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Some twins are hardly the same

A friend of mine who is an identical twin did a favor for his mirror image some years ago that skirted the law a tad bit.

This congenial fellow whose name could be Jeff — I'm being vague here because the statute of limitations may not have expired — represented his monozygotic brother in traffic court for a speeding ticket.

It seems the twin from Southern California received a traffic ticket while visiting the man who may be Jeff in Southern Oregon. He returned to the San Diego area — if that's where he lives — where a ton of work awaited him back at the office.

Unfortunately, when his court date came up, he still hadn't worked himself out from beneath the work pile. So he simply sent his California driver's license to his Oregon identical twin, who quietly stood in for his double trouble.

Incidentally, if the local Circuit Court judge I periodically have lunch with is reading this, kindly bear in mind the anecdote was told to me years ago after the law was allegedly slightly scoffed, technically speaking. Hey, the intent was honorable. Honest. So, can we just disregard it, what with hearsay evidence and all?

Twinship has been on my mind recently since I received an invitation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in its Vietnam Era Twin Registry. The project is intended to help the smart folks in the white coats better understand mental and physical health of twins as they age.

What's more, the twin study, one of the largest veteran registries in the world, is intended to help the agency develop programs to improve health care for all vets, according to the introductory letter. It's being led by Drs. Jack Goldberg of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle and Kathryn Magruder of the VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C.

If you are the one who has been reading this column, you may recall a few articles over the years have dragged my twin, George, kicking and screaming into print.

Unlike the alleged Jeff and twin who may have bent the law, albeit just a teeny, weeny bit, we are dizygotic. That is, fraternal twins.

In fact, we are one of two sets of twins — 14 months and two days apart — in our family. Both sets are fraternal, as unmatched as humanoids can be and still walk upright. We're talking red hair versus black, freckles versus dark complexions. From politics to religion, we are all over the map.

Over the years, the more gregarious George always made a point of noting he got the intelligence and the looks. My feeble retort invariably was that at least he inherited the humor. Admittedly, he does have the edge when it comes to good traits.

Sadly, we haven't seen much of each other in recent years. Suffice it to say our paths have diverged. A good fellow with a giving heart, George is in poor health. He has high blood pressure and has suffered several strokes. He is now retired. I continue to work and am in relatively good health. Go figure.

While filling out the lengthy form, I obviously have been pondering our twinage. One portion of the survey asks about our childhood and how we were alike, from a scale of very similar to not similar. The dozen issues include eye color, hair color, hair type, height, weight, teeth, voices, muscular strength, temperaments, musical abilities, language abilities and manual skills.

The answer was the same for every one item: not similar at all. I had black hair with a dark complexion; George was reddish blond with freckles. I wrestled and played football; he was a good basketball player who elected not to compete. He could carry a tune; people have offered to pay me not to sing. He never got into trouble; I seldom got out of it.

Easygoing and affable, my twin has never met a stranger. His colorful stories are verbal with plenty of gestures and guffaws. Me, I've always been more reticent around folks I did not know. And God knows that when it comes to sheer stubbornness, I could give lessons to mules.

George joined the Army; I opted for the Marine Corps. He never married: I'm married with children, now fully fledged.

Come to think of it, he has never even had a pet that I can remember. I can't walk around our house without stepping on the tail of a cat or dog, most of whom are attached to a furry creature living there. Dinner guests will tell you that pet hair is a condiment in our house.

Yet we twins do have some similarities in areas that were not included in the VA questionnaire. For instance, George and I both love to read and travel. One of the best trips I've ever taken was one to Ireland with my twin.

And I recall that in our childhood talks we sometimes wished we had been born identical so we could pull a few practical jokes on family and friends. Perhaps he could have even stood in for me when I went through Marine Corps basic. I wonder how that would have squared with the uniform code of military justice.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.