Monday, November 15, 2010

"Losing" Jack

Yesterday was an ordinary Sunday. Housework, church, yardwork etc.  The boys had been in and out of the house all day.  We have a fenced in backyard that is securely locked to keep them from getting out.  The day was winding down and I needed to get dinner ready (pizza) but it is so much easier to do without a kitchen full of boys. So I told the boys they could watch Toy Story 3 ( a new dvd) in the basement while I prepared dinner.   All was quiet and calm. Don and I had sat down on the couch to talk and wait for the pizza to be ready. It was almost time so I called down to the boys to come upstairs and wash their hands for dinner.  I heard the thumping of their feet climbing the stairs but noticed that only the 2 older boys came up.   I called down to Jack, "Jack, come upstairs!" He is our 3 year old and is usually the first one at the table.
No answer.  I called again, it was then that Parker said that Jack wasn't with them  and he had thought he had come upstairs a "long time ago".  As a parent, I was slightly worried, but went downstairs to check, sure enough, he wasn't there. I called to Don who was already starting to panic and repeat, " this is not good, this is not good" as he went upstairs to find him. He wasn't upstairs either. And with that, our hell began.  I cannot explain what it felt like other than,  my heart  felt like it had sank into my stomach. Surely he must be in the backyard?  He wasn't there either. It was then that Don and I noticed the front door was open.  We live in a sidewalk lined, relatively safe neighborhood, but unless that neighborhood is in a snow globe, anyone can roam through it. We both took off out of the house. Screaming Jack's name over and over. I ran to the neighbors to see if they had seen Jack. I just wanted someone, anyone to say they had seen him go this way or that way, but nobody could give me that answer.  I ran back home where Fin was standing there watching the baby. Tears are streaming down my face as I called 911.  Giving a description of my son has never been so difficult.  They responded quickly and sent 2 police cars over.  I must have been quite hysterical because by this time our streets were lined with people, all searching for Jack.  I sat on our front steps and heard far off voices screaming Jack? Jack?  I thought at one point that this could not be happening to me.  I couldn't bear to go inside without him. It was getting dark.  Every car that passed I ran in front of to ask if they had seen my little boy. I was not what you would call, calm and collected, but even my neighbors without children were concerned and the panic amongst us was palpable. I have never been in a situation like this before, and until yesterday I didn't know how I would react.  It is in these moments that you discover how your body and brain work.  I told myself to calm down, I spoke ( yelled) at God to not let this happen...and I started wishing. Wishing that  I had a power to stop everything and everyone. I wished that kids had some kind of gps inside of them, so I could know their location at all times. I wished it was just a dream. When the police arrived they asked permission to search my house. I told them to just find him! When they emerged, they hadn't found him. They asked me to come inside and find a picture of Jack. I grabbed every picture of him that I had on the refrigerator, and that is when reality set in, was this going to be the picture on the news? I threw up in the kitchen sink.
I felt emotionally exposed. The fears that had been hidden in the depths of my body had all risen to the surface.  I try and maintain a confident and competent demeanor and in this moment it was me..just me raw.
I didn't care who are what was there, I just wanted Jack to be home. I have four boys, not three and the table is set, and we will not be eating until Jack is in his seat.  I listened as the officers called in the report, white male, 3 years old, Navy shirt that reads Big Bro, jeans with rips in the knees, and white socks... My baby was such a trooper, thankfully he had been fed previous to the chaos and he was just kicking away in his bouncy seat, watching police men, me, everyone run back and forth. My older son was circling the block and Fin was more concerned with my tears then his brother. At one point he asked to continue watching the movie, and I snapped. What I didn't take into consideration, is that in his 6 year old mind, the worst thing that could happen was he was lost. In my 33 year old mind the worst thing that could happen is a laundry list of images and fears of the unspeakable.   The police sat Fin down and questioned him about the last time he saw Jack. My parents arrived. My dad was taking care of the search and my mom was taking care of me.
As they began to leave, one of the officers stopped. He looked at me and said,  "I just have a feeling he is in the house, can we search again?" Yes I said, but felt like I wanted them out finding the person who had taken him.  I know my son, and I know that he is not a mischievous three year old. If he did go outside, he knows his limits ( we go over them constantly) and I knew that if he had been gone for
 (by now it was 45 min.) someone had him. I allowed them back inside and I heard one of the officers yell "we found him!" I ran downstairs to see Jack, groggy and sweaty, sleeping under the cushions in the couch. The couch that 6 adults and 2 kids had already searched.
I didn't run to his side with glee.  As much relief that I felt, I also felt that he had no idea what was going on and to see me crying would have freaked him out  and even more, having 4 enormous armed men in uniform staring at him.
The word quickly spread that we had found him, at this point the only one who didn't know was Don.  A neighbor had found him. He had been sprinting, screaming and searching for the past 45 minutes. I have always viewed Don as an emotional rock, today was the first time I saw him shattered.  He returned, hoarse, sweaty and with bloodshot eyes.
A cruel evening in terms of discovering your inept ability to deal with such an emotion.
The what-ifs have not stopped. Questioning my parenting has not stopped.  What it did, was it brought me down a notch. I'm humbled, grateful and truly blessed to have neighbors who really care.
The longest hour of my life, but we had the best possible outcome and I know that we are lucky.
Last night I slept in Jack's bed, I just wanted to be sure that when I did wake up in the middle of the night I didn't need to run upstairs, I could just reach over and feel his face.


  1. *HUGE HUG* Hope tonight you will be more at peace knowing that your boys are all safe and sound!!

  2. Man, I cried reading this! I can't imagine how upset you must have been and how grateful to have found him safe and sound!

  3. Oh my god :( *HUGS GALORE* Those are such scary moments. We love you guys! <3

  4. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror of what you and Don (and Parker and Fin). I could not help but cry as I read this story. I'm glad it had a happy ending.

  5. Oh, Noelle. I just had to comment. I cried when I read this! In 2007 we lost Rhys on the beach in Myrtle Beach, he was 3. I COMPLETELY know how you feel. Words cannot describe how those minutes felt to me. One minute he was right beside me, talking to me and my mother-in-law, and the next, he was gone. I screamed and screamed and screamed. Danny was in the water with the three older kids and I screamed for him to help me. I remember grabbing Bryce (who was 8) and screaming for him to pray for Rhys. I ran up and down the beach screaming and grabbing ANYONE I saw, begging them to tell me they'd seen Rhys. At least 5 people (including my MIL) called 911. Strangers were running with was, by far, the worst moments of my life. A young woman found him wandering and took him to a lifeguard probably 1/2 mile down the beach, and someone pointed me in the right direction. When I had him in my arms I absolutely collapsed into the sand. I was, quite literally, a sobby mess. I had strangers (women) coming up to me crying afer I found him. It was like any Mama on that beach could feel how terrified I was. I cried all night that night, thinking "what if he was still missing..." over and over. Noelle, it's 3 1/2 years later and I still cry when I tell that story. (I'm crying now!) I will NEVER forget that feeling. I'm praising God that you found your Jack. And I hope that is the ONLY time that happens to us! and btw....when we found Rhys, Bryce acted like he had no idea Rhys was ever missing. Sometimes kids are so oblivious :-)

  6. Arin! I cried reading your post! It is still very fresh and just one of the darkest possible moment. I just didn't want to accept it as my reality. You had the water element with Rhys which could only make things even more of a panic. Thank God everyone was safe.

  7. Wow, that is so scary. I had it happen to me at a mall once, there was Quincy and then he was not. Had mall security involved too. He just decided to go to the play area on the other side of the mall on his own. I still remember the panic and sick feeling.

  8. WOW Noelle, that's all I can say. I'm SO happy for u that u found him! Blessings friend xoxo

  9. Just catching up on your blog now... the words "how scary" don't capture the fright here... SO glad you found him safe and sound.

  10. UGH...every parent's worst fear. This story hurts me but of course, I am glad he was just snoozing:-) When I told Dan the story, he said, "check the house once, check the house twice, check the house a third and final time...and then check it again." Happy ending to the nightmare.

  11. I'm a year behind reading this.....Just randomly reading your blogs, but as I was reading this, my heart started to race and tears were falling. I remember when we first moved to where we are now, we went to a HUGE store and my Husband lost my 4 year old. I had never been so scared in all of my life. News stories, what was the last thing I said to her, was someone doing something terrible to her....etc...were all running through my head. It didn't last near as long as yours did, so I can't even IMAGINE!!! Anyway, I was glad to see the END of this story and to hear he was safe and sound.