Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I'm not an adrenalin junkie. Don't get me wrong, I like thrills up to a point - roller coasters, sporting events, the occasional suspenseful movie or life-changing decision... Heck, I even went white water rafting once, and loved it. They put a photographer on top of some big nasty rock, and take a picture of your raft just before you smack into it. In the photo of our raft, everyone was either paddling like mad or hanging on for dear life, concentrating on that rock. Everyone except for me. I had one hand off my paddle and a big grin on my face.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. (I just used the word "thing" twice in one sentence. Somewhere a shudder runs up an English teacher's back.)

First, our daughter was playing on the front porch, which she loves to do. Between the porch swing, the sky chairs, the water that collects on top of the rain barrel and the shady fresh air, I can see why. But in order to let her play out there somewhat unsupervised, I had to build a gate to close it off.

I was going about my business inside, when I realized I didn't hear Amelia's singsong chatter. Probably a nap, I thought. No - they said she napped at school. I went out to check on her, but she wasn't there. I checked in all her favorite napping spots, and still no Amelia.

Then I went back out on the porch, and saw that the gate latch was popped. She'd pushed it hard enough to get it open despite the locking pin. The hinges swung it shut again, so I didn't notice right away.

How long had it been? Was she out in the barn? By the water bucket? In the shed? Near the dirt?


Every parent's worst nightmare. And for newer readers, Amelia is five years old, she's autistic or something like it, she has almost no language skills and no sense of danger.

I got in the truck and drove the length of the driveway. I looked up and down the two (50 mph) roads that border our property. I called Lori to find out how soon she'd be home (any minute) and keep an eye out for Amelia because I couldn't find her.

Lori went one way up the road and I went the other. How long had it been? How far could she have gone? Did I check everywhere inside the house? A flood of worst case scenarios were racing through my head as I tried not to crap my pants.

Then after what was probably a short while, but that seemed like an eternity... I saw her.

She had wandered across the road to a house that was under construction. It's a good quarter mile away at least. Thankfully, the workers had let her play and kept her out of danger.

And I felt like the worst parent on the face of the earth. And not like the "Bad Father" gag from my last post. I felt like throwing up.

That experience motivated us to start filling out the paperwork for something we'd heard about not too long ago: Service dogs for special needs kids. (I'll write more about this at a later date.)

While we were filling out the forms, not two hours after Amelia's Bogus Journey, she started choking on a mouthful of pretzels. Her mouth was open, but no sound was coming out. Her arms were flapping and she looked panicked. Lori did the Heimlich Maneuver, or something approximating it, several times until Amelia threw up her pretzels and started crying.

Everybody is ok, and Amelia is no worse for wear. I'm not sure about her parents.

Amelia prudently chose a different snack, and went back to her happy routines.

Meanwhile, as I implied above, I think I've had more than enough adrenalin for one day. I've probably had enough everything for one day. But sleep seems far off right now. I wasn't sure if I should write about this, or if I wanted to. I'm still not sure, and I don't know what purpose it serves except to get it out of my system. But here it is.

Not very fun emotions to revisit. I'm scared all over again, long after the fact. But it's over. Life can resume it's normal course.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on some clean underwear. Again.


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At 7/02/2008 7:34 AM, Blogger Robbyn said...

Whew, I'm relieved for you!

At 7/02/2008 8:45 AM, Blogger Morgan said...

all I can say is AGHHHHHHH

I am sooo sorry about pepper.

good luck with the special needs dog

call sometime

my comment seems lame I haven't slept in 4 days

At 7/02/2008 8:50 AM, Blogger Britta said...

I'm glad she's okay and you are too! Good luck with the dog, I hope she/he comes quickly into your family.

At 7/02/2008 9:45 AM, Blogger thenn said...

Any second you can't find your child is an eternity. That must have been terrifying. Elspeth once choked on a piece of ravioli. She was young enough that infant CPR still worked (pick up, invert and whack). Our dog, without thought for life or limb, jumped on that ravioli and devoured it so that the danger was removed from the area. Yet another reason for a service dog.

I'm glad you, Lori and Amelia all made it through the day!

At 7/02/2008 1:43 PM, Blogger Suzer said...

Oh God e4! There is nothing more terrifying than a child gone missing. This winter Maya decided to go visit the neighbors with out telling anyone and set our house into a panic. Luckily we were able to follow her footprints in the snow, but I swear it was the longest 10 minutes of our lives. It's amazing how many death/ torture senarios your brain can concoct in such a short amount of time.

At 7/03/2008 8:18 PM, Blogger Wendy said...

That would have been terrifying. I'm happy that she's okay, and that you've indentified a solution for yourselves.

At 7/05/2008 5:12 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

what a scary day! I'm glad it all turned out for the best in the end. Hope you have a dull weekend!

At 7/07/2008 5:10 PM, Blogger barefoot gardener said...

Oh, how cool to get a service dog for Amelia! I love that idea.

So glad the little escape artist is fine. I lost Big Sprout once, and I was terrified and horrified. I can't imagine how much worse it was for you with her actually leaving the property!

You could always take my approach, which is to duct tape your kids to the bed and lock the door till they are at least 20....just kidding.


At 7/10/2008 11:30 PM, Blogger risa said...

So glad you found her!

Our last son has what can be called high functioning Asperger's Syndrome. He's 24 now and lives alone with some help from us, which the state pays us to do. A great guy. Spends a lot of his time volunteering at the food bank gardens.

When he was about Amelia's age I was at the county fair with three of the kids (the oldest, who wasn't there, is now 40 -- how time flies). I had him by the hand and Daughter was in a backpack. Middle Son wanted to go on a ride, and I let go Last Son's hand to pull out a ticket. By the time I had handed over the ticket, I was short one kid. It was that fast -- less than five seconds. He had melted into a crowd of fifteen thousand people.

We circled the fair grounds three times, then, so that I could cover ground faster, I put the oldest and the youngest together at the Lost and Found and stopped there briefly at the end of each frantic loop. I CANNOT DESCRIBE the state of my innards while this was going on. After one hour and a quarter he turned up there -- had backtracked to have a conversation with Smokey the Bear (clearly a relative), who brought him in.

last night, he and I went to a film he wanted to see at the local art cinema, and on the way back to his place, we came to a set of apartments with a garage underneath. A college girl in a Mustang with a cell phone stuck to the side of her head floored it out of there, almost got us. I flung my hand across his chest, just as I had done so many times when he was a toddler -- even though he outweighs me by a good sixty muscular pounds.

We parents, it seems, never give up the Guardian Angel role -- even if we do blow it from time to time.


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