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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Running Away: or Reliving Starvation and Deprivation?

A couple of weeks back, my boys ran away from home.

I think. I’m not sure.

For someone who sleeps very lightly and has two Scottie guard dogs that would pounce on anyone trying to come or go, the whole thing is baffling to me. Before the crack of dawn, the boys had disappeared.

Benedetto and I had gotten up, he took the dogs for a walk, and I hopped in the shower. It was time for the kids to rise and shine and I was about to head to their rooms. My husband arrived to meet me first.

“The boys are gone,” he said somberly.

“What do you mean?”  This was not the kind of news that normally greets one first thing in the morning. We often referred to the dogs as “the boys” and I wondered if they had slipped out the door without their leashes, or if someone had dognapped them.

“The boys are gone,” he repeated. “I found a note in their room.”

The blood in my veins turned ice cold and my heart stopped. These were the human boys, our sons. Time stood still while my world swirled around me. I read the hastily-scrawled and misspelled note that had been hurriedly taped to their bunkbed.

It stated that they were going camping (?), we were not to look for them (?), they would be home in another day and a half before 10:00 am, maybe earlier (?). Oh, and “Don’t worry.”

My mind reeled. Our eldest son had never given us a moment’s trouble in six years, since coming home from Russia.

Our next son had been home one and one-half years. He had constant minor problems mostly due to naivete and other contributing factors. I could not, for the life of me, envision either one of them pulling off such a stupid stunt. Never in a million years.

And here’s the rub: we had just met with the police the day before. Our goal was to let the children know that police in America were honest and could be trusted. All of our children had had negative experiences with Russian police. So the four of them met with an officer friend, he let them try on handcuffs, talk about how juvenile delinquents were given several chances, etc. Meanwhile, the boys were hatching their plan for that night. Inconceivable.

Benedetto had already combed the house by the time he told me. Now he ran outside, to the woods here and there, searching. I manned the central command headquarters at home, staying near the phone and feeding the girls breakfast. After an hour and a half, I insisted that we call the police. The boys knew nothing about child predators and the dangers of the outside world.

We phoned our police friend. He joined in the search and told us to call the local police. An officer came to the house and took a full description. It’s then when I began to put two and two together. We had recently been watching survival films with teens making their way in the wild. Hmmm….. The boys had taken a flimsy pop-up tent and fishing gear. Davy Crockett and Tom Sawyer with Russian accents.

That morning it was 29 degrees, below freezing. The two brain surgeons had not taken their winter jackets, only thin fleeces. They made their get-away on foot-powered scooters. Bingo: for me, that spelled paved roads or paths.

The golf course!

A neighbor friend of theirs had a father who managed the golf course. He had taken all of the boys in a golf cart along the circuitous paths in the last year. This was the only place they visited without us, and maybe thought we would not know. I got on the phone.

“Benedetto, you need to call this neighbor,” I urged, giving him the number. He called back within a minute.

“He said he saw Petya and Pasha just 30 seconds before,” came his excited voice. “They were coming out of a restroom on the golf course and he asked them if everything was okay. They said they were heading home, but walked the opposite way. He said they must be in the woods near the river.”

Benedetto phoned again 30 minutes later when the two men found the boys. We called the police, gave them the news, and they came to our home to verify. My husband warned me that I was not allowed to be mad when the boys returned and that we had to listen to them if they had any problems that they were not telling us.

“Remember the prodigal son,” he reminded me. “The father ran to meet him.”

“Yeah, and the prodigal son was not 13 and did not leave home in the middle of the night….”

Three and a half hours later from when we first discovered them missing, they were home. It was maybe six hours from when they left. Dirty, hungry, cold. The two had eaten half an apple, and had a Bible with them, enjoying morning devotions sans campfire. They were surprised that the police had been called, which only spoke to the utter confusion of the adolescent brain.

We had numerous talks throughout the day. What were they thinking? Did they need to get away? Why did they go?

The answers to those would be: They weren’t thinking; No, they liked life at home; and They simply wanted to go camping.

The next day, I did review as many fear-inducing pieces of information as possible with all of our children. What is a child predator and how many can be found on the map near us, bringing up visions of Hansel and Gretel to the 100th power. Which poisonous snakes are not totally dormant in the winter when a tent is plunked down on their head and two bodies flop on top of said snake which will then strike and kill them. We talked about drinking water and how long someone could survive without drinking or eating enough. And then there was that little matter of frostbite with noses, fingers, toes and ears having to be amputated. So if the loonies did not kill you, the snakes, starvation, dehydration, and exposure to the elements would. A rather low-key presentation, I thought.

I’m not sure that we could call this running away in the traditional sense, but it certainly felt like it. The incident brought up so many underlying issues in my mind that might possibly stem from being orphans. Did they feel better internally if they did not have parents, food, or a roof over their heads? If they had been used to faring for themselves at very young ages, was it similar to having a set point for one’s weight, where only Herculean effort would remove them once and for all from any reverting-back? Were they bound to return to this internal comfort zone of deprivation?

Discussions ensued involving liberal amounts of tears on all our parts, asking for forgiveness for doing something so dumb and scary, and reassurances of our love for them. Pasha reported that when Papa told him he loved him, he “really felt something”.

No matter that we tell all the children every day that we love them- and actually mean it. Some things click and some things don’t. Better late than never.

That night, Benedetto decided to sleep in the cold playroom from which the kids took their leave. Problem is, he never informed me. When the dogs grew restless and needed their late-night walk, I sweep the house. It appears that now my husband has run away from home. My heart pounds as it only can when one is awakened from a dead sleep and faced with a life-altering situation. Yet again. Within ten minutes, I find him fast asleep in the playroom. I am not amused.

The next day, a security professional comes while the children are out. We activate our door alarms. No one would be coming or going anymore without our knowledge. At about 1:00 am, I almost jump out of my skin as the key pad peeps near me. I run to the boys’ room and cannot see if they are there in the darkness. Benedetto is not in bed, I quickly check the family room and a guest bedroom. Finally I find him in the office, where he is standing next to the alarm.

“It always peeps when you set it,” he explains, like I’m the crazy person.

For now, we’re watching no more of children against the wild survival films, lest anyone get any ideas. Benedetto did briefly mention “Call of the Wild”, but I didn’t even want to entertain the idea.

“Alexandra, how about “The Wizard of Oz?” he asks tonight.

“I’m not sure. Possible nightmares….” I muse. But we download it.

Not having seen the movie in the last 25 years or so, I had forgotten that Dorothy ran away from home with Toto just before the big twister hit. But as she’s told at the end of the story, she had to find out for herself that, “There’s no place like home.”

May all of our kids know that, and feel that, no matter what storms of life may come.

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