A healthy fear of my brother Hank kept me on a straight and narrow path in high school; he is the reason I wasn’t expelled from Bayside and went on to nursing school. I lied to him thirty two years ago- the fact that it still has me riddled with guilt proves that A). I was born to be Catholic, and B). I could never be a successful bank robber. Someday soon, I’ll simultaneously apologize and thank him.
I think I was in ninth or tenth grade, and was beginning to run with the wrong crowd and get into trouble. My best friend and I, with all the worldly wisdom that 14 and 15 year olds possess, decided we could get away with whatever we wanted. There was a boy… (how many stories start this way?)… who liked my friend and decided with all the worldly wisdom a hormonal 16 year old possesses that it would be a great idea to loan her his car for us to leave campus.
So off we went, without even so much as one learner’s permit between the two of us, leaving Bayside at lunch time then skipping our next class to drive around Fairhope. For the life of me, I can’t remember what class we skipped or how in the world we got away with it. We had big fun driving to McDonald’s for lunch, arrogantly waving to any police cars we passed, speeding around Fairhope, Daphne, and Point Clear. We did this several times…
Then came The Day. Hank was working at Crawford’s at the time. As my friend and I drove around without a care in the world, laughing and singing to music blaring from the radio, we passed a store. There was a man outside of said store in a Miller uniform… a man that looked an awful lot like Hank. I remember speeding past thinking, “Ok if I look straight ahead and don’t make eye contact with him, he can’t see me.” Hmmm. Wrong! It was precisely at that moment that a knot began to form in my stomach.
Later that night, Hank happened to come by the house (we were living at Point Clear then.) I remember it like it was yesterday, and I’m pretty sure there’s still a remnant of the stomach knot present after all these years. He came into the kitchen (I think my parents were outside in the back yard); ironically I was sitting at the counter doing homework. I decided the “cool” approach would be best, so smiled and said, “Hey!” He cocked his head back, nostrils flared, seeming to be about seven feet tall, and asked. “Did you go to school today?” I quickly replied, “Yeah,” then received ‘the look’ for what felt like about ten solid minutes instead of the few seconds that ticked by. There was such sternness in his voice and demeanor when he said, “You better be going to school.” In my teen-aged bravado mind, I thought I flippantly replied, “Yeah, yeah,” but looking back now, I’m pretty sure it came out as a meek and shaky “Yes sir.”
That was the very last time I skipped school. The following week, my friend was caught leaving campus and expelled.
Hank never ratted me out, but throughout my high school career did ask poignant questions occasionally accompanied by a modified version of “the look”; that alone kept me motivated to be a very good girl.
From time to time, stress at work accompanied by strong personalities can cause some of us (me, really) to become crabby and snippety. After relaying this story about how Hank kept me in line to some of my coworkers, they now all want his phone number.