I was hyperventilating and finding it hard to get a word out.
My boys looked at me in fear, not sure what to do or say.
Hands shaking as I tried frantically to call my husband with the news, trying to catch him before he made it all the way home.
Ten minutes before, I had called him in a panic.
So hysterical that I couldn’t even make my voice clear enough to have my call sent to the right desk at his office.
Screaming “It’s an emergency, I need him now!”
Telling my husband “I can’t find him. I lost him. Oh, God, what do I do now? Do I call the police? I don’t know where he is. Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.”
Because moments before that, I had been out in the yard shrieking for our 6 year-old.
“Bear! Where are you? Bear! I need you to answer me! BEAR! WHERE ARE YOU?”
Over and over.
My voice echoing throughout our quiet neighborhood.
The terror in my voice growing with each passing moment.
Shortly before that, I’d searched the house, figuring he’d gone back to sleep or was hanging out in a corner with my iPad or his DS.
But realizing he was nowhere to be found, I headed outside and began a calm search for him, which quickly elevated into a full-out panic attack when he wasn’t answering me.
It hadn’t been that long since I’d seen him last.
He’d woken up and asked if he could get his Mario from the van.
I said sure and continued to work.
I had assumed he’d come right back in.
I didn’t think to check.
He was just getting his toy from the van.
And the other boys were still sleeping so it wasn’t weird that it was quiet.
But then I went to check on him….
The quick and calm search in the house, the terror of him not responding to any of my screaming for him outside, the phone call to my husband.
Scenarios of him wandering off, of someone taking him, of him being gone forever….
I tried to stop hyperventilating so the police would understand me when I called.
And as I looked across my yard, I thought maybe I’ll ask the neighbors if they’ve seen him.
I ran to their front door, still in my pajamas, knocking in what became more of a pounding than a knock on their glass door.
Their interior door open so I could see inside.
One second from pulling their door open and running inside when I see a face.
With a smile on his face and Wii remote in his hand, a Mario game on the tv screen behind him.
I don’t know what I said in my weak attempt to explain how my child could be in their house and playing games for a little while without me having a clue where he was.
My neighbor said Bear had told her I knew where he was and that next time, she’d call or text to make sure I really did know. My boys had spent some time at their house when I’d been out of town last month but not so much when I’d been around, so I didn’t think of them right away.
We headed back home.
And that’s where my boys were staring at me, listening to me hyperventilate and watch me try to call their Daddy to tell him everything was okay.
In that moment, seeing those three faces, knowing they were all safe…
Instead of calming down, my panic attack only grew worse.
Thinking of everything that could have happened.
Thinking of how it only took a small lapse in vigilance to lose one of my kids.
Thinking of all the what ifs.
Unable to get my breathing under control for almost an hour after I found my son.
Having to calm myself over and over all day long as my terror kept returning with each thought of what if.
Knowing we were lucky. No harm done.
But seeing how a child could be gone in an instant.
It’s been a week since this happened and that fear is still there. I don’t know if it will ever fully go away. Maybe it doesn’t need to.
Have you ever had a moment like this with any of your kids?
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