A friend recently shared “Always Go To the Funeral” by Deidre Sullivan. It was written back in 2005 and aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. In her piece, Ms. Sullivan shares how this bit of advice, given by her father, has served her well over the years — how it came, for her, to mean so much more.
She discusses how, as a result of her father’s advice, she shoulders the inconvenience of doing a thing that merely and briefly inconveniences her because it may mean the world to someone else. Showing up at the funeral, taking the few minutes to do something nice, isn’t just the polite thing to do. It is also the right thing to do.
It’s easy enough, if you were raised properly, to know that you should go to your friend’s mother’s wake. It should be a no-brainer that you should comfort a crying co-worker — even if you don’t particularly like her, even if she’s a drama queen. Crying people should always be comforted. Even drama queens, once in a while, have something to cry about.
Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult. Often, it can be stressful. This is particularly true when teenagers are involved, specifically YOUR teenager.
Take last night, for example. When I got in from work, Fangette wasn’t home. That’s not unusual for 10 o’clock on a Friday evening. I assumed that she was either at work or at Starbuck’s — Fangette is a big fan of the pomegranate iced tea. A big fan. Her pomegranate iced tea habit makes my pumpkin spice latte addiction seem like kid’s stuff.
At some point, I discovered that she wasn’t at work or at Starbuck’s. She was, as it turned out, at a Halloween party that was being hosted by a friend in the next town over.
As the parent of every adolescent knows, any mention of the word “party”, combined with the knowledge that their kid has driven to said party, does not put one at ease — even if the child in question has never done anything to make you think that they’re up to no good. There’s always a first time for adventures in stupidity, am I right?
Last night, I got to be the parent who had to wonder if her kid was, indeed, getting up to something — something that involved alcohol and driving, alcohol and boys, or some other amalgamation of things that included underage drinking. Of primary concern to me was the fact that she had driven to the party.
Round about 11 o’clock I received a text that said, “Mom, can I sleep over at So-and-so’s?” My reply? “Absolutely NOT!” I then thought better of that edict and texted her back to ask her if she had been drinking. She assured me that she had not been. I threatened her with all sorts of horrible punishments — if she had been drinking AND she got behind the wheel of her car AND she got lucky enough to evade the authorities, she’d still have to face me. Something about house arrest and not seeing daylight until she left for college next summer may have been mentioned. Who can remember?
She assured me that, as she knew she was driving, she had not been drinking. The fact that she is just 17 didn’t seem to fall into the “why I’m not knocking back hootch by the cupful” category. I figured, at that point, that I had done the right thing in demanding that she come home. I had visions of her, had I let her stay at the friend’s house and thus secure in the knowledge that she wouldn’t be driving, dancing on tables, wearing nothing but a lamp shade. I congratulated myself on saving her this embarrassment.
Something about the way she answered some of my questions, though, led me to believe that while she had not been drinking, others may have been. This made me nervous — for them and for her. I texted her back and told her that while she may think that driving her drunk underage friends home was the right thing to do, I would prefer it if she didn’t do so. I told her that we, her father and I, would come to the party and taxi the drunkards home. I went on to explain the boatload of trouble she could be in if she was pulled over by the po-po with a carload of inebriated 17-year-olds — how it wouldn’t matter that she, herself, was sober.
If you think I’m exaggerating, you’d be wrong. I know of at least one situation where three young people were caught WALKING with an unopened bottle of alcohol, not one of them had slaked their thirst with the pineapple-flavored vodka that they had somehow managed to liberate from a parent’s liquor cabinet, prior to their unfortunate encounter with the local police.
The result of this exercise in stupidity? Fines up the wazoo owing to the court appearances and the costs associated with these. As if this weren’t enough, they, and their parents, had to have their cases heard by a “citizen’s board” — a panel made up of local teachers, clergy, and other do-gooders. This was a several hour ordeal at which everyone, but mostly the parents, were made to feel inadequate by people whose own children — and this bears mentioning — are not exactly paeans to sober living. Ultimately these kids were sentenced to complete 8 hours of “alcohol education” — buckets of money were involved here, as well.
I cannot even imagine what the consequences would be if a CAR were involved in any incident involving underage drinking! No doubt even more money would be required to change hands — mostly it would be my money finding its way into the coffers of the local municipality. I would also have to endure my time in front of the “citizen’s board” — not something I have any interest in doing, I can assure you of THAT! I explained all of this to my daughter last night — the irony that I had to have this conversation while she was standing in my bedroom dressed as a pimp, sporting a very large gold dollar sign around her neck, was not lost on me.
At first she rolled her eyes — an annoying habit, but one that I can’t admonish her for, as she gets this directly from yours truly — and then she asked me, “Mom? What should I do then? Should I LET drunk people drive?”
Well, she had me there, didn’t she? I mean, what could I say? I told her, “No. You shouldn’t. You should call us.” She just looked at me, but the look on her face said this: I’ll have a better chance of seeing God or The Mets win another World Series. In other words, I shouldn’t hold my breath for that phone call.
photo credit: vodka