State Champion Cross Country, Sophomores, 1987, Jenny and Tammy Bolt
I loved high school and high school even loved me.
But I despised my 10 year high school reunion.
Most of my time at the “celebration” was spent in tears, hiding in the bathroom stall, leaving my husband to fend for himself.
My classmates kept asking, “How is your sister?”
“Where is your sister?”
“Oh, how fun to see you, Jenny! Where is Tammy?”
Hugs. Smiles. “Which one are you – Jenny or Tammy?”
We were twins. We were known as “The Bolt Girls” and “The Twins”. People knew me because they knew us. We were popular because there were two of us. We were not one sister, or one child – we were TWO packed into one solid unit.
I guess for anyone at a reunion like this, there are hard questions, and things we really don’t want to be asked.
“Are you married?”
“Do you have kids?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“How have you changed the world in ten years?”
These questions are hard for some because they feel awkward, or they feel like they need to make up something really big that they are doing.
These were all the easy questions for me.
I’d been married over 8 years. I had 2.5 kids. I was married to a pastor. I was a world changer, raising my kids, and having a ball doing it. Life was so good!
But I was carrying a secret – it was my secret and hers.
The question I knew would break me to pieces, the one that crushed my spirit – this is the one they kept asking.
“How’s your sister? I haven’t seen her yet. Is she here?”
She wasn’t here. She was somewhere else, really far away.
And all of this hurt and pain made me wish I wasn’t there either. But there I was, falling apart, unraveling, crying me eyes out, because my twin wasn’t there with me.
She was in a mental ward. And I had visited her just hours before I went to the reunion, the reunion that I would somehow “fake” my way through. That wasn’t working out as well as I had planned.
Matt and I drove to Orlando, from Stuart, with our two babies. Wil was 2 and Kylie was 1 and Davis was in the womb. We would be staying with my parents, and they would watch the kids while we had a night out. But there was something we needed to do before the reunion started. Matt would watch the kids so I could go with my Mom and Dad to see my other half.
My sister had not been well – for months now. And it all finally came to a head. She had been “placed” – they say “placed” as if it’s some gentle word – We “placed” her in the mental ward.
There was no gentle in this for me. It didn’t feel like a place in any way. It felt like Hell. I not only carried my pain into those four walls, but I walked in there with my parents – two broken-hearted, defeated, tired parents. Parents who loved their kids, and never signed up for this. Parents who had no idea what else to do.
I carried so much pain. And when I saw her – my twin – My Tammy – I carried her pain too. It was more than I could bear, and much more than she could carry.
I wish I could use words to accurately describe who I saw, what I saw, what I felt, what I imagined my parents to be feeling, and what She, the patient that had been “placed” in this desperately awful place – what was she feeling? And what was she seeing? Did she even know we were there for her?
We all pretended that this was okay. And it was nothing close to okay. We told ourselves that she would be fine. Trying to make it better, and convince ourselves that this is what she needed. And who knows – maybe it was. But, it was horrible. Heart-wrenching. Unable-to-process kind of pain.
We “visited” (pretended) for as long as the “visiting” hours allowed. It was long enough and not long enough, all at the same time. We had to leave. We had to turn our backs on her. We walked back out into our lives, while she sat there – broken, confused, a shell of her old life.
We rode in silence. I felt the weight of my Dad’s heart. It almost buried us. This was “all his fault”. He was bi-polar too. He passed this onto her.
No one spoke. The silence pierced my ears. It stifled my heart’s cry
Somehow, I placed one foot in front of the other, and put on my game face, hoping to ease some of the pain in my Mom’s eyes.
And I played my game enough for me to be Supermom, amazing and beautiful wife, and knockout woman for my reunion in an hour. I went to my mom’s bathroom to put on make up.
I never wear make up. But I desperately needed a cover. Something to shield my pain, and cover up her pain too.
I wanted to hide. They would all know. They would all ask.
I could not answer for her. I didn’t want to say any of this truth out loud – to any one.
Since I don’t ever wear make up, my attempts at “covering” were pretty futile. With far too thick foundation caked on my face, I walked out of my mom’s room, to my husband, ready to leave – ready to and get the evening over with.
Matt says, “Jenny, what did you do to your face?”
My husband was a bit shocked by my thicker and browner face. He didn’t mean harm. I know this. I can’t imagine what it was he actually saw on my face. How helpless he felt, not knowing what to say, and yet, knowing, he could not make it better.
I went back in the bathroom and washed my face. That didn’t help a whole lot. Nothing really could have helped me at this point.
Matt and I did the best we could with my high school reunion. I hid a lot. He smiled at strangers a lot, and visited as best he could with my friends he did know, and with me hiding and crying my pain away in the bathroom stalls.
“Where’s your sister? Is she here too?”
I respond, “No, she’s not in a great place right now.”
I respond, “No, Tammy couldn’t make it tonight.”
I respond, “No, she was busy with something else.”
How could they possibly know the truth? How could I share her pain, and my pain, with all of them?
The next reunion, ten years later – this was a lot better. I got to attend my 20th with my sister. But that’s another story. A story full of daily and beautiful miracles. Keep reading my posts for “Inseparable”.
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“Inseparable” is the book I am writing about my and my twin sister’s journey – our shared, broken, redeemed stories. I am honored that Tammy has allowed me to write this, and to walk this road ahead together. She will be joining me in the writing as well, once we move towards publication.
we woke up yesterday. we celebrate what God has done. Jenny (and Tammy)