Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lessons in Liquor

I wonder if my dad remembers this story. Although vascular dementia has taken much of his short-term memory, I am often amazed at what his mind can recall. Think I'll ask him at our next visit . . .

It was awfully early on a Saturday morning when I was abruptly awoken by my dad who was standing in the doorway of my room. I jolted upright. Oh no! I thought. What time is it? I've got practice. A surge of headache ran up the back of my brain, forcing me to lie down again.

I looked back at Dad who was now smiling at me, still leaning against the doorjamb. "How you feeling this morning?"

"Oh, just fine, Dad. Just need a little more sleep," I fibbed.

"I think you've got soccer this morning, don't you?" He turned away and headed toward the kitchen. I could tell there was something more he wanted to say, so I drug my aching butt out of bed and followed him to the dining table.

"So, you're tired, huh? Maybe that's what you get for staying out all night," he added.

"Aw, Dad. It was just a bunch of us seniors getting together to hang out. You know, in a few months most of us are gonna be at different places. I want to spend as much time as I can with them." My head was screaming at me as each word came out, but I thought I was hiding my hangover pretty well.

"Well, that's what I want to talk to you about." (Important back story: if you know my dad, you know that besides making a corny crack or gentle tease, he's never been a real Chatty Cathy. And if you don't know my dad, then I should also tell you that while he worries a lot about his kids, he left most of the difficult child-rearing discussions for my mom.)

"I don't mind you saying all your good-byes to your high school friends from around here, but I do mind seeing that large box of empty liquor bottles tucked away in your room." I braced for the worst.

Dead silence. My dizzy head tried hard to picture the events of last night. Had fun, hung out with friends, drank a little bit--well, more than a little bit, well, more than I should have since A) I was pretty new to alcohol, B) because I was underage, and C) who I am I kidding, 26 letters is not enough key points to state why it was dumb for me to be drinking . . .

I did have a hazy recollection at the end of the night of announcing to the group that they could not leave the bottles behind. "We must recycle them!" I said with passion (and a few Dixie cups of vodka mixed with red kool-aid). Guess the only redeeming part to my story is that I was green before it was officially cool!?

But yes, I did actually utter those words. And even crazier, I had collected the bottles of cheap whiskey, vodka, gin, etc. and stuck them under the empty cutout beneath my desk . . . in my bedroom! (Apparently I had not thought through the discard phase of my recycling plan.)

"Oh, Dad. Yes, we were drinking some last night. I know it was dumb. I DID have a DD, I promise!" I spat out. "I just took the bottles home so I could, could, well, recycle them. They were going to get tossed out," I added, feeling stupid, a little ashamed, and mostly dumbfounded that I was having this conversation with my dad.

My loving, devoted dad looked at his youngest child and with complete seriousness said, "Sweetheart, there's a few things you need to know about drinking. Most of them you'll learn on your own. But for one thing, you have no business drinking Wild Turkey (bourbon). Ladies drink Southern Comfort." Then he left the room.

As I sat there with my mouth agape. I knew there was so much more that my dad wanted to say to his youngest of four, but he didn't need to give me another speech on underage drinking. He had said so much more in those few sentences than any well-intended D.A.R.E. officer, pleading pastor, or the average overprotective parent. Now a mother myself, I realize that he probably wanted to wrap me in bubble wrap and keep me safe in my room until I was a better-prepared grown-up. Instead he knew I was going to face decisions and choices in the years to come that a ranting, raving father could not fix that morning.

Thanks for the advice, Dad. I still smile when I see a bottle of Southern Comfort-even though I can't stomach the stuff. And just so you know, Daddy, another lesson I've learned since our first drinking discussion . . . real ladies drink well-crafted beer (in moderation).