Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dead Girls

In the last few months, two local high school girls have walked away from parties and died, one in a marsh, the other in a hospital, a few hours after being found in a stream.

The first girl's death was sad and shocking, but far away. She was a cheerleader in a town I don't know, an exurbanish kind of town, maybe even rural, where teens party on golf courses after football games and wander away into marshes (stifle the memory of partying on golf courses).

But the second girl went to a private school like the one I went to. It's the school where my sister-in-law went, and C's sister, where my friend R and her husband taught for years, a school I drive by, not often, but often enough. She was at a party in a town I don't go to, but a town I know. A party with no parents. A party where she wandered outside at 5 in the morning, wearing shorts and a jacket, in February. A party I went to, some 30 years ago, in a different town, sure, but with the same kids, the same absent parents, the same girl wandering outside at some point when she shouldn't have, only she came back.

It's luck, really, that helps most teenagers survive. Luckily, there's lots of luck, a lot more luck than not luck, keeping those wasted, partying, wandering teenagers alive. It kept me alive, for sure.

The media is being circumspect, because that's what the media has to do, in these cases. Glowing quotes about what a wonderful girl she was. Police talking to the other kids who were there. Nobody knows whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

Come on. We all know what happened, at least any of us who went to those parties, those of us who were lucky. She was tripping, and she wanted to see the full moon up close. She had a fight with her boyfriend and had to get out of the house. Some boy tried to rape her, and she really had to get out of the house. She drank half the bottle of vodka, and someone dared her. So out she went, in her shorts and jacket, and she realized she didn't know where she was, and she kept walking, and she tripped, and there was the stream, and she couldn't get up.

The question is: how do we keep our teenagers on the right side of lucky?

The answer is: I have no idea.

You can say we tell them not to drink and not to do drugs, to Just Say No and practice all kinds of abstinence. And, if you want, you can do that, but I can't, because I don't believe in it, and I don't think it will work.

You can tell them to call if they need you, whatever the reason, and you won't ask questions, you'll just come and get them. You can try to make sure there are parents around (though at our parties parents were never around). You can call them and text them and keep your phone right next to your bed. Sometimes you tell them the stories of girls who wandered away and died, and you hope they listen, though you wouldn't have listened, because you knew you were lucky.

Mostly, though, you send out the most powerful force fields of hope and luck that you can, and you hope they land on your children, and all the other children out there, to protect them as they stumble.


Phantom Scribbler said...

I have two friends who went to that high school. I didn't go to many of those parties -- I was an anxious teenager -- but the story still made me shudder.

I worry right now about how risk-averse my young kids are, how anxious, how they see danger in so many situations. But part of me hopes they hang onto that anxiety through high school and college. Past the binge-drinking years, anyway.

Dawn said...

Abby google shared this -- just wanted you to know in case you didn't know. Because I want to be just like Abby (and because it was a damn good entry), I shared it, too. I've been thinking lately as Noah heads towards the teens about how often parents sit around and shake their heads about other people's kids because we just don't want to imagine that our kids will be just like them. We like to pretend that there's something we can do to keep them safe. Parenting is depressing.

Jackie said...

When I was in high school, there was a terrible car crash, wheretwo kids died, a third kid was paralyzed, and the fourth walked away with a few scrapes. i always wondered how she handled being the lucky one of that quartet.

Libby said...

Oh, Becca, this story is so wrong, and your response is so right. We do our best, and then we hope they'll be lucky--as lucky as we were. I'm with Phantom here--I often wish my kids were less risk-averse, and then I hear a story like this and I'm just grateful.

Lauren said...

It's pretty shocking looking back at how stupid I was, though I considered myself responsible at the time (by comparison, mostly). I've said countless times to myself and some to my old friends, "We were lucky..." And we were, because we certainly weren't always smart.

Kelly said...

Ty is just starting to go out with older kids who drive. Not far, just up to campus to hang out and play D & D at the student center. But my heart is in my throat the entire time. I think of how many times I was lucky as a teen, how few parents were around, how many risks we took. Ugh. I need a cup of coffee.

excellent post

Anonymous said...

I was at that party many times... and I was lucky all of the time.

I signed one of those 'pledges' with my parents. I won't drive drunk, I won't ride with a drunk. I will call, you will come. No yelling that night, etc. Of course, I never called. I drove drunk. I blacked out. The first time I woke up and remembered nothing about driving home scared the hell out of me... I inspected my car for hours, no damage, no one hurt. But, I still repeated.

You're right... its luck.

I spent about 3-4 years partying like this. Sometimes multiple times a week, sometimes 1 or 2 times a month. I had blackouts, woke up in strange places, passed out in parking lots. I think my folks kind of knew, but I don't think they know the extent.

Funny thing, once I was 21 and legal, I mostly quit. I don't drink to excess (maybe 1 or 2 a year). And I usually don't drink. I hate hangovers, being too out of control. I guess I 'grew up'. And I thank God everyday I didn't kill myself or someone else.

A pair of friends in my hometown were out road drinking (driving back roads and getting drunk). Lost in on a curve an hit a tree. The driver lived; passenger died... slowly, screaming. Driver heard all. If they were like me and my best friend, we switched off driving each time out... luck of the draw. Crash or no... live or die... luck.

Pray for your teens; talk to them. Your wisdom does get through, at least partly.