Monthly Archives: June 2011

My little brother Danny helps me to remember many repressed events.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconcilation, A Son’s Story.  Without my brother Dan helping me to remember,  writing this story would not be possible.
“Speaking of Danny, I must describe this character, who is my loving brother and best friend in the whole world besides my wife Judy.  As much as I love my brother, he pisses me off most of the time.  He believes he is the smartest guy in the room most of the time if not all of the time.  Danny is an instructional sort of guy.  You name the topic and he knows more about it than anyone else in the world.  There is no one person, absolutely no one who can compete with his knowledge about all things and everything.  Danny is about 6 ft tall, and a skinny dude.  Looks pretty healthy and has the same weight now that he had when he was 18 or so, 165 lbs.  I used to weigh 165-170 lbs during my teens and life in the Navy, but it didn’t take long before weight started to become a challenge.  Danny on the other hand does everything he possibly can to gain weight to no avail.  This alone is enough to piss me off and most other people as well.   Bro Danny looks like Ted Turner, CNN founder, with his stash, but with more hair.  Having more hair is another reason to be pissed off at Danny.  Everyone else in their 60’s is getting fat, ugly, and losing their hair, but Danny has somehow been passed up.  Guess it is the Lakato Indian blood lines that help him more than the rest of us.  Our great grandmother Sparks from North Dakota was half Lakato, making us 1/16 following the ancestry tree.
Danny is a highly successful business man from Reno, Nv.  He has owned a very popular Chevron full service operation for 25 years, and has done really well with the business.  Of course, at times it has been a challenge, but for the most part Danny has made it big with hard work, smarts and passion.  Danny and I are the only two siblings who completed college as well.  He’s a tough guy too.  Even now at age 64 he thinks he can kick everybody’s ass easily with his “Chuck Norris” training of long ago.  Even when we were kids he could kick everybody’s ass except me.  I think he just scared the shit out of his peers on the street and at the beach.  I know he protected me all the time, and I owe my life to him.  Fortunately, Danny can’t kick anybody’s ass anymore these days, and I have to remind him of it all the time.
Danny has been married to Marcia for 43 years this month.  They have three children, Jeremy, Branden, and Adria.  I love his kids and remain close to them after all these years.  Our summer 2011 road trip included visiting with all of them at different times.  Adria just became engaged to a wonderful French guy named Jonathan, who really has the smarts, good looks and passion to do well in life, including being a good romantic as in French.  I am very close to my brother’s family.  Although I love his wife Marcia, and have known her since she was 15, I don’t think she has ever liked me all that much, but I know she loves me.  The kids call me “Uncle Stevie.”  This is my brand, the one and the only Uncle Stevie, their favorite uncle to be sure.
Danny is still in some denial about PTSD.  He clearly demonstrates certain symptoms, but not nearly all nor the same as me.  My research so far has been helpful to him and he supports my work 100%.  Danny is a huge contributor to this story since his memory serves him well and provides me with the editing and accuracy so critical to writing a successful non-fiction story.  Danny hugged me for at least 2 minutes when we left Reno this time and it made me feel emotional.  The closeness we feel toward each other as brothers is treasured.

My recent excerpt helped sister Laura remember and heal from her own experience.

The following was sent to me in response to my recent posting, “It’s a sad day when a kid feels like home is a prison and unsafe place to be.”

Stephen,
I am so very sad on reading this. I felt this way about our so called
parents most of my life, especially Mother didnt care for me, and how
relieved she seemed to be when I left at 17 years old. I was so very
lonely  and scared always as a teen especially when we moved from
so.cal to of all the miserable places, Tacoma Washington!! What a
terrible place  it was for this southern Cal. beach kid!! I hated that
7 years of my life so much, as I became the victim of our parents
misery!!! My Big brothers were so far away; they were not there to protect
me. Children should never have to live in such a toxic enviorment as
we had to. We didnt deserve this.
I remember how it seemed to me that Dad was much more abusive of you
then Dan. Mother would step in and protect Dan. She didnt seem to care
about me as much either. Mother blamed me for Dads abuse of me.
I don’t call Mother while she has been in Hospice. I like just showing
up in person to surprise her, This is the only time in my whole life
that she has shown real love and appreciation towards me.
I was amazed and grateful when Mother asked for me on her “death bed”.
I wish the rest of our siblings would become involved in a positive
matter with this healing journey into the history of our family.
Because of Mother and Dad, I am who I am today.
Denial and resentments are dangerous for me. Denial and resentments
threaten my “emotional sobriety”, and are toxic to my recovery.
I have been so emotionally caught up in protecting my grandson from a
toxic, dangerous childhood. This disease must not continue into
another generation. I believe I am responsible to change so it will
not continue. Besides, I promised my grandson Dakotah a healthy, safe
and happy childhood as long as I live.

Love,
Your sister Laura

It’s a sad day when a kid feels like home is a prison and not a secure place to be.

The following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.   I was in my teens when PTSD symptoms started to kick-in and become worrisome.
“I believe all of the mental and physical abuse discussed in this story begs the question of how it affected my own disposition as my teen years advanced.  I was feeling more and more in-secure as time went by, wondering about what was next, and who our new friends would be, and how we would fit in, and what my parents would end up doing, and where we would live.  There was some excitement about returning to Southern California at that time, getting back to school, and meeting new girls especially.  I had lots of goals and my thoughts were often of the future, leaving home and being on my own.  I wanted out of this chaotic and unstable toxic home life.   I was nervous very nervous most of the time.  I believe the early stages of PTSD and unstable behavior started to kick in at that time.  At age 14 or so, I felt exhausted and confused, without direction, and not knowing whether my parents really cared about us at all.” 

Romance in Hawaii as a young sailor and surf dude was the best treatment for PTSD symptoms.

The following excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story, reminds me of the wonders and excitement of romance in Hawaii.

“I was having fun, too much fun and working 12 on 12 off, 24 off, 12 on 12 off with a 72 hour break.  Living in Waikiki with 5 other sailors was great too.  I would stay on the base during my 12 hour shifts; take off to the beach for romance and surfing during the long weekends.  I loved the girls who came over for spring break or after graduating from high school.  It was love at first sight just about every other two weeks or so.
My big emotional challenge during that memorable experience back in the summer of 1964 in Hawaii was falling in love with a beautiful young lady, named Sheryl.  She came over for an entire month for her HS graduation.  She was tall and slender and very sexy.  I met other girls during my stay, but Sheryl was the one that really got my attention.  We fell in love right away, and spent the next 30 days or so experiencing a wonderful romance in Hawaii.  I loved every moment of her company, and couldn’t wait for my next time away from the base to be with her.  It was difficult staying on the base while working.  I unwisely used my short 24 hour break and took off for Waikiki even though there wasn’t a whole lot of time. 

More often than not I raced down to Waikiki to be with her for a few hours during 12 hour breaks.  I didn’t want to miss a moment to spend with Sheryl.  She was absolutely the best thing that happened to me during my Navy experience in Hawaii.  Even surfing took a back seat for awhile.  Sleeping became less of a priority as well.  Love clearly releases an abundance of energy in a young man.  I was already a skinny dude and probably lost another 10 lbs during this high energy period.  This experience simply took my breath away.”

Can the symptoms of PTSD cause amnesia?

The following excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story demonstrates how a traumatic condition might wipe out a person’s memory of certain events.   

“It is very scary for me to find out over 40 years after the event that my 30 day cruise and experience aboard the USS Coucal (ASR-8) in 1965 had been completely blocked out of my mind for the most part.  I do remember bits and pieces like in a dream of being on the ship looking at the shore off Makaha Beach and the surfers feeling very sad about not being back on shore duty enjoying the benefits of surfing.  My experience aboard this ship was completely wiped out!  I can’t remember anything of any substance at all.  I am very anxious to find ways to remember this experience and what happened on board the ship for the 30 days out at sea.  I hope and pray my memory of this experience returns and helps me heal from what must have been a highly traumatic time in my life.  I had hoped that my Naval medical records from that time would reveal the experience, but there were no references of a medical condition or accident requiring treatment during my USS Coucal training cruise.”

Reference:
Following service in the Viet Nam War from September 1976 to September 1977, Coucal operated from her home port at Pearl Harbor, mainly supporting submarine training.  Coucal was decommissioned at Pearl Harbor.  In April 1990, ex-Coucal was sunk in the first PACFLT test of a Tomahawk anti-ship missile, fired from USS Chancellorsville (CG-62).  reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Coucal_(ASR-8)

Even if painful, keeping memories alive with family and friends is healing.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.  The stories of family history came together mostly from discussions with my father, Vernon H. Sparks.  So far, few records have been located to develop the stories further and to verify facts. 

“My dad talked fondly of his childhood, especially times on his grandparents farm in the Red River Valley in North Dakota.  He loved this time as a child the best.  His grandmother was  Native American, and grandfather was from the old country.  He rode horses, hunted, fished, and worked hard.  His grandparents were highly respected and well off at the time.  Their three sons, including my grandfather Art, all had their life challenges and success eluded them for the most part.  Except for Uncle Harry, who took his inheritance and bought a farm in Ascov, Mn.  Uncle Bob Sparks died of alcohol poisoning, alone and mostly homeless. Grandpa Art passed away in his mid 60’s of a heart condition and alcohol, basically a poor and unhappy man.  My grandmother Mildred lived well into her 80’s and had mostly close relationships with her children and grandchildren.  I didn’t see much of any of them after joining the Navy.  I have recently reconnected with my cousins and surviving aunts from both sides of the family while doing research for this story and to retrace my roots.    My daughter, Bianca, and her family recently moved to Eden Prairie, Mn giving me more motivation to find my way back and to share family roots with Bianca and grandkids, Joey and Jordan.  Another effect of my own PTSD condition was to ignore where my family lived and roots, sharing hardly anything with my children until recently.  Discussions about my own parents have been limited to negative references for the most part, leaving my kids with a feeling that they didn’t want anything to do with my family.  I take full responsibility for this behavior, and intend to make it up by writing this story and sharing my family history with my own family for the rest of my time.”