My 16-year old son — I’ll call him Allan (not his real name) — called me yesterday from home. He said, “Dad, I’m home.” I asked, “How’d you get there?”
You see, his mother — my ex-wife — who’s a barely functioning alcoholic, lives with us temporarily, so that she won’t be living under a bridge. She’s there until we can make arrangements so that she won’t end up under a bridge… but she might end up there anyway.
Depending on how much she’s had to drink the night before, Allan’s mother does or does not make it out of bed in order to pick up her own son from school in the afternoon. And this, despite the fact that I have an iron-clad rule: no booze in the house — because she is the way she is.
In classic alcoholic fashion, though, she procures it anyway, and is generally drunk each evening.
We find the bottles around, and knowing that she’s somehow begged or borrowed money from someone, or stolen it from us to purchase it, we dump it out. She has no source of income, but she still manages to be sozzled each evening, and incoherently hungover the next morning.
So, usually I drive my son to school, some 8 miles away, then head into work in a town quite far in the opposite direction. Then, generally, I pick Allan up in the afternoon. It’s been that way for years, with Allan’s mother ducking in and out of his life as the booze permits.
Nowadays, though, it’s final exam time, and Allan’s school hours are different. He doesn’t need to be there until 9:30 in the morning, so he’s been Uber’ing into school. It costs about 10 bucks. Not all that unreasonable, but it rankles, knowing that Allan’s mother is right there sleeping off the previous night’s drinking. If his mother can’t bestir herself to pick him up from school, the he’ll take an Uber home as well.
Allan’s a tall kid — 6’5″ tall, and heading to 6″6′ or 6″7″ — and a standout volleyball player at his high school. I have many, many videos of his heroics on the volleyball court, and he’s impressive to watch.
He’s a bright young boy too. If he wants to learn something, he learns it fast, and well. And Allan’s a really nice kid. He genuinely cares about how others are doing. I’ve watched him subtly lose points in informal games and other competitions so that someone who hasn’t been winning can claim a victory. I’ve asked him about it later, and he admits it. He shrugs and says, “I don’t need to win all the time; other people need to win sometimes too.” He’s a really nice kid. He shows it in other ways on a regular basis as well.
So, that brings us all the way back to the top. Allan called me from home and said that he was there, and I asked him how he made it there. he replied, “I walked.”
I was startled and said, “Allan, that’s what, 10 miles?“
“Nope,” he replied matter-of-factly, “It’s only eight miles.” Ah! Only eight.
“Why did you do that?” I asked, kind of astonished. Kids these days don’t do stuff like that. At least they’re purported not to do stuff like that. My son does stuff like that.
His reply to my question was deeply moving: “I didn’t want to waste your money after I Uber’ed in to school this morning.” He knows well that the fact that his mother has no qualms whatsoever about wasting the family’s money causes me some ummmmm… consternation.
First of all, I had to make sure that Allan knew well that his transportation to and from school is not in any way a waste of money. However, I also had to tell him how proud of him I was, and how moved I was that he was trying so hard to be so responsible.
Others have recognized his capacity for responsibility, leadership, and all-round niceness. He was voted captain of his volleyball team for next year, and I’ve heard people tell him that he should be a motivational speaker, because he’s so good at offering encouragement and assistance.
That’s my son.