Grisamore: Graduating twins had unique start in life

egrisamore@macon.comMay 20, 2014 

EAST DUBLIN -- The forecast calls for clear skies for the rest of the week, but Joye Simmons knows better.

She is predicting a 100 percent chance of precipitation Friday night at the East Laurens High football stadium on U.S. 80.

There may be so many tears falling at her feet they won’t have to irrigate the field for a while.

“I’m going to cry,” she said. “But they are going to be happy tears.”

Her twin brother, Temperance, has a head start on the teardrops gauge. He couldn’t even make it through Sunday’s baccalaureate service. Joye looked over at him at one point during the prayer, and a tear was rolling down his cheek.

Larry and Dorothy “Dot” Simmons are going to be among the proud parents stuffing their pockets with extra Kleenex for Friday’s commencement exercises. Their children will graduate with honors and speak at the ceremony.

Joye will be the first to receive her diploma, by virtue of the alphabet. But Temperance is quick to tell you he is the oldest and, finally, the tallest. Last year, he finally caught up with his sister, who is a towering 6-foot-1. He now has her beat by an inch.

Of course, he had a long way to go. When he was born three and a half months premature in the fall of 1995, he wasn’t much larger than a ragged, old baseball glove. He weighed 1 pound, 12.5 ounces at birth.

Their arrivals were somewhat unique because they were born 16 days apart. That’s 16 days, not 16 minutes.

Temperance came unexpectedly on Oct. 27. Joye waited until Nov. 12 and was 11 ounces heavier than her “little” big brother.

The two-week gap on their birth certificates has meant they have never had to share birthday parties.

It has raised some questions, though, and even a few red flags.

Dot has lost count of the number of times she has filled out paperwork and applications and had them returned because someone thought she had made a clerical error. How could the stork possibly have visited twice in less than a month?

Larry and Dot will celebrate their 20th anniversary in December. She grew up in Dudley. He is from Danville. They settled in Dublin, where he was a carpenter and she was a supervisor for the Laurens County 911.

Her first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. In the summer of 1995, when she was expecting again, she went to the doctor for an ultrasound.

“She came home and held up two fingers,” Larry said.

Yep. The size of their household would soon be doublin’ in Dublin.

Dot’s due date was Feb. 5, 1996. She never made it halfway before doctors in Macon put her on bed rest and began monitoring her closely.

Temperance was born at 26 weeks. (A full-term pregnancy is considered 40 weeks.) “He was breach, and the cord was around his neck,” said Dot. “I was concerned when I didn’t hear him cry. I kept asking them about my baby, and they tried to divert my attention. They told me to concentrate on having the other twin.”

She later learned her baby’s Apgar score, the initial test used to evaluate a newborn’s physical condition, had shown “no signs of life.”

Her boy was a fighter, though. He spent three months in the pediatric ICU, where the rhythm of life is measured by tiny tubes and machines that beep at all hours of the day and night.

His mother begged to see him every day for the first 19 days of his life. But the closest she got to him was when a nurse took a photograph of him and wrote the words: “Hi Mom! Love You, Temperance.”

His full name is Temperance Le’Troy Simmons. Joye’s is DeAngeliss La’Joye Simmons, which means “Angel of Joy.” Their middle names rhyme, and their parents took their first names from scripture verses from the King James version of Galatians 5: 22-23.

Joye came home at Christmas. Temperance was not released from the hospital until Feb. 5, which was his mother’s original due date. It snowed that day. During the first year of his life, Temperance wore a monitor to check his breathing and heart rate.

When they were 3, the twins’ story reached a global audience. They were featured in a segment on the “700 Club,” a syndicated Christian television program hosted by well-known evangelist Pat Robertson.

For most of his life, Temperance was a head shorter than his sister. Whenever she teased him about it, he would stick out his chest and remind her that he was older. They often stood back-to-back, to compare heights until he pulled even and kept going.

“He was so small, it took him longer,” said Dot. “He didn’t like being little, so he worked harder.”

He ran track and was determined to “get his name on the wall” of the school’s athletic department. So he went out and set a school record in the 400 meters, and finished second in Class AA at the state track meet in Jefferson.

Joye and Temperance are active at their church, The House of Refuge International Ministries, where their parents serve as pastors.

They have played in the band and been involved in many other school activities.

Joye is narrowing her choices of in-state colleges. She hopes to major in psychology and “aspires to be known as Dr. Joye.”

Temperance will report for the basic training with the Army National Guard at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in June. He then plans to attend Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.

“Everybody is always asking me how it’s going to be when we are apart,” said Joye. “It might be difficult at first, but I think we will be fine.”

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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