Started out as a typical week day for us. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then, while Todd went to a class at work (just what he wants to do on one of his days off) the rest of us decided to go for a walk. How we came to the decision of walking where we did, doesn't really matter (we all jokingly have been blaming each other). The fact remains that we chose to walk on a trail that we didn't know much about. That's where the trouble began.
This trail is out among wetlands and mostly along a bay, not far from our house. We've walked some of it before but not very far. It's very windy there, as it is everywhere around here, especially near the water. After walking just a little ways, I decided I'd had enough of the wind. It had been a warm day and now I was cold. Chad wanted to keep going. So, brilliantly, I suggested I would take the younger two kids and meet Chad further down the trail. So he kept walking and the kids and I went back to our car. I was thinking that I could drive on the main road and meet up with Chad fairly easily further down the trail. If this sounds confusing, it is or it became confusing very quickly. We drove past way too much beach shrubs and trees until I finally found a very bumpy, long, long road that ended up in sand. I couldn't go any further. And there were some creepy teens hanging out there. I couldn't see the bay or any sign of a trail - just grass, shrubs and the bluff. Back down the bumpy road and on to the next possible way to get to the trail. It was in a marina, along an inlet from the bay. More grass and a long, long trail. By now, I was scared. I figured Chad would keep walking until he met up with us. So I kept going, hoping that around the next bend, we'd see the bay. Nope. I turned right into another trail and came out into a big, sandy clearing. I kept the kids at that trail opening and walked all over that area, screaming Chad's name. Walked up on a bluff - no trail, no bay. No Chad. I couldn't believe what I had gotten us into. A Coast Guard helicopter flew over and I screamed, "Do you see him?!" Silly, I know, but you had to be there. I was getting desperate. I knew I needed help - I couldn't find him on my own. So the kids and I walked as fast as they could manage back to the car. Lord, it was far. And it had gotten hotter. I had been crying and praying, I was exhausted but I kept going. On my way back, I called 911. I decided that this was emergency enough - I didn't know the trails and couldn't find my son. After losing reception and actually dialing 991, I finally got through to 911. The calm dispatcher handled the situation and after listening to my description of Chad, she asked, "The one with glasses?" It turned out to be my neighbor, Wanda! "Oh, Wanda!", I wailed. How cool to have a neighbor helping me! (Wanda is a 911 dispatcher and I knew that but at that moment, it didn't occur to me it was her!) We lost reception during our conversation but she called me back. I told Wanda that I was returning to where the trail started and she said a policeman would meet me there. He was there when we arrived (I actually drove right passed him - duh!) I managed to be calm enough to tell him everything he needed to know. It was surreal, describing my son's clothing and such. The officer said they had two other policemen out and they would cover the trail from three different ways. He assured me he'd find him. I was so grateful for this man's can-do attitude. Very comforting. There was an espresso hut in the parking lot near this trail head and the employee working there saw the police car. Right at that moment, her parents drove up for a coffee. She told her Dad to go tell the policeman that a boy had asked to use her phone to call his mom and had asked her more about the trail. So, her folks relayed the message to the officer. Can you believe the timing of their being there? So, now we knew Chad had been back there about 10-15 minutes before and this helped him to be found. While I waited, I went over to thank the espresso employee. She said when we drove up the second time, she saw Alec and thought he looked just like Chad. Then she remembered that we had been there before and had seen us all walk over to the trail. When she saw me the second time, she said I looked like a Mom who had lost her child. This lady was very reassuring. We talked while I waited and amazingly, she didn't have any customers during this time. She was my age with kids about my kids' ages so it was like an instant bond. Just what I needed. Then, I saw a jogger leaving the trail and I asked if he'd seen Chad. He said no but he passed a policeman and heard on the policeman's radio that they'd just found him. I was so thrilled - the jogger was happy, too! So, I knew Chad would be coming back soon but it didn't dawn on me how they would bring him back. As I emptied a ton of sand out of my shoe, a police 4-wheel vehicle drove up. I saw Chad waving frantically from the back. The officer got out and I said, "Did you cuff him?!" He laughed and let Chad out. Chad ran into my arms and we hugged and hugged. I thanked the officer tearfully but I was amazed at how calm I was at that moment. Chad was the one that was shaking and starting to cry. I guess because I'd had a few minutes to calm down after talking to the jogger, that it made it easier for me to calm Chad. I went from being the frantic one to being the comforting parent (have you been there?) What a moment.
God is good.
God is good even when I am stupid ... STUPID! I know better than to let my son explore a trail that we are both unfamiliar with. I feel so stupid that I put us all in this situation. When I was calling out his name, in the middle of what seemed like no where with absolutely no one around, I kept apologizing to him, to God, to my family, for making this stupid mistake. I asked God not to let Chad be harmed because of my stupidity. Those creepy kids I had seen really added to my fears. And, of course, with all the headlines about that 7 year old who disappeared in Portland a few weeks ago (have you heard about that?) I have been more vigilant about keeping my kids safe. We had no business on that trail, really. The espresso employee said she wouldn't take this trail alone or any of the trails along this bay. Too secluded.
Anyway, all ended well because of the quick action of the policeman, the dispatcher, the espresso lady and her folks, the jogger. Think of all the people God brought in to help us. I am so grateful to these people, used by God.
No, I never envisioned that this day would end with me seeing my son climbing out of a police vehicle. He didn't like it at all. We joked (later) that it's all the more reason to never do anything that would land you in one again. But this wasn't his fault. I'm so proud of him for trying to do the right thing. I had wondered if he'd return to the trail head and I'm proud of him for asking for a phone to call me. He didn't, however, leave a message - I think he was just a little too shaken up to think of that. So his next solution was to get more info to try and find me again. We were both so exhausted when we got home. Fortunately, we have both been walking nearly every day so we were in better shape to handle this than we would be otherwise. Alec and Carmen never once complained or gave me any trouble. They prayed for Chad and trudged along with me, even though they were hot and tired. All I had to give them in the car were breath mints! And this is the Mom who is always prepared with water and stuff! I tell you, I just royally blew it yesterday. Today, Chad and I said it would be awhile before we venture out on a walk. It was cold and cloudy out today so it felt good to just stay home. Yesterday, after we got home, Todd and I headed out to the store for a few things to make a quick and easy dinner. I kept quietly sobbing every now and then. I forgot what I wanted to buy. I forgot to swipe my Safeway Club card. I think it was post-traumatic stress or something. I was still out on the trail, mentally, screaming for Chad. I'm fine, today. He's here and we can (and do) hug often. Yesterday, Chad said he figured I'd call the police at some point - boy, that kid knows me so well!