THE LOST CHILD

the lost childLittle kids are a heap-uh-work, especially some of the rambunctious boys that have a mind and will all their own. In some ways, I feel sorry for parents with little kids… like the couple at the beach, but not as sorry as I was going to feel later that sunny summer day.

It was the perfect July day that was handpicked by God to be poured out over the Pacific Ocean and Southern California coastline. Proof was the multitude of landlubbers packed like sardines along the adjacent sand. Not that I’m a salty veteran when it comes to picking the best spot on the beach, but I’m savvy enough to try to avoid pesky kids at the beach, especially boys, regardless of age.

I can still recollect when it was my turn to be that age at the beach. There was no rest or peace within earshot, tag shot, frisbee shot, football shot, any shot for that matter while the adults sought solace. I remember the inadvertent sand or frisbee, even water from my locks as I shook my head like a dog to dry my hair. Oh, we always tried to be polite, “I’m so sorry!” but five minute later it was long forgotten as the need to apologize would come around again.

My wife and I squeezed as far away from the circle of parents to the south of us on the only open spot on the beach as we could, little wonder… The circle of parents meant a gaggle of kids; playing, having fun, making memories, and captivating the invisible beach neighbors close by… for better or worse.

All the parents looked tired, but generally adapted pretty well to their lot in life and actually seemed to be enjoying the beach as well. The kids were young, ranging from three to probably eight or nine. Funny thing about kids that age, they seem to attract other kids their age like magnets to steel.

There were so many kids coming and going, in the water, out of the water, off and on the boogie boards, body surfing, and tag, just to name a few. They’d stop for water or food just long enough to get it down their necks as parents fueled them up like stock cars at the Daytona 500 and off they went again – full speed ahead.

I watched, amused by the energy and actions of the little ones as the exhausted parents glanced around the crowded beach to keep count of the ones that belonged to them. It doesn’t take me long to get my fair share of sun at the beach these days and that day was no exception as I watched the dad closest to us gazing about for a bit before pulling himself out of his low riding beach chair, “Where’s Alan?” the fit father called out to the other kids. None answered.

The well-groomed man gazed hard up the north beach, searched for the lost child with eyes laser focused and brow creased in earnest. He then snapped his gaze to the south beach for a few minutes, “Kari! – Have you seen Alan?” he yelled. “No!” the oldest girl called back from the shoreline.

The dad began to walk briskly back up the beach then eventually back down now yelling his son’s name, “ALAN!!!” I searched about for kids, but had no idea who I was looking for. The mom was now up looking around as well. It had been a good five minutes since the hunt for Alan began.

Alan’s mom turned her eyes with dread toward the water as I began to feel a sick and sinking feeling in my stomach, “I hope Alan didn’t drown,” I mumbled to my wife who was now watching the boy hunt too. Alan’s mom glanced at me with horror in her face as Alan’s dad by that time was in a full blown sprint up and down the sand screaming for his son.

“You need to go to the life guard’s tower and use their binoculars!” I called out to the mom after having been advised by my wife the ex-lifeguard, and she was gone in a flash.

Turns out on the way to the lifeguard shack they found Alan playing with some new friends… Kids… Sheesh… As we were leaving the dad gave me the nod that men use to say “Thank you.” His wife said it audibly with a passionate wave… The thoughts of losing a child is beyond terror.

As we were trudging through the deep sand back it dawned on me, as bad as that is to contemplate, “How much worse would it be losing them for eternity?”