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The Wayward Child

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Make no mistake about it; The Wife and I saw all the warning signs. We just chose to ignore them. No one wants to believe one of their beloved family members would intentionally put them through such a trying time.

Still, over the weekend, our wayward child went missing. Late Friday night, he got out of bed, got into trouble, and ended up in the custody of the local authorities.
When The Boy was 8, the same thing happened: he ran away. There was that issue about The Boy’s homework, but after a stern talk, and a little punishment, it never happened again. After all, the deliberate shredding of homework just for fun can’t go unpunished.

The Wife and I searched all weekend, called all our friends, and contacted local law enforcement. One would think, after 27 years as a firefighter, I would have some pull in this small town.

Nope. When asked, they said there was really nothing special they could do for me other than what they’d do for any other citizen with the same problem.
It being a holiday weekend, if he was in custody, he would be there until Monday. I was assured he’d have shelter and food.

I asked if they found him whether he would he get his one phone call. The officers, they just laughed.

The Wife and I, we did a lot of soul-searching that weekend. Where did we go wrong raising him? We tried to teach him all the rules.

Why, at his age, would he do such a thing? Didn’t he know that we loved him? We made countless promises. If he just came back, we’d be different. We’d pay more attention to his needs and wants instead of our own. And we’d spend more time with him.

At 9 o’clock on Monday morning, we received the phone call. Yes, they did have our wayward child in custody! Our fears that he had been wandering around for three days were unfounded. Incredible joy swept all the dread from our minds.

Ten minutes later, I was standing outside the government facility with bail money. Then free once again, he was brought around to the front. We hugged without a word spoken. None were needed. It had been a traumatic experience for us both. We both were just happy he was out of that place and back with his family.

I climbed into the front seat, and he did likewise. Sad brown eyes looked across at me, asking for forgiveness. How could I be mad?

Once home, The Wife and I sat him down and had a long talk. To his credit, he was very attentive. In fact, he didn’t utter a sound. I left for work with the sun a little brighter and the air a little sweeter. Then not two hours later, another phone call came. “This is a courtesy call. You can go get him or we’ll pick him up again.”

I assured the nice lady at City Hall I would pick him up. Additional bail money just wasn’t in our budget. After getting the address, I drove home and got The Wife.

As we climbed into the car, I told her what had just happened and how I didn’t understand how anyone so old could be so stubborn and not remember what was said just two hours earlier.

She just looked at me, smiled, and said, “I do.”

“Very funny,” I replied. “Now, let’s go get our dog.”

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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