I know the title of this post sounds dramatic. That’s why I chose it. I have been through cancer, chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and Crohn’s Disease, so I’ve got some experience to pull from. And I can honestly tell you: believing for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably only like 3 minutes) that my son disappeared, was hands down, absolutely, positively, THE WORST moment of my life.
A couple days ago, the little man and I got home from work and took the dogs for a walk. It was a lovely, sunny day, which was a nice break from the insane rain and flooding we’ve had going on here lately. There’s a sidewalk right behind our apartment building that follows along a fence at the back of the complex. We walked and chatted as he picked up sticks and rocks along the way. I felt a tug on the leash, and looked back to see that Keno had stopped to take a #2.
That’s literally how fast it happened. I turned my head to see why my dog had stopped walking, and then I turned back to continue my chat with Dom. Except he wasn’t there.
My Son Disappeared.
I quickened my pace and continued down the sidewalk while calling out his name.
I started to jog towards the end where the sidewalk turned a corner because I thought, maybe he just ran ahead. All the while, calling his name, louder and louder.
No answer… No sign of him.
My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking and by this time, I’m SCREAMING his name as I run back and forth down the sidewalk between the buildings. By this time, my thoughts are running rampant with nightmarish scenarios.
“Someone pulled him into their apartment.”
“How can he disappear that quickly?”
“This can’t be real. I’m living someone else’s nightmare. This doesn’t happen in real life.”
“I am never going to see my son again.”
Right about now, my brain starts to kick into high gear. “Okay, Leah – you’ve looked everywhere out here. He’s not here. Go inside and call the freaking cops. NOW.” So I start running back to my building. Then I stop and think, “No, I can’t stop looking! What if he’s just right around the corner? If I stop looking, I could miss him!” A torturous tug-of-war ensues as I try to decide the best course of action. Keep in mind, I never once stopped screaming his name. I mean, SCREAMING his name.
I decide to go get my cell phone and call the cops. I start racing toward the stairs of my building, tears streaming down my face… when behind me I hear a tiny little, “Hi Mommy.”
I turned around and saw that sweet little face and I fell to the ground, bawling. How in the world did this just happen? Where did he come from? Where had he been?? WHY had he not come or answered when I was screaming his name in total panic??
Suddenly, I wanted to just punch him in the face! He had no clue what he had just put me through. I took him home and made him sit on his bed while I gathered myself. After a couple tearful phone calls (on the patio) where I basically unleashed all the emotions that had just ripped through my body. I went into his room where he was quietly playing. It turns out he was hiding in some bushes, somewhere. I guess he thought we were playing. My complete and total meltdown appeared to not register while he was oh-so-sneaky in his hiding spot. (By the way, whatever bushes he was in had to be incredibly dense. I looked EVERYWHERE for him.)
For the rest of the night, my heart pounded and my hands shook. I couldn’t seem to calm down. After numerous conversations with him about coming when I call him and NOT hiding when I don’t know we’re playing a game, he seemed to get the drift. In fact, we practiced 200 times that night. Tim would just randomly call his name and he learned to answer, EVERY TIME.
I guess the whole experience served as my own little Public Service Announcement. You hear all the time how fast it happens. They tell you that kids can disappear in the blink of an eye. Believe me, I’m fairly paranoid about the whole thing. I don’t let him get very far ahead of us when we walk. I NEVER let him turn corners or get out of my sight. I don’t let him cruise into the next aisle at the pet store. I take all the precautions. He still managed to disappear.
This has weighed so heavy on my mind, because I know there are parents out there who live this nightmare for a lot more than the 8 minutes I lived it. I can’t even imagine. I have never, in my life, been so terrified.
Today at work, after he woke up from his nap, he came walking into my office. His eyes were droopy from sleeping and he crawled up into my lap, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I did not hide from you and make you sad today.”
And then my heart exploded. I would literally die if I lost him.