On this Father’s Day I remember eighteen years ago when we went to Galveston in the summer with my two brothers and their families and my mom. We were staying in a hotel there. Sam was four years old, and Ivy was one. It was after lunch, and we had all gone off to our separate rooms to let the kids take naps. We had put Ivy to sleep in the bedroom, and Sam was asleep out in the living room area. I went out on the balcony to sit and closed the curtains behind me so that it would be dark inside for Sam to sleep.
I had been sitting out there for about twenty minutes, and I decided to go inside to use the phone. I opened the door and pushed open the curtains to walk in, and there were two maintenance men standing in our room. They immediately started telling me about how they had come in to spray for bugs and had thought there were no parents here. My first thought was that they needed to be quiet so they didn’t wake up both kids.
Then they said that “the lady” had taken Sam. I looked in the bed where he was sleeping, and he wasn’t there. I thought maybe they meant my mom had taken him. Then they said that they had come in and Sam had started crying and they thought his parents weren’t here, so they had given him to the lady.
I said, What lady? I was starting to get agitated at this point.
They said, Just hold on. One guy was calling someone else on his radio frantically.
I said again, What lady are you talking about? Some stranger who just happened by?
They said no, that it was Pam in the administrative office and that they might be down by the pool looking for us.
Well, I was having visions of Sam in a panic, crying, thinking we had left him. So I started down the stairs for the pool. I got down there, and I didn’t see him anywhere, so I ran back up the stairs.
This time, I was about as serious as I can get. I said, Where is my son?
They said, Maybe he’s down at the Real Estate office. I had no idea where that was or what that meant.
Before I turned to walk down the stairs again, I said, Do you make it a practice of going into people’s rooms and taking their children away from them?
I headed down those stairs a man on a mission.
Somebody had my son,
I didn’t know who,
I didn’t know where he was, and
I could only imagine what he was thinking at the
I saw him by the pool. I yelled out his name and ran over to him. The woman named Pam was holding him, and he was talking away as usual, happy as he could be. No big deal. Except for that brief feeling of panic and desperation when it seems like someone has taken your child, and you don’t know where he is.
Now, imagine if, for whatever reason, you were desperate enough to travel with your children to another country, and you were stopped by authorities near the border, and they took your children away from you. And you didn’t know where they were except that maybe they were crying themselves to sleep every night in some sort of government holding facility. And they didn’t know where their parents were. And the hours dragged into days, and the days dragged into weeks, and the weeks dragged into months. And you had no power, no money, and no ability to do anything about it. Imagine the prolonged feeling of unspeakable panic and desperation.
And imagine the type of person or government or people it is who would do something like that, support something like that, practice such cold inhumanity as a deterrent or negotiating tactic.
I can’t help but imagine all of that on this Father’s Day.