"Did you leave your car unlocked last night?" he asked as soon as I answered.
"No," I responded groggily.
"Your car is gone. It's not here." I tried to process what he was saying. I tried to remember if I could have left my car somewhere other than our driveway.
"Are you serious?" I asked, half awake and wondering if this was a dream or Jon's poor idea of a prank. I also had the fleeting thought that if someone wanted my twenty year old Buick, they could have it. Before I could say anything else, Jon interrupted the quick succession of my thoughts with the one thought that had not crossed my mind.
"Check to see if Christian is there." Our sixteen year old son still should have been asleep in his bed. It hadn't occurred to me that he might have taken my car. He only had his permit. Later I would learn Jon thought Christian might have been out joyriding. When I said the words, "He's gone," Jon took off to check the nearby parking lot of his friend's apartment complex. He was already back in the driveway by the time I came out with the note. Christian didn't intend on coming back or being found. He left his cell phone behind.
I can't explain with the clarity I would like to the emotions I experienced that morning. Needless to say, I was a wreck, but I was also holding it together. Yes, my son was missing. I cried; I hyperventilated; I hugged my husband; we got to work. Falling apart was not going to bring Christian back. Jon handled the legal side. He put out a BOLO, reported our car stolen, and reported our son missing.
I called the bank and argued with impassive employees about the need to divulge any information about Christian's debit card usage. We discovered he had used his card at one gas station, but he wouldn't use it again, so that became a dead end. We discovered poetry and notes on an anonymous poetry website and on Facebook, but those led us in the wrong direction. I began posting his picture and information about his disappearance on Facebook. People re-posted and spread the word. Family called. Friends tried searching for him both in town and on the highway. The detectives and deputies did everything within their power to search for him. In the end, Jon made one prediction that turned out to hold the truth. "When he runs out of money, he will be home." Christian pulled up in our driveway around ten in the morning on Wednesday. He had been gone for close to 36 hours.
We can't thank everyone enough. There are no words to truly express the gratitude my husband and I feel for what friends, family and even complete strangers did to help us in our search. We are grateful to the detectives and deputies who worked so hard and checked on us so often. We are grateful to all of our friends and family, but especially to Mike and Derek, who drove to Miami to search for Christian even though they knew it was a shot in the dark. We are grateful to everyone who posted Christian's picture, assured people his disappearance was real and tried to reach out to him on Facebook or through e-mail.
Anytime someone experiences tragedy--a lost child, a lost home, a death, an illness--it reaffirms my faith in humanity to see how our communities pull together. We have community with family, with friends, with our home town, and with the world at large. We come together to help those in need, no matter what the need may be. There is something within us that wants to help, that wants to be there, that wants to reach out and support humankind. We thank all of the people who were a part of or became a part of our community in our time of need.
We head now into a time of healing. We don't know why Christian left with any amount of certainty. He came to a point in his emotional state where leaving felt like the only option. The only sign we had that something was wrong was his increased sleeping habits. We were looking into those, but we didn't know with certainty that his sleep pattern was a sign of depression. It could have been anything, only it wasn't. We didn't get in an argument. He sat with us Monday night while our youngest child opened presents for her birthday. We ate dinner as a family, minus Jon since he had to leave for work. We ate cake. We watched a funny movie. Christian did his chores; I pulled weeds in the front yard. Our youngest learned to ride her bike; our middle child took a bike ride around the block with a friend--only the second time we had let him do this without a parent. Monday couldn't have been more normal. Still, on Tuesday morning, our world fell apart. Now we'll work to put it back together.