One night when I was sixteen and had just finished getting ready to go out with friends my father took me aside and said, “If you ever get into trouble out there on your own you can call me, no matter what the time, or the situation. There will be no questions asked no punishment given. I just want to make sure you are safe no matter what, ok?”
I looked at him. I saw serious concern on his face. I wondered what kind of trouble he was thinking of, boys, alcohol or drugs no doubt. As if to echo what I had been thinking he said, “You have never given me any reason to be concerned on your part of things, but as you get older, you are going to face more challenging situations, and some of these things might catch you off guard. I know you have a good head on your shoulders, so I know you won’t get into a car with someone who has been drinking, but I want you to know that if that happens that you can call me and I will come and pick you up no matter what. Ok?”
Then I knew what had prompted this, it was a week ago when the news of another three teens died at the hands of a teen who had been drunk at the wheel was on the local news. They were boys who went to my school and were supposed to graduate in a month. I smiled at my father and the worry lines furrowing his brow eased. “I can’t promise I won’t get into some situation where I should have known better Dad, but I can promise you that I will call you the minute it gets out of hand.” I said being sincere in my promise.
My father had always been an understanding man; we were more like good friends then father and daughter. He taught my brother and I life lessons with compassion, understanding and respect rather than harsh judgments and a heavy hand.
Who knew a week later I would be in a situation just like that my father seemed to have had some foreboding about.
My friends and I were going out to meet some guys we knew at a local lake that evening, we packed up our suits and a change of clothes and anything else we needed and headed out to meet up with them at sunset. When we got there we saw that the guys had brought beer with them and they offered some to us. To my amazement my friend who had been driving said “We don’t need any, we brought our own.” I just gaped at her. To my knowledge she didn’t drink, and I wondered where she had gotten the two cases of coolers she had brought. When she offered me one, everyone was looking at me expectantly so I took one. I was curious; I had only tried sips of wine on special occasions, like Christmas and even then it was only under tight supervision. Never on my own with friends, I figured one couldn’t hurt.
The sun went down and we went swimming, but I wasn’t in for long because although I had only had half of one cooler I was not feeling my regular self, and didn’t trust myself in the water. The others goofed off in the water a bit then came out again. We started a fire and dried off and changed. Then continued to drink and talk again. I must have been on my third cooler when I looked at the time. I was going to miss my curfew. I looked over at my friend who had driven us over; she was in no condition to drive. She was slurring her words and could barely walk straight let alone drive. I wondered what I was going to sound like when I called my Dad. Oh man, what was he going to think? He had said that there would be no questions and there would be no punishments. I tried to think about other ways out of the situation, if perhaps I could wait for my friend to sober up and just go home late. No way I could do that, she had just opened another cooler as I sat there contemplating the problem. There was no way I would get into the car with my friend, and there was no way I could let my other friends get in with her or let them drive either. If something happened to them and I didn’t do something I would be haunted for the rest of my life. So I did the only thing I could. I told them I was going to call my father to check in and I would be right back, then I went to the payphone and called my Dad. I told him about the situation because this was going to involve driving my friends home as well as myself due to their inebriation and my fear of them driving. He told me it was alright and to hold tight because he was on his way. I went back to the beach and waited, wondering how I was going to get my friends to go with my Dad when he showed up. I just hoped they weren’t going to be mad at me.
When he did show up I went to go and meet him and told him of my fears and how I thought they would be upset. He told me he knew that I would know how to handle the situation and if I was just honest with my feelings that they would see things as I did, and if they didn’t well I had done all I could. So back to the beach I went and told them that my Dad was there and that he would drive us home. My friends were shocked and then mad because they thought my father was going to call their parents. I told them of the agreement my father and I had and that he was bound by it not to tell or I wouldn’t trust him again. Then I told them that they should come with me because I didn’t want to have to go to their funeral like the other kids that had just died so recently. That if we were “adult” enough to drink that we should be adult enough to do the right thing too. Then I waited. I watched them look at the ground, then each other, then back at my Dad’s car.
Then one of my friends said “I’m sorry I got mad at you, you were only trying to do the right thing.” Then she looked over at the car we had come in, her parent’s car. “How am I going to get the car home?”
“I told my Dad about the situation, he talked my Mum into coming to drive your parent’s car home.” I said, suddenly so proud that I had such cool parents that loved me enough to go to such lengths. Right then and there in this one act, they had instilled in me a determination to be just as kind, compassionate and understanding of others. I never wanted to be a disappointment to them, and I would do whatever it took to make them proud of me.
So we piled in the cars, and went to my friend’s houses to drop them and the other car off and then home again. True to their words, not another word was spoken of the incident. In their act that night and the following silence, no words they could have said would have resonated louder, or with more meaning.