One Second

Dear Addie,

While we've been making great strides recently, I promised to be truthful in telling you any and everything about our journey, even if that means the risk of negative judgment thrown my way because of my parenting skills. I hope in my heart that people won’t be quick to judge, because it's super easy to think how you would handle a situation until actually being faced with it, so here it is...

I turned away for what seemed like a second. And you were gone. While scenes like this have played out in my dreams (nightmares), this was no dream. This was for real.

One second before, you were on the deck - sitting happily drinking your gatorade, and laughing with your infectious giggle. Then, gone. No where in sight. I asked Clara and Gabe if you went upstairs - hoping and praying, but their answer of ”I'm not sure” somehow left a sickening feeling in my stomach. I just knew.

I sent them out back to look under the deck, on the side of the house, and behind the trees, and I ran upstairs - just to be sure. Before my foot even hit the first step, my phone rang. It was our friend and neighbor. Not our next door neighbor, or our neighbor across the street. No, the call was from our neighbor around the corner and down the street - and far too close to our neighborhood pool, and the woods. The pool for reference is surrounded by the same fence you just jumped to get out of our yard a second ago.

There was a calm, yet shakiness in her voice as she told me she had you in her backyard. My heart immediately sank deep into my stomach, and I wanted to throw up. I could tell she was trying her best to remain calm, but she knew in her heart this was not good, and surely was the beginning of something we weren’t ready for.

You are by definition officially a wanderer. Wandering, or as some call it “elopement”, is an all too real problem in our autism community.

Addie, we use to pride ourselves on our fort knox style security, but you're getting bigger, stronger, and are equipped with amazing problem solving skills for getting your needs met without language or help from others. I think it’s safe to say we were about to be put to the ultimate test on safety, and no joke this could be life or...I can't even utter the words.

Some would say we need to teach and be stern with you about what's right and wrong or even the severity and danger of such events. I'm here to tell you, it's not that simple. You jumped our fence, walked through our next door neighbor's yard, into their screened in porch, through their house...LITERALLY WALKED IN LIKE YOU OWNED IT, went straight to the front door, unlocked the deadbolt and out their front door, and continued walking down the street.

I can’t even imagine what our neighbor was possibly thinking. God bless him. Surely you startled him with your unexpected presence in his home. He tried talking and redirecting you with no such luck. You were on a one-track mind to get somewhere, and unfortunately, to you he was just white noise.

Addie there are no words to describe how grateful we are that A.) he was home! B.) he clearly knew something was wrong here, and C.) he followed you, tracking you until you reached your next destination, where our number was on speed dial.

It's pretty safe to say my anxiety has been thrusted into high gear.

Honestly my mind is still racing from all the ”what-ifs”, and while by the grace of God (I'm pretty sure He put people who knew you in your path that day) all ended well, it has blown open the doors to the next very scary chapter on this journey. Not a settling feeling.

The endless research begins yet again. Safety. Period. Alarms, gates, locks, fences. You make all this seem elementary.

In case you were wondering, there is no chapter in any parenting book that can adequately prepare you for the wandering child, or researching different GPS tracking devices for your sensory seeking, minimally verbal child. Yes, you, the same child who at 3 years old chewed the clasp off of your stainless steel identification bracelet to get it off because it was clearly bothering you.

So where do we start in this chapter?

I haven't felt prepared for so much of what this journey has thrown our way, but this really has me feeling amiss. Other than refusing to blink, for fear of missing a move you may make, I decided to start with awareness of the situation at hand.

This week I began the process of registering you with our local police department. An experience that brought equal parts a small sigh of relief, and sadness at the potential necessity of it all.

I sat that night at dinner thinking to myself how many mothers or fathers have thought ”Ill be right back...” as they answer a phone call, use the restroom, or help another sibling with something? Do they ever think in a millions years that their child would simply vanish in their absence? This is our new reality.

So many things just keep swirling around in my head.

You wanna know something Ad? I’ve never been drawn to live in a neighborhood. It's true. I admit I very much have my own social anxieties that come right along with that statement, and I always thought you'd be safer, or life would just be easier (for whatever that's worth) somewhere far away from the congestion of the typical neighborhood.

Daddy felt differently and found safety for us in numbers. Addie, daddy was right.

Kind of a funny thing that what's right doesn't always feel right...remember these letters were originally inspired by an incident with some of those ”numbers” making fun of you at the pool that one day. I wanted to move right then, but clearly that was me being emotional and dramatic. Thinking back on that now, and if this would've happened out in the middle of nowhere on our dream, county estate with all the land, the ending could've been drastically different.

I'll say it again, daddy was right. Baby girl, this week was one I didn't want to believe would ever happen on our journey. I wish this week’s letter was cute, and would maybe get a million hits on YouTube for some silly kid stuff, like a mom leaving to use the restroom only to come back to her house resembling a snow globe with flour her child had happily tossed about.

Nope. It wasn't cute, or funny, or even YouTube worthy - you were gone. And it scared the hell out of me. It still does.

Addie I'm scared, tired, and have literally been waiting to use the bathroom until you’re asleep at night now. Working up to get that bladder of steel!

We’re gonna figure this out baby girl. I promise.

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