Angel was very impatient as we stood on the line for the kiddie coaster. We were at an amusement park for the afternoon after spending the morning doing some great water activities. The morning event was held by a local organization that provides fun events for families of children with special needs. After a short wait, it was finally time for Angel to be seated.
The ride only lasted a minute or at least it seemed that way. When it came back around and stopped, Angel somehow unbuckled his seat belt and started walking toward the track area where the ride had just passed. I yelled out to him to come back to his seat and the male attendant was able to redirect him. That is when I realized that I was still standing at the entrance for the kiddie coaster and not the exit. So I told the attendant that I was coming to get Angel. He began to help Angel out of the kiddie coaster as I walked over.
The distance between where I was standing and the exit was only a few yards. When I arrived, ANGEL WAS GONE! My heart stopped. Well it felt like it did. I asked the attendant, “Where is he?” “He left,” the attendant casually replied. “What do you mean he left?” I asked as panic began to set in. I spun around, scanning the area for my son as a scream got trapped in my throat. I could not see him. For some reason, I also could not yell out his name. I was paralyzed.
The attendants did not leave their station to help me look and frankly they did not seem to care. A billion fears surged through my body and tears welled up in my eyes. Angel was not wearing his GPS. I told myself it was okay because I was with him. I told myself it was okay because he was wearing basketball shorts that did not have a belt loop. Angel’s GPS can only go on his belt. (He won’t wear a bracelet or chain.)
Time slowed down as I looked for Angel. I felt so alone. After a few minutes, the female attendant spotted him nearby. He had climbed onto a garbage can and was hanging off it with a huge grin on his face. I was relieved and angry at the same time. I was mad at myself for trusting someone else with my child, even though it was only for a short time. I started to cry as I grabbed Angel’s hand and we walked way.
As we left, I turned and looked at the attendants and I saw the female attendant look at the male one and shrug with her hands up in the air. As if to say, we dodged a bullet. You damn right you did. I know in the end I am responsible for my son but this just shows how fast children can go missing. We were surrounded by a crowd of people and by water, which Angel had been obsessed with it from the moment we arrived.
I don’t know how I would’ve survived to live another day if I lost my heart and joy, my only child. Even writing this post is making me cry. It all happened so fast. I am writing this to share the fact that elopement is a real issue for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum. Wandering is not a joke. Today could’ve had a different ending but I thank God that I was able to leave with Angel’s little hands in mine.