Twins were close physically, emotionally
CNN Los Angeles Bureau
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- When Yvonne and Yvette McCarther were born in 1949, the doctors said they would probably never walk, they would probably be mentally retarded, and they probably ought to be institutionalized.
In the parlance of the times, the McCarthers were Siamese twins, conjoined at the tops of their heads, sharing a circulatory system. Physicians held out little hope for the infants whom nature had joined.
The doctors, it turned out, were overly pessimistic: The girls weren't slow, mentally or physically. They did learn to walk, side by side, their bowed heads forming an ungainly arch, but that did not stop them from keeping up a fast pace, until their deaths at age 43 in 1993.
Theirs was a necessarily close relationship, and not just in a physical sense.
In a CNN interview 13 years ago, Yvonne and Yvette said doctors had told their mother that they could be separated, but one of the them would die. Their mother said she could not take that chance -- a decision the sisters supported. Each frequently said she could not imagine life without her sister at her side.
Their mother was protective, keeping the girls home most of the time, so their education was spotty. Yet even a conscientious mother could not spare her daughters some notoriety.
There was a two-year stint when the sisters went on the road -- a sideshow attraction, supposedly undertaken to raise money to pay bills. The twins never talked about it.
Despite all the stares they got, the twins said they never considered themselves freaks. They just wanted to live lives as normally as possible.
"Bills," one of the sisters said in that 1989 interview. "I've always wanted to pay my own bills."
"And groceries," said the other, chiming in and finishing her sister's thought. "Shopping for groceries."
When they were in their 30s, Yvonne and Yvette finally got to fulfill some of those simple desires. They got their own apartment, and got on with the everyday business of life.
They furnished it with an oversize bed and a large couch, so they would be comfortable, and there were always a lot of ashtrays around. The sisters smoked the same brand of cigarettes and dressed alike every day of their lives.
Those who knew them remembered their smiles -- they were always cheerful, greeting strangers with hearty "hellos" and firm handshakes, oblivious to the stir they caused.
People did stare at them, but the only thing that seemed to offend the twins were people who failed to notice that they were two separate individuals.
In their final years, Yvonne and Yvette fulfilled one last dream, enrolling in the nursing program at Compton Community College in California. They had some academic catching up to do, but they stuck with it for several years and were scheduled to graduate in the spring of 1993.
They never got their diplomas. The sisters were found dead in their home in January that year, apparently victims of heart failure.
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