When the boys were barely two, they disappeared. When small boys play at home there’s always sound; chatter, clatter, clunking, and play noise. One day that noise stopped.
Vernelle was in the kitchen making her own clatter. I was in the downstairs office when I heard Vernelle’s voice.
A woman’s voice changes when there’s a serious problem. Just as a mother can hear her own child’s cry in a playground of children, a man knows when there’s problem just by the way a wife calls out.
I hurried up the steps to find Vernelle at the top. “I can’t find the boys,” she said; more than a bit of urgency in her voice. “They’re probably in the closet,” I responded, in that way father’s say life is OK even when it might not be.
We both headed toward their bedroom. A good part of their day was spent there, especially when weather was too hot or too cold or too wet. Missouri often has all that at the same time.
There wasn’t a sound as we entered the bedroom. I looked around, saw nothing, and turned to open the closet doors. Again, nothing.
Then we headed down the hall to our daughter’s room. The boys were absolutely forbidden to enter her room, but she was in school, soooo, boys will be boys…
Again, no boys. We checked our room, under the beds, and in the upstairs bathroom. No boys.
Back to the living room and kitchen. The boys often crawled into the lower cabinets to bang on pots and pans. Don’t ask why. They loved it. Noise, I guess. Maybe they fell asleep there.
Kitchen and living room came up empty, so I headed downstairs. I was certain they weren’t there because that’s where I was before they turned up missing.
No boys downstairs. Back up the steps. Vernelle had just come in from the back door and porch. I opened the front door and checked. Our front door was just a few yards from East Avenue, so it’s possible they could have headed in that direction, but they were too small to open the front door.
No boys out front or in the back as I circled the house and yard.
Back inside we searched each room again, under the beds, in the closets, and, again, the kitchen cabinets. At age two, the boys were still small so finding a cubby hole would be easy.
Now it was official. They boys were gone. No noise anywhere in the house after 15 minutes of looking. The rush of feelings and thoughts and fears was evident in Vernelle’s face and probably mine.
OK, don’t panic, Ron. One more check, slowly, deliberately. They could not have gone that far.
One slow check through their bedroom, the last known location before the noise stopped, found a pile of stuffed animals in the corner near the dresser.
That wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was the little boy foot sticking out next to the dresser, under the stuffed animals in the corner, between the dresser and the wall.
The dresser was about a foot or so away from the corner of the wall. That’s where we found the boys. They had crawled into the corner, pulled the stuffed animals with them, and fell asleep, one on the other.
If it hadn’t been for that little foot sticking out, we wouldn’t have found them until they woke up, and that would have made for a nasty afternoon.
What should you do when a child disappears? Don’t panic, though you may feel like doing just that. Start with the last known location and fan out. Get help. Make your actions deliberate and thoughtful.
Whatever you do, check under the stuffed animals.