We left Alabama for Michigan, but my dad never stopped looking for us. He hired a private investigator to find us. We moved a lot to throw my dad off our trail. Sometimes we changed schools in the middle of a school year. In sixth grade I changed schools in the middle of a school year twice.
When Hansel and Gretel were kidnapped by an evil witch, they secretly left a trail of bread crumbs so that their parents could find them. Maybe they knew, or maybe they didn’t, that birds were coming along behind them and eating their bread crumbs as fast as they were throwing them down. It must have made them feel better to drop those bread crumbs either way.
I left my own secret messages for my dad. I’d write my name in big letters in the dirt by my house. I knew the wind and rain would just come and wash the letters away, but I traced them over and over just the same. Sometimes I’d find a big tree and climb as high as I could until the branches looked too thin and weak for me to climb any higher. I’d look out from the tree and think about my dad. I knew he was out there looking for me and I knew he wanted me back.
One day he almost got me. We were driving to our friend’s house and he was there. He had driven up from Alabama. His car was parked in our friend’s driveway and he was at the front door, knocking. When my mom saw that it was him, she drove away fast. My dad heard our tires squeal and looked up. He got into his car and chased us. Mom led him out into the country, down a dirt road. We kids were bouncing all over the back seat and looking out the window at my dad’s car, gaining on us, with a big cloud of dust billowing behind it. We heard the whistle of a train and felt out tires skip and rumble as they rolled over some tracks. After that we couldn’t see dad’s car anymore because a train was in the way.
Once I asked my mom about what had happened between my dad and her. “Mom, why did you and Dad get divorced?” I asked. Mom put her hand on my shoulder and said, sadly, “Lisa, your dad just never liked kids very much, especially you. There was always just something about you that your dad couldn’t stand.” I didn’t say anything, but I knew she was lying. I knew my dad was out there looking for me. I could feel deep down, all the way down to my toenails, that he loved me. Nothing my mom could do or say could ever make me stop believing that.
Missing my dad is a lot like missing God. I know God is out there, and I know He Loves me. I can talk to Him, but I can’t feel Him holding me or see Him face to face. God sends me presents so I won’t forget Him. He sends big, medium, and little secret messages, saying here I am, are you still looking for Me? No matter where I go, no matter what I do, God is always seeking me. I know that if I turned my back on God and ran away from Him, He would come and find me. He wouldn’t quit working until He’d done everything He could do to bring me back to be with Him again. Not even a train could stop God. And nothing anyone can do or say could ever make me stop believing that.