The continuous blaring of a car horn shattered our sleep. It wasn't a normal staccato honking but rather the chronic wail of a car in distress. It was very close. Right in front of our house, it seemed. I glanced at the clock. 1:40 AM.
Now, under our window, we heard garbled cries for help. "Let us in! Oh, please! He's hurt!" There was much banging on our back door.
We leaped from bed to bathrobe and down the stairs. A teenage girl helped a very bloody young man into our family room. I took a deep breath. I am definitely not emergency-ward caliber. He seemed to be covered with blood jeans, bare chest, arms, and face. But after checking him carefully we determined that it all was coming from a lacerated nose. Otherwise he was OK physically, that is. Emotionally he was a jumble of shock, alcohol, and fear of his father's wrath.
"He's going to kill me," then foul language.
"I think you'll find he's just mighty thankful you're alive," I said, the mother in me responding to this scared and battered youngster.
"You don't know my father." (Profanity.) "Oh, how did this happen to me?" (More profanity.)
Eventually, out of his confusion we sifted the facts. He and the girl, whom he hardly knew, had been attending a graduation party where a keg of beer had been provided for the young merrymakers. This particular young man had consumed far too much, invited his new-found friend for a ride, and gone off the road in front of our house. Fortunately the girl was unharmed. He was frightened by the blood, by the mutilation of his mother's car, and by the anticipated anger of his father.
We called his parents, and my husband delivered the young lady back to the party, where her parents were helping with the festivities.
I found a flashlight and walked with the boy down to the road to view the wreck. Traveling at a good speed, his car had gone into a gully, crashed head on into a telephone pole, ricocheted off, and become pinned against a tree. "My friend," I told him, "you are luckier than you can ever know to be alive. Take your medicine from your father like a man and learn a lesson. Whenever you are tempted to drink, remember how you feel this moment."
And through his misery, his pain, and his fear, he said, very humbly no profanity now "I sure will, Ma'am." I would have liked to believe him, but the world being what it is. . . .
Moments later he faced his grim father with what courage he could muster. But when his mother stepped from the car, the cocky young graduate, with many athletic honors to his credit, was only a little boy again. For just a second she held him, blood and all, in her arms, crooning softly, "It's OK, Jimmy. It's all OK." Just as she'd said it when he was six years old and had skinned his knee. He cried then, the unfamiliar sobs of one who had not shed a tear in years.
When we were back in bed, my husband and I, I could not sleep. I thought, selfishly, of one of my own sons who had traveled eighty miles home from camp meeting that very night on his motorcycle. I thanked God for his safety and that I had never known the sorrow of smelling alcohol on his breath.
But an anger grew within me. An anger at parents who purchase a keg of beer, hire a rock band, and invite the beautiful youth of our land to celebrate their intellectual achievements. Graduation parties indeed! Invitations to disaster, death, and a sordid lifestyle.
Where are the parents who have the courage to say, "Sure, you can have a party, but only soft drinks and punch will be served"? Are there no parents strong enough to say, "No, you cannot attend Joe's party because alcohol is being served"? Have we no longer any standards left to offer our youth? Have we become their buddies instead of their examples and their guides?
It was Jimmy's second accident. Next time his mother may not have the privilege of holding him, warm and repentant, in her arms. In olden times parents had rules and the courage to enforce them. Perhaps they were the good old days, after all.