A Lost Child
It completely breaks my heart to see that Avonte Oquendo, the autistic 14-year-old boy from Queens, is still missing after so much time. I can’t imagine what his mother must feel like with the holidays approaching, knowing that her son is out there and she doesn’t know where, and she can’t be with him or take care of him.
Stories like this didn’t used to bother me too much, but now they do because I know how terrible it would be if my niece or nephew were missing. It’s unimaginable and the worst nightmare for a family to have to endure. I don’t know Avonte’s mother, but before he went missing, we worked for the same company. She hasn’t been back to work since, obviously. I read in an interview that she is not looking forward for Christmas and the only thing she wants is her son back.
When I was little, I got lost a few times. I once walked out of my day care, calm as anything, and tried to walk back home. Luckily, the principal/director of the day care was late that day and as she was getting off the bus, she saw me standing on a street near the school and recognized me.
She brought me back to the woman taking care of the children and asked, “Isn’t this girl from this center?” and the woman screamed, “Yes, Kari! Thank goodness!” She called me Kari instead of Karen. That was my last day attending that day care. My mother took me out of it and cared for me herself since she was not working at that time. Who knows what would’ve happened to me if the principal hadn’t been late that day by chance.
Another time, I was with my parents at their friend’s apartment. I was playing with a few other kids and when it was time to go, my parents couldn’t find me. They searched the entire apartment, turning it upside down and I was nowhere to be found. My mother said she was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t move.
My mother said she felt sweat pouring out from her fingertips. My father ran outside and saw me standing at the corner in front of a bar, and this was late at night. I was casually strolling around in circles around some utility pole or something, oblivious to all the fuss.
I don’t remember how old I was, but again, I was lucky. Anyone could have taken me and that would’ve been the last I saw of my family. I don’t know what I was thinking both of those times when I got lost, but I just thank God that I was found and reunited with my parents.
It just makes you wonder why some parents are lucky that way and some aren’t. It’s so random how quickly life can completely change from one day to the next. That’s why I know not to take things for granted.
I am incredibly blessed to be healthy mentally, to be educated and cared for and have a job and my independence. Life is fragile and miraculous, even in the ordinary times. Being alive, safe, and sheltered is something to be grateful for every single day.
I still pray for Avonte to be found safe, and returned home to his mother where he belongs.
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