Bill was Catholic. That explains, in one word, why my Baptist parents did not want me dating him. But they could hardly object to him driving me to the church roller skating party at Redondo, or so I thought.
At the end of the evening while the youth pastor led a prayer where all of us young people held hands in a circle, the door to the skating rink burst open. There came my dad. He stomped across the rink and roared into the prayerful hush. “How dare you disobey my orders?”
He yanked my arm and pulled me towards the exit. “Harry,” yelled the youth pastor. But nothing could stop my dad when he was in a rage. I burst into tears of humiliation. He pointed to the Nash. “Get in the car.” Right behind us, Bill got in his car, a ’36 Chevy. I sobbed. My dad bellowed. “I told you not to date that boy.”
“Th…th…that wasn’t a date.”
“How dare you disobey me?” His anger spewed. I huddled, crying nonstop. Dad pounded the steering wheel. “I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried and you still disobey me.” It took an hour to get home from Redondo. I checked at every stop light to make sure Bill was behind us. Dad pulled up in front of the house.
Bill pulled up behind him. In three strides he faced my dad, “Don’t you hurt her.”
My dad yelled at me, “Get in the house.”
Mother met me at the front door. “Go to bed. I’ll handle him.”
The next day was Sunday. Nothing was said, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the explosion. After church, my brother, sister and I waited in the back seat of the Nash. Mother was in the front seat. We waited a long time, and still dad didn’t come. Mother said, “I think the pastors wanted to talk with him.”
I saw dad coming, his face blazing. He yanked open the car’s door and started the Nash without a word. We drove home in enormous silence. I was numb with worry. I’ll never know what the pastors said to him, but not another word was ever said again about Redondo.
I was on a transit bus heading to my friend Susie’s house. This was the scariest, most heart-pounding thing I had ever done. If my dad found out I’d be in dreadful trouble for the entirety of my upcoming senior year. His preferred method of punishment was to back me in a corner and pace back and forth berating me over and over until I cried. I had tried not crying, but then I realized he was not going to stop until I started sobbing. I didn’t want to go through that another time. But tonight was the Junior Prom. Totally against Dad’s rules, I was on my way to secretly meet Bill. I had planned carefully. The Sunday before, I had stowed my prom dress, jacket and shoes in the trunk of Susie’s car. Now I was heading towards her house. I had told my mother that lots of us girls from the church were spending the night at Susie’s house. It was true.
I was ready when Bill came to get me at 6 p.m. He looked tall, dark and handsome in his tux. Even better, we had the whole evening ahead of us. It was 2 a.m. by the time we were headed back to Susie’s, when the Chevy ran out of gas. I had not a penny, but Bill had a dollar. We walked along the avenue without once having to watch for the Nash. We got gas, returned the can and exclaimed it had been the most wonderful night. But, as we got closer to Susie’s, my heart began to hammer. I knew dad would be there waiting and blistering angry.
But no, he wasn’t there. I slipped into the quiet house, slipped out of my dress and into pajamas. As I curled up beside my friend she woke up. “Your mom called to see if you were here, but my dad had no idea. He told her a bunch of girls had all gone to the movies.”
I lay down beside her and a new emotion filled my almost-16-year-old heart. I had done it, gone to the prom with Bill, stayed out all night and was not going to be in trouble. It was victory, a coup, my own personal grand slam.
Years went by. Bill and I were married, so happy to be together with our passel of children. Time had healed the rifts and disappointments.
Now, as we looked at our own family, we came to realize that the way we had acted when we were teenagers, the sneaking around and the lying, had been so wrong. We needed to make it right.
We went to my parent’s house. “Please sit down,” we said, “we have something to say.” There was concern on their faces as Bill and I struggled with the words we had planned. “We want you to know that we are sorry for the way we acted as teenagers. Will you forgive us?”
We waited. My mother who always wanted peace said, “Of course.” My stoic father turned his head away. He began to shake. When he turned back, his face was crimson. Then a flood of tears. “Will you forgive me for Redondo?”