Once upon a time in a state park full of deep dark caves, my mom lost my children.
The summer of '98, I became a single mother. If any of you have ever been through a separation and/or divorce, you know that it's an extremely difficult season in a person's life. As a general rule, my two oldest children didn't spend a lot of time staying over night at their grandparent's home, but that summer and fall, they did. I think they needed to get away from their own pain and from seeing mine. And Grandpa Toad spoiled them rotten by never telling them, "no."
One weekend, Mom and Toad (my step-dad) took them to a fabulous park in Iowa called,Maquoketa Caves. When she told me of their plans, I told her, in all seriousness..."Take care of my children. Don't let anything happen to them. They are all I've got."
Of course, she promised...However, I didn't include my 10 year old son and 12 year old daughter in the equation.
After spending all day exploring caves and enjoying the park they were all headed back to the car to go home. Haley, my highly adventurous daughter, asked if Holden and she could cut through one last cave while Mom and Toad took the outside path. They gave their permission and told them to not dawdle.
Mom and Toad got to the opening on the other side of the cave and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. Thinking Haley and Holden beat them out of the cave before they got there and had already gone to the car, they went to look. No children. They began to walk around the park calling their names. No response. They asked everyone they saw if they had seen my children. No one had. My mom was now in a panic. She and Toad found a park ranger and the ranger shut the park down. By this time, it was getting dark. There was no sign of them anywhere. They were gone...
Meanwhile, Haley and Holden saw some people going in a crack in the side of the cave's wall and decided to join their party. It didn't take long for them to figure out that they made a serious error in judgement. It was dangerous and treacherous in that part of the cave. There were places where they had to use ropes to get from one level to another and it was very narrow. With people behind them turning back was not an option and they didn't have any flashlights. Praise God, the young 20 year old adults in the cave with them figured out that they were in there alone and needed help. They looked out for them and helped them as they "explored" the cave. I'm sure my frightened children put a damper on their adventure.
By this time, my mom was in hysterics. She told me later that she kept thinking, "Amy is going to kill me....I promised her that nothing would happen to her children. She is going to kill me." In my defense, I have never gone on a murdering rampage, so I don't know why she thought that. Could it be the glint I had in my eye when I took her face in my hands, looked deeply in her eyes and said, "Don't let anything happen to my children..." Ummm, I suspect that was what caused her to worry for her life. *wink*
I'm not sure how long it took for my kids to come out of the cave. Long enough to give my mom a few more gray hairs, that's for sure. When she saw them, muddy from head to toe and not a little scared, she hugged them and began to lecture them for all it's worth. She was MAD! My mom and I have this bad habit of getting mad when we are scared. Haley and Holden were already pretty shook up from their adventure, so mom being upset didn't help matters. I ended up driving to their home late that night, to bring them back home.
In the last few months of my mom's life, it was fun to hear Haley, Holden and Mom talk about this little adventure and hear them laugh in the retelling of it. It was an adventure that none of us were going to soon forget.