Friday, September 19, 2008


[ This is something I wrote back in early July, when the seeds of this whole journey were firmly planted. I thought I'd share it here so you can get a sense of why we're so motivated to do this. - Edson]


I'm not an adrenalin junkie. Don't get me wrong, I like thrills up to a point - roller coasters, sporting events, the occasional suspenseful movie or life-changing decision... Heck, I even went white-water rafting once, and loved it. They put a photographer on top of some big nasty rock, and take a picture of your raft just before you smack into it. In the photo of our raft, everyone was either paddling like mad or hanging on for dear life, concentrating on that rock. Everyone except for me. I had one hand off my paddle and a big grin on my face.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. (I just used the word "thing" twice in one sentence. Somewhere a shudder runs up an English teacher's back.)

First, our daughter was playing on the front porch, which she loves to do. Between the porch swing, the sky chairs, the water that collects on top of the rain barrel and the shady fresh air, I can see why. But in order to let her play out there somewhat unsupervised, I had to build a gate to close it off.

I was going about my business inside, when I realized I didn't hear Amelia's singsong chatter. Probably a nap, I thought. No - they said she napped at school. I went out to check on her, but she wasn't there. I checked in all her favorite napping spots, and still no Amelia.

Then I went back out on the porch, and saw that the gate latch was popped. She'd pushed it hard enough to get it open despite the locking pin. The hinges swung it shut again, so I didn't notice right away.

How long had it been? Was she out in the barn? By the water bucket? In the shed? Near the dirt?


Every parent's worst nightmare. And for context, Amelia is five years old, she's autistic or something like it, she has almost no language skills and no sense of danger.

I got in the truck and drove the length of the driveway. I looked up and down the two (50 mph) roads that border our property. I called Lori to find out how soon she'd be home (any minute) and keep an eye out for Amelia because I couldn't find her.

Lori went one way up the road and I went the other. How long had it been? How far could she have gone? Did I check everywhere inside the house? A flood of worst case scenarios were racing through my head as I tried not to crap my pants.

Then after what was probably a short while, but that seemed like an eternity... I saw her.

She had wandered across the road to a house that was under construction. It's a good quarter mile away at least. Thankfully, the workers had let her play and kept her out of danger.

And I felt like the worst parent on the face of the earth. And not like the "Bad Father" jokes we kick around from time to time. I felt like throwing up.

That experience motivated us to start filling out the paperwork for something we'd heard about not too long ago: Service dogs for special needs kids.

While we were filling out the forms, not two hours after Amelia's Bogus Journey, she started choking on a mouthful of pretzels. Her mouth was open, but no sound was coming out. Her arms were flapping and she looked panicked. Lori did the Heimlich Maneuver, or something approximating it, several times until Amelia threw up her pretzels and started crying.

Everybody is ok, and Amelia is no worse for wear. I'm not sure about her parents.

Amelia prudently chose a different snack, and went back to her happy routines.

Meanwhile, as I implied above, I think I've had more than enough adrenalin for one day. I've probably had enough everything for one day. But sleep seems far off right now. I wasn't sure if I should write about this, or if I wanted to. I'm still not sure, and I don't know what purpose it serves except to get it out of my system. But here it is.

Not very fun emotions to revisit. I'm scared all over again, long after the fact. But it's over. Life can resume it's normal course.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on some clean underwear. Again.