Yesterday, December 6th, marked 24 years since my mother went missing.
A lot happens in 24 years.
It’s a quarter of a lifetime…nearly.
It was 1989. Look at how the world has changed since then. Music, the internet, text messaging, fashion, everything. I have grown up, I have changed. Many times. I am no longer that 3 year old. And I barely remember the few memories I had of her.
I have seen the movie “The Wizard of Oz” at least a hundred times. When I was little, after she disappeared, my father went back to school to get his college degree. During his night classes my grandparents would come over and watch me. For about a month and a half straight, until my grandmother could take it no longer, “The Wizard of Oz” was the nightly movie of choice.
It’s strange, growing up and seeing pictures of my mother, hearing stories, it still seems like a strange Grimm’s Fairy Tale that was told to me. Not something that actually happened and was once a part of my life. The thought of flying monkeys and talking scarecrows seem more realistic. I remember thinking that if I clicked my heals just like Dorothy that somehow, everything would go back to normal. I would be back over that rainbow, living this magical life with both of my parents just as I should.
That feeling and those dreams eventually faded. Days, then weeks, and sometimes even months would go bye without a thought of her.
I was told she said she had a conference to go to. I was told her work called my father that next day asking where she was. I was told there was no such conference, and her whereabouts were unknown. I have spent 24 years “knowing” she left us.
A few years ago I had written a blog in what I believed was from her viewpoint of the event. For most of my life I had felt abandoned. unloved. bitter. I often found myself running away from people and any sort of confrontation and I blamed it on her. I said the only thing she ever taught me was to leave. Soon I didn’t see her as an actual person that existed or may still exist, but an excuse for every negative thing about me. I had heard she could be stubborn and independent to the point of selfish. Unaffectionate to the point of unloving. Yet free-spirited and quite artistic with her words and her camera. Sometimes I thought she was an entity of my past and an image of my future self.
A few weeks ago, all of that changed.
I had received an email from an officer who had reopened the case and was determined to solve the mystery. So sure she hadn’t left. Certain something had happened. It was during this 2 hour conversation that I learned more about my mother and the woman she was than I had ever known, or really, cared to know. In so many ways it was easier to accept she didn’t care and had just left. If she happened to be an amazingly loving mother and was taken from me, well, it seems so much more heartbreaking. I know that sounds confusing, and I’m sure my viewpoint on that will eventually change, but when the mind accepts something a certain way in order to cope and move on, any sort of shift in that mindset can be very difficult to deal with, especially with something so heavy.
So, yesterday, knowing the 24th anniversary was here, and with these new feelings on who she was and who she might have been, I foraged deep within the cave of boxes in my basement and found gold. I found every article she had written for the Burlington Standard Press, love letters between she and my father, and even letters of congratulations from her boss when she took a new opportunity elsewhere (he stated he was “excited she was one step closer to her dream of writing for the New York Times’. I want to write for the New York Times. It was a beautiful moment to feel so connected). I went back to my old photo albums and saw the pictures of the two of us in a whole new light.
For the first time in 24 years I felt loved. I felt connected. I felt I missed her. I felt she was real.
And I felt, for just a moment, if I clicked my heals together just right, maybe I could see her face just one more time.
Hold on to those you have. Give them all of your love, every moment you can.
Kerry O’Brien Krueger – Missing Person Report