” We were born on March 26th, Easter Sunday, though we were expected to be born on or around May 17th.
Easter that year fell in the midst of a terrible ice storm that shut down much of central Illinois. I like to say, with tongue in cheek, that creation heralded my arrival.
Matthew William was born at 10:04 a.m., weighing five pounds and two ounces and measuring seventeen inches in length. He died the next day at 10:38 p.m.
I was born at 10:12 a.m., weighing four pounds and nines ounces and measuring seventeen inches in length.
Both Matthew and I were born with a blockage of some kind in our throats which made breathing very difficult. Matthew was viewed by the medical team as the stronger of us, while I was seen as the weaker and not expected to live long.
Since we were both very much in danger of death a priest was called to baptize us. Father Landry Genosky, O.F.M. came and not only baptized us, but confirmed us as well, a privilege granted to priests for those in danger of death (I’ll post about this later this week; Bishop Lucas comes on Thursday for Confirmation). We had neither Godparents nor sponsors and, to my knowledge, no Confirmation names. I am simply Daren Joseph.
I’ve also been struck by the fact that Fr. Landry was a Franciscan priest and a history professor at then Quincy College, my future alma mater. My love of Saint Francis of Assisi and of history are not hidden.
At any rate, at some point a tracheotomy was performed on me and a tube inserted into my throat to assist my breathing; I’m not sure if this was done before or after Matthew died. The tube remained for the first two or three years of my life, and I still bear the scar to this day.
Mom wrote that “the first three months have been bad. I spent two days in the hospital for dehydration.” I’ve no idea how my parents coped with the death of their firstborn child together with my difficult first few years. If they had a baby book for me I do not know where it is, but I do have Matthew’s baby book. It is an odd feeling to flip through a baby book with only a couple of pages filled in and I can well imagine why they may not have kept one for me.
I’ve often wondered why I, the weaker one, survived. My arthritis, too, before it was finally diagnosed, brought me near the point of death, and yet I survived. I see in these pivotal moments of my life the protective hand of God.
And though he lived only slightly more than a day, there is part of me that longs for the companionship of a brother and confidant, even a partner in mischief, which I know is the bond shared by twins.
And now you know, in brief, the story of my birth.