It was the summer after I graduated from high school. I was going to spend the day with a guy that I had met at the beach. He was not unpleasant to look at and was a lot of fun to be around. He lived about 45 minutes away and I was looking forward to the day.
“Be home by nine,” my dad said.
“What???” I asked, surprised. “Nine o’clock? Are you serious?”
He hadn’t really had much to say about when I should be home before, at least not that I could remember. And I never had to be home before midnight on the weekend in the last couple of years of high school. Now that I had graduated, I felt the reins being pulled back. Freedom disappearing.
“You’re going to a place that you are not familiar with. What if the car breaks down on the way home? You’ll be alone, at night, on the Interstate, with no way to get help.” Ahh, remember life before cell phones?
“What are you talking about? The car is new. It’s been working fine, why would it break down?” He’s crazy. What is wrong with him?
My sister got in on the act to let him know how unreasonable he was—she was much better at it than I was. But he persisted.
“I”m not going to argue about it. Either be home by nine o’clock or don’t go at all,” were his final, stern words on the subject.
“Fine.” I was really ticked off, but I was going to obey.
I left to spend the day with Handsome. We hung out with some of his friends while swimming at a quarry, he tried to teach me how to skip rocks as we walked around at the reservoir, we had dinner and hung out. I had a really fun day, but suddenly it was time for me to leave or apparently the car was going to turn into a pumpkin if I didn’t get back by nine. Seriously, even Cinderella had until midnight.
After we said good-bye, I got into the car. I turned the key and not a sound. I tried again, made sure I was pushing in the clutch, but the car was as dead as could be. No interior light, no radio, no nothing. “What did you do to the car?” I was frantic, hoping it was a joke and he would fix it. “Me? I’ve been with you all day. I didn’t do anything.”
Oh no, oh no, oh no. I cannot believe this is happening. I have to call my dad and tell him the car broke down. Why? Why? Why? I should have never even attempted to argue with him. Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no…
After I called dad, who assured me that he did, in fact, believe me, Handsome drove me home. As I walked up the driveway, my mom approached me with a smile on her face and said with glee, “Told you so.” “Oh, shut up,” I responded. She just laughed. “Did you get on your knees as soon as I left and pray that the car would break down?” I asked. What other explanation could there be? Oh dear God, why do you hate me so? She smiled and gave me a hug.
The diagnosis on the car was that something in the battery had leaked and melted or something whacko like that. It, of course, never happened with any other battery ever again—just coincidentally on that particular day.
I am thankful that the car stopped working before I had taken off for home. What would have happened if the battery had its meltdown on my way back? I would have been stuck on the Interstate with no way of getting help. The unimaginable dad worry could have become a reality? Really? The thought boggles the mind.
As outrageous as my dad’s concerns had been to me, it appears the hopelessly outdated, risk-averse, old guy actually did know a little something, something. I hated when he was right like that.
I just wish all scenarios played out as neatly and innocently as that day. I’ve now lived long enough to have learned a little something, something also—made a mistake or two or three and learned a thing or two the hard way. Now that I have kids of my own, I wonder how long they’ll think I actually might possibly know something and trust me enough to listen.
How surprised might they be one day at my brilliance when they are protected from something I warn them about? When they are in their tweens, teens and twenties, how often will they not listen to me? Will they put themselves in harm’s way just to prove some kind of point? What heartbreak will they be willing to endure to show me that I am somehow wrong? Will they be ok?
In the future, rather than feeling regret, I hope they will be able to look back on something with a smile and think, I hate when she’s right like that.
My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart, for they will give you a long and satisfying life. Proverbs 3:1-2
Blessed are those who have a tender conscience, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble. Proverbs 28:14