July 18, 1998
Despite their civil wedding from the previous year, Shannon and Barry still had to get right with Jesus and have a proper marriage in the eyes of the Church. They footed the bill for the whole thing. Dad wasn’t supportive in the least and didn’t lift a finger to help. He had all kinds of connections in the Hibernians and the Knights of Columbus and could have easily gotten a discount on renting either hall, but he preferred to watch Shannon struggle instead.
We ended up hosting the reception at our house, and it was a mad scramble in the days before to make the place presentable. Dad’s tools and buckets and lumber and assorted junk had to be stowed… somewhere, and the yard needed a lot of attention. I would barely start one task when I’d be assigned another. After the tenth time I finally got fed up and complained that I couldn’t do three things at once, and could I please finish one thing before being told to do something else? Shannon lost it with me.
“You’re fourteen years old,” she began. Thirteen, I silently corrected her. “It’s time to grow up and stop whining and start accepting some responsibility and show some maturity,” she said acidly. I bit back my retort. You’re the one who got knocked up, I thought. At the time I was devoutly religious – thanks to Dad’s influence – and I felt very judgmental towards her for getting pregnant. I didn’t consider her to have any moral high ground to start lecturing me on anything.
“Gee, Shannon, this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, and you’re doing nothing but being bitchy and nasty to everyone. What’s your problem?” Well. That was the absolute wrong thing to say. Shannon couldn’t even answer and left the room without a word. Mom then dragged me aside and gave me a tongue-lashing. And that’s how it was around the house in the days before the wedding. Meanwhile Dad was invisible. He was either at work or shut away in his office with his feet on the desk, immersed in his Catholic newspapers.
When the big day arrived, Dad turned into a schizo. He called Shannon a “fucking whore” right before they were about to walk down the aisle. Why she still walked down the aisle with him after that, I’ll never understand, but he looked every bit the proud papa when they did. Then he embarrassed her in front of the whole assembly when the priest asked if anyone had anything to say “before these two should wed.”
Dad stood up and made a speech about how the wedding and birth of Shannon’s daughter happened in the wrong order, and how morality was important especially in today’s day and age, and hopefully Shannon and her husband would be able to raise their daughter with the correct values since he obviously failed to do so. There was a stunned and uncomfortable silence after he finished speaking, and even the priest wasn’t sure how to move on from there.
After the ceremony Dad posed for pictures grinning ear to ear like he was the proudest papa in the world, but as soon as we got back to the house he stalked around chuntering under his breath and making snide remarks. He stopped long enough to join everybody in singing during the cake cutting. I couldn’t make sense of his behavior at all. And it was humiliating for my sister.
It was bad enough that we were trying to hold a wedding reception in the backyard. There was no dance floor, no tent, no DJ or band, just a stereo system spinning CDs in the doorway of our shed and a bunch of plastic tables and folding chairs. We crowded into the dining room for the cake-cutting, and then we ran out of food by the time our cousins from upstate arrived. It certainly wasn’t the way Shannon ever imagined her wedding, but Dad didn’t have to add insult to injury by carrying on as if the whole affair was a badge of shame for him.
Undoubtedly Shannon was glad to finally be in her own place and away from Dad. Mom took advantage of the opening by moving into Shannon’s old bedroom upstairs and vacating the little room next to mine, putting even further distance between herself and Dad. That only furthered his sense of personal failure, and he made his displeasure known. Shortly after Mom had settled into her new room, she came home one day and found Dad had scrawled all over the walls with a jumbo permanent marker. On one wall was a rambling “love letter” addressed to “My Wonderful Wife Susie.” On the other wall Dad left a poem of his own composition:
“Who ray for Susie
Who ray at last
Who ray for Susie
For she’s a horse’s ass.”