Two teens show their parents and classmates that respect is still important in life.
“This is Sam Markham. Your son Frank has taken our daughter Alisha out a few times.”
My mind was racing. We’ve never had a single problem with Frank, you and I. He’s always been a good kid. Excellent grades. Honor Student. Budding athlete. Polite. Knows his manners and respects his elders. So I couldn’t possibly see what Mr. Markham would have to complain about. Frank adores Alisha. Said he was thinking of asking her to go steady. “Well,” I said to myself, better just wait and see what he has to say and go from there.” I responded. “Yes, Mr. Markham. Frank and Alisha certainly seem to enjoy each other’s company.”
“That’s why I’m calling. And please – call me Sam.”
“He sounds happy!” I thought, suddenly realizing his tone. “OK, Sam, and please – call me Ed.”
“OK, Ed. I just want to compliment you and your wife on the way you’ve raised that boy of yours. He’s taken Alisha out about 5 times now, and always treated her with nothing but the highest respect. Never says a four-letter word to her, never makes a lewd suggestion or even the slightest pass at her. She didn’t know what to make of it compared to the others she’s dated. Ellen and I had to explain to her that he’s treating her the way boys were taught to treat girls when we were growing up. Never thought we’d be able to say that about any of the kids today. But your Frank has proven us wrong. We’d like you to pass our thanks on to him if you will, and tell him he’s perfectly free to ask her out anytime he likes, as often as he likes, with our blessing.”
“Um… sure, Sam, but…” I stammered. My mind was racing again. This time with a really wild idea that just might work. I swallowed hard and continued, “but I have an idea how you and I can get the idea of how to properly treat a girl across to a few of Frank and Alisha’s friends, if you’re game. Might make a few kids wake up.”
“I like that idea, Ed. What you got in mind?”
“A party. The kids can think anything they like for the reason. We don’t tell ‘em anything. We rent a hall, and a band. Make a dance out of it. We do it on a Friday so they can be up a little late. That’ll throw them off guessing what’s up, too. Then around 11:00 you go up on the stage, ask Frank and Alisha to come up there, then you tell Frank just what you told me, but in front of all their friends. Then they can go back to dancing. After everyone’s thought about what you said, and hopefully what Frank and Alisha will say, or at least tell their friends later, the girls will love the idea of being treated that way and the boys will either like it, learn to like it, or at least get used to it because the girls will insist on it. What do you think?”
“It’s certainly worth a shot. I’ve got a friend that owns the Kilgore Party Room on the west side. Let me see what he’d want to rent it to us for, say, 4 hours on a Friday night. 9:00 – 1:00. How’s that sound?”
“Great, Sam. I’ll keep my ears open to what bands the kids talk about locally and make some calls for that cost. Let me know the date as soon as you have those arrangements made. Make it for about a month or so from now. That way the band we get won’t be booked already and the time between now and then will make it harder for the kids to suspect anything.”
“Great, Ed. Talk to you in a couple weeks. And thanks for the idea!”
“Thanks for the good word about Frank.”
“You’re very welcome. Talk to you later.”
Six weeks later the party’s a hit. The kids, puzzled as to why two of the fathers are springing for this big bash, aren’t questioning it. They’re enjoying every minute of it. Dancing up a storm. 50 kids. 25 couples. A bigger turn out than Sam and I expected, but that just made us smile wider as we watched the kids dance, and the clock tick down toward S-hour (surprise hour). As the band finished their latest number, Sam walked up on the stage and quietly told them to relax for a few minutes, picking up the mike as he did so.
“May I have your attention, please?” he proudly began. “Will Frank Jackson and my daughter Alisha please come up on the stage?” He waited, watching the crowd of kids for movement of the two. Shortly, with puzzle-ment and surprise on their faces, Frank and Alisha climbed the short steps to the stage and stood together, facing Sam. He stepped up to Frank and shook his hand, hugged Alisha for a moment then turned his attention back to Frank.
“Frank,” he began, “you, and your conduct toward Alisha are the reasons for this party.” He watched as the two of them looked at each other, incredulous, then turned back to him. “That’s what I said,“ he continued, smiling. “You have taken Alisha out quite a few times by now, including the latest two dates that took place while your dad and I were trying to quietly make arrangements for this little shindig. It was hard not to let on anything to the two of you, I’ll tell you that!” The kids all let out a war hoop, laughed and surprised the parents with a round of applause for Sam. When everyone settled down, he continued: “Anyway, Frank, it all comes down to this. With all those times, and yes, I’ve lost count, that you’ve taken Alisha out, you have never failed to treat her with the utmost respect. Always polite, courteous, the perfect gentleman. Not one four-letter word have you ever uttered in her presence, nor have you made so much as a single lewd remark or suggestion to her, much less a pass at her. You’ve been so much of a gentleman that her mother and I actually had to explain to Alisha that what you’ve been do-ing is treating her with the same respect your father and I were raised to use with girls when WE were growing up. She actually didn’t understand why you hadn’t made some sort of move on her.”
“Dad, please,” Alisha blushed.
“I’m sorry, honey, I don’t mean to embarrass you, but these kids deserve to know what real respect is like, and how much not only you, but your mom and I, and I’m certain Frank’s parents appreciate how Frank has conducted himself. I’d never told anyone this until I told Frank’s dad on the phone about a month ago, but I had to swallow my pride and tell him that your mom and I never thought we’d be able to say the sort of things about ANY boy you dated that I’ve just finished saying about Frank.” For once, I’m very glad to have been proven wrong. Frank?” he asked as he again turned toward the boy.
“Yes, sir?” asked Frank, still dazed from the great compliment he’d just received.
“I want to tell you, here and now, in front of all these witnesses, that you, Frank Jackson, and you alone, are perfectly free to ask Alisha out at any time, as often as you like. We’ll make her curfew an hour later when she’s out with you; and ONLY you,” he said, smiling at Alisha as he said it. She smiled warmly back at him.
“Mr. Markham?” asked Frank, a little nervously. He figured he’d better say it now while he had the best opportunity. He wasn’t sure if he could get the words out, but he knew he’d kick himself later if he didn’t at least try..
“Yes, Frank?” Sam said warmly.
“Sir, I was wondering… if I might have your permission to… ask Alisha to go steady with me.” He stopped, looking hopefully at both Sam and Alisha. Alisha’s face showed pleasure and amazement together as she tried her best to keep from shouting for joy and to respect Frank’s question to her father.
“Frank,” said Sam, “with the way you have treated Alisha to this point, and I might add without ANY prompting or tutoring from your father, and yes, I asked him about it, I would be totally out of line to refuse your request. You may very well ask Alisha that question, any time you’re ready,” he finished, still smiling because he knew it would only be a matter of seconds.
Nervously, Frank approached Alisha. She continued to have considerable difficulty restraining herself. Frank took her hand in both of his. “Alisha, would you… do me the honor of… going steady with me?” he asked. He thought he saw the answer in her eyes, but he didn’t want to make assumptions at an important time like this. He waited.
“I would consider it an honor, Frank,” she said, doing her best to continue the tone of the conversation. With that, they embraced, and kissed, as their families and 48 classmates looked on and a loud round of applause filled the party room..
“OK, everyone,” announced Sam. Back to the party!”
It didn’t take long for the “word” to get around. By the time the Christmas Formal dance came at the school, Frank told us that he had seen quite a number of his classmates acting very differently toward their dates, even if they were only going out to a movie. And he said it looked to him as if the girls really were enjoying their newfound respect.
The night of that Formal, after he arrived home, he told us Alisha had confirmed that for him; that many of the other girls were now insisting on being treated the way he’d been treating her. That she said it was great to see the change in many of those boys, and that she wanted Frank to make sure I knew she, and her classmates appreciated what her father and I had done.
Frank and Alisha decided, during their senior year, to go to the same college – Purdue. They said they didn’t want to take any chance on having something happen to their beautiful friendship by going to different colleges, even if they would only be a few hours’ drive apart.
During the Easter break from classes their freshman year, they came home to visit. Only this time THEY arranged the details. Each of them told their respective family members to be at the local Olive Garden restaurant at 7:00 P.M. sharp that Saturday evening. After we’d all finished the meal, they stood up together, and announced their engagement.
They were married during the summer between their junior and senior years.
That was 18 years ago. My granddaughter Sarah turns 15 this year, and her brother, Sam, just turned 12. Both of them respect their elders, and know how to respect others, just as much as we had taught their parents to do, and I couldn’t feel more proud.