You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:14
This was my devotion verse for today. I was ready to start listing my needs but then got busy preparing the kids for school. Ethel went off on the school bus first. Then I woke Calder. When he had taken his breakfast etc. we prepared to go downstairs to wait for his school bus. 7.30am.
The door was opened and Calder stepped out. Wait. Let me grab a book for him to read in case the bus comes late. But when I emerged from the flat, Calder was nowhere in sight. Perhaps the lift door opened and he went in and because there were other people in there, he couldn't wait for me. So I went down in another lift. But he was not downstairs. And not waiting at the void deck table for his school bus. Could he have gotten out of the lift at another floor? So I took the lift to Level 18 (highest floor) and went down level by level to look for him. No sign of Calder. Maybe he walked along the corridor to another part of the flat. So I took another look from Level 18. And another. Or maybe the school bus came and he went up the bus? I messaged the bus aunty. Nope, they are still on the way. The school bus arrived. No Calder. So I asked them to leave.
By now my speculations had become morbid. Was he abducted? When I finally find him, would he be without a limb? Has someone hidden him in their flat?
This morning, Calder finally came out of the toilet on his own. For many months, he needed people to call him out. Otherwise he would be stuck in the toilet. It was as if there was an invisible fence at the doorway. Over the past few days, I tried a game of patience with him. I quietly waited for him to come out while he quietly waited in the toilet for me to call him out. In the end, my patience won. And this morning, he emerged from the toilet by himself. Now he is perfect. But my perfect boy has disappeared.
I went back home and asked a family of neighbours if they'd seen him (perhaps he came back home while I was searching for him). No. Their domestic helper would look out for his return while the family helped me search. This family consists of a young couple and two preschoolers and a toddler.
Searched the vicinity, calling out his name intermittently. At one point, I even shouted, "Calder! Come back to Mommy!" When Calder was small and very difficult with his frequent meltdowns, I ever thought how pleasant life would be without such a character in the family. But Calder mellowed and became such a sweet boy, and as I searched for him today, I felt like I'd lost my treasure. I'd never want him out of my life if I can help it.
Left my number with the fruit vendor, with the porridge seller. Wrote it on the palm of a neighbour walking her dog etc. Messaged hubby for a picture of Calder in his school uniform and started him worrying. I finally found the picture on my handphone and posted it on Facebook so that friends in the area can help me look out for him. The post was reposted 1K times (wow) until friends not linked to me by Facebook also knew of Calder missing. And so Calder's ex-swimming coach messaged me. And his new bowling coach called. I received more messages of consolation telling me not to give up, that people are praying, and some have driven out to patrol...
From a distance, I saw someone dressed in Calder's colours walking towards Punggol Park. So I crossed the road and walked that way too. Received a call from an unknown number. Hello, this is Shin Min Daily. We read on Facebook that your son is missing. Can you give us some details. Thinking maybe the media can help, I complied while trying to keep my voice calm. Then the reporter asked, "Can we have Calder's Chinese name?" No, Calder does not recognise his Chinese name. "Can we have your Chinese name?" Calder definitely does not recognise me by my Chinese name. "Because we are a Chinese press." Oh. I realised it's for publicity. By now, my voice was breaking. If you cannot help in a concrete way, never mind. And I ended the call. Incoming call from sister-in-law. No, I cannot take any more calls. I don't want to do any more explaining. So I let it vibrate (my phone is forever in silent mode).
I searched all the nearby places Calder could have gone. Hubby had taken urgent leave and had made a police report. If Calder had boarded a bus from our nearby bus stop, he would be heading for Changi Airport so I asked hubby to contact Transitlink. Nobody picked up the call. So I walked over to Hougang mrt station, flashed Calder's picture and asked them to contact the other stations. Hubby asked, what else can we do now? It's been three hours. Ask MP for help? So I emailed MP with picture of Calder.
10.30am! Calder drank a lot of water this morning. He needs to use the toilet, but he doesn't know to ask. Would he have wet his pants? I wanted to cry.
I remembered the devotion verse of the day:
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:14
Having exhausted the places I could search, I went home, knelt down and prayed: Lord, I can ask for anything right? Please help me find Calder. Amen. As fears arose, I found myself asking: God, surely you are not just a good feeling people get when they believe. You are alive and able to help me. So help me please. And then: I don't want to be afraid. Help me trust you. Help me trust you. As I walked out again, I prayed (more like a chant since I prayed this over and over again): Please keep him safe. Please give him your peace. Please lead him home.
Then the call came. 11.06am. Are you Brenda? Calder's Mom? This is Changi Airport. Yes, Calder is with us. He tried to cross the arrival gate. I found your name card in his bag.
The first thing I asked the airport police: Can you help me bring him to the toilet?
Hubby and I took a cab to Changi Airport. Calder was at the information counter. If he was sitting like a stone, the stone became flesh when he saw us. The airport police who found him was on the phone with the police inspector who had taken up our case. I quickly updated friends before my handphone battery died. Calder got up and went to enjoy the nearby lift (this means pressing the button and flapping in delight as the lift comes up).
Calder! What are you doing in Changi Airport? You should be in school right? He grinned. Later, when we had to go down to Ang Mo Kio police station to close the case, he couldn't answer the inspector's questions. That's not surprising. He is autistic. Our guess is that he'd followed commuters down the lift and up Bus 27. By this time, Calder was no longer smiling. In fact he looked like he wanted to cry. Maybe because he could not answer the many questions we asked him. Or maybe it's delayed reaction to the fright of being lost. Or some other awful reason. Who knows, since he cannot talk? But he's not injured so we thank God for that. One of his shoes had fallen apart though. He must have been walking or skipping a lot while in Changi Airport.
When we reached home, it was 3.30pm. I didn't feel like cooking dinner anymore. My legs had turned jelly whether from dread or fatigue. In fact I felt like I'd taken 100,000 steps. So I went to sleep. When I awoke, Ethel was back from CCA. First thing she said: What happened to Calder? (She must have heard from the friend of a friend of a friend.)
From this saga, I learned:
1. The name card saves the day. Worn out though it looks, good thing it is still in Calder's bag. I had scribbled on the reverse side: This belongs to my son Calder who has autism.
2. Always have a clear pix of Calder around, best in the clothes he often wears e.g. school uniform.
3. Get a handphone with longer battery life.