Missing Children

Mt. Dora, Florida

Christina loved this story. It wasn’t until I wrote it all down tonight that I understood why. I hope that you get a good chuckle out of it the way we did.

I received an e-mail from a friend tonight and it reminded me of the story….
–< Email >——————–

The boss of a big company needed to call one of his employees about an urgent problem with one of the main computers. He dialed the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whispered, “Hello?”

“Is your Daddy home?” he asked.

“Yes,” whispered the small voice.

“May I talk with him?”

To the surprise of the boss, the small voice whispered, “No.”

Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mommy there?”

“Yes,” came the answer.

“May I talk with her?”

Again, the small voice whispered, “No.”

Hoping there was somebody with whom he could leave a message, the boss asked the child, “Is anybody else there?”

“Yes” whispered the child, “a policeman.”

Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked “May I speak with the policeman?”

“No, he’s busy,” whispered the child.

“Busy doing what?” asked the boss.

“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the firemen,” came the whispered answer.

Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like a helicopter through the earpiece on the phone, the boss asked, “What is that noise?”

“A hello-copper” answered the whispering voice.

“What is going on there?” asked the boss, now alarmed.

In an awed whispering voice, the child answered, “The search team just landed the hello-copper.”

Alarmed, concerned, and more than just a little frustrated, the boss asked,

“What are they searching for?”

Still whispering, the young voice replied (along with a muffled giggle), “Me.”
–< / E Mail>————————

Now for my story: It won’t mean much to those without children (as I’ve been so often reminded), but for two people in particular (Hi, Mom and Dad!) this might bring back a few images. This is the story as I mostly remember it being told, not entirely as I remember encountering it.

I was all of but four years old and we were living on the corner of Bellflower and Jefferson in the city of Bellflower. I had my own room, sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed. Addie had her own room. I’m not sure if Aaron was even born yet, although he may have been just an infant at the time.

Late one night, Mom walked into my room to check on me. I remember a lot of the details of the room in particular and I also remember the Curious George monkey (affectionately named “Monkey”) I slept with. This particular evening, Mom realized that her first-born, four year-old son was not in his bed. It was late and there was no indication as to my whereabouts. I was simply not there.

I’m not sure if this was before or after the night that two drunk assholes decided to lob bricks into our windows because a couple of neighborhood punks tossed lemons into their windshields from a lot from the across the street. I can still hear the sound of shattering glass, my sister – all of but 2 years old – screaming as a brick or stone landed inches from her head. Our parents burst into our room, grabbed us out of our beds and scrambled us elsewhere, probably into their bedroom away from the busy street. How’s that for a tangent?

Either way, it doesn’t mean a damned bit of difference, because suddenly Mom was missing one of her two (or three) children with no explanation of his whereabouts.

My bed was empty. No young Aidan was to be found. Panic set in as she turned the house upside down. I can now imagine her calling my name, throwing doors open wherever they stood closed. Beds upturned, couches set aside, back and front yards searched, garage checked – harsh light illuminating all of their dusty belongings in a dull yellow flash – still no Aidan to be seen.

This would have been approximately 1976 or just thereafter. The American 911 system would not be in place yet so she would have had to dial the local number for the Bellflower Police Department.

“Bellflower Police Department. What’s your emergency?” I can hear a Southern or African-American accent (don’t ask me why) on the other end of the phone.

“My son is missing. He’s 4 years old and I can’t find him anywhere. He’s supposed to be in his bed. I can’t find him. He’s nowhere in the house. I’ve checked everywhere.” I can see tears welling in Mom’s eyes now. Christ, I can feel her heart rate, that weight sitting on her chest, hands pulling at each other, tearing the house apart at every seam.

No, it’s not funny now. It seemed funny until I began writing this. I can feel her panic now. God, poor Mom.

Then she had to call Dad.

“I can’t find Aidan.” She must have begged for him to come home. I can only imagine the conversation they had.

Now I can see Dad. He’s at work. Trying to make a living for us all. He can’t leave but his wife is on the phone and she’s in a panic. His son is gone. He now has to make a decision about what to do with his wife at home flipping out, one of his children missing, and a store full of staff that he can’t simply walk out on. It must have been a graveyard shift. I can see him scanning his staff, wondering who could cover for him, or reviewing mentally the supervisors he can call to notify that he would be suddenly absent due to a family emergency.

I don’t know if he told Mom to call the police. I don’t know if he decided to come home. There weren’t cell phones at the time so that meant that the drive from work to home would involve considerable time unavailable to any messages. You couldn’t stay on the line with your spouse as you drove, offering recommendations, instructions or support. It meant a long drive, just you and the hum of the engine, every red light your mortal enemy; a great nemesis standing between you and where you needed to be right now.

Christ, one of your kids is missing. Linda isn’t the type to panic. Something is seriously wrong. Aidan, all of but five years old, is gone. She would have turned the house inside out before calling. She’s like that. Not quick to push the panic button. But she called. What options were there?

“He was there the last time I checked.” she would have assured, stating the obvious, “I’ve only been watching TV (or sewing). I haven’t heard a thing. There is no reasonable explanation as to where he’s gone or why he’s missing.”

Dad, did you listen to the radio as you drove?

Did you even leave work? This isn’t a judgment question, I’m honestly curious. I don’t know what I would have done. What did you do?

I can see Dad being the peacemaker. “Calm down,” he might have reassured Mom over the phone, “he’s got to be somewhere in the house.” I can imagine him asking about locks on the doors, analyzing every aspect of the house, things that Mom has already reviewed beforehand. “Are the windows in his bedroom open? Are the doors – both front and back – still locked? Were they locked when you went outside?” Dad and I still tear apart every angle of a problem. Look at it from the outside and work your way in. Keep a level head along the way. You’ll find the solution somewhere in between.

“Did you check room X?” he might have asked.

“Of course. He’s not there.” Mom might have answered.

“Did you check in or under object X?” he would have followed. Again, “Of course. He’s not there either.” she would have probably replied.

Over the course of a conversation that may have been temporally brief but eternally frantic as they both turned to each other for possibilities, the outcome always the same: the boy is gone.

The police had been called – from what I remember hearing – at least twice. I’m not sure if Dad was on his way. I assume that one of them knew I was somewhere in the house. In between the two of them, something said, “he’s here, he’s okay.”

I know that now, though neither of them have ever mentioned this to me. One of them knew. That’s the way the spirit works in our family. One of them knew and I’m really curious at this point as to who it was. Maybe I’m wrong about who flipped and who didn’t. All I know is that I can see their faces right now, as I type this late in the evening sitting in an enclosed patio in Mount Dora, Florida, both in their early twenties – younger than I am now – Mom’s hair a lustrous, flowing nutmeg, Dad’s hair – both head and mustache – darker and top combed to the side with wide collars on his dress shirt. I see strange patterns of his white and …well brown, unfashionable now, in both his dark polyester tie and light cotton shirt. There’s a white vinyl pocket protector with blue pen markings and a nametag, all of which are in his left chest pocket. It’s strange what you see when you reach back into history, feeling for what the people you love encountered, knowing full well that you didn’t see it with your eyes but you can see it now with something else, something deeper….

Mom went back in to check my room. Dad must have still been at work.

Check the closets.

I can imagine her hearing a voice, deep inside her heart, “He’s still here. You simply haven’t found him yet.”

Our loved ones reassure us in strange ways. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem possible to listen, but we can always look back after the fact and know that somehow we knew beforehand. This isn’t a matter of hindsight being 20/20. This is something else. Something that all of the descendents of the Owens grandparents already know about. Some of us have had this discussion. I feel awkward even mentioning it here but we all … know.

Mom checked the closet next to my bed. It was empty.

Then she noticed the sliding doors above the closet: Storage space. Places for toys, books and other things outgrown by a 4-year old.

Sliding back the storage door closest from where my pillow would have been on the bunk bed, she heard the soft breathing of her young male child, silently slumbering in the muses of inocent dreamland. Her missing child found curled into a ball without anything but his Curious George monkey tucked safely under his arms in a cabinet there under her nose all along.

Relief must have exploded in frustration and ecstasy. I can only imagine that Mom would have wanted to laugh, cry and strangle me all at once; a speedball of emotions both overwhelming and relieving.

“AIDAN!” she cried. I actually remember being startled awake.

I didn’t know that I had done anything wrong. Why did I crawl into such a small space and close the door behind me? Who knows. All I know is that I found whatever peace I was looking for in a small cabinet above my closet and that I gave my parents one of the worst scares of their lives.

Kids do the unreasonable, the unpredictable. That’s their nature because as adults we no longer think as the child does. That’s one of the many aspects that separate us. I may have sought silence from the busy avenue outside our home within a small cabinet built above my closet. It seems to make sense to me now. For if I had one today, it sounds like a great place to sound-proof and curl up behind.

Something to know for all of you parents out there (according to Christina who worked in this environment for a number of years): a child (minor) does not need to be missing for 24 hours before an All Points Bulletin (APB) / Missing Person is released!. Call now! If you find them, great! The Missing Person will be dismissed. It’s just a channel call at that point. No problem. Otherwise, the local police have a head start.

Until then, keep your cool, call 911 and check again. I hope with all of my being that when your child goes missing you’ll find her where you least expected, safe and sound, in socked pajamas and warm skin, curled up with her favorite stuffed animal and unaware of any concern you might have harbored.

Your Children will test every ounce of your patience and push you to limits you had no idea existed. And, ultimately, they will be worth every ounce of the heart you didn’t know you had.

Mom and Dad: I love you. Sorry about the whole fiasco. I look forward to seeing you both soon.

All my love-