The Missing

This blog entry is brought to you by the letters B&E and the number 911.

It’s been awhile since this happened, but I think I’m just getting to the point where I can write about it.

For a period of about 30 minutes, Natalie disappeared.

I came home from work and used the restroom while Nat went outside.  A few minutes later, Norma pounded on the door, saying Nat was no longer in the yard.

Our first assumption was she had made it into the neighbor’s yard behind us.  This seemed obvious because the fence dividing our properties was down, making it easy for her to get over there.  I peeked over the fence and called out for her.  I didn’t see her anywhere and when she didn’t answer (not surprisingly), I decided to run around the block and ask the neighbor if they’d seen her.

Fairly spooked and definitely winded (that was my first run since I hurt my hip and any thoughts I had that I was over my injury were disproved with a vengeance), I pounded on their door and rang the bell.  No one answered.  Frustrated, I opened the gate and went into their backyard, telling myself that had to be where she was.  Very much aware of the fact I was trespassing, I looked all over the yard, holding my hands in the air in case they were the “shoot first, ask questions later” type.  I didn’t see her anywhere.

I tried to look in through their sliding glass door, but it struck me the doors were shut and that was something Natalie just wouldn’t do.  Besides, I saw no movement inside.

Now thoroughly scared, I wondered where she could have possibly gotten to.  Their yard still seemed the most logical place due to the fallen fence, but if she had a mind to escape, there were other ways out.  It occurred to me she might be at the park in the neighborhood, but as I started to make my way there, I realized she would have no way of knowing where to go (we always made it a point to drive different ways to get her there, just in case she got it in her head to get out the door and walk there).

Frantic, I went home and searched through the garage and the entire house, just in case she slipped back in while we were distracted.  We checked under the deck, in the surrounding shrubs, everywhere we could think.  Our next door neighbors offered to assist and while Norma ran over to the park, I called 911.

I was almost off the phone with them when I heard my neighbor announce they found her.

She was inside the neighbor’s house, the one with the sliding glass doors I was convinced Nat would never shut behind herself.

I made my way into their yard again, stepping over the fallen fence, all too aware of the fact I was trespassing while on the phone with the police.  Sure enough, she was standing at their sink.

I pounded on the glass door, still on the phone with 911.  She looked up at me, but in classic Natalie fashion, she kept at what she was doing.  I hastily thanked the dispatcher, apologized and hung up, even as I made my way into my neighbor’s house.

The first thing that struck me was it sounded like someone was home.  Music blared from downstairs and two pans of homemade pizzas sat on the counter.  Natalie looked up at me and casually turned and started walking up their stairs.

I grabbed her arm and led her to our yard, both furious and elated at the same time.  She was completely oblivious to what she’d done.  The neighbor who had helped us look for her grabbed some tools and put a sort of metal band-aid on the fence to keep it from falling for now.  While he was working on it, Nat went over and tried to push it down again.  Right in front of us!

Have I mentioned how much I love my daughter?

I went back over later that night to explain what had happened to the neighbors, as I could only imagine their horror when they saw whatever damage Nat had wrought (I didn’t look around when I was in their house).  Even though their lights were on and the dog was barking (thank goodness he hadn’t gotten ahold of Nat), nobody answered.

The next morning we finally made contact with the neighbors, providing a good deal of relief.  The man of the house thought it was just kids messing around, but the lady of the house was convinced it was something more sinister.  Apparently Natalie had broken eggs into several containers and mixed them up with different sauces (explains why she smelled odd after we brought her home).  The lady was convinced it was someone trying to send her a message.

“I know where you live and I can make my way in whenever I want.”

This was reinforced by the fact the people who broke in didn’t steal anything.  They didn’t even try to eat a piece of pizza (which surprised me, as I thought Nat might have gone for it).  We explained she’s been watching Elmo’s World where they talk about making cakes, and she’s rather obsessed with eggs.  We all laughed about it and moved on, with them telling us they’d keep an eye out for her and would probably lock their back door from now on.  According to them, they had left the house just a few minutes before Nat had made her way there.  Also, the dog was in the house, but somehow, the two didn’t cross paths.

For nearly giving us a heart attack, we were quite lucky.

I believe the ordeal made an impact on not only us, but our neighbors as well.  They stopped by the other day to talk to us about Autism, what it is and various things they’d researched.  They had their dog with them, and it growled and barked when it saw Nat.  So far, the fence has held up and I went around the perimeter in an attempt to prevent her from ever escaping again.

She may have only been gone for 30 minutes, but it was long enough for me to never want to experience it again.


S.L. Madden



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