It’s been almost a week, and I’ve processed through a terrifying event enough to be able to write about it.
Last Monday, during Spring Break, I took my 7 and 5 year old to a park with a playground. A couple of minutes after we arrived, my 5 year old, Shane, said he had to use the restroom. Since I was by myself, I told him to go to the building just north of the playground. My 7 year old, Michael, continued to play, so I stationed myself in between the restroom so I’d be able to see them both.
After a minute, a woman in her mid-twenties walked by and I recognized her as a former student. We talked for a couple of minutes and I realized I hadn’t seen Shane come out of the restroom. I ended the conversation and went to the restroom to look for him. At this point, about 5 minutes had passed.
Ok, he must be on the playground, I thought. I went over and looked. There are two large playground areas. I scanned both. No Shane.
It was at this point I started to feel strange- time started to slow down as I took in the whole area. My legs started to shake as I hurried back to the restroom. I looked on the other side of the restroom, thinking about the pond on that side and how a week ago we went over there. Maybe he wanted to go there? No Shane.
Now my breath was coming in short. I went back over to the playground again. This time, Michael came when I shouted his brother’s name. Michael walked slowly to me, no smile on his face, no sign of playing.
“Michael, have you seen Shane?”
He slowly shook his head no.
Clock in my head says it’s been 7 minutes.
Someone has him.
I get my phone out, realize my hands are shaking, and dial 911.
“My son is 5 and I can’t find him. It’s been 7 minutes.”
“Ma’am, what was he wearing?”
Blank. Total blank.
(Thomas the Train shirt. He picked it out that morning. I took it off the hanger because he couldn’t reach. He recognized it as the shirt his brother used to wear because he had a smaller, matching one he outgrew. We talked about how he’s growing. I know the shirt he was wearing.)
“I have to look at a picture I just took. Thomas the Train. A gray Thomas the Train shirt.”
We’re at 10 minutes
I tell myself the more time that goes by,
The less chance I will ever see him again.
Calm down. This isn’t Law and Order SVU.
“Ma’am, the officer is there now, do you see her?”
Can’t breathe, run over to her.
Pass a lady in the path:
“Have you see a little boy? He’s 5. Wearing a Thomas the Train shirt.”
I can feel the panic setting in.
Officer: Ma’am, where did you last see him?
Where would he go?
Where does he normally go when you come here?
What pants was he wearing?
Do you have a pic?
Does he know how to swim?
Me: mutters responses
Officer: Stay here with your son [Michael is a statue, taking it all in.] Ma’am, don’t move. Ma’am, stop following me. Stay here in one place. We are going to find your son.
Tears start. Ok.
3 more officers
13 minutes? 14 minutes?
Michael, come here and pray with me.
Terrible, terrible thoughts.
God, please help us find Shane. Please bring him to me. Keep him safe and sound. Please God. I’m wrong and I’ve messed up about so many things. Please. PLEASE.
Michael: Silent. Staring.
Oh my God, he’s gone.
They can’t find him.
A new future starts to form:
March 11, 2019- The day Shane disappeared.
No more seeing him and touching him.
No more hearing his laughter.
What about Michael?
My husband. Where do I begin?
Look to my right. It’s the lady from the path. And running ahead of her is Shane. Running to me. His face is terrified and I realize he’s just mirroring my expression.
The new future disappears.
Embarrassment with police: he was in the playground after all; thanking them for helping, refusing to apologize because I needed them and I would have called 911 again.
New family rules:
No public bathroom alone
Who are strangers? Listing people and asking both kids.
Check in with mom and dad in future
It was a couple of hours before I returned to my body, or so it felt. I spent the night and next day checking to see how Michael felt, how this event will shape him and who he is; how this event will shape Shane and who he is.
I read the book The Lovely Bones awhile back and remember the point I realized the title wasn’t about the bones of a murdered character; it was about how the events in your life (good, bad, neutral) shape you and the directions and paths you grow from those experiences. This is a Lovely Bones moment in my life.