Nathan thought that this might not earn him the father of the year award, or might even be a very strong case of bad parenting, but then again, there was no rule book for dealing with the death of your only daughter and your son’s big sister.
So, while his wife had gone away for a week of silent meditation at her church’s women’s retreat, Nathan brought home a rather impressive bottle of Southern Comfort 100, broke out the shot glasses, and poured a shot for himself and a shot for his son.
“Dad, I…” Twenty-year-old Alexander looked at the shot wearily.
“It’s not a trick or a test, Lex. I know that your sister bought you booze, and that you enjoy your parties at school. I also know that this was her favorite drink. Now, if you don’t want to drink, you don’t have to, but if you want to sit here and do shots with me and talk about your sister, then your mother never has to know.”
Alexander looked back and forth between his father and the shot on the counter for a moment longer. Then he took the shot in one quick motion and wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand. He sat down on the stool near the counter next to his father. “She gave me my first shot that weekend I went out to visit her at college. I had wanted to pretend like I was already grown up so badly, like I wasn’t the baby of the family, so she poured me one. It was tequila. She laughed for weeks at the look on my face after I took that shot.”
Nathan laughed for the first time since he got the news. It sounded strange to his own ears. “Yeah. That sounds a lot like something she’d do.” Nathan stared at the counter in between the bottle and the shot glass in his hand. “Did I ever tell you about the first time your sister had a drink?”
“No,” Alexander grinned, pour himself a second shot, “Is it a good story?”
“Very.” Nathan laughed again. It still didn’t feel quite right. “She was seventeen, too. At a sleepover at—oh what’s her name—Alison McRory’s place. She called me. She felt so guilty that she wanted me to come pick her up and ground her right away. She’d had—She…” Nathan broke off again with a chuckle. “She’d had half a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. She wasn’t even close to slightly buzzed. But your mother had gotten into her head, and she was so sure she was going to hell for drinking and lying to her parents.” Nathan looked up at his son, and saw tears welling up in his eyes. He felt guilty for making his son cry, but at the same time, he knew that this was good for both of us. “I made her promise to be safe, and promise me that she trusted the people in that house she was drinking with. I told her to call me if she felt too sick, or if she thought that someone in the house was going to do something stupid. And then I gave her my blessing to drink. She wouldn’t go to hell for lying to her parents if her parent knew what was going on. She had such a hangover the next day. I don’t think she drank again until she got to college.”
Alexander slipped the bottle out of his father’s hands, and poured them both second shots. “Thank you, Dad. For telling me that.”
“Of course.” Nathan took the shot his son offered him, and tipped it back. “Tonight’s going to hurt.” He told his son.
“Tomorrow’s headache is going to hurt worse,” Alexander offered, “But I think it will be good to do.”
“I agree.” One more shot poured for each of them. “Your turn. Tell me a story about your sister.”