I am sure you had heard the news about Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old boy from Queens who wandered from his school in Long Island in October of last year. My heart broke for his parents, not knowing where he was or what happened to him. Sadly, he was recently found dead. I can only imagine how they feel.
And easily, I could know. If you have read any of my past blogs, you know a bit about Jamie. That although, his diagnosis is not autism, he is on the spectrum and has many similar characteristics. Running, like Avonte did, is one of them. When we lived in Clear Lake, a smaller town, he would crawl under our fence and go visit the neighbors. He was fast. We would just go get him and everything was fine.
When he was five, we moved to this house in rural Mason City, in the country, on the highway. We were here for only 3 weeks when he decided to ‘run’ again. This time, it was only the beginning of a long nightmare for me and our family. He took advantage of a split second I was in another room to unlock the door and leave. And go onto the highway. I can not tell you the terror I felt as we searched for him. I was in fear of never finding him. I was terrified what might have happened to him. When I called the police station, I found him. But our nightmare was far from over. If you like to read, grab a chair and read the story that the Los Angeles Times published about it back in 1995.
While it was not the first article written, as there were MANY, it was one that garnered the most attention.
I am happy to say, in case you were wondering after reading that, I was successful in helping change laws here in Iowa and got my name removed from that list.
But this isn’t about that, this is about Jamie running. Because that wasn’t the last time. He used to like to give me a sly look when we were outside and start to run towards the road. Good thing I could move fast! We still use those deadbolts to this day. But he is smart. He can unlock them if he finds the key. He did that once when I was in the shower. That time he got in my car and started it. Luckily that was it! I take the key with me to the shower now!
I got a call once at work. It was Jamie’s teacher. She told me they had something happen. Not the first time I heard such a thing. So I wasn’t too worried. BUT she said, Jamie had walked out of the school and was now “unresponsive” in front of a hotel FAR from the school! He had walked that far! How had NO ONE seen him leave the school? He had to cross many many busy roads to get where he was. How he was not hit by a car, I do not know. I dropped everything and got right there. Luckily it was just blocks from where I worked. When I got there, he was sitting on the ground, refusing to go with people he did not know! He saw me, got up and took my hand and we headed to the car. They wondered if I was taking him back to the school. No! I wanted to know what they were going to do to assure me that it would never happen again! I still thank God to this day that nothing happened to him that day!
One morning, for some reason, the door wasn’t locked. I was sitting here in this chair. Suddenly he was running by me and out the door! I flew out of the chair, running after him, screaming for him to stop! He didn’t. He ran as fast as he could across the highway!! This is an extremely busy highway. I knew for sure that I was going to watch my son die. But luckily, there was not one car on the highway at that moment. I am convinced my son must have some guardian angels that work overtime! (Just writing about this again, makes my heart beat faster!) Btw, he was going to check the mailbox to see if the local Shopper was in it yet. It was Tuesday, the day the Shopper gets delivered every week.
A few years ago, I noticed the curtains on the sliding door blowing. He again took an instant to open the door and leave. He simply wanted to go to town to Dollar General. On his own. Alone. For once. All by himself, with no one keeping an eye on him, no one telling him what to do.
Imagine what it must be like to never ever being able to do that. To go anywhere independently. He is smart. He has feelings. I think it must be pretty horrible! Is it any wonder, that lately he has been telling me that HE is getting a yellow car in 2017 and HE is driving it!
I feel for Avonte’s parents. I can ALMOST imagine what it must be like. I came so close to being just like them. We have been lucky. We still have Jamie. They no longer have their son. Maybe he wanted that feeling of independence! Who knows the reason he ran? He is running free now….just somewhere far far away.