I’m pretty certain I slept in Sunday morning and missed going to church. I thought I would feel better by Sunday morning, having had two nights to sleep off my disastrous experiment on Friday. But no such luck.
My mom thought I was sick when I passed on breakfast. Either that or a nervous stomach due to pre-wedding jitters. I didn’t tell them about my drinking eighteen beers on Friday. In fact, for as long as they lived, I kept them in the dark about that night.
When we met at Mountain View United Methodist Church late that afternoon for the wedding rehearsal, my best man, Steve Duncan, said I looked a little green. He, too, thought I was having second thoughts. I swore him to secrecy and told him the whole story. His response was something like, “David, that was just dumb.” Like I need to be told that at that moment.
As the minister, The Rev’d Fred L. Austin led us through the rehearsal, I found it hard to concentrate due to a nagging headache and feeling like the lights were way too bright. They weren’t of course. Somehow, we got through all that and I can’t remember the rest of the day.
Monday, November 6, 1971, was the Big Day. As the service drew near, Steve and I were in the hallway waiting for our cue to enter the sanctuary. When the bells tinkled, that was the sign. When they did make their noise, it sounded in my head like the bells of Notre Dame.
Cindy, my 19-year-old bride, was lovely as she came down the aisle escorted by her father. I plastered a smile on my face, and, in a very short time, I became a married man. The wedding photos show me smiling. But even my teeth were still hurting when the photographer memorialized the moment.
There was a meal afterwards provided by Cindy’s parents, John and Bette Douglas. Afterwards, we went back to our apartment since, at 20 and 19, we were too broke to go anywhere else. It was a good thing, I think. I was still sick the night of the wedding which is not a good way to start a marriage. It wasn’t the death knell, however, and we observed our 51st anniversary last Labor Day.
I tried to find out what the effects of 18 beers on a person would be but the most I could find was 12 beers. Apparently 18 beers equals a gallon and a half that I consumed in a few hours that night. It was a stupid thing to do and I’m probably quite fortunate to have survived, although that Saturday on the Greyhound Bus I thought about praying to die.
As stated earlier, I simply cannot drink beer even all these 51 years and four months later. It doesn’t bother me if others around me do, and I have long gotten past the stage of nearly retching at the smell.
But drinking? Can’t do it. When I say to folks that I have PTSD when it comes to beer, they don’t believe me at first. But I’ve wondered … could I get disability from the Veterans Administration? My actions as a Marine have impacted my social life, after all. I wonder if the V. A. acknowledges beer as a cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ah, probably not.
Truthfully, it is probably a good thing that I was so ill for those several days. I tend to over-do way too much. When I worked out at the gym, I tried to max out on every machine. When I eat, I eat too much. For years and years, I drank at least twenty diet soft drinks a day. I haven’t had a soft drink in almost fifteen years. Stopped cold turkey.
But beer is another matter. I know many servicemen who became alcoholics because they drank too much. Perhaps I have been spared as a result of that night at Camp Lejeune, NC.
There’s one good thing that came to pass on the ill-fated weekend. I married the girl who, for some reason, has chosen to share the adventure of life with me for over five decades. Out of that has come three sons and their wives, 13 grandchildren (three grandsons, nine granddaughters, and one child in heaven), and three great-grandchildren, two boys and a girl.
There’s one other thing I have never done as a result of that experience in North Carolina. I have never tried to climb a telephone pole at 2:00 a.m. in the morning in my wet underwear. Or at any other time. I was lucky the first time. They say that experience is the best teacher but that the tuition is really high. It’s a sobering thought (pun intended).
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]