My mind was rattled today by some tragic events in the life of a family friend, coupled with news of the death of a former elderly patient. His passing was so similar to how I lost my own mother nearly 30 years ago that I felt the urge to just run away. Of course that just is not practical for most of us, but what else can we do?

I am reminded of a time when my son Derek was about 8 or 9 years old. He and I had a disagreement over who knows what. Probably something to do with his time spent playing Nintendo or not completing homework. He disappeared into his room and slammed the door. A few minutes later, out he came lugging a suitcase. He said he was leaving, running away. I just stood there, calm, and asked him where he was intending to go? “I don’t know!” he snorted. “Do you need me to help you, call you a taxi or anything?” I asked with sarcasm he was too young to detect. “No! I’m fine” was his reply. Out the door of our third floor Andy Griffith and Opie apartment he went while his little sister freaked out begging me to stop him. “Just relax,” I said to her, “he’ll be back in a few minutes.”

For once I was correct. About 10-15 minutes later, I heard the door open and he stomped in the living room and defiantly, with his hands on his hips, blurted out, “You’ll have to carry my suitcase back in, it’s too heavy for me to get it up the stairs!” And back to his room he traveled. We left him alone the rest of the night and by the next morning normalcy had returned to the breakfast menu of oatmeal and a toaster strudel before leaving for school.

Only now do I confess to the panic that tore through me as I sat there with my daughter, keeping her occupied with other activities while I debated inside what I should do next. Go after him? Ignore him? Stand in the window to monitor his progress? Or call the police to report him missing? I had always joked to friends that I was not too worried about some nefarious characters kidnapping him, because they would bring him back with an apology after less than an hour! I feel fortunate that this childhood rite of passage worked out fine for our family.

I can see now that the apple did not fall far from the tree as I pulled a similar stunt when I was about the same age. The motivation for my temper tantrum exit from our house is forgotten, but compared to Derek’s escape, I was a tiny bit more successful. I made it an entire city block away to the east, up 1st south without purse or script in tow. He only made it down three flights of stairs.

Either doubts, fear or fatigue caught up to me and I simply ducked off the side of the road to hide in the weeds and decide my next move. From my hiding spot I could see my mom driving back and forth in the neighborhood in her search for me. I waited a little while and slowly hiked my way back to homebase.

I still wish sometimes as an adult that I could run away. It sucks to have to be a responsible adult. I don’t physically go anywhere when I feel that urge, except my recliner or bed, but I do run with headphones and music. Tonight I chose “Tool” because their hypnotic, multi-rhythmic music and lyrics speak to me in a language I comprehend. I listened and found some respite. That is my therapy, my psychologist, my counselor. Writing this column became my “running away from home.” I was able to smile, for a few moments in the middle of sadness, and giggled at my son’s antics and at my own folly.

My heart hurts for my friends who suffered loss today. I hope they find some relief soon. If they feel the urge to “run away from home,” I understand. “Do what you need to do,” I would say to them. Don’t worry, we will be here for you when you return. Your community will help you carry that heavy suitcase back to where it belongs. Put whatever you need in that suitcase, leave the contents behind if you need to or bring it back, whatever serves you best. But I do hope you make wise choices of what you take with you.

And don’t follow my son’s example. When I opened his suitcase to unpack that evening, all he had placed inside was his baseball mitt, an autographed baseball, a couple books and some of his Star Wars collectibles. Not a single piece of clothing, socks, underwear or food!! I found it hilarious to discover what he felt was valuable. To each his own I guess.

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