Monday, November 20, 2017

Seeker's Road

As I have mentioned before, I have moved my writing to a new blog location, www.SeekersRoad.com. I have done this for a number of reasons, but it has had one really huge benefit. It had become difficult to write here, on the Dear Michaela blog. There had been nothing going on in the case that I could talk about, and I was sure I had said just about everything there was to say, right here. So I'd been silent a great deal of the time.

Since moving my blogging to the new website, I have not felt that constraint of repeating myself. I have felt free to write it all again, and again. Sometimes I know I am quoting my own exact words back in this new blog, and maybe everyone will have read them, but maybe they won't have. At any rate, it has freed me again to talk about Michaela, and also given me the freedom to talk about other things that I just didn't think belonged in Dear Michaela.

So I hope you will visit. I have and will post excerpts from some of my newer blog entries here, with links to the full blogs, but not all. So please visit:


There is also a link in the list of blog pages here in case you forget.

Thank you so much,
Sharon
Michaela's mom

Saturday, November 18, 2017

November 18th

November 18th, 29 years ago, an eternity and yet a brief moment, marks the last happy, innocent day I spent with you, Michaela. What did we do that day? How could my memory of the day after be so sharp, but that last happy day be washed away? It was the last day of school before a week off for Thanksgiving break, so a lot of it I can know. We got up early in the morning to get ready for school. You had cereal for breakfast. I put Robbie in his stroller, and he and Libby and I walked you and Alex to school. We went right, then right, then left and right again, curling left around the circle to the back entrance of the school, walking in through the playground. It was still Fall, and we brushed through the last of the falling leaves on ground as we walked, the beautiful, flaming colors just starting to dim. At the end of the day we did the same, in reverse, with the sense of joy and freedom only the last day of school before vacation can have.
One thing I do remember is your last night at home. I woke in the middle of the night feeling crowded, pushed over to the edge of the bed, not enough space to move my legs. I reached out my hand in the dark, and identified the cause as you, as I felt the contours of your head, so much bigger than the other kids, and ran my fingers through the silky tangles of your hair, so much longer. I considered waking you, telling you to go back to your own bed, but I didn’t. I let you stay, allowed you to seek comfort from your fears in the night. I did not know that was the last time I would be able to do that.
The next morning you were up early, and Trina came over. The two of you had solo parts in the upcoming Christmas pageant at school, and you were going to practice them together. But first you and Trina set out to fix your hair, and to dress yourselves as close to identically as your wardrobes would allow. Back and forth, back and forth across the street from house to house until you were satisfied with your selections. Then you and Trina popped in one last time, one very last time as it turned out, to ask if you could go to the neighborhood market and get some goodies. I tried to say no, but you pleaded with me. I searched my mind for the source of my fear and found nothing. I gave in. I said yes.
“Oh thank you thank you, mom,” you said, bouncing a little in happiness. I walked to the front door as you and Trina went out and picked up scooters from the driveway. You had your own scooter, but for some reason that day you and Trina were using the ones that belonged to Trina and her brother. You probably were continuing the theme of trying to be identical, since those scooters were the same except for the color. “Bye mom,” you said with a happy smile, as you picked up the scooter and climbed on it. “I love you!”
“I love you, too,” I responded, and then you were off, down the driveway, left down the street. I stood at the doorway watching until you reached the corner and turned right, out of my sight.
I never saw you again.
Even now, all these many, many years later, having been pressed with the reality of your absence for three times the number of years I felt your presence, I find it so hard to believe that this actually happened. When I write it, there is a voice in my head that says, “No, that is impossible.” It is impossible that such a happy, sunny little girl, such a brilliant source of light and joy, could be taken away at all. I would think that evil would have been frightened by your sheer goodness. I would think that your light would have sent beams into the sky to show where you are, so that we could follow them, find you, bring you safely home to your family, where you could grow and learn and love and live, and one day make a life and a new family with someone you love.
I find I am typing with heavier keystrokes now, pounding the keyboard. I feel those keystrokes as disbelief coming out of my fingers, but I think it is anger as well, anger that someone could have thought they had any right in the universe to take you away. You are not theirs. You are mine. You are mine to take care of, to love, to protect.
And now I am kind of petering out. I lift my fingers from the keyboard. I sigh. I resume, because the reality is that it did happen. And tomorrow I will once again travel the miles from where I live now to where we lived then, to what was a nice little neighborhood market, which is less nice now. We will have to clear away trash and empty alcohol bottles from around the base of the thing that grows there. We call it a tree, but I’m not sure it is not a vastly overgrown bush. I haven’t seen it in a long time, not since last year I don’t think. It’s been quite a year for me, my year of being a cancer patient. I’m over that now. In remission, and planning on staying that way. I made the decision recently that I am living until I am 93. That should give you plenty of time to find your way back if you are still out there somewhere. I plan on running marathons in my 80’s if you would care to run them in your sixties! But anyway, every year when we go there the tree is still hung with the ribbons from the year before, and the year before that. They are dirty, and bedraggled, but they are a symbol of our hope, of our love for you, which may be beaten and worn down, but which never dies.
Someone said the other day that they understood how I feel because they are estranged from their daughter and grandchildren. But that is not how I feel. I don’t feel estranged. I feel that you are as close as my fingertips as I type. Before my mother died, I told her it was okay for her to leave, that I would never be alone because she would always be with me in my heart. I told you the same, that if ever you were afraid or alone, that all you had to do was touch your heart and you would feel me there. Missing you, the empty chair at the table, honestly none of those things mean even a smidgen compared to my overwhelming grief at the thought of the unknown pain and terror that you endured, pain that could have lasted a few moments or could have come to define an entire lifetime for you. That is not what I brought you into this world for, Michaela. What I desire is to hold you in my arms again. What I need is to know that you are all right, that you are at peace wherever you are, because in the end being a mother is far less about my enjoyment, and far more about my love and need to care for you, to protect you, to assure your happiness in this life I brought you to. If anybody had told me I could go days without being able to do that, I’d have told them they were crazy. But here we are. The days have passed, the months, the seasons. I have watched the hills turn from brown to green to brown again, have watched the decades flow, and even the centuries turn. How I have endured this I don’t know. No, I do know. It’s because there was no choice. But how have you endured it, Michaela, or have you?
I had a dream last night that I had a baby. I’m not sure it was my baby. I, along with eight other women, had been lightly abducted by terrorists of some sort. We were on board a Navy ship, and there was some nefarious plot abroad which I don’t really remember. At one point I had the opportunity to tell a police officer about it, and then at another point I managed to get off the ship with the baby. But the woman who was in charge of watching us showed up, and she didn’t want to take me, but she wanted to take the baby. She didn’t even say it was forever, just that she had something to do with the baby and had to take it outdoors (which was cold) and perhaps keep it overnight, but that it really wasn’t my business because it wasn’t really my baby. But she was, in my heart, my baby. I loved her and I had to protect her, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to come up against this huge power that seemed to be everywhere and to keep this baby, and myself, safe. And then I woke up, so I didn’t have to. But at the moment I woke, I still held the baby in my arms. She was wearing a footed sleeper, in a soft yellow fabric, with big buttons up the front.
And now, back to real life. I have so much to do, and I am having such a hard time doing any of it. I am filled with weariness, and I just want to sit here, in my bed. But I will get up. I will cut the ribbons for the tree tomorrow. I will babysit your little nephew, Theo, because his parents have to work tonight putting on a play with the theater academy where they work as instructor, director, administrator. Next week Libby and her husband will be coming in from out of state for Thanksgiving, and the weekend after that we will be having a party for Theo’s second birthday. How will I do all this? I don’t know. It does no good to anybody for me to collapse in my bed, though. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help me. Life’s insistence on carrying on and in sweeping me up in its tides has been what has kept me alive, after all.
So I will continue. And I will be joyous in what is here, because I can’t help that. You are the person who first looked into my eyes with complete love and trust, who first held my fingers in a tiny fist, who first called me mommy. You taught me these things, opened my heart to them, and never ever will it close. Still your light shines and illuminates all that is good in my life. Another memory: on the day your youngest sister was born, five years after you were kidnapped, as I was giving birth to her I looked up in the corner of the room and there you were smiling down from the television screen. I have never fully understood the real meaning of that moment (because it absolutely must have some meaning), but my feeling is that you were telling me to carry on, to embrace and love this new baby with all the same love that I held for you, that you were telling me somehow that it’s okay. You were instilling in my the courage to do this one more time, even though that first time had ended in so much pain.
Michaela, wherever you are, if you could please just send me a message letting me know you are okay, I would be forever grateful. That is all that is important to me.
Just know that I love you forever, baby girl. I hold you in my heart always, and I pass through the dark, and live in the colors of your rainbows, as they sparkle and dance through my life.
mom

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November



November is flying by! Already the baby shower for my son and daughter-in-law is upon me, and trip number one by my daughter and her husband from Oregon! How will I ever get the house clean in time, and is it even possible to wrap this box? Then at the end of November is not only Thanksgiving, but the same weekend is my grandson’s second birthday. I have no idea still what Thanksgiving will look like this year. It’s one of the sad things in life that kids grow up, partner off, and suddenly they are part of other families for the holidays. I will admit, I have never been a big holiday person, and I am definitely not the best cook in the world, so I can understand this. But for some reason it still gives me a twinge of teariness. Then Theo’s birthday will be a lot of work, but a large part of that work is not mine. Probably I will spend more time watching my grandson while his parents do the work and spend the money. This is the good part, guys!
In between those things is That Day. November 19th, the day Michaela was kidnapped. It is on a Sunday this year. I haven’t been to church for a few weeks now, so I guess it won’t matter that I miss it that day to go to the market to hang ribbons on the tree for Michaela. Last year I “cancelled” the anniversary. (continued at Seekers Road)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Keeping your kids safe

After my daughter was kidnapped, I received many requests to speak to groups of parents or children on the subject of child safety. I always kind of wondered about this, because I had failed to keep my daughter safe. Whatsmore, in Michaela’s particular circumstances, there would have been nothing I could have done differently, except to keep her locked in the house, confined to the yard, allowed out only under my supervision. And yes, that is an idea, and it is entirely appropriate for certain ages. But I have had five kids grow up on me, and eventually that tactic fails. You just cannot keep a 22-year old confined to the house. And yet, you think they are not in danger? After Michaela was kidnapped I read the book The Stranger Beside Me, about Ted Bundy, and I kind of collapsed within myself. All his victims were college students. Was there ever a time when I could say, “okay, they are safe now”? Nope. There wasn’t.
This is part of what makes being a parent so special. And yes, I do mean to use that word. There are lots of ordinary kinds of love in this world. There are lots of extraordinary kinds of love also. But there is absolutely nothing like the love you have for your child. There is that saying I am sure you have all heard, that being a parent is like having your heart walk around outside your body, and it is true. So how do you handle this? (... continued here)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fall brings many feels

This morning I had to turn the heat on in my home for one of the first times in many months. The feel of it warming the air brings with it those change of season feelings, like walking through streets filled with fallen leaves used to. Excuse me for a second, because even writing that chokes me up a little. I don’t have streets full of fallen leaves where I live now, but I did once, and I used to walk my children to school through them every morning in the crisp Fall air. It was so beautiful, and the memory of it is even more beautiful and poignant, because one of the children I walked to school then was Michaela. (To read the rest, please see full post at Seeker's Road.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Seeker's Road

Michaela, this is your family at Libby's wedding.
Left to right, Ariel holding Theo, Johnna, me, Libby's husband Jamie, Libby, your stepdad Jeff, your nieces Kalia and Shylah, Alex (with the big bushy beard), his wife Karina, your niece Raina, baby Robbie all grown up, and his wife Alexa (and their baby, expected in mid-December)

A long time ago I when I started this website, it was known as the Wondering Heart blog, and I used it to post about anything and everything that crossed my mind, including Michaela. I started writing letters to Michaela in my blog, and soon after changed the name to Dear Michaela. Since then I have felt constrained to write pretty much only about Michaela here, and have spread my other wanderings and wonderings far and wide.

This has become kind of difficult for me, and as you have probably noticed, I haven't posted as much on this page recently. There hasn't been a lot going on in Michaela's case -- that I know of, anyway, since the investigators that are currently on the case don't communicate with me like our last investigator did. This could mean that they go by the book, and don't discuss the investigations with the people involved, and I have a feeling that would be the case if there was something going on. But I have a feeling it is more likely that they just aren't investigating. And while it might seem that I should be able to do something about that, it has not been my experience that I can. But anyway, there is not much to discuss regarding the case. There have been a few things going on behind the scenes with volunteers, and if it ever yields results you will hear about it, but until then it's better left under wraps.

I have also been heavily distracted by my own battle with breast cancer. Just last week I finished my last radiation treatment, and I'm currently sitting here nursing some wicked burns. Now five years of hormone therapy and hopes and prayers that the cancer will stay gone. It was at a very advanced stage when they caught it (and yes, I'd had my mammograms on time, and did catch it through a mammogram), and I have made several friends over the last few months whose initial diagnosis had been a far earlier stage whose cancer had returned as Stage IV. One of these friends, who became my "chemo buddy," died while I was still in treatment. So this is a worry for me, a kind of weight on my shoulders. I am working on changing my attitude from worry to being pro-active and focusing on healthy living. I'm hoping this becomes a little less of a challenge as I move out of the active treatment phase and start to heal and gain strength.

Meanwhile, cancer has kind of decimated the family finances. My disability insurance ran out before I finished treatment, and I guess I was lucky enough to be old enough to "retire." That doesn't pay enough to keep up with expenses, though, so I have been trying to earn a little extra money on the side. I have become a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate (essential oils and other health products), and also, shockingly enough, I make available medical marijuana through an online website, as well as medical verifications for California residents. And I hope one day to be able to make money through my writing. What else may lay in store I'm not certain, as I have another major surgery ahead of me early next year, but for the moment I am trying a little bit of commercialism, because it is what fits in best with my life and my abilities at the moment.

So what I have done is I have taken all these various things, including Michaela, and have combined them under one umbrella. When I was contemplating this move, I was looking for a name, a "brand." I had a friend who had several businesses, including essential oils, under the umbrella of Sanctuary. I just fell in love with this. It made me feel so safe. As I was searching for my own "brand," someone suggested I think about my identity, my life path, and that one became easy. I am a seeker. I have always been a seeker, seeking God, faith, answers, questions, and of course life has had the final word in this by giving me the seemingly endless task of seeking my missing child. Almost three decades now it has been. This year will be the 29 year anniversary.

So I have created a new website, SeekersRoad.com, in which you will find (eventually) all of the above, and more. I say eventually because I only actually opened the website yesterday, with just the basics and one blog post, about Michaela. I find already that this is a positive venue for writing about Michaela. Just about everything I have to say I have said here, in this blog, and most of the things I have said numerous times, so now I have a brand new canvas on which to paint some of the same pictures, only in a new light. I hope that most of you will follow my posts over to Seeker's Road, so you may get to read the same things again, but I am hoping also to expand my readership in this new venue. Meanwhile, there is a link to Dear Michaela in the menu on the new website, and I will put a link to Seeker's Road in the menu for this website, so the two will be linked.

I may still use Dear Michaela from time to time, but I will absolutely be using Seeker's Road regularly. All the blog posts are categorized, so you can just seek out all the posts about Michaela if you don't want to read about everything else.

Michaela, I hope you will follow also, if you are there. One of the things I have tried to do with this blog is to give you a sense of your family. Going to do this one more time here, with the photo above, of our family at Libby's wedding. We have a very interesting family, I have to tell you, but for some reason they don't seem to like all their personal business spread over the internet, and I have to respect their privacy. So there is not much to tell about them in blogs, except that they are some pretty awesome people you would love to know better. In the new website, perhaps you will get a chance to know me a little better as well.

And remember always, Michaela, I love you no matter what has happened, and I will do everything I can to protect you if you are out there and you would like to come home. I know it may seem like an empty promise, having been so completely unable to help you in the past, but you have my promise.

I love you forever, baby girl.
mom

p.s. The new website can be found at www.SeekersRoad.com. See you there.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

You will always bring me joy

Introducing Jamie and Libby, as husband and wife.
As I have done over the years, Michaela, I want to keep you updated with family news. I wonder sometimes about it, about whether seeing the family in happy occasions might make you sad. That is not the kind of person I know you to be. The Michaela I know possessed the kindest and most generous of spirits, and is always happy for other people's happiness. But who knows what might have happened to you over the years. Who knows what might have happened to crush your spirit. So I just want you to know, I hope to never bring you sorrow. I just want you to feel a part of the family still, wherever you are, to feel like you are here with us, as we feel you are.

I just returned late last night from Libby's wedding. Libby moved to Oregon several years ago, after she met Jamie, the love of her life. I was heartbroken when she left to go so far away, of course, but it also gave my heart rest, because I knew she would be happy. I knew Jamie would love her and take care of her, and I knew she loved him. And that is what is important. That is how children should leave home, to go off to join someone they love, or to go on their own adventures. The sorrow of losing them is always overwhelmed by the joy in knowing that they are happy. It should never be as it was with you, Michaela. It should never be that a child is stolen from her home.

Your baby sister, the one who used to
follow you around everywhere!
The wedding was beautiful, and it was especially nice because it is the first time that all your brothers and sisters have been together in one place in as long as I can remember. I did an amazingly bad job at taking pictures. The wedding photographer was busy taking photos of everybody, and I somehow did not manage to take any with my cellphone. As I gather some and find a way to get them on my computer, I will post them for you. But for now, here are some of the bride and groom.

I have told you that you are always present in our hearts at holidays and special occasions, Michaela. And next to me, Libby is probably the one who keeps you closest in her heart. So you were definitely there. But you ended up being there in conversation as well.

The hotel we stayed at had a breakfast room where Jeff, your stepdad, and I went every morning for waffles. Waffles are not something I usually eat. I don't have a waffle maker, and I never order them when I go out to breakfast, but man were these good!

Anyway, one morning a man walked in carrying his three year old daughter. She had just woken up, still sleepy eyed, hair tousled, wearing Peppa Pig pajamas, carrying a well loved baby doll. She was just adorable. Later her grandpa came down and joined them, along with an older sister. We got to talking to the dad and the grandpa, and somehow the conversation turned to the fact that the dad had lost one daughter, who had been in between the two who were with him. I think when we said we were from the San Francisco Bay Area, he mentioned that his daughter had been treated at a hospital there. She had a cancer in the brain stem. The doctors had finally said there was nothing more they could do for her, and sent her home with her parents. She died when she was three years old. The grandpa also had lost two children, both before the age of one, from a congenital condition that made them unable to breathe properly.

And of course, I told them about you. They could not imagine how terrible it was for you never to have been found, and I could not imagine how terrible it was to watch your child suffer and die day by day. They mentioned someone they knew whose daughter had been missing a long time, and how she couldn't let it go, and I told them, well you can't. I know, I said, that the odds are that my daughter is no longer alive, but until I know that for sure, I have to keep looking, keep reaching out, because if she is alive, she needs me. You need me. How would it be, I said, if my daughter did come home one day, and all she could see is that we had given up on her. Missing is still missing, however long it might be, whatever the odds.

I was struck by another thing as we were talking to this dad and grandpa. They looked like such average kind of people, on vacation with the family. They were in town, the dad said, for his brother's 40th birthday. There is a speedboat that goes up and down the Rogue River there, and they'd been on that as a family, on a dinner cruise that stopped halfway back for a dinner, then picked them up and brought them the rest of the way. Sounds like fun, doesn't it, Michaela? But even though these people look as normal as can be, suntanned, healthy, happy, they are not, because each of them carries within them the loss of a child, the loss of a grandchild. And that is an experience that does not leave you the same. You are changed deeply. You grieve, but you cherish more deeply, you love with knowledge of how precious it is, because you know the cost of love. You have paid it with the shredded flesh of your heart.

The grandpa, who had himself lost two children may years ago, asked me, do you ever get to a place where you can be happy again? Oh yes, I said. I have a lot of happiness in my life. These photos here in this blog entry, are photos of my happiness. My children, my grandchildren. This is the thing: their happiness is my happiness. It is equally true that their sorrow is my sorrow, and yet there is still something that all the sorrow in the world cannot eclipse. You, Michaela, still bring me joy. For all the fear and grief I have felt over you and for you, you are joy to me, my daughter, my first child, the first baby I held in my arms, the one who taught me to be a mommy.

It does my heart good to see my children happy. I enjoyed Libby's wedding very much. Her husband, Jamie, is a wonderful guy, and as beautiful as Libby looked in her dress, I think that the thing that touched me most at the wedding was the look on Jamie's face as he took my daughter to be his wife. But the joy of the very existence of my children just cannot be destroyed, even in the saddest and most difficult of circumstances.

Wherever you are, Michaela, I pray you have found happiness. If you have passed from this life, I know you have found peace. If you are still here, perhaps still you have found joy in life wherever you are. Do you have children? I would love to hear about it. And if you have found no happiness, it is never too late. You can't wait for rescue, my child. The world is so large, and your case is so huge with so many leads, finding you would be like finding a needle in a haystack. But you can break free, somehow. If you are in this country, call 911 and tell them, "I am Michaela Garecht and I was kidnapped from Hayward, California, in 1988." If you are in another country, contact the U.S. Embassy there, go to a women's shelter, go to the local police, and tell them this.

I just want you to know that I love you forever, baby girl. Nothing will ever change that. You are always welcome here, no matter what. You are always a joy to me.
mom