My oldest daughter is now officially a teenager. Not because she turned 13 four months ago, but because yesterday she went missing for a few hours, giving us all a major scare.
About 1:30 PM I was in a meeting at work and got a phone call from my ex-wife, frantic because Melanie should have been home two hours earlier. She wanted to know whether Melanie had called me, I told her that she hadn’t. She called Kathy to ask the same question, and a few minutes later Kathy called. She was out in Eagle Mountain with her parents and would not be able to get there quickly, so I explained the problem to my boss and got in my car to drive over to my ex’s house.
On the way, I ran into a major traffic snarl. There was an accident in the final clearing stages just past the point where southbound Foothill Boulevard and the I-80 exit ramp join to form I-215. Because of that, it took considerably longer than planned to arrive.
When I got there, I found out more about what had happened. Melanie had gotten up early (about 5:30), done her hair up nice, and had been very excited about going to yearbook day. They had discussed going to lunch after school. At about 11:30, her mom went to her school to get her and couldn’t find her, so she came back home to wait for her to arrive. At around noon, she went back to the school and found that it there was nobody there. She found someone and had Melanie paged, but she never came.
The Sheriff deputy had come by the house and left to talk to the school’s staff by the time I arrived, which was about 2:15 PM. A little while after that, I called home, expecting to get the voicemail so I could check for messages, and one of my step-daughters answered. She and her twin sister were almost hysterical and crying. Kathy had taken them home and left them with her parents. About 2:30, Kathy arrived.
About 2:45, the deputy called. She had found Melanie at the rec center next to the school, swimming. Melanie had planned the whole thing, taking her swimsuit with her to school and going to the pool after school was over with a bunch of other kids. The problem was that she had not told anybody where she was going, and had known that her mom would be home waiting for her so they could go to lunch.
A few minutes later, the deputy arrived with Melanie. If she didn’t know she was in trouble by having a police officer bring her home, she definitely knew it when she arrived home to five adults – me, Kathy, her mom, her grandmother, and her great-greandmother. The deputy was very nice, and everyone thanked her before she left.
We were actually very calm with her, concentrating on the fact that everyone was scared that we would never see her again. I never reached the panic level myself, but I’m pretty sure that if evening had come before we found her, I would have reached that point. Even so, it was a very stressful time.
Melanie did not get grounded, but was told that if anything similar ever happened again, the consequences would be severe. Her mom has been calling her the little mermaid because she sort of ran away from home and went swimming. She’ll be coming over on Sunday to spend the week with my family. I’m sure she’ll be sick of hearing about this incident by then, but I will be having a talk with her about it when she comes.