It is with great happiness that I can report that my daughter, Marie, is home safe and sound! The tale is something straight out of “Criminal Minds,” or at least a facsimile.
My daughter, who is deaf, had been bored to death since last fall. Partially due to my own lack of advocacy, she was without a proper day program, and her days had been spent lying on the couch chatting with people who are deaf “on line”. They were all her friends! Wasn’t she lucky to have so many wonderful friends? One rather handsome young man “courted” her for months, calling her his girlfriend, and she was thrilled! She was like other young adults and had a “significant other”, and she bragged about him to anyone who would listen (i.e., read her sign language.) When he invited her to Florida to marry him and have a nice life with children, she jumped at the chance. After all, she was an adult, and wasn’t that something adults did? Someone arranged to pick her up at our home to give her a ride to the bus station. She snuck out of the house, and bravely took the bus to Jacksonville. She texted me several times a day, saying how much fun the bus ride was, and that she was finally going to have her own life. Her texting stopped the minute the bus hit Jacksonville. I texted frantically. Had she arrived? Where was she staying? Was she okay? And the all famous, ever constant “I love you.” Not a texted word back, which was very unusual for her. Even if she had wandered into trouble, as she had several times previously, she was always in touch with me. But not a peep of the cell phone keyboard.
With the help of police here, she was placed on the national Missing Endangered Person list and the police in Jacksonville were aware of her predicament. I figured it would be best if I went alone, even though that sounds braver than I actually was. The sight of policemen would have frightened Marie, who was already in a dangerous situation. (Every other time she had seen them, they were dragging her in restraints to the nearest psychiatric facility.)
Tracking her phone, which had been stolen from her but was used by one of the men in the group, her location was deemed to be a rather seedy motel on the wrong side of the tracks in Jacksonville. With the sturdy determination of an angry mother bear, I tracked down the room number from the motel clerk who was not about to get involved in hiding a Missing Endangered Person. With sweaty, shaking hands and a rush of adrenalin, I mustered up the strength to knock on the door. Her handsome “boyfriend” opened it slightly and I pushed myself in. There were four men and three women sharing this room, and Marie was one of them. With dark bags under her eyes and sallow skin, she saw me and burst into tears. I enveloped my arms around her malodorous, shivering body to calm her, but her agitation increased until she was sobbing so much that my shirt was soon sopped with tears. Pulling away, I politely explained (in ASL) to everyone that I was in the neighborhood and was going to visit a good friend of mine with three cute dogs that Marie loves. I asked Marie if she wanted to accompany me on this visit, and she adamantly shook her head yes, tears still running down her face. The other people in the room, apparently clueless that Marie was not thrilled to be part of their company, asked when she would be back. After visiting my friend and her dogs for a few days, she would be back on Saturday. They appeared relieved she was returning, and Marie appeared petrified that I would bring her back.
They all followed us down to the car, hugging Marie and saying they would see her soon. They appeared reluctant to let us close the car doors, but with all of the superhuman strength we could muster, Marie and I wrestled the doors out of their hands, slammed them shut and quickly drove off.
The rest of the coming home saga will continue in next week’s column. Hint…it has the twisting turns of a good Tim Burton movie, but it does have a happy ending.