Friday, September 14, 2007


I watched a lot of television growing up. There was hardly a variety of programming in Saudi or Colombia, so when we were in the US, my parents would videotape television shows and movies all day for viewing when we returned home. This included tapes and tapes of music videos, as this was back when MTV played them. You name it: sitcoms, dramas, afterschool specials, movies of the week, etc.

One of the shows I remember most vividly was Adam. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. It is based on the true story of Adam Walsh, whose father went on to host America's Most Wanted. His son was abducted from a mall and, sadly, he was found dead - decapitated, if memory serves. His mother had left him alone to play video games while she shopped, and when she went to collect him, he was gone. I don't believe they ever caught his murderer.

I haven't seen it since the 80's, but still remember the vivid portrayals of the (actors who portrayed the) parents. Maybe I was just young and impressionable, but it hit every level of emotion. How risky it is to leave your kids unattended, even in a public place. How there are bad guys out there in happy suburban communities who will kidnap kids and cut their heads off. How such a horrific crime effectively ends the lives of the parents as they once knew it and they have to almost be born again, but with all the memories of their former lives precisely intact.

This morning, as I was getting out of the shower, I heard my phone ring. Unusual for it to ring at 6:30am these days, I made my way to it and saw I had missed two calls. The last one had been my mother, but I had also missed one from my sister at midnight the night before. Also unusual to get such a late call (I had been asleep), so I first checked my voice mail from my sister.

Holy shit. She called at midnight, panicked because her 13 12 year old daughter KK, my niece, was missing. [Ed. Note: I somehow convinced myself KK was a now a teenager. She is only 12. This makes the story worse, both because I got her age wrong and SHE IS ONLY 12] Cops were at her house, going through KK's stuff and computer, looking for any evidence or clues as to where she might be. I felt stabs of sibling guilt, as I really need to sleep with the phone next to my bed, for exactly this type of situation. 13 12 year old girl. Missing. In L.A. The city, not the suburbs.

KK is her mother's daughter and not disobedient or rebellious. Sure, she is now almost a teenager and does the irritating teenager things (not wanting to do homework, interested in teenager things), but she isn't a defiant child. Quite, quite the opposite. She is loving and sweet, with no temper I have witnessed, nor any propensity towards rebellion or troublemaking. Had I been awake and taken the call at midnight, I would have been convinced that something unspeakable had happened to her. She isn't the type to run away, as she and my sister get along like close siblings. She isn't the kind of girl who would simply not come home one day and not call her mother. She had never done anything of the sort and this would be completely out of character. I would have been on the phone, trying to calm my sister down and proposing alternate, less horrifying possibilities and action items. (call hospitals, friends, every number on her cell phone bill, etc.)

But I didn't get the call and my sister had to face the unthinkable - that something and someone happened to her daughter. Even with the memory of Adam, I will never begin to understand what my sister went through last night.

I called my sister immediately and she was, quite simply, in shock. KK had just been returned home half an hour earlier. Through cell phone records, the police (there had been nearly a dozen at her home and a helicopter above her home) traced KK to a friend's home. A male friend. A 16 year old male friend from her after school program.

Yes. Yes, I know. Sister is certain that nothing physical occurred, for reasons that I still need to understand. I am much more suspicious and hope to persuade her to get KK checked out medically (although it is now too late for most types of physical evidence). I can sort of understand why she doesn't think anything physical happened, as KK isn't particularly boy crazy. She is at a stage where she is trying to find her voice and place and simply make friends. Yes. Yes, I know. Often girls make friends by going along with things that they don't want to do. I have to defer to the expert here, and the expert is my sister, who is with her daughter daily. Still, what 16 year old boy has a girl stay over and not....yeah.

So the good - no, fucking fantastic news -- is that my niece is safe at home, albeit "grounded for a year," according to my sister. I need to remind my sister that my very worst acts of deception and rebellion occurred while I was grounded. If you are already grounded, you have nothing to lose, so might as well go for it. I snuck out, smoked and drank more when I was grounded than I did when I was golden with the parents. I never got caught. "Grounded" was just a superficial label - a reason to be petulant and sulk in your room, where you just might be smoking pot (I think I did this twice) or cigarettes, or snorting coke (no comment -- it was Colombia - when in Rome and all that. It was about being local).

In addition to worrying about my sister and niece all day, I thought about the shit I was doing at thirteen. I am terrible at remembering years by age and am better by grades. KK just started 7th grade. By 7th grade, I had had one "serious" boyfriend (entry is too long, but suffice to say, he flew to see me on the weekends after I moved, and that was 6th grade), French kissed a few boys and went a little further with one or two (and I was hardly sexually-minded compared to my friends), smoked pot (once or twice - I am a failure as a pot smoker), smoked cigarettes, gotten drunk a few times (my memory may be off here - that might have been 8th grade), and snuck out a handful of times (this, by the way, could have cost my father his job). I also was a good student who did her homework and genuinely enjoyed the academic competition, so I was able to stay under the radar.

You know what I would never, ever have done? Just stayed out all night at a friend's house - particularly a boy's house - and simply not called my parents. First, my dad would have whooped my ass. Literally. Second, my dad would have been so disappointed in me and would have looked at me differently. Not just that he didn't trust me, but that he didn't know me anymore, or worse, that he didn't like me anymore. Third, and probably most important, I would have known that my parents would be frantic and beside themselves with fear. I was secretly rebellious, if that is the correct term (which I don't think it is), and although I wasn't particularly close with my parents, I would have still known that they would be worried sick about me and, upon my return, no relief would be able to overcome their anger at having been made so worried. Maybe I was a teenaged lawyer, but no risk-benefit analysis would have prompted me to just stay out all night.

Fuck, this is long. I know my sister is a great mom and KK reveres her. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why she would do something so out of character. And as troubling as this is for me, I know my sister is having it far, far worse.

1 comment:

Norm said...

Jesus Christ.

*counts kids*


*counts them again*

Still OK.

*waits ten more seconds*