My sons were born three months premature. Each of them came in just a hair over two pounds each and by the time they came home, each of them already had more extensive surgery than I had. I suppose it was the monumental stress caused by needed procedures and the closeness each of them came to leaving this world that kicked my protective dad brain into overdrive. I was simply amazed that such fragile little beings could be so resilient. In short, they had my immediate respect and awe.
One of the most continually frustrating things about having twins is how inexorable they were from one another. On principle, it’s very easy to consider them one great being instead of two. I fought the idea of dressing them alike because I wanted them to be their own persons. But it became increasingly difficult because all life events were celebrated in tandem with one another. Birthdays, holidays, rites of passage; everything was done together. Despite all of this, they both managed to establish their own identity which simultaneously contrasted and complimented who they were as individuals. But as they clearly are their own persons, they are still the nigh inseparable daring duo who instinctively know that they have one another’s back. In the spirit of always wanting to express them as individuals, I wanted to take a few minutes to demonstrate how unique and wonderful they truly are.
Noah is technically the “older brother”. By two minutes. Due to complications that arose from his birth, the left side of his diaphragm was paralyzed, requiring surgery — twice because the first surgery “didn’t take”. The valve at the top of his stomach was also not functioning correctly, which was also surgically repaired, the side effect of which meant that he was unable to vomit or even burp. After spending four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, he came home with a feeding tube that connected to his belly and required an oxygen tank.
Despite these challenges, Noah proved to be an unstoppable force for life and laughter. When he began to go to school, Noah was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which brought on an entirely different set of challenges. Unlike most kids, who could simply take medication, the prevailing medical wisdom at the time was that these medications could create heart problems. When Noah was in utero, his doctors diagnosed him with a hole in between the chambers of his heart, which required an extra team of doctors to be present specifically for him at birth. This hole disappeared, for lack of any medical explanation, but the concern was still there. So as his parents, we continually fought with school administrators, counselors, and even our own reservations, choosing to attempt to address his ADHD through dietary and lifestyle means. Ultimately, around the time he was in middle school, it was determined that the studies suggesting that ADHD medications created heart issues was false, so he was put on medications. Due to his many diagnoses, Noah was put on and Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, since day one of school.
When Noah entered his junior year of high school, a time period in which he was also changing schools, he made the choice of taking himself off of his IEP. I was concerned, but I was willing to allow him to make the choice that he felt was in his best interest. To my utter amazement, Noah flourished. His grades improved considerably, even when taking some college level courses. All during this time, Noah expressed a profound fascination with music, especially the guitar, but also having years of piano lessons. He “plays by ear” many of the songs that he loves, and practices regularly to improve on his craft. As time went on, Noah began composing his own music, in which he spends hours and even days at a time.
Victor was born two minutes after his brother. His birth was less of a concern than his brother’s, but initially it seemed that Victor was the one who was in trouble. His health decreased rapidly after birth and was diagnosed with Patent Ductus Arteriosus, known colloquially as PDA. Within days of being born, he was pulled into surgery to repair this problem. The one major side effect was that the site of the surgery also coincided with nerve endings that serve the vocal chords, which can effectively paralyze them. This side effect is with him to this day — he speaks in a whispered tone, which requires explanation for anyone who believes he’s fighting a cold.
Victor came home after two months in the NICU, and apart from many restless nights listening for muted cries, he was healthy. His stature of a premature infant required that he have many, many months of physical therapy and eventually speech therapy, but unlike his brother he was able to rise above these challenges fairly quickly. Perhaps because he was literally so soft-spoken, Victor has remained a mostly reserved temperament, but always had a passionate love of life that burned in his chest, and an empathy towards others that is almost incomparable.
He has always stood up for those who had trouble standing up for themselves. Ever since he was little, he befriended other “special needs” children because he was able to see them for who they really were and not because of any physical detriments they may have possessed. He wasn’t taking pity — he was fully accepting of who they were, and the bonds he has formed with some of them were nearly unbreakable, displaying a loyalty beyond any living soul I have ever met.
Upon entering middle school, Victor took up the violin. He struggled with it at first, as most kids do. But though his determination, along with the guidance of a truly special orchestra teacher, Victor became an impressive young musician. His piano lessons and his dedication to violin eventually resulted in a young man who found a passion in composition. He has a thorough understanding of written music and dedicates a considerable portion of his time perfecting his art. He also excelled in academics, managing scores his father could have only dreamed of.
There is so much more that a proud father could say about these two astonishing young men. As I write this, I find myself trying to find ways of somehow inserting other notes of pride in the paragraphs above. But perhaps I’ll allow that story to be told by their future biographers who have a much better command of the written word. I just know that I’m immensely proud of these two young gentlemen as they grace the stage this even to receive their high school diplomas. They are both so much better people than I could ever dream of being. They possess a depth of character and integrity that is a shining example to all who know them.
Congratulations on this important milestone to my beloved sons. Know that your friends and family are so proud of you and so lucky to have you in our lives. This is, indeed, a launching point for a grander journey into the next stage of your lives, and there is no doubt in my mind that you are going to astound us all.