You always hear that the police have the best chance of finding someone in the first 48 hours. Yesterday, around 6 p.m., the first 48 hours of my sister's absence had accrued. She ran away on Thursday night after learning that my brother was going to tell our parents about her drug use and addiction.
Mostly, we prayed and cried, driving around - looking for a maroon Saturn with a young girl inside and Oklahoma tags. We cried a lot, but mostly we sat in fear-gripped silence - our emotions changed from hope to fear to depression. At times, exhaustion took over. At times, we felt guilty for feeling tired, feeling hungry. How can we eat at a time like this? How can we sleep when our baby girl is missing?
Last night, I slept in my sister's room. I hoped that my being near her things might bring me some kind of epiphany as to where she is or whether she was safe. I looked at all her girlish teenage possessions - high heeled shoes, cheap costume jewelry, a myriad of dresses and event t-shirts, pictures of friends, mementos from vacations, bottles of scented lotion, her school books. Somehow, I thought these items would give me some clue...Who was my sister? Why had she run away? What had made her turn to the drugs and other acts this past year? How could she have kept such an excellent facade to where even my very perceptive (and close to her) brother didn't have a clue? According to some of her journals and messages to friends, she had been getting high, every day, for over a year. She mentioned drugs I had never even heard of. A complete alternative life that I had never even considered an option for my sweet sister. My crazy, silly, boisterous sister wasn't just being loud and fun...she was putting on an act...high as a kite, and living to be numb.
As I turned out the light and laid in her bed, I stared at the ceiling. Childishly, I hoped some glow in the dark message would appear on the ceiling..."Hi, I am headed to _______. Please come find me." No such luck.
This morning, I awoke feeling empty and helpless. My remaining family members - my parents, two brothers, and a friend of my mom's who is currently living with them went through the motions of eating breakfast, and planned our action for the day.
The phone rang, Dad answered...the silence on his end was deafening. Was this another family member, calling with their concern? Or was it actually a tip relating to Anna? Was she alive or dead? Safe or injured?
When Dad gave us the thumbs up and exclaimed "Praise the Lord, Officer, thank you," we knew...Anna was found. She had turned herself in to the state police in Illinois. We passed around the phone - blubbering all kinds of sentiments...we missed you, we love you, are you okay?, do you really want to come home?
Each statement was rewarded with a flat "yeah" "okay" or "I'm coming home because I have to finish school." We were relieved, but deflated. This is not how the prodigal son story is supposed to happen. We expected to hear relief in her voice, as there was in ours, but instead...just B flat. Same note, over and over. What terrible things had she experienced the past few days to put her in this state?
We are so thankful that we know that Anna is safe. Everyone's outpouring of love and concern has been incredible. Either late tonight or early tomorrow, she will be back in Tulsa, surrounded by her family. Mom and Dad are going to fly today to Litchfield, IL to get her from the police station and drive her (and her car) home.
We realize that while my sister may be found, she is still lost. Her journey and our family's journey has just begun. This new challenge is uncharted waters for us. You think that at 17, most of the teen angst is gone and the person is gearing up for college, their senior year, their future. With my sister, this is not the case. She is as open as a locked door. I am anxious to see what the future holds for her. Most of all, I am anxious to see her.