I have been practicing this "family apartheid" for so long, it doesn't seem so bizarre anymore. Everyone who knows us has seen me with Hart OR Jeff, but rarely both together. I forget that many people know one boy or the other, but have never laid eyes on the second one. Yes, it's weird, but I am used to it.
The boys have not been in the same classroom, same building or even same zip code since preschool. "Why?" strangers want to know, "Don't they get along?" Hart and Jeff DO get along. In fact, that's the problem. At best, it's a closed universe consisting of just the two of them, oblivious to all else. At worst, it's complete anarchy.
We took our last family vacation, all four of us, in 1999. A complete nightmare from start to finish. It became unarguably apparent that both boys could never be on the same flight, in the same hotel, or same rental car. Ever.
Since then, there has been the constant logistical challenge of keeping them apart, while still living together. Ever the optimist, over the years I have occasionally tried an outing with the duo. Nothing has been particularly successful. After two weeks of intensive therapy at a program in Minnesota, I felt empowered enough to take them out to a restaurant. Hours later, the police finally found them. For plays and concerts, I've bought an additional ticket, brought a second adult and sat in two pairs on opposite sides of the auditorium and that's worked satisfactorily.
The inequality haunts me. Any treat or experience can be for one or the other, but not both. It's been easier, of course, since Hart isn't living here. When he visits, I want the boys to have time together, but not enough time to go completely berserk. I want Hart's visits to be special occasions, but not special enough to get the police involved.
I had to make an orthodontist appointment for Hart during his next home visit. "Just bring both kids for their appointments on Monday," the receptionist replied helpfully. She must have wondered why I was so abrupt. "No thanks. I'll schedule two trips."