We all know it's like to get that phone call in the middle of the night.
This night's call was no different. Jerking up to the ringing summons, I focused on the red, illuminated numbers of my clock.
Midnight ! Panicky thoughts filled my sleep dazed mind as I grabbed the receiver.
My heart pounded, I gripped the phone tighter and eyed my husband, who was now turning to face my side of the bed.
"Mama?" The voice answered. I could hardly hear the whisper over the static.
But my thoughts immediately went to my daughter.
"Mama, I know it's late but, don't. . . . don't say anything until I finish and before you ask, yes, I have been drinking. I nearly ran off the road a few miles back and . . . and I got so scared. All I could think about was how it would hurt you if a policeman came to your door and said I'd been killed. I want to come home. I know running away was wrong. I know you've been worried sick and I should have called you days ago, but I was afraid."
I paused and tried to think what to say before I could go on, she continued.
"I'm pregnant, Mama and I know I shouldn't be drinking now especially now-----but I'm scared, Mama. So scared!" the voice broke again and I bit into my lip, feeling my own eyes full with moisture. I looked at my husband, who sat silently mouthing, "who is it?"
I clutched the phone and stared at my husband, seeking guidance.
"I'm here. I wouldn't hang up," I said into the phone.
"I should have told you, Mama. I know I should have told you but when we talk, you just keep telling me what I should do. You read all those pamphlets on how to talk about sex and all, but all you do is talk. You don't listen to me, you never let me tell you how I feel. It is as if my feelings aren't important.
Because you're my mother, you think you have all the answers but sometimes don't need answers.. I just want someone to listen."
"I'm listening," I whispered.
"You know back there on the road, after I got the car under control, I started thinking about the baby and taking care of it. Then I saw this phone booth and it was as if I could hear you preaching about how people shouldn't drink and drive. So, I called a taxi. I want to come home."
"That's good honey." I said, relief filling my chest.
My husband came closer, sat down beside me and laced his fingers through mine. I knew from his touch that he thought I was doing and saying the right thing.
"But, you know, I think I can drive now."
"I know, but do this for your mama, wait for the taxi please." I listened to the silence, fearing. When I didn't hear her answer, I bit into my lip and closed my eyes. Somehow I had to stop her from driving.
"There's the taxi now."
There was a click and then the phone went silent. Moving from the bed, tears forming in my eyes, I walked out into the hall and went to stand in my 16 year old daughter's room. The dark silence hung thick. My husband came from behind, wrapped his arms around me and rested his chin on the top of my head.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks.
"We have to learn to listen," I said to him. He pulled me around to face him. "We'll learn. You'll see."
Then he took me in his arms and I buried my head in his shoulder. I let him hold me for several moments, then I pulled back and stared at the bed.
He studied me for a second and then asked, "Do you think she'll ever know she dialed the wrong number?" I looked at our sleeping daughter and then back at him. "Maybe it wasn't such a wrong number."
"Mom, Dad, what are you doing?" The muffled young voice came from under the covers. I walked over to my daughter, who now sat up staring into the darkness.
"We're practicing," I answered.
"Practicing what?" she mumbled and laid back on the mattress, her eyes already closed in slumber.
"Listening," I whispered and brushed a hand over her cheek.
To all those that still have children at home, please read and pass on...