I got an e-mail on Thanksgiving from a woman in California. She'd run across her big brother's name in an article I wrote about homeless people; I'd interviewed him in January, outside his tent in the woods. She's been looking for him for more than a year. She said he'd left California after a falling-out with the family and hadn't been in contact since. She said her father was still asking about him, and that even at 79 years old, he still worried about all his children. And that hit me.
See, I heard a ton of obvious and (therefore, to me) annoying platitudes while I was pregnant. I'll lose so much sleep? Well yes, I know. I'll love him so much? Of course I will. There was even the big lie: that I'd forget the pain immediately. Believe me, I remember it. How round and enveloping it was. I mean, I'd go through it again without doubt, but I didn't forget it.
And the one I heard over and over was that my life would change so much. In my head, I always snorted, well of course it will. But I didn't realize until I got that e-mail how profoundly it had. Because now I feel connected to this father I don't know, because I will also be worried about my child until the day I die. And in that way, I feel connected to the guy's lost son, as well. And I feel connected to every parent in every news story, good or bad. And therefore I feel connected to every child.
Unfortunately, I can't help the family out. I don't know where this guy is now, and neither do any of my contacts. There's no happy ending for this post. Just the acknowledgment that we're all going through it slightly less alone.