November 30th, 1952, these babies were born. They are Leslie and Gilbert -- the twins, as they came to be known in our family. I think Leslie is the one on the right. Have you heard those stories about twins, how they have some sort of creepy connection, always know where the other one is? Yeah, they had that.
They were wonderful, scrappy kids, loved to be outside, played hard, and were pretty much inseparable. See how Les looks tan and Gil looks kind of pasty? He had red hair and very fair skin. She was brunette and olive-skinned.
Ah, adolescence. She was smart and really good in school; he was rebellious and dropped out. He joined the Navy; she went to college. He smoked and drank; she abstained from alcohol and cigarettes.
None of those differences mattered. They were always close. No matter where in the world they were, they were together in that way twins are. Gil grew up still rebellious; Les was one of the first women graduated from the Border Patrol Academy. It's odd how they seemed to be two sides of one coin.
After our mother died, I lost touch with both of them. We were just too separate by that time. Our family had never fostered closeness and what little there was came from my mom insisting we get together at her house for the holidays.
The years flew by, Les and Gil remained close, helping each other with whatever came along. This is Gil's wedding day. Les and her son traveled from South Carolina to Arizona to be with him on his special day.
Gil was an accomplished explorer, hunter, and all around frontiersman. He knew about the animals, the plants, the soil, the wind and the water. He lived in Arizona his whole life (except for his brief stint in the Navy -- I don't know where he was besides San Diego). His marriage didn't last a very long time and he didn't re-marry.
Les worked for the government her whole working life -- Border Patrol, Bureau of Land Management, US Attorney's office in the District of South Carolina and other such outfits. A few years ago, she volunteered to go to Baghdad to help with accounting. She was there about nine months. While she was there, she got to go "out" several times (she was civilian, not part of the military presence). Here she is with her husband Tim in Germany.
Her stories of her time in Iraq are hair-raising to say the least. We worried. She was good about sending emails regularly. Imagine, 110 degrees and wearing body armor. Like I said, her stories are incredible -- that's for a different blog.
Les and Tim recently went to Africa. They went on safari (the photography kind, no guns) and visited some Masai villages as part of their work for their church. The Masai children were fascinated with her white hair and couldn't resist touching it.
A year ago Gil called Les for help one last time. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and would be undergoing chemotherapy. Leslie went to Phoenix so she could care for him through the ordeal. On November 20 he died in her arms. Gil lived in Phoenix, but he had this house in Crown King for getting away from the city. Les and Tim will finish the work that needs to be done on it.
I've been thinking about what she lost when Gil died.
I can't imagine my sister's pain.