Marc and David Caporal had a normal childhood. On some days, when their mom and dad worked during the daytime, their grandmother would watch them. When dad worked the night shift, mom took over parenting duties, which included shuttling Marc and David to sports practices and cooking meals. All was normal.
When Marc and David, who are twins, turned five, normalcy began to dissolve as the grandmother who had spent countless days with them developed Alzheimer’s.
When they turned eight, normalcy vanished.
“We were at a birthday party,” Marc said. “We were celebrating a birthday party and our dad, he came and picked us up early. He said ‘Marc, David, we have to go to the hospital. Your mom, she’s there.’ We were questioning about it. What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”
When they reached the hospital, the pair learned that their mom, Zaida, suffered a stroke. A perfectly healthy woman until that day, it was unclear what Zaida’s future held.
As Marc and David got older and Zaida’s condition worsened, household roles shifted. Instead of Zaida caring for her kids, her kids cared for her.
“She had trouble with speech and muscle movements,” David said, “and she kind of like, slowly kind of…”
“…degraded,” said Marc, finishing his brother’s thought.
Zaida was eventually confined to a wheelchair and as their lives at Hart High School got busier, they still managed to care for their mother – and grandmother, when needed, although Marc and David agreed that she was fairly “low-maintenance.”
“I think we adapted real easily,” Marc said. “She wasn’t fully confined to a wheelchair right after her stroke, just kind of like, levels to it. But obviously we had to grow up from an early age. Eight years old. It’s kind of tough, you know? And we adapted. A lot of weight up on our shoulders.”
In the fall, Marc was an offensive lineman on the football team and in the winter, David was a middle hitter on the boys volleyball team. The difference in sports seasons worked well with their responsibilities at home.
For example, during football season of the twins’ senior years, David’s class schedule ended at noon. After school, he’d come home and be with Zaida while Marc went to football practice. When it was volleyball season, the routine essentially flipped. There were part-time jobs mixed in, too.
The brothers leaned on each other for support and used their respective sports as an escape.
“We had to take care of it on the court or the field I guess,” David said. “It helped to forget our situation at home.”
It was good to get away from everything, but they never completely forgot about life at home. Rather, they used it as inspiration.
“I think we just had the idea in our mind to make it for our family,” Marc said. “I guess you could say we’d been struggling and we just like, want to provide a better life and we had a dream of making it big.”
In the fall, Marc and David will begin school at Cal State Northridge with the former pursuing a nursing degree and the latter a computer science degree.
They’ll be commuting to classes in order to continue taking care of their mother and grandmother, a lifestyle they’re more than willing to devote themselves to.
“I think I would say be strong,” Marc said of what he would tell his eight-year-old self. “You’re going to have a long road ahead of you, but just keep your head up, rely on your brother. It gets better. It’s okay. Even in times of toughness, it’ll be alright.”