Every time I visit the Public Bank ATM, I always contemplate and wonder about this lost girl whose picture is posted on the screen. Is she dead and rotted by now? Is she growing up with the adopted parents who did a criminal act? Is she suffering every day under the clutches of a pedophile, or being passed around in a child sex slave ring? How are the parents handling this loss knowing everyday that there is no closure to their deep sadness? How do they come to terms with the feeling of being in limbo, always waiting for something to happen?
I claimed I can only begin to imagine the parents’ feelings because I once “lost” two of my kids on two separate occasions when they were young, albeit briefly.
The first one was our daughter when she was about 4 years old at the Gaya Street Sunday Fair. I and her mom were never reckless with our kids and always believe that kids should always be seen and not heard. But in the briefest of moments when I thought her mom had her hand, and she thought I was holding her, our daughter was gone, lost in the crowd or she lost sight of us and wandered looking for us. The moment of realisation that she was not with us was a moment of sheer terror, absolutely ice-poured-over-me terror. I raced through the street looking for her while her mom when the other way, dragging our younger child. I went to the back of the shops hoping but fully dreading I will see a guy carrying her away. We were frenetic for the next 30 minutes asking everyone if they know of a lost child. Finally a security guard told us that one of his colleagues at the end of the street is with a lost girl.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou God, it was Marion.
The second time involved our elder son. When he was first year at Tzu Yu Kindagarten, one day he decided to go walkabout. It was the busy time when parents were picking up their kiddies after morning classes and others were transitioning to the afternoon day care. The little maverick just decided (he told us this later) that he wanted to go to my office and so he simply walked through the school gate unnoticed right under the noses of the teachers and security guards who were supposed to enforce their rule that no child is to leave the gates unchaperoned. The little boy was already lost for 2 hours when the school called me at office to tell that they couldn’t find him.
“YOU WAITED 2 HOURS TO TELL ME THIS?” I shouted.
I and his mom rushed to the school. I screamed at the teachers to fanned out and search for him. I wanted to strangle the fat old principal. Once again I was utterly terrified; it was the only time I have to sit down because standing up means feeling like I will pee into my pants. His mom was crying, helplessly, distraughtly walking around in circles. I couldn’t look into her eyes because I couldn’t contemplate sharing the fact that we lost a kid. I searched the jungle behind the school calling his name. I even opened the water tanks, dreading to find our boy floating dead in the water. I thought he was kidnapped. I thought he took a ride in one of his friends’ parent’s car.
WE COULDN’T FIND HIM! Nobody had a fucking idea where he was or what happened to him.
By now there was a large number of people milling around the school gates. My office mates and my wife’s colleagues came. They went driving around the school general areas looking for the lost boy. A police car came and two cops started asking questions. Well past the third hour, the police car radio cackled; the police station reported that someone reported finding a lost child.
OH PLEASE, OH PLEASE! LET IT HE HIM. PLEASE, PLEASE…
The patrol car came back and there he was—a glum-faced kid, still resplendent in his Tzu Yu uniform. His mom was crying even more, torrents of words coming out. I was afraid she was going to scold him. I carried him out of the car, held him high, put my arms around mom and said, “Mommy, let’s go home.”
The police told us that 2 women who worked at the Ministry of Social Welfare at the Wisma Tun Fuad Stevens who found him. Later when I met with the two ladies, they told me they found the little adventurer when he was about to hazard crossing the busy road from the Wisma Tun Fuad Stevens side to Wisma Karamunsing. Months later, I and his mom could joke about the whole thing. “Darryl, you are the only kindergarten kid who ever went to school in a police car,” we told our son.
Sadly I was to lose mom 2 years later, this time, forever.