Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.
Laura remembers all of the excitement when I came home to marry my loving fiancée, Sheryl. Laura thought Sheryl was so beautiful and the wedding planning was like a fairy tale to her at nine years old. Laura loved playing with her Barbie and Ken dolls, imagining beautiful and perfect lives for them! Laura fantasized, “Here is my big brother Stephen with his beautiful fiancée, real life Barbie and Ken…!”
Laura was especially excited because Sheryl asks her to be one of her bridesmaids, the “junior bridesmaid” along with her younger sister. Although Laura doesn’t remember her name she remembers playing together at the parent’s home in the San Fernando Valley.
As Laura recalls, Sheryl, her Mom, Dad and sister lived in a beautiful Spanish adobe style home in the San Fernando Valley. The home was surrounded by perfect manicured landscaping with gorgeous old trees, flowering shrubbery, and perfect green lawns. All the homes on the street were different however large and elegant. The windows were round with iron bars, ceilings with open beams like the old Spanish California missions that Mother insisted we tour in our Family travels.
Laura recalls further, Sheryl and her mom were going to sew the dresses for the girls in the wedding party. They were Ivory linen with ruffles and empire style waist. Sheryl’s sister and Laura were fitted several times, she remembers. “It was so much fun and excitement for me,” Laura said with a smile.
It hurts me to think about how my sister was so very disappointed when the wedding didn’t happen after all. She remembers Dad yelling at me the night before and all the chaos going on at our home in Gardena, California.
The sad part is that I don’t remember a thing about this event, except the larger and overwhelming torture of trying to figure a way out of the marriage. Whether this marriage was right or wrong I will never know, but will try to reconcile this hurtful experience in the context of finding peace in what happened. I apparently hated myself for the cowardly act of backing out of this marriage and using my father to help me confront the family. I was a “runaway groom” to be sure. I don’t know how this event affected Sheryl and her family, but it must have been tragic. I now know it was tragic for me since I suffered a memory loss for many months following this experience until finally coming home again from the Navy to start my life as a civilian. I will make every attempt to find Sheryl and apologize deeply for not being strong enough to confront the issue directly with her and her family. It is clear to me now that my behavior, although connected to emotional instability and PTSD symptoms, was inexcusable. My memory is so foggy on this period of time that I can’t even remember Sheryl’s last name! I am so ashamed and know this experience will haunt me forever. Finally, in terms of parental behavior in this circumstance, I would never dream of engaging in this type of intervention with any of my children, never! Where was my good character? Where was my mind? Where was my strength when needed the most? At age 18 or 19, I was clearly in need of appropriate guidance from a role model that did not come my way at the time.