I got the mail out of the mailbox when I got home yesterday, and began sifting through the junk mail right away. I've found that if I don't sort over the trash can first thing, I get a built-up pile of catalogs, flyers and assorted envelopes that looks like the leaning tower of Pisa on my countertop.
So I stood over the trash can, ripping up credit card offers and sorting through local coupons, and I almost threw away an offer for a carpet cleaning service. I actually need to use that in the near future, so I picked it off the top of the trash pile, and noticed that the reverse side of it had one of those missing kids ads. I always try to give those a glance. You never know, right?
No, you never know.
I didn't recognize the young girl - age progressed from six to fifteen. She apparently just disappeared one day, with no known suspects in the case. What caught my eye was her hometown, because it happened to be my hometown, too. And then I looked at her last name - the same last name as my young, tenth grade math teacher. An easy name to remember because he's the only person I've ever met with that last name, it's so uncommon.
Is she his daughter?
I don't even know if he's still in my small hometown in a less-traveled part of my home state. I don't know if other people with his odd last name have moved in during the years since I left it. But there's a possibility, surely, that she's his.
And he's wondering where she is today. How awful.
Of course, it's no more awful for him (if that's the case) than it is for thousands of other parents with missing children. And it's a bit of a six-degrees-of-separation stretch for me to even call him a friend. He taught my tenth grade math class, and we made fun of him behind his back for his goofy corduroy pants and geeky glasses.
I'm not laughing now.
I'm a mom now, and even the thought of someone's child somewhere going missing makes me want to call the school and check on my kids. Silly, I know. My kids will get off the bus today, just like every other day. And we'll have dinner and do homework and watch TV and take showers and go to bed.
I bet he thought the same thing, once. And if he's that Dad, he's wishing for it all back again.
And I can't fix that for him, because I'm just the mom with the lump in her throat, wishing she could go back and be nicer to her tenth grade teacher.