Oct 232012

Autumn Pasquale would have turned 13 on October 29th.
My daughter will turn 13 on November 1st.

As I was looking at Autumn’s “About Me” section of her Facebook page, I couldn’t help but be struck by the opening and closing lines..

“hi. my name is autumn :)… well i like to chill and ride my bike”

In between those two things, Autumn listed the people that she was friends with…and the ones she wasn’t. These lists are important things in the life of a pre-teen girl, you see.
In the middle of reading all of it, and then upon glancing back upward at her profile picture, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarities between her and my daughter. I couldn’t help but be reminded of parallels through the way Autumn’s self taken profile pic appeared, with her hat on, and her personal fashion statement, and those that I’ve seen on my daughter’s social networking pages.

And of course with all of that, I couldn’t help but be reminded that this could have been my daughter that everyone is so saddened over today.

On October 10, when the breaking news that the body of 10 year old Jessica Ridgeway was found in Colorado, like any parent reading this, I thought for a bit about how I would cope if something like this were to happen to my daughter. Anthony Pasquale probably did too.
Like me, it was probably something that Anthony didn’t want to focus on for too long of a time, because the thought of it was too much to bear.
Thirteen days later, one of us had our worst nightmare come to life.

I first learned about Autumn because a band who I enjoy,  ”The Electric Boa” posted her pic, and said that she was the daughter of the band’s bass player and his wife, Autumn’s mother, Jennifer Cornwell.
Being located in the area, and since the majority of the people on our fan page are also from the area, I shared the pic on Facebook in hopes of possibly being of assistance. Admittedly, I initially thought she probably just took off with a friend or something; that she would turn up the next day.

When she didn’t however, I knew this was probably going to end badly.
You know, they always tell you when you watch things about missing children that if they don’t turn up within a certain amount of time, the chances of them being alive are almost non-existent. That’s a factoid that you can easily repeat when you have the luxury of being an outside observer. It’s something that we rationally know, and can safely state with a degree of certainty, when it’s not OUR child.
But I can only imagine how much you’re hoping and praying to be the exception to the rule when it is your child who is about to be another statistic.
The torment you must feel when your rational mind knows better than what your heart desperately wants to be true.

I want to express my most sincere apologies to the Pasquale family…to everyone that Autumn listed as her friend on her Facebook page…and even the ones she said weren’t, because I know they’re feeling this right now too.
While I offer those condolences, while I mean it with every fiber of my being, and while I can echo what you’ve heard on the news a million times now; that “we’re all feeling this loss.”, I don’t know how much it means to the Pasquales in the midst of this.
I don’t know how much it would mean to me.

How does ANYTHING fix something like this?
How do you look in your child’s bedroom and not just crumble to your knees as your soul collapses?
How do you see all of the things that meant something to them…the music they loved…the clothes…the games they played…online profiles…their last “status”, and know that it’s now all just part of an archive? All items that they were comprised of; all the pieces of their “puzzle”, except the one most crucial piece of all can never be fit back in.
It can never be complete again.
How do you reconcile that in your mind, even with everyone’s condolences figured into the equation?

I’ve dealt with a lot in my time, and I have no illusions about what’s “fair” in this life. I believe it’s a series of events that you have no control over, and that the only thing you can control in this cyclone of life, is your response to the events that present them self to you. You are not in control of other people, how they behave, and what horrible actions they take…just you.
Every minute, of every day, can contain a tragedy if it wants to….but life must still be lived.
I’ve met with some terrible things, and I’ve dealt with them…but not this.
This is something that I can say definitively, would break me completely.
I don’t need to experience it to know…I just know.

So, while I want to offer my most sincere condolences to the Pasquale family, I also want to speak to our children on behalf of all the parents reading this.
This moment, this tragedy, is why we lose our minds when you don’t check in.
This is why we don’t like you going places alone.
This is why we stress over and over again, not to trust anyone.

You may be a pre-teen or teenager now, and you may think you’ve got everything under control, but having seen what we’re all seeing today, time and time again over our “old person” lives assures us of the fact that you don’t.
To us, you are now, and will always be, the baby that fell asleep on our chests.

There are words that you “invented” when you were just learning to speak, because you couldn’t say the correct word properly; “invented words” that you’ve forgotten, but we can never forget.
Those words mean nothing to any other person who speaks our language, but they mean something to us.

While we’re yelling at you to turn your music down and you storm off screaming “WHY DO YOU HATE ME???”, you don’t realize that there were many times that we would come home from a terrible day at work, and the elation in your eyes as you came running over to us with your arms reaching upward to let us know you wanted to be picked up, turned our entire day around. But more importantly, how just thinking about it now can have the same effect…even when your music is too loud.

While you’re texting your friends about how much we suck because we won’t let you sleep over their house, you don’t realize how completely shattered we would be if it were you on the news today.
How thinking about the memories of everything I listed above would crush our souls and reduce us to tears if we couldn’t talk to you again.
You don’t fully get that now.

But you will one day.
When you have children of your own, and this curse of worry and fear becomes yours.
When you become “lame” because you’re “freaking out over nothing”.
Then you’ll be able to read this without rolling your eyes.