I was 19 when I married Stephen. He turned 20 the next day. So, ya know, we were, like, mature and all (is that me popping my gum?). Prior to meeting him I had spent about 18 months being more of a party girl than I care to admit. I've always had a very low tolerance for alcohol. So when the weekly 2-3 nights of partying led to my being able to consume two drinks a night, I was a little concerned about the direction of my life. (For context, I can start feeling the effects of alcohol within 1-2 sips.)
Enter my high school buddy, Deb. She had gotten pregnant and then married within a year of graduation. Her husband immediately went in the Navy. I don't recall ever seeing him again, and it didn't take long for her to stop talking about him. After the baby was a few months old, Deb and I headed down to the Naval Training Center (NTC) to check out the clubs where, rumor had it, we wouldn't be carded.
Not only weren't we carded, the ratio of guys to girls was something like 10/1. We were as happy to see them as they were to see us. Somewhere in that night, Stephen and I met. Deb met a guy, too. The four of us went to the peninsula at Point Loma and watched the sun rise. It was a nice time, fun and kind of free, but nobody was making out or anything like that.
Stephen took my number. The first time he called, he left a message for "Sharon." There was never any amazing, wonderful love between us, but we got on well. He was willing to talk about all the same stuff I liked to talk about, plus we both loved dancing. That was the basis of our relationship. The conversation when we said we loved one another started off like this (in the bed of a pick-up truck as we headed back to his base one night):
Him: "I think I might be falling in love with you."
Me: "Get back to me when you're sure."
I don't even remember how it ended.
Stephen and I suffered many miscarriages. By the time I got pregnant with Corey, it was more by sheer determination than even affection. Halfway through my pregnancy, I knew the marriage was over, but it was too soon to leave. Things got progressively worse between us, but four days after Corey was born, I agreed to move the family to Oklahoma, where Stephen's family lived. It was either that, which would allow me to stay home with the baby, or stay in San Diego but return to work and let Stephen stay home with him. By that time, he'd been
Making that move was the first time I truly sacrificed anything in my life, and it was for my son. We moved from our perfect little apartment half a block from the beach and 90 minutes from my family to Enid, Oklahoma. To say I was devastated doesn't really express how hard I took it. We arrived when Corey was seven weeks old; Corey and I left eight and a half months later, when my dad and two brothers came to get us.
During the Oklahoma sentence, Corey and I spent a month visiting my baby sister in Alabama. It was supposed to be a two week visit, but Stephen spent the money for our return trip partying with his friends. His parents sent me the ticket and offered to have us go straight back to California, but I guess everything wasn't finished between us yet, so we returned to Enid.
Going back did one thing for me, which was let me know that I was not making a rash decision in leaving. We were being evicted from our apartment for non-payment and for the wild parties that required police to break up. Stephen and I started off agreeing to divorce. I was just about giddy with relief that he was letting me take Corey back to California without a fight.
Me + giddy often = stupid jokes. We got into a fight and ended the night in separate parts of town: Stephen at the apartment; Corey and I at a shelter. In the one thing I will ever say to defend Stephen, he was not worse than me that night, only stronger. The good thing about that fight is that my dad moved up the date he could come get us by six weeks.
Stephen came out to California about a week or so before Corey's first birthday. He couldn't stay with us at my mom's place, but also didn't bring enough money to stay anywhere for long. He chose the vacant lot down at the end of our block. We tried to be cordial to one another, but it mostly didn't go well. I don't recall much of our actual conversations, but I'm willing to concede that I was more of a smart ass than I needed to be. He became a bit of a stalker. After I got a restraining order and my dad and sister's boyfriend had a little chat with him, Stephen decided to really and truly return to Oklahoma.
Things settled down between us after that. It took me two years to finalize the divorce because I'd handled most of it on my own.
Over the years we have had very little contact with Stephen or his family. I used to call his dad and stepmom. Christmas cards went to all of his family members for several years even though I never heard back from them. Stephen's mom, Janice, came out to California a couple of times and we made sure to spend time with her, but again, we rarely heard from her. When Corey's great-grandfather passed away in 2003, we flew back for the funeral. By then Corey hadn't heard from Stephen in four years.
I spent some time with Janice, who defended her son by saying she'd done something similar to him when he was young and she knew how these things could happen. I guess there's just some information I refuse to learn because I will never understand that. Even though I never heard from her again, we still sent a Christmas card to her every year except last year (the year I quit sending cards to a lot of people who aren't really a part of our lives anymore... not just her).
And here's my point in writing all this down: Today I received a Facebook request from Janice. No message, no anything in over six years, just a friend request. I asked Corey what he would prefer I do. She's his Mimi. He shrugged his shoulders and made a sour face and said he didn't care what I did, but that he didn't want to be involved.
His feelings are clear, rational and understandable to me. If I were in his shoes I would likely do and say the same. In fact, I do believe in the ability to choose your family, or at least the ones to associate with. The part that's muddying this up for me is that, odd as it sounds, I like Janice. That last conversation was the only time we disagreed. She is the one who told Stephen in front of me, "Yes, you did have a rotten childhood. I'm sorry. If I could change that I would. But I can't, and the fact is that you're an adult now. No one cares what happened when you were a child." I don't know if that helped him, but it put my own childhood into perspective. The other problem is I don't feel I'm making the choice strictly for me, I am the door between Corey and the other half of his family. He doesn't have Facebook or MySpace or even use an email address. They will only find him through me.
Is it completely lame that I'm wondering what to do here?