Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Did you ever have one of those can't do anything right, dropped the baby on her head, forgot to turn the coffee pot off, check engine light went on in the car, missed the due date on the credit card bill, don't want to put the Christmas tree up, terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad days?
Welcome to today. Population me.
Today started out just as any other normal day would. Running slightly late, but got the Girl off to the bus stop just about on time, breakfasted, and dressed for the weather.
I got myself dressed and then headed off to school, to finish my outline and take my Misdemeanors final. Spent all morning in the lounge, in the zone, all things are well. Afternoon exam session started at 1:30pm, and I was done with the final around 3:40 or so. Packed up, turned in my exam to the Registrar, and was met by one of the assistant registrars.
"We got a call from Safety and Security."
This would drive fear into the heart of any student.
"It's about your daughter."
This made my heart drop to my knees.
"Apparently, today was an early release day for the schools and she got home, and got scared that nobody was there. Somehow she managed to get hold of Safety and Security, and everything's fine...they got hold of your husband, but they called over here looking for you, and we would have pulled you out of the final if something were wrong, but we wanted you to know."
It was at this point that I had one of those parental moments. Somewhere between fear, anger, neglect and self-hatred resides a monster of a different sort. This is the one that says "no, really. It was you that took a completely controllable situation and fucked it up because you've had seventeen thousand other things on your mind, not the least of which is your daughter."
Needless to say, I rushed home, and found the Boy and the Girl at the neighbor's house. We walked home and put the pieces together.
Apparently the Girl got scared when she got home and found nobody here. (I was taking my final, naturally.) As previously stated, it was an early release day, meaning she would be home two hours earlier than normal (around 2pm instead of 4pm.) Now, preface all of this by saying that she has arrived home before me on a few occasions, and she's been instructed to stay in the house and wait for me -- I am generally home within 10 minutes of her arrival and she doesn't freak out. This semester I had a class that met once a week and let out about 5-10 minutes after her bus arrived. Ironically enough, this class was the final I took today.
She waited about 15 minutes and when nobody came home, she apparently went outside (dressed in her coat, boots and snowpants, thank God) and got noticed by the neighbor, who promptly invited her in and got enough information out of her to call her school and get the school to call the Boy at work.
Whilst the school got hold of the Boy, the neighbor called over to campus security and got them working on finding me. (Meanwhile I'm in a sequestered exam room, with my cell phone off and my computer working offline in exam software mode, and hence, incommunicado.)
The Girl stayed at the neighbor's until the Boy got home. I got out of my exam, got the news and immediately took off for home as quickly as I could waddle.
When all was said and done, we are very lucky nothing happened. Lucky that the neighbor was home, lucky that the Girl had the wherewithal to know that the neighbor was a safe place to go, lucky the Boy wasn't out of town on business, lucky that the school got hold of him right away.
I am still waiting for the lump in my throat to go away, for the guilt at not having looked closely at the school calendar to subside. My hands are literally shaking, and I could care less about how I did on the stupid final. The Girl is no worse for the wear, apparently. The Boy and I are about as wrecked as two parents could be.
We now have the name and number of the neighbor. We're going to type up a laminated card for the bottom of her backpack with all of our info as well as campus info for me. And we're going to get her a pay as you go cell phone which has numbers programmed into it, and we'll teach her to use it so she can call one of us directly if something like this happens again.
I'm also going to teach her how to walk to the law building and to the safety and security office so she knows where to go to find me or find help.
And next semester, I'm getting extra copies of the school calendar to post in every room, computer, calendar, Outlook, alarm and cell phone in the house. This will NOT happen again.
The horrid part of it is that this could have been prevented. I should have been more mindful, I should have checked the calendar, I should have done ten other easy things to make sure she was cared for. The exam I took today was self-scheduled. It would have easily kept until tomorrow morning. Or next week.
I keep thinking about how she could have gotten picked up by a stranger or run over by a car, or hundreds of other horrible things that you hear on CNN... I keep picturing her little body at the bottom of a ditch, or frozen or frostbitten or worse, simply gone and vanished into thin air. I hear Amber Alerts all the time for kids, and every time I hear one I pray to God that child returns home, and I thank God that it's not my Girl.
It may seem blown out of proportion, especially to the non-parents who read this, but when you're one step away from shoulda-coulda-woulda, and it's your child's safety on the line, I dare you to feel otherwise.
I'm fairly well wrecked right now...and things will be better in the morning. I doubt it will stop me from waking up every couple of hours tonight, just to check that she's still asleep in her bed, safe from the cold cruel world for at least one more night.