Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This past weekend I watched the movie “Shattered Spirits.” There was a scene in the movie where the drunken father insists that his 15-year non-licensed son drive the family car back home while the father stays at a bar. The young boy tries desperately to make his father understand that he cannot drive the car because he has no driver’s license. Of course, the father’s main concern is how soon he can get back inside the bar to continue what is important to him – drinking.
While watching that scene, I was reminded of an incident involving Riley and Alea that went along those same lines. Remembering brought about anger and tears. It was difficult to watch.
We had moved from Navy housing in
Norfolk into a home in . When we moved from base housing, Alea left many of her closest friends behind. I did my best to help her maintain the relationships by taking her to visit her friends and encouraging them to visit our new home. I didn’t want her to feel that she must sacrifice her friends in exchange of our home ownership. Newport News
It was Easter. Alea was only 14 years old. The distance was about 25 miles over and through the Hampton Roads Bay Bridge Tunnel. Riley had told me that he had to go into his command for a few hours. Alea begged him to take her with him and drop her off in housing so she could be with her two closest girl friends. She promised she would be at a specific house when her father picked her up.
Riley was hesitant, but said it would be fine with him. I was also concerned because Alea had a habit of not being where she said she would be at any specified time. It had been a bone of contention between us whenever I took her to visit. She had been acting out lately and I felt that special privileges had not yet been earned. Riley was also not extremely reliable about being home at a certain time. But, I knew that if Alea was at
’s house – she would be safe until her father arrived. Both, she and Riley, ganged up on me and I consented. Elizabeth
The plan was that Riley would drop Alea off at
’s house and she would meet up with three of her other friends. Then she would return to Elizabeth ’s house to wait for her father. He would pick her up at about 3 p.m. They would be home in time for the Easter dinner that I would be preparing over the course of the time they were gone. Elizabeth
Brian had gone over to his friend’s house to shoot some pool and would be home by 3 p.m. to help put the finishing touches on Easter dinner. I spent my “alone” time taking a nice long hot bath, watched an old movie, and in between time, I baked a couple of pies. I remember that day so well.
Brian showed up and made the salad, set the table and did a few other things. I watched the clock. If they left
at 3 p.m., they would be home by about 4 p.m. considering the holiday traffic. I planned for dinner to be served between 5 and 5:30 pm. Norfolk
The clocked ticked by… 4 p.m. came and went… 5 p.m. and no Riley or Alea. No phone calls. 5 p.m. turned into 6 p.m. and I was starting to panic. I called the command – Riley was not there and had not been there. I called
Elizabeth’s house – yes they had already left for . Where were they?? Had there been an accident? This was before cell phones and I felt helpless. Time edged on into darkness – it’s now past 8 p.m. Brian and I ate some dinner, but I was beyond worried. Newport News
I called all of Alea’s friends and they all confirmed that they had all seen her, but she left with her father. In my mind, I was imaging that Alea was not where she said she would be and the Riley was out looking for her. The other images going through my head were just too horrible to be vocalized.
At little after 9 o’clock, the car pulls into the driveway. They were home. Now that I knew they were safe – I was livid. Could they not have called me?? Had they had no idea how worried I would be??
It took another 2 hours before the truth of the incident actually came to surface. Riley had picked Alea up at
’s as planned. But after being in the car with her father headed for the tunnel – Alea insisted he take her back to Elizabeth ’s because she was frightened. Riley was drunk and trying to drive but not doing a very good job. Riley refused to take her back to her friends and instead stopped at a coffee shop where Riley ordered a cup to go. But, when they got back to the car he poured vodka into the cup. Elizabeth
Alea kept insisting that Riley pull over off the interstate and he accommodated her – but not for long. The routine stops were made several more times. During the last stop, Alea told her father SHE would drive home and he could sober up. She said that I would never know and so I would not be made at him, but rather at her. She’d tell me that she lost track of time and wasn’t at
’s house on time. He agreed. She got behind the wheel of the car and he passed out in the passenger’s seat. Once they got through the tunnel, Alea drove around town to give her father more time to get the alcohol out of his system. Then, when they turned into our subdivision, she stopped the car just about a block from our house. She made him get out of the car and walk around in the cool night air. Then he got back in the driver’s seat, and they came home. Elizabeth
I was listening in awe and disgust and disbelief. My 14 year old daughter, who did NOT know how to drive, had to traverse that car through the tunnel on the freeways in holiday traffic in order to get her father back home. I didn’t know what to do – should I hug her or punish her.
The next day, I told Riley it was best if he just stayed on the base until his boat left for deployment. It had not gone un-noticed by me that he never even went to the boat and the sting of all the lies was just more than I could handle at the time. He stayed on base and only came home every other weekend for the next six weeks – then he went on a four month deployment. I was happy to have him gone.
at 11:08 AM