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

16 comments:

  1. This is a beautiful post. So heartfelt and sad. You have gift with words. I have written to a couple time in the past week about situation so now I have want to say something about yours. Please do not thing that Michaela has suffered for years because she most likely has not. If she is deceased than it was most likely in the first day or so. If she is alive it is not likely that she is suffering like you think she is. Brainwashed or not she would have found a way out if she was. I truly hope you find out what happened to her either way.
    Even if it is not what you want to hear I believe it will lessen you burden. Nancy

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    1. Thanks but unfortunately the likeliest lead with her alive is in the UAE, where she would actually not know how to escape, and I have read descriptions of the way she would have lived and it is pretty awful. One lead said the experience has changed her too much to remember who she is.

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  2. Sorry for the typo's. I was typing quickly and did not proofread. I surely hope that she is not in the UAE. I do believe that that this can happen as Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee also did not admit who they were after being found. But I am sure somewhere deep down Michaela Does know who she is or that she does not belong with the people that have her. (if someone does have her)

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  3. The last night she was safe she was in your bed. It makes me sick to think that after this her life would change forever. I believe she knew that something like this would happen. She wrote that poem, came into your room and the Peanut Butter solution? (not sure if I have this right).
    Sharon you kept her safe and gave her strength. You had that one last night with her that has stuck with you all these years. I don't even know what to say but one day later she was not safe anymore. I am just glad that if she does remember anything she will remember that last night and the feeling of being safe. Even if she never comes back she will always have that to remember.

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  4. It is 11/19 at 10:15. I am thinking of you Michaela. Nancy

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  5. Hi Sharon, I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I'm thinking of your daughter today. Also thinking of you and am sorry it's come to another year without answers. Michaela is remembered and cared about by people all over the world who never even knew her. Thank you for sharing. She's in my heart today and so are you. Love from Alaska. AG

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  6. In 1972 my uncle kidnapped a 12 year old year that was three months shy of being 13. She came from a loving home with two parents and was the oldest of 5 kids. She was DIFFIDENTLY old enough to know who she was, where she was from and who her real family was in life. My uncle held her captive until 1985 when she was 25. My uncle stripped her naked, blind folded her drove her across state lines pulled up to a hospital ER and literally pushed her out of a moving van. Other than the blind fold she was naked with no identification. She told the doctors her name was dirty bitch slut 1. In time they were able to identify her from dental work she had prior to my uncle abducting her. My uncle did things to her no human should have to endure let alone a child. What she had to do to literary survive those years is unimaginable to post people. My uncle served less than five years in a mental hospital and went on to rape 6 boys and kidnap another girl before being arrested and sent to prison to serve 10 years and is now out and on the sex offenders list. The girl who is now a woman of 57 was and still is institutionalized. She has ZERO memory of her family and still ask for daddy Hank, which is my uncle. The human psyche is so fragile especially that of a young child.

    If Michaela is still alive, god knows what she has been through or what she had to do to survive. While her real family maybe the one thing that has kept her alive or her sanity. Chances are much higher she doesn't remember.

    Most of my life I carried guilt that wasn't mine for what my uncle did, the children he hurt and the families lives he ripped apart.

    Sharon, I hope one day you find out what happen to your daughter and am able to find closure.

    God Bless,
    Issy

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  7. Issy, This case must have been in the media but I don't recall hearing about it. Something this huge would have been all over the news. I was just wondering how you kept track after of where the poor girl is if she is an institution for almost 30 years. You obviously were very young yourself. What I do not understand is why you said you feel guilt. Did you know at the time that he had her?

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  8. Dear Anonymous
    This case was on the news. When my uncle kidnapped the girl it was in in the 70's. The internet revolution hadn't happened and it was unheard of for people to have computers. Most cases that old, your not going to always find many details on the internet unless books were written, movies made something that causes the case to still be talked about years after the fact.

    And frankly I had never heard of Michaela's kidnapping until about 8 year ago! Do you remember when Steven Stayner was found? I lived on the east coast at the time. It wasn't even on the local news where I lived that a child missing seven years had been found alive. There was a little more on the news in my area only AFTER he made a movie about it. The news media combined with social media is fastly different than it was back in the 70s and early 80s. Sadly their are far to many number of missing persons through out the entire world for people to kept track off. Expect for places like that national center for the missing And yes I said I felt guilt that was NOT my own. Its because I am a caring compassionate person who also worked in the medical field for decades and have worked as an advocate for victims. I understand what my uncle did was WRONG and how negatively it effected the girls life and her family as well as the shame it brought my own family.

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    1. All very true Issy. I am amazed at the number of people who live even in the Bay Area who have never heard of Michaela, particularly since her case has been prominent in the news in recent years.

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  9. I sometimes imagine myself with the power to change horrible things that have happened. Things like Columbine, Eric Clapton’s son’s death, John Lennon’s murder, Sandy Hook, 9-11, Michelle Smith drowning her children, Andrea Yates doing the same to hers, and so on. Since finding your website and learning about what happened to Michaela, her kidnapping has been one of the tragedies I dream of changing. If only the power to go back in time or see the future back then was an option. It feels like the only thing that can change it now is someone coming forward with information. So the question then is how to reach people who haven’t come forward with what they may know? If only there was a way to get everyone in the world’s attention for five minutes to tell them the facts of the case. To show someone who knows something, but hasn’t come forward why it is important that they do. To give you answers. To help end even a small part of your suffering over not knowing what happened to your child. Then I thought about these go-fund me pages that have gone viral and raised millions of dollars. Like the one for Eliza, the little girl with sanfilapo disease. I’m not sure how much it costs or what would be financially doable for you, but in many of the cases that go viral the person hired a company to create a video with a message. A video that humanizes the story and asks for help. What about doing that with Michaela’s story? A video about who she is and what happened and about life for you since then. Then you could create a go fund me account, but instead of asking for financial help you’d ask for information. You could set the goal for the account to raise just $1, because all you’re after is leads. Provide the number to the police station who is supposed to be still investigating the case and the number for the FBI and ask anyone who thinks they may have information to call those numbers. If there’s a chance to reach people who have never heard about Michaela’s kidnapping and possibly get people contacting police (or your own investigator if you don’t think police would act on new information), maybe it could help.

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    1. Thank you, but honestly the problem is not getting information. The investigators are overwhelmed with information. It is probably one of the reasons she was not found early on, because they had 5,000 leads to investigate, which prevented them from following each one to the very farthest end. They have several primary suspects. The people who know anything about The case already know about Michaela. Nobody is going to recognize her living a normal life somewhere and the many leads about people someone thinks look like Michaela just take up investigator’s time, which they don’t frankly have. When I reach out to the world there is only one person I am trying to reach abd that is Michaela herself.

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  10. Dear, Sharon
    It’s so hard to believe that this sick individual has not been apprehended for 29 years. I wonder if this person’s name never surfaced because he is on parole like Philip Garrido,Garrido’sname never came up on the list of suspects because he was being supervised by parole officers. If those two Berkeley University officer’s didn’t act on intuition Jaycee would still be missing.If I pray that Michaela herself finds a way to contact you Sharon, or the responsible decides to confess.
    Sincerely,
    Zahra

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  11. Dear, Sharon
    If the problem is too many leads it’s been 29 years I think that is a sufficient amount years to follow these leads. This person needs to be arrested Michaela deserves justice. You deserve justice you have been suffering for more than two decades, that’s a long time.

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    1. You just have no idea of the complexity of the case. At this point it also doesn’t get the attention it is, because people keep killing other people and current crimes come first. But I am just trying to tell you that getting more people to call the police department would actually be counterproductive. I am sure the answer is in the files already. But it’s like unraveling tangled threads. They recently put all the leads into a database, which is helpful. They didn’t use computers when Michaela was kidnapped, and that was a huge undertaking.

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  12. I am so, so sorry for what you have had to endure. If Michaela is alive and aware of this blog, I am sure it brings her comfort, even if she is unable to respond. There are many missing kids, but not many moms who seem as determined as you.

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