I thought that after how hectic last week was that this week would be a breeze. Boy was I wrong! This week has been just as stressful if not more so. I left off with recent events telling about my brother’s wedding, coming back home and getting a cold, and ended Monday with the news that a best friend of my son’s ran away from home. Things would’ve probably ended up fine if he would have came home later the night he left, but he did not.
My son and his friend Logan were the last ones to see Jake. Jake bragged on the bus ride home Monday night that he was going to run away from home. His friends didn’t believe him because he said that before several times and never did until Monday. Monday night our summer days reached an end. A cold front brought the wind and rain. Logan saw Jake walking down the road in the pouring rain with a backpack on. Logan called my son and they attempted to stop Jake from running away. He had a backpack full of clothing, water, food, and a couple knives. He told the boys he was going to catch a train out of town. The boys tried to stop him, but he ran off into a corn field.
At this point, the boys went over to Jake’s house to alert his mother. Jake was born to teen parents who ended up marrying other people and having other children. He was having a lot of conflict with his stepdad. His father lives out of the state. I thought Jake would come home that night.
Tuesday morning arrived, but Jake had not. His dad flew in to help try to find him. The neighborhood was scoured. Abandoned buildings, deer stands, unlocked sheds, farms, the railroad tracks, the park, fields, and woods were searched with no signs of Jake’s whereabouts. After school, my son and a group of boys looked for him in their secret hiding spots. I offered to search the corn field where he was last seen. All I found was a battery and an empty sleeping pill wrapper on the ground. The corn was over my head and I was searching after dusk. I heard noises out in the field and was convinced there was a bear coming for me. It was scary. When it got dark, we all met back by the road. A night bird cried out. Jake’s mother mournfully responded by shouting out Jake’s name. He was not there.
We went back to Jake’s house where the boys were questioned some more. Jake’s stepdad was pouring over Google maps and also was looking over the railroad track locations. Jake’s grandmother cried. No one had slept the night before, no one had eaten. There were tears, anxiety, and anger. It was heart wrenching to see the family’s pain. They were so desperate trying everything with no answers. We decided to search outside of a trailer of a friend of the boys that recently moved out that had a broken window. Jake’s dad cried out his name in anguish receiving nothing but empty silence. After this, I took the boys home. It was going to be a cold night, near the freezing point with a boy who ran away a day ago into the pouring rain. We feared hypothermia. We feared death.
Last night Facebook got flooded with missing person posters. Jake was spotted near a highway about 30 miles away. This morning brought relief that up until last night, Jake was alive! A couple of hours later, Jake was found.
All of this brought back memories of the times that my autistic brother Matt ran away from home as a child. Multiple times he ran away. At times we had a search for him in the woods near our house. We feared for his safety. He couldn’t take care of himself. It brought back brief moments of the terror we went through searching for a lost child.
Lately I have seen a lot of banter going back and forth about who has the hardest job as a parent. I want to offer my opinion. Parenting is hard! It doesn’t matter if you are a biological parent, a step parent, a foster parent, a parent of one or ten, or a parent of the disabled. If you want to be a good parent, it is difficult. It takes everything that you have. I think that parents who have both disabled and “normal” kids probably have one of the toughest roads to walk. We need to work together to bring our lost children back home. I am not sure what will happen with Jake now, but I feel a lot of relief that he made it home safe.