Soon after they met, Hyla Molander’s husband pulled out a surprise from the glove compartment. A breathalizer.
Jason, my 12-year-old stepson, rapidly pounds his bare feet up the stairs as if evacuating a smoke-filled building. “Dad, you coming?” A wrinkled, white t-shirt engulfs his lean frame.
Evan, my husband, holds two bottles of wine and walks deliberately up each step. He knows there is no fire—just another end-of-season baseball party to attend. “We won’t be back too late.” Evan squishes his mouth against mine and then kisses each of our three younger children (they’re 8, 7, and 2) who are busy decorating their bellies with temporary dragon tattoos.
“Stay late—I want you two to have fun,” I say. “Just take a cab if you have too many drinks.” Evan rarely goes out with his friends these days, and I know he and Jason need some quality time together.
“Brand new batteries in the breathalyzer,” Evan tells me. “Don’t you worry. But since you mention it, I think we’ll plan on that.”
Jason ties the laces on his high-top sneakers. “On what?”
“On cabbing it home,” Evan says. “It will be good practice for when you’re older.”
Jason looks quizzically at his dad. “Okay. Am I supposed to know what you mean?”
“You’ll see.” Evan rubs the top of Jason’s curly, brown hair, and then leads him out the front door.
One month after we met, Evan reached into his glove compartment and pulled out a silver, rectangular device, in which he inserted a three-inch glass tube. “Now we don’t have to worry if one of us is too tipsy to drive.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“It’s a breathalyzer,” he said. “I figured if I was going to responsibly date a widow with two adorable little girls, I should have one of these. So I can safely drive you home to them.”
At first, I thought it was strange that Evan had ordered a breathalyzer. Aren’t these for police officers or alcoholics? We were neither of those. But we did like to share a nice bottle of Cabernet while we dined.
Using the breathalyzer became an after-dinner game for us. Evan would say, “Wait for the solid red light, then blow.”
“I bet yours is higher than mine,” I’d tease.
And if both of us were even close to exceeding the .08 legal limit, we took a taxi home. Simple as that.
I soon began to see the chivalry in Evan’s decision to keep that breathalyzer in his car. He knew that my 29-year-old husband’s death had left me with unbearable pain. Ignorant risks were not an option.
Now, as I tuck our little ones into bed, I realize the comfort that simple breathalyzer brings me. Now I can tiptoe through the dark hallway to my room with less worry.
I lie on my pillow and imagine the conversation Evan will have with Jason on their cab ride home. He will explain how we are not big drinkers, but when we do drink, that we always remain safe. He will tell Jason that no matter what, regardless of the time or the punishment he thinks will fall upon him for drinking, we NEVER want him to get behind the wheel drunk. We NEVER want him to ride home with someone else who is intoxicated.
We want Jason around. We adore him. We will always love him. Our greatest fear is that we will get a phone call telling us that Jason, or any one of our four children, is trapped inside a burning car, all because he made the wrong decision at a party one night.
Teenagers will drink, whether we allow them to or not. Sadly, though, too many kids are afraid to reach out for help. We hope that ours will never feel that they have to suffocate in their own smoke-filled buildings.