A Family Gone Astray

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A Family Gone Astray
The moment that forever would be instilled in their minds as twisting and turning their perception of reality, started with some bad advice, a wrong turn, and some flat tires. But even one wrong turn could cause a man to fall way off his path and change his course. If he was lucky, he would find his way back. If his family was lucky he would come home to them.
No one had suspected anything different about this Sunday. The Mother was cleaning, the Father on a hunting trip with a friend. Hunting was a rare treat for him, a chance for a break from the stress that dwelled in him long after an arduous day at work. Although he may have lacked skill in target practice, the Father usually wore a wide grin across his bristled face. So that weekend the Father woke before the sun and left his sleeping wife and children behind.

Red and yellow clouds painted the sky, as the sun gave its final bow for the day. Inside the house the Mother intently listened to her husband on the other end of the phone. When will you be home? As she drummed her fingertips along the countertop out of fatigue, the sound made the children fix her with a look of annoyance. The answer carefree and imperceptive to what the following days entailed, was simple. I don’t know we opted for some advice and took a wrong turn, but shouldn’t be too long.
The family laughed and joked together. The oldest rolled her eyes. Dad always got lost. And it was true. Every family vacation, every ride to a new friend’s house or a trip to a foreign area was the same. Somewhere along the line a wrong turn was taken. Although he rarely liked to admit it, he was essentially chronically lost. Eventually, gradually, the twists and turns of the road would bring him full circle and he would find his way again.
So the family was light hearted. The children were able to go to bed that night, secure with the fact that they would see the face of their Father in the morning. He would laugh at his mistake with levity and the children would join in his banter, with animation on their faces. The oldest child would return home the next day. The mood in the house has shifted. The once playful and carefree atmosphere had been replaced with one of anxiety and fear, fear of a loss so great it might never be replaced. The role of a Father to his daughters- a Father that creates laughter and celebration, a Father that is present for every soccer game, birthday party, and school field trip-can never be bartered.
The time ticked by very slowly. The clock's hands moved leisurely as it mocked them, not caring that it distressed the household. They waited. Waited for a sign, any sign really, to show them that their loved ones would be home soon. The phone rang and Mom jumped for it.
Is John back yet? She gave a quick look over her shoulder conscious of her young children's eyes that dug into her back. No matter what emotions were swarming inside of her she stayed strong, it was her first priority as a parent and as a mother to protect her children from the harsh reality that stared them in the face. She walked into the other room-hand over the mouth piece. She inhaled deeply and then released. No.
In the other room, the two younger children played, blissfully unaware at the full extent of what was going on. Why hasn’t Daddy come home yet? And the oldest children-What will happen if he doesn’t come home soon? Stuck in the desert without food or water. What will we do if he’s not home soon?

The hands on the clock seemed to stand still. Yet to the family time moved uncontrollably, and it was still Monday although it felt like Friday.
Unfortunately this was not the end; it was just the beginning. The two wives handled their stress differently. The friend’s wife reacted in anger while the other wife felt sadness and was somber. The children reacted in different ways, showcasing their personalities. One kept to herself, showing no sign of emotion. Another was completely involved, trying desperately to help but on the inside ready to break down. The other child felt the great loss with a hard impact. She is Daddy’s little girl through and through. And the youngest seemed unable to truly comprehend the situation.
Another night came to an end and a new day began. The children did not go to school. Instead, they stayed behind and waited for their beloved Father’s homecoming. Family, friends, and even neighbors banded together to help the family. It is easy to tell, the men are loved. The search wore on.
The news station picked up on the story. Pictures of the two men splashed onto the t.v. screen. The headlines read: “Two Men Lost in Crown King.” The oldest girl carried the burden of her missing father on her shoulders and a wave of sadness hit her with an unbearable force, as reality set in. It was as if each member of the family had a weight on his/her chest, that pinned them down and left them gasping for air. The news anchors are detached, they know no sadness, they are unaware of the agony the family had felt.
Hours later, everyone gathered in the living room. The shrill ring of the telephone filled the air. It has been ringing off the hook all day. The Mother reached out for it once again and pure exhaustion was seen in her pale and panic-stricken face. Hello. A pause.
I’m alive. Those were the first words he said.
In that moment everyone in the room jumped up! Relief washed over each and every person and the Mother and children’s lungs once again filled with air, at the reassurance of their Father’s well-being.
The Father, discouraged after being lost in the desert for days, walked miles in search of civilization. He found solace at a little house nearly eleven miles from the location of the stranded truck, with its flat and lifeless tires. In a time of desperation when a man falls off his path and becomes lost, when hope has begun to dwindle, and the seams of life begin to fray, it is hard to imagine what lengths one person would go to in order to “find” themselves again.
The long awaited car parked in front of the driveway. The door flung open and the Mother and children raced outside eager to embrace their Father, who by now was covered in a thick layer of dust and wore disheveled clothing. Tears were shed, and I love yous exchanged; the family became tightly knit together from the reunion. And once again all was well, because the family had been lucky, and their Father had come back to them.





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