Black Friday has come and gone leaving those of us who remember Christmas of old wondering why, and how we as a society ever allowed ourselves to believe this consumer orgy was ever ok. Every blogger under the sun has pounced upon Black Friday so don’t worry there will be none of that today. It was merely a blip on my mind leading to another topic dear to my heart.
My entire blog for the last two years has been devoted to my lovely awesome wife Ms. Jacy. When I started this blog it was about family, fatherhood and the joy associated with raising children. Instead much like a Sunday goulash (only older people remember our parents making that little tasty number) it’s combined many facets of our life. I am thankful for all of you who faithfully follow my writings and the kindness you have shown is flattering to say the least. But today, if you will allow me, I am going to step away from Ms. Jacy (please keep reading) and return to why I began this writing exercise in the first place. Fatherhood.
As I stated, Black Friday has come and gone which leads us officially (Wal-Mart be damned) into the holidays. Friends, family, co-workers, festivities and wonderful Christmas parties await us around every corner. It really is the most wonderful time of year and for many it is anticipated all year long.
Including our kids.
Over the last few weeks several conversations have arisen between myself and other parents in regards to underage drinking. With the holidays approaching and school soon to be out it appears to be an even hotter topic. Don’t be fooled our children are participating whenever and wherever they can. It is disturbing how easily it has become regardless of rules, laws and such for our children to actually obtain alcohol. Thus a serious problem lies and the temptation is no less for my child as it is for yours.
Those who read my blog and have known me since childhood also know for me to speak out about underage drinking is akin to the pot calling the kettle black. So let’s set up a little history.
I began drinking at 13. It was easy to acquire, just hit the old man’s Black Velvet stash and replace with water. (Yeah I know the kids think they invented that trick but it’s been happening for generations) As I became older it of course was a rite of passage for many parents who condoned drinking and had done so feverishly as kids to pass that legacy on to their children and friends, so obtaining alcohol was no big deal. Of course the “rule” was you don’t leave whatever property you are on while imbibing, but that rule was never followed.
Everyone has an argument as to why they drink/drank. Either to be cool, fit in, hide from something or someone in their lives or just because. I drank to fit in, I also drank because I was very unhappy, drinking allowed me to open up, act the fool with no repercussion and pretend to be something I was not. As we grew older the alcohol grew in quantities and the locations in size as more and more young people like myself congregated to our little gatherings. Whether up on the mountain, cruising in the next town over, down in the sloughs or the backyard of some approving parents’ home we partied and we partied hard. Laws be damned!
It all sounds glamorous doesn’t it? Fun, fun and more fun! We were young, we pretended to be adults as the image of alcohol portrays and we survived or at least most of us so what’s the big deal? Right?
Somewhere between my sixteenth and seventeenth year at a party my consumption reached the limits of my body. To this day some 32 years later I do not remember the event I am about to describe. What I know came from friends who witnessed it and the parties involved. I have carried great guilt over this for many years and as a fireman it is what keeps me trying my hardest to keep teen drinking in the spotlight.
Having consumed way too much for some reason I decided to climb into my father’s 1963 GMC and drive home. Now once again I remember none of this, what I do remember was waking up the next morning to my father feverishly wanting know why his truck was missing a mirror and had damage to the hood, door and cab. I didn’t know. Of course being an outraged man further fueled by the stench of alcohol within my room that answer didn’t sit well. What I later learned was while driving away from the party, I struck another truck parked on the side of the road and drug it for a bit. There were people outside and it is amazing no one was hurt. Terrified of what I had done, I did what any other immature young moron would do, I lied.
It wasn’t me, how could I have done this? But it was all true and the sad thing is, instead of curbing my drinking it only pushed me further into a bottle.
By today’s standards that would have resulted in my life being irreversibly ruined. An arrest, a court date, a law suit from not only the involved but those who witnessed the incident claiming mental stress. My parents who had nothing would have lost everything! Why? Because of my ignorance, because of the ignorance of those around me, because at that age making adult decisions is not an option, let alone alcohol fueled decisions.
But it was 1983/84. A different time for sure. My father owned a restaurant in town very popular with local law enforcement and I cannot tell you how many times an officer would say; You’re Bobs kid aren’t you? I would nod yes, use my best level headed Eddie Haskell and with license back in hand head to the nearest friend’s house with a promise my 64 Chevy or my 81 Chevy would no longer be seen on the streets of town. That would never happen today!
Jump forward ten years and beyond. I am at the sight of my very first vehicle fatality. I remember it like yesterday. The car was an 84 Buick, it sat roughly 18-24 inches off the ground wrapped around a tree. A 18 year old male and 17 year old female still strapped into their seats compressed into a space of no more than 4 feet wide. I watched as life drained from their faces. Their eyes once glistening upon our arrival now flat almost sandy looking with a distant far off gaze. They say you never forget your first on scene death, the ones you just couldn’t rescue and “they” are right. Many have come and gone, some have stuck with me more than most, but your first, Yep that will be with me till the day I die.
They were drinking. They came from a party. They promised to not go anywhere but I imagine when you are in love and the car is right outside there are plenty of reasons to head off under a moonlit sky to find solace in an orchard. They were probably just working their way through that “rite of passage” we all talk about.
How about a car load of senior girls from the next town over headed home from a party? They too had all been drinking but the funny part is they didn’t cause the accident! 70 mph in the fast lane when two others jostled for position causing an accident that collected them in the process. Their car hit the medium and rolled several times. Funny thing about drinking and driving, sometimes you forget the simplest of things, your house keys, your phone, oh yeah; your seatbelt. Young ladies strewn everywhere! 3 on the ground. My patient, she received an on scene tracheotomy. It was to no avail. Her friends? All gone. Why? Seatbelts…….
Arrive at a house where the parents have been away for no more than an hour. What do they find upon entering their residence? Their underage son, angry he could not attend a party with some friends for New Year’s Eve has decided on his own to polish off the family bottle of Tequila. Yup he is a genius. When we arrive he is nothing short of the devil himself. Fighting, spitting, swearing and rapidly disintegrating as Tequila takes over his body. He was safely transported and survived, but what we learned later, just barely. He had consumed enough alcohol to quite literally walk the line of death. Why? Because News Years parties are a rite of passage! His parents made the right choice but it didn’t stop him from continuing down a very dangerous path.
I don’t want my child drinking. I know it makes me unpopular with many, but I don’t care. Drinking and screwing off cost me ten years of my working life. Drinking and screwing off almost cost me a future. Our children all have bright futures if we show them the way! The right way! Not some antiquated thinking that results in time and again others being hurt or dying! You can sit there all you want and claim you have it under control, it won’t happen to your child BUT YOU ARE WRONG!!!
Have you ever had to tell someone their child, friend or even adult friend or child is dead? I HAVE!!! There is nothing honorable, fun or even remotely great about that moment! It stays with you, eats at you, and gnaws at your soul! We walk around with our heads in the sand thinking everything will be ok, but guess what? It won’t! Not one adult parent I have ever spoken with has said; well I expected this to happen! Nope it usually begins with why? Then leads into; he/she was supposed to be at so and so’s house! Followed by I didn’t even know they were doing that! Yep that’s how it is!
This has to end. We as adults need to break this awful chain. We can keep going around year after year counting our blessing, being thankful it isn’t our child but then when we let them drink are we really acknowledging that we understand the consequences? I think not.
Every year at this time I usually post some little paragraph about holiday drinking, driver safety and hoping everyone I care for stays safe. But this year I hope by opening up about myself, my past, the future that lays before all of us with teenage children you can see, it is not up to them! Oh they bare some of the responsibility, but really it starts with us as parents. If we preach no drinking, hold them accountable for their drinking habits and hopefully do a good enough job of showing the possibilities before them without making a critical mistake we can stop or break this chain once for all.
It is our job to make the hard, unpopular decisions. It sucks! Make no mistake, there are times I would much rather be my child’s friend, but I am not! I am something much more important than any friend will ever be, I am their father.
Listen I am a realist, I know my little blog isn’t going to do a thing towards stopping this generational fueled epidemic, but please, this holiday season take the time to know where your kids are, what they are doing and help me try to break this chain of alcohol abuse. Nothing would make me happier than to never hear or witness another young life lost way too soon.
Thanks for making it all the way to the bottom of this page, I promise a cheerier post tomorrow.