The International Writers Magazine: Parents and Teens
The Teen Years
It was after midnight. Bill Parker was in bed with his wife Amy. The phone rang. Parker picked it up and, still half asleep, mumbled, “Hello.”
“This is the Sheriff.” Parker was immediately awake. “I’m here with your son Ken. He and a couple of friends were in his car drinking beer. They’re all under 18. Do you think you can come over?”
“Yes, right away. Just tell me where you are.”
The Sheriff gave directions. Evidently they were in a strip mall parking lot not too far away. Parker jumped out of bed and got dressed. Amy sat up and, an alarmed look on her face, asked what was going on. Parker told her, briefly.
“My God. Is he okay?”
“I hope so. Don’t worry. I’ll be there in ten minutes and find out what’s going on.”
The Parkers lived in Carmichael, a Sacramento suburb. He was 48 years old, had been married to Amy for 25 years. and had worked for the State for almost 20 years. He considered himself an average guy with an eight-to-five job who played tennis on weekends. Ken was their only son, age 17, who’d just started his senior year in high school. He was bright, had a 3.5 average and was headed for one of the University of California schools. As Parker got into his car and drove off, he reflected that probably the thing that parents of a teen-ager dreaded the most was a late night phone call. And now this is what had happened.
Parker found the strip mall with no trouble. He saw the Sheriff’s car and Ken’s car, the one they’d bought for him that summer. As we went toward the car, he recognized two of Ken’s friends, Larry and Matt. The Sheriff was a big, burly man who looked tired and unhappy. Parker greeted him and extended a hand, which the Sheriff took rather reluctantly. Ken and his two friends stood huddled together, as if for protection. They looked scared.
The Sheriff explained the situation, minors drinking beer, a misdemeanor. He could take them in, but he’d prefer to just issue them a warning this time. Of course, if they did it again, he’d throw the book at them. Parker told him it wouldn’t happen again with as much assurance as he could muster. They arranged that Parker would drive home with Ken while the Sheriff would drop off the other two. Ken’s car would remain in the parking lot and Parker hoped it would still be there the next morning. Parker wondered when his son had started drinking beer.
* * *
“You had no right to go into my room,” yelled Ken. He was red with anger. Even then, Parker thought, their son was handsome. He was almost six feet, two inches taller than him, with dark hair, regular features and an athletic build. And right now he was almost hysterical.
“We’re your parents,” said Parker, trying to keep his voice even. “You live in our house. We had every right. But that’s not the point. You’re doing marijuana, something that’s illegal..”
It had started with a casual conversation Parker had with his neighbor Charlie after their weekly tennis game. Charlie has asked how Ken was doing, probably just to make conversation, and Parker couldn’t help unloading all the worry they’d been having over their son. “He was doing fine, now all of a sudden his grades have gone south. I don’t think he’s studying any more. He goes into his room, closes the door and listens to that God-awful music. Then he goes out at night with his friends and does God-knows-what. He won’t talk to us. At this rate, he’ll be lucky to graduate, let alone get into any college. Frankly, we don’t know what to do.”
“Sounds as if he has a bad case of senioritis. Do you think he’s on anything?”
“He has all the classic symptoms. Maybe you should look into it.”
When Parker and Amy had gone into Ken’s room that afternoon and looked they had no trouble finding it; the bag of marijuana was right there in Ken’s backpack. It was, as Amy said, almost as if he was daring them to find it. Well, thought Parker, now they knew why Ken’s grades were so bad. Marijuana.
“So what if I get high sometimes,” said Ken. “It relaxes me. Everyone does it.”
“Everyone? You mean Larry and Matt?’
“All the cool guys.”
“You may think it’s cool but it affects your mind. Look at your grades. If you keep on you have a good chance of flunking all your courses. Then you can forget about going to college.”
“Suppose I don’t want to go to college. I know guys who are working and making good money. Why should I waste four years?”
“It won’t be wasted. You’ll have a chance to read, to discover new things, meet new people. And as for money, college graduates make much more than high school graduates.”
“That’s bullshit. Anyway, I don’t care.”
“We do,” said Amy. “We love you.”
“Well, I hate you. And don’t you ever come into my room again.” He stormed out and slammed the door.
Amy and Parker looked at each other. As he’d told Charley that morning, they didn’t know what to do.
* * *
Parker couldn’t believe it. After the marijuana scene, as he and Amy thought of it, they’d had a rough time. They’d grounded Ken and taken away his car keys. They’d talked with the parents of his friends Larry and Matt and found out they were in the same boat. They agreed on ground rules, no going out at night, no more allowances, studying. Each family had seen the high school councilor. They went over their sons’ schoolwork every week. Finally, the three boys seemed to have straightened out. Ken was once again getting good grades. They’d returned his car keys. Now this. Ken had been driving when another car had crashed into his.
“It might be totaled, Dad,” said Ken.
“It wasn’t Ken’s fault,” said Larry.
“This guy came out of nowhere,” said Matt.
Parker told himself to keep calm. “Did you get his name and driving license?” he asked Parker.
“Yeah,” said Ken. “A cop came along and took down all the information. We exchanged names and all that. The guy says it wasn’t his fault.”
“Okay, where’s the car?”
Ken told him. “Let’s go and get it. Is it driveable?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I’ll call the tow service and we’ll meet them there. I’ll have them tow it in to Bud’s.”
Bud was the fellow who ran the body shop they always used. If anybody could fix it, thought Parker, Bud could. Then there was the question of who was at fault, the insurance, maybe charges. What a mess.
* * *
Parker and Amy applauded along with all the other parents in the audience as each senior was called to the stage and handed his or her diploma. The car accident, after a lot of back and forth between the two insurance agencies involved and after many sleepless nights, had finally been settled with each one sharing the costs. Parker had had to pay the collision deductible. Their bodywork man Bud had managed to salvage the car and, although it looked as if it had been through a bad storm, it could still be driven. After the accident, Ken had buckled down to his studies and had passed all of his courses. Parker told Amy that he thought the accident had shaken Ken up as he realized what might have been. Whatever the reason, Ken was graduating. His overall grades were still high enough so that he was going to the University of California at San Diego in the fall. Both Parker and Amy thought it would be good for Ken to get away from Sacramento and his old friends for a while.
Ken’s name was called. He smiled as he took his diploma. Parker thought he looked especially handsome. He turned to Amy. “Well, he did it.”
“You mean we did it.”
Who knew what would happen in the years ahead, thought Parker, but they’d survived the teen years..
© Martin Green April 2011
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