When my son was two and a half, he "got out." He was playing in the fenced-in yard with our dog when the phone range. I knew the gate was locked, so I ducked in to answer the phone. The phone wasn't where it usually was, so I had to look for it a bit. After several rings, I answered it. It was a telemarketer. I hung up and went back outside.
I wasn't in the house a minute, but it was long enough. The boy and the dog were gone.
My heart stopped. He wasn't playing in the cars, he wasn't in the driveway. Which way did he go? Panicked that I would lose time, I jumped into the car and went up the road, screaming his name with the windows down. I pulled up along side some guys working on a truck.
"Please," I begged. "Have you seen a little boy?"
"He went that way," one of them said, pointing up the road.
Sure enough, there was my boy marching purposely in the direction of the lake.
The fucking lake.
I caught up with him and squeezed him so hard. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. What if?
To this day, I still don't know how he got out. My husband was furious
that people saw him walking by himself and nobody stopped him. But if
they had stopped him, then what? He couldn't say his name or where he
lived. What could we do to keep him safe?
I aged about 20 years that day. We all have stories such as these. These close-calls. These luckiest-days.
We have ASD families around us who, through no fault of their own, weren't so lucky. They are grieving and living our worst nightmares. I wouldn't know what to say to them if I saw them. Nothing anyone could say could make any sense of these tragedies. My heart hurts.
We can't bring back Mikaela or Owen or Drew. But, for what it's worth, we can stand by their families. We all try so hard every day to keep our kids safe. These parents were just like us. They had locks and alarms and ID tags and everything else that we have to try to keep our kids out of trouble. They loved their children as fiercely as we love our own, and worried themselves sick, just as we do. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, tragedy strikes anyway.
I want them to know that we know they're good parents. That it wasn't their fault. As our beautiful children walk fearlessly toward the water, we do everything we can to stop them.
They did everything they could. We know this.