This past holiday weekend, I celebrated an anniversary that most people would choose to forget. OSU vs. Michigan in Ann Arbor two years ago, our family experienced a situation that stopped us in our tracks, but has forever changed our lives for the better.
Abby, our senior in high school at the time, went to visit her brother and friends in Ann Arbor. Having been a high school student who visited University of Michigan often during high school and then attended as an undergrad, I was fully aware of the party scene before, during and after football games. I also knew Abby, much like her mother, loved to have a good time.
The abbreviated version of our long drawn out tale reads this way... Intoxicated Abby leaves her friends at one fraternity tailgate ALONE to find her brother and his friends at another. She sees her car and decides to drive to find him. Within 4 blocks she sideswipes two parked cars then crashes into a tree.
The very next morning after Abby was released from jail, Mike and I emailed our closest friends and family explaining what had happened. We asked everyone to support us in our "bubble" as we knew the judgement and rumor mill would be brutal. We hired an attorney and Abby worked with him to understand what would be happening to her over the course of the next year to 18 months. It was going to be a long haul, but she committed to all of the terms.
Again, abbreviated version, but these are some of the consequences... no driving unless to work or school, friends that once were besties were no longer around, crazy spring break trip to Mexico became a trip with Mom and Dad to Arizona, a secured admission to U of M went under review and somehow, sororities black ball mistakes like Abby's, go figure.
As Abby did her work release program, I watched my daughter do things that most people think only happen in the movies. As a student who needed to be committed to school during the week, Abby could only participate in the work program on Saturdays and Sundays. Her experiences were varied including picking up trash on various highways, cleaning police cars and jail cells and distributing groceries at the food bank. Every time I reached out to her following her "time", she shared experiences with a sense of compassion for the others "working" with her and expressed real humor in the comings and goings of each and every day in the bright yellow work vest.
Abby worked diligently and satisfied all of her requirements. Her probation officer challenged her, but in the end she could relate to his harsh approach. She handled her client attorney relationship alone with little parent intervention... these are the "paper work" documented successes.
This past Saturday was Abby's 19th birthday. So although it was the 2-year anniversary calendar day of the "bad" decision, we celebrate her determination, dedication and growth. Abby's commitment to right her wrongs and our decision to step back and let her navigate her journey has made her stronger, more responsive and extremely resourceful.
We rarely learn things from the happy, easy times in our lives. It is when we are brought to our knees that we are forced to listen, learn and make the changes necessary to move on. Happy Birthday Abby, you experienced darkness and yet only two short years later you shine brighter than ever before.