Father of the Groom

Father of the Groom

            I turned and saw the bride between the double doors in the back of the church.  She was innocent-looking with pretty green eyes.  She looked so beautiful in her gorgeous, taffeta wedding gown that fit her slim body perfectly.  My son, the groom, stood awkwardly still, waiting for his bride to walk down the aisle.  I should have been happy, but I was full of dread.

            It wasn’t that he was too young.  He was in his early thirties.  He was college educated, just barely graduated due to his difficulty staying away from distractions.  He went to five or six different colleges before he finally settled down enough to finish his degree.  He was very handsome and brilliant, but he couldn’t keep a job.  He kept denying the fact that there was something wrong.  But I knew his secret.  He had manic episodes like crazy, wild rollercoaster rides.  One minute soft spoken and peaceful, the next minute flying off the handle at the slightest remark.  He neglected mental problems like an unwanted baby, failing to schedule therapy appointments, filling his prescriptions, and monitoring his extreme moods.  He concealed this from his bride, don’t tell me how, and made me swear that I wouldn’t tell a soul.

            “You tell, Abby, and it would ruin my life,” he said. “This is the one woman who I care about.  Tell her, and you’d screw us forever.”

            I watched my son in his well-tailored suit stand in front of the minister.  His eyes glazed over with fear, hands quivering, although barely noticeable to anyone but me.  It didn’t matter if he never attended a church service or that he hated God with a passion, he was getting married in a church.

            I kept telling myself, “Poor girl. She doesn’t know what she’s in for.”  She was taken by my son’s good looks and cunning way with words. When he’s grandiose, he could convince you that he was the CEO of a major company or had written the world’s greatest novel.  But when he comes down from that manic high, he’s as depressed and hopeless as anyone.

            The chattering subsided as the organist began to play All of Me.  The bride walked down the aisle with her father, a likable man about my age, charming in a quiet way. He always said the right things and never made me feel uncomfortable. But I’m sure he and his wife had their suspicions.

            The bride and her lovely mother planned all the details. My son only had to show up. The reception was to be held at her best friend’s house way up in the Santa Barbara hills overlooking the ocean. The food was catered from a trendy local restaurant. A well-known DJ from a downtown dance club was a special attraction.

            “It’s going to be nice, Dad,” my son said a few days ago.  “Once we’re married and come back from our honeymoon in Aruba, we’re going to plan out our future together.”

            “Yeah,” I muttered under my breath, “and the rest will be history.”  He’ll have one of his episodes, and she won’t know what hit her.  She’ll call me in utter desperation, wanting to know what’s wrong with my son.  And I’ll tell her to call the police and have him committed.  And—poof!  There goes all their wonderful marital fantasies.

            The anxiety gave me a headache.  My ex-wife, Sophie, was seated at the far end of the church and, when I glanced over, I could see the blank stare on her face as if she were numb to it all. 

            “It’s Gary’s choice the way he wants to live his life,” said my ex-wife when I brought up my concerns.

            “But he’s affecting others,” I said.

            “You just have to have faith, Roy.  You don’t know how things are going to work out.  Maybe, Abby will be a stabilizing influence on him and help him to get settled.  Don’t be so fatalistic.”

            My ex-wife never trusted my intuition.  She always minimized his mental illness; didn’t balk when he quit his medications or stopped seeing a therapist. She was very much like him, neglecting her own depression as well.

            Then I looked at the bride’s innocent green eyes and thought about her youthful hope of a perfect future. I shook my head.  She was so naive.  She thought only in fairy tales and had no idea what real life holds for her.

            My son had to be reminded to pull the veil over the bride’s head, and bizarrely raised his right hand like he was on a witness stand in court and let out a strange giggle when the minister recited the wedding vows.  He often did and said weird things when he got nervous. 

            My heart pounded, and the room began to spin in a kaleidoscope of black and white colors when my son uttered, “I do,” and everyone applauded or shed tears in happiness.  While I closed my eyes in anxiety and heard the ticking of a time bomb.

            A big part of me wanted to save the bride; to scream to every person in the church that the marriage was a sham.  My son has serious problems!  There’s so much he needs to work on before he settles down.  Can’t you see he’s not ready?  Getting married would be detrimental to both the bride and the groom.

            I kept my mouth shut like a coward.  I was afraid of what my son might do to himself if I told everyone the truth and undermined the wedding.  So I acted happy and joyful as everyone expected.

            At the reception, I shrunk into the background, holding a glass of scotch in my hand and nodded when people came over to congratulate me.  The DJ played something upbeat, and everyone seemed to be in a festive mood, dancing as if nothing were the least bit wrong.

            In one moment that seemed to last a lifetime, I looked at my son look at me. His curly brown hair dangled awkwardly to the side, and his eyes gave me a haunting gaze.  I so wanted to trust him; to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Then I noticed his shaky right hand that held a knife dripping with vanilla icing. My eyes watered with sadness, not joy. He looked at me knowing that it was his father that harbored the knowledge of what his future would hold. I was the only person in the room that knew the truth. I cried when the photographer snapped pictures of him feeding his new wife the cake and felt like leaving.

            Instead, I raised my scotch glass, toasting the bride and groom on their new life together; hoping for a miracle.

Mark Tulin

Mark Tulin is a former family therapist who lives in Santa Barbara, California.  He has a poetry chapbook, Magical Yogis, published by Prolific Press (2017), and an upcoming book entitled, The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories. His stories and poetry have appeared in Fiction on the Web, smokebox, Amethyst Magazine, Vita Brevis, among others. His website is Crow On The Wire


  1. This is closer to the truth than you might imagine. My daughter married a man, in the military, who had Disassociative Identity Disorder as a result of abuse as a child. He was actually 3 people. She married one and in the first year found out there were two more and one of those was violent. She left him and took their 1 month old baby with her in the middle of the night. She has survived and has complete custody of the child who is now 5. She has remarried a very good man. She is a survivor and a warrior. I don't think that anyone knew that the first husband had this disorder. But maybe someone did.....

  2. Powerful stuff, Anne. I can't imagine dealing with three personalities in a person. She's definitely a survivor and a warrior.

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