Did I ever tell you about the time I lost my child? I’m not talking about when they are hiding inside a circular stand of clothing at Target or when you turn around at the amusement park and realize that they followed someone else, thinking they were you, no. I’m talking about something completely different.
My wife was working for a scrapbooking company and had a business trip to Dallas for a week, leaving me to manage the household of four children, which should have been no problem considering the two older kids were teenagers and had a handle on things for the most part, especially Jade, my older daughter, who happened to be hyper-responsible at that age. My youngest, Tundra (don’t blame me, I asked my kids if they wanted me to use their real names or fake names in my blog and this is the name she picked. She picked) was only in second grade, but she walked home from school by herself because the school was just on the other side of the block and a group of them walked together.
With my wife on her flight to Dallas, it was important that I prove that I could be a responsible parent and could manage the children, but not so important that I felt I needed to take time off from work and stay home. I mean, the kids have their routine down and everything should be fine until I get home from work, right? Right?
At about 2:30 PM, Jade calls me on my office phone, because at that time, my office was in a basement and the cell signals were terrible, and notifies me that Tundra has not come home from school.
Well, school let out at 2:10, so maybe she is just playing with her friends after school. I asked Jade to run over to the school and look for her and once she is home, call me and let me know. I waited and about 2:45, Jade calls back.
“Dad, no one is at the school. Everyone has gone home and the office staff don’t know where she is.”
Remain calm. Don’t panic. “Okay, see if you can call some of her friends. We have a list of parents’ phone numbers on the fridge. If no one knows anything, call me back. I’ll come home and we’ll take it to the next step.”
Jade agreed and got off the phone. I sat at my desk, thinking about what those next steps would be, calling the local city police, making a missing person’s report, calling organizations to perform searches, checking the Megan’s Law website for my neighborhood. Making a checklist.
Finally, at 3:05, Jade called back and told me that no one knew where Tundra was. That was it. I told Jade I’m coming home and we’re going to find her, no matter what. I gathered my stuff from my desk and started to leave when I heard my desk phone ring. Hoping that it was Jade with good news, I returned and answered.
It was my wife, Mia, letting me know that she had just arrived in Dallas and was headed to the hotel. I don’t really remember what she was telling me, because I wasn’t listening to her. I had a decision to make.
Do I tell her? Or do I not?
If I told her, she would get angry and upset and she was a thousand miles away and had no way to help or do anything. If I didn’t tell her, I had an image of her going to her hotel room, turning on the TV, and seeing CNN announce an Amber Alert for a San Jose girl and see Tundra’s picture on the news. And then I would be a dead man.
So I interrupted her. “Honey, I’m glad you arrived safely, but I have to go. Tundra didn’t come home from school and I have to run home so that we can try to find her.”
“But,” Mia said. “I asked Felecia (my oldest son’s girlfriend at the time) to pick her up from school. Didn’t I tell you?”
I had some phone calls to make.