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What Would You Do if Someone You Loved Went Missing while Visiting Another Country?

by Deborah Cruz

We’ve all seen those stories about college kids in other countries studying abroad only to never come home because they go missing, right? Or those kids whose parents took them on a trip to some magical, tropical island and poof! they disappear into thin air? Well, my dad lives 2,162 Miles from home in Mexico for 8 months of the year and this morning, he was missing. Let me restate, as far as I knew this morning, he had been missing for 8 days! This is not something that I would normally talk about but it happened and my nerves are pretty much shot so I’m trying to process all of this the only way I know how.

This morning I received a phone call from my sister, asking if I had heard from my father. My mom still works so she is still in the states all year round. Me, not hearing from my father for a week or even a month is not cause for concern but my mom gets daily phone calls. No phone call since July 27th. None. We called AT&T and the phone has not pinged since that day and every time we call it, it goes straight to voicemail. There is no ringing. My dad is in his 60’s.  So, I go into full panic mode. I’m a fixer. I can’t wait for things to work themselves out. That is not me. I was one hair away from hopping a plane to Mexico.

The first thing I did was call the phone to confirm that it is, in fact, going directly to voicemail. It is. I know because I called 75 times (sort of like when, in disbelief, I found out I was pregnant and took 17 pregnancy tests). Still, it went straight to Voicemail.  Then I did what any sane person would do, I called all my brothers and sisters and then I called the town. Yes, the town he lives in ….in MEXICO!

He lives in a very small town and back in the 80’s before cell phones and people having landlines, in this particularly small part of Mexico, we called the post office. I called that number and in my best rusty Spanish, I asked someone (anyone) to please go check on my father and to either call me back and let me know what was going on or to have him call me. Do you know how hard it is to track down someone who lives virtually off the grid? Think trying to locate Lewis and Clark without a cellphone or GPS. The nice woman on the other end said she would call me as soon as she knew anything. Meanwhile, I had to wait. I am not good at waiting. I am the worst waiter in the history of the world, especially when it potentially relates to the health and safety of my father.

So, I did what any insane with worry person would do, I Facebooked every cousin I know and asked them to ask their parents to call the city, call their family and friends in that small town and then I called in the big guns. I called my best friend  (Who speaks Spanish like a native) and had her inquire on my behalf. This was all within 30 minutes of my original call, one Xanax and a phone call to a long lost uncle. Desperate times, desperate measures my friends.

You see, my dad is a healthy 66-years old man, he rides his bike and runs and is a very much a loner. He likes his solitude. I guess he needed the quiet after living in a house with 6 kids for all those years. Anyways, the nice woman at the post office told my BFF that she had went to the house after “Debi” ( that’s me the crazy one) called and it wasn’t broken into and his vehicles were there and he was probably just out riding his bike, as he does daily. Apparently, everyone knows him in town and she told us not to worry she would go check again in a bit. Then my cousin walked into the post office and said, I just saw him riding his bike in the plaza.  Weird, right? I still wasn’t satisfied. I needed eyes on the old man STAT!

I had no solace. I spent my morning crying and imagining the worst possible scenario. I went to a dark place in my head. I was imagining that I would need to rush a passport and grab a flight to Mexico to collect a body.A BODY! I couldn’t handle it. I was on the verge of hysterics I was sure he’d gone off into the mountains and either gotten hit by a car, bitten by a snake or worse. WORSE!! Mexico worse, not US worse. The worst.

Just as the Xanax kicked in and I was about to call the federales in Mexico and then the embassy, the phone rang. It was my sister telling me that my dad was on the phone with my mom. His iPhone has died. I’m sure he is annoyed that I called the city multiple times and sent people over to find him. He is a very private person but he should know that if someone I love goes missing, I’ll never quit looking until I find him. I don’t give up. So, here I sit emotionally drained from this mornings events and all I want to do is hug my dad but that won’t be happening until November.

I always thought the worst feeling in the world was when your kid wandered off in the Target and hid under the racks for 2 seconds and it scared the crap out of you but apparently, losing your dad in another country where you can’t just look for him or call the cops is a pretty close second. I’m thinking of putting a chip in my dad next time he’s home. I’m not kidding. I’m not sure I can handle this happening again. A contingency plan has to be put into place or an intervention…for me.

What would you have done if a family member went missing while in another country?

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