When I started driving at the age of 16, my father imposed a curfew. On date nights, that curfew began at 10 p.m. and was later extended to 11 p.m. Only once was the curfew ever extended beyond the 11 p.m. deadline and that was for prom night. Failure to abide by the curfew would result in the loss of the car and suspension of driving privileges.
Like most teenagers, I fussed, fumed, argued, and whined. “Everybody else gets to stay out later,” I proclaimed. “It’s not fair!” I argued. All to no avail. The curfew was as firm as concrete.
My dad gave what be believed to be reasonable arguments: He couldn’t sleep until he knew I was safe and at home. There’s nothing going on but trouble after a certain hour. After 11 p.m. the drunks would be on the street. Too many deer out after the late hours. The police are more likely to view with suspicion a young driver out too late.
And on it went. It wasn’t until I had teen drivers of my own that I realized that my father was a very wise man.
Much later, I was serving with the U.S. Marines and was stationed at Quantico, Va. My wife and I had a new baby so we took advantage of a long weekend to visit the family. Since we hadn’t seen our folks in a few months, and, since they all lived in Kingsport, Tenn., we decided that I would stay with my parents and younger brother and Cindy would stay with her family.
The plan was that, on Saturday, Cindy and I would leave Jason with her folks and we would go on a date, leaving the baby in the care of her parents. As new parents on a junior enlisted salary, we didn’t get out much.
Saturday evening came and I said goodbye to my family and headed out the door for my date. Dad said, “So, where are you going?”
“Probably dinner and a movie,” I replied.
“Well,” Dad said, “Have a good time. And don’t forget—be back by 11 p.m.”
I stopped in my tracks and looked at him disbelievingly. He certainly looked like he was serious. I said, “You’re not serious.”
“Of course I am,” said he.
“Dad,” I said, now preparing the argument to end my curfews forever, “I am a United States Marine in the service of my country. I am a noncommissioned officer. I am a married man with a son.”
Knowing that Dad left home at 17 to serve in the Navy in World War II, I prepared for him to connect the dots, remember how it was for him, and see the new reality.
After a moment, he said, “You are still my son, I still can’t sleep until you are home and I know you are safe, there’s nothing going on but trouble after a certain hour. After 11 p.m. the drunks are on the street and there are too many deer out after the late hours. Besides, the police are more likely to view with suspicion a young driver out too late.”
Then he added, “It’s my house and my rules.”
I drove over to the in-laws and picked up my wife. She said, “Where are we going?”
I replied, “Wherever it is, I have to be home by 11 p.m.” We both had a good laugh and — I was back at my parents’ house by 11 p.m.
The incident still makes me smile. Now, as a father of three sons and a grandfather of 11 kids, I understand my dad much better.
As long as he was alive he tried, in his own way, long into my adult years, to protect me and make sure I was safe. That’s what the curfew was always about — it was about a father’s love.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]