This was the moment I knew it had all changed.
I could feel it. After the ceremony, we all went to lunch at a restaurant in town that had a large bar and several TVs tuned to different sports channels. When I arrived, Mom and Dad had already started drinking. They were both sitting at the bar sipping cocktails and laughing loudly with friends from their respective clubs. I asked them if I could have a drink since it was my graduation, but they said no because of the drive home.I watched as they continued to drink and laugh, and I sat with my friends at a table in the corner of the restaurant. We talked about the upcoming summer plans -- what parks we might go to, which concerts we might attend -- and I found myself wishing that I could talk about these things too.
When our food arrived, Mom began shouting for everyone’s attention. She was calling for a toast with Dad’s glass of whiskey still half-full.“To Henry!” she said, leaning over to clink her glass against Dad’s before taking a large sip. “The new graduate! May you do great things! May you make us all proud! To Henry!” Everyone raised their glasses or took turns shaking my hand, congratulating me on finishing high school and moving onto college in the fall.
During lunch, Mom had several more drinks while Dad only had one more after his first whiskey. I ate my food slowly and waited for them to finish eating so we could go home and begin the preparations for the party. As soon as they did, I excused myself to use the restroom. In the bathroom, I locked myself into a stall in order to avoid having to talk with any of them again until it was time for me to leave. Inside, I took out my cell phone from my pocket and opened the notes app where I had typed out several drafts of what I wanted to say before deciding on what you now know as my speech.I read it over one last time and decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything if I changed some minor words or phrases around just before going out -- after all, no one would even notice or care -- so long as they were still the same general message with similar sentiment.
At home, Mom opened up several bottles of wine while Dad cooked steaks in the backyard barbecue grill. We all sat at tables on either side of the pool as Dad cooked. Bryce and I talked about what we might do over the summer, and he said he might try to go to Europe with his family. I told him that sounded really cool, but inside I was jealous. Mom had several more glasses of wine over the next hour and a half, and Dad had four more beers while we all waited for them to finish cooking. After they were done, we ate our steaks in silence as Mom drank even more. As soon as we finished eating, Dad started putting away leftovers into Tupperware containers in the kitchen before bringing them out back for storage in the refrigerator inside his garage -- a place where no one was allowed to enter unless given permission -- so that Mom could finish her drinks without having to worry about cleaning up afterwards.
When he returned outside, she thanked him for doing this and then took most of the leftovers into her bedroom because she said she didn’t want to eat another bite. Dad said he didn’t mind, and we all continued to sit at the tables outside and talk as Mom drank inside her room with the door closed. After a time, Mom came outside and told us to finish up our drinks because she was going to go take a nap before people arrived for the party. She then went inside without saying anything more about the party or inviting any of us to come help her get ready. I finished my wine while Dad cleaned up the rest of his drinks and prepared himself for a nap too. Soon it was just me, Bryce, and Mackenzie sitting outside talking about what we might do over the summer until everyone else arrived.
When it was time for me to leave, I gave Dad a hug and told him I loved him. He did the same, telling me he loved me back before asking if there was anything else he could do for me before I left. After that, Mackenzie came out and hugged me goodbye, telling me she hoped I had fun at my party, but that we needed to catch up soon because it had been too long since we last hung out. She added that she couldn’t wait until we were both in college together again, and I told her the same thing back as she went inside.
Bryce walked me back out to my car, and we talked about our plans over the summer until everyone else showed up. The last thing he said before getting into his dad’s minivan was that if I ever needed anything to call him.