Spending my lunches at daycare (theoretically nursing Thane, but in reality just giving both of my boys big hugs and playing with them) has reminded me of Grey’s first year, when I did the same thing. There was a little boy at daycare name Gabriel. (Long “a”, like “Gah-briel” not “Gay-briel”)
Gabriel was about three at the time. The age Grey is now. He had big, dark eyes and curly dark hair. He also had behavior problems and didn’t talk. He would throw violent, inarticulate fits. He grew to really like me, and I to like him. He would stand next to me when I nursed Grey, and I would talk to him. I would ask him questions and, unfamiliar with child development, be contented with the few words he gave back to me. His face lit up when he saw me. I was afraid for him. Rubertina does her best, but children need parents, not just daycare providers and ladies who come for 15 minutes a day to feed their babies.
After a while, things got unsettled for him. His mom changed his name from Gabriel to Vince (not really sure about the story there). His mom got pregnant, and then wasn’t again. (Again, there is a story there I don’t know.) He was often at daycare late into the night because his mother was at parties. I remember that one of the last times I saw him, he shouted my name and ran up to me for a hug. His mother was there and shocked that he could say my name, that he knew my name.
Grey’s age. Grey can almost spell my name.
A few days later, when I came to daycare, I asked where Gabriel (I was NOT calling him Vince) was. Rubertina said that his mom had just moved him one day. That she thought maybe she had gone to Florida. There was no chance to say goodbye — for him or for me. There was no keep in touch. There was no forwarding address.
I have wondered, since, what he is doing. He would be six. The direction of thoughts is not a happy one. I wonder if he has just trailed after her since, unattended to and left too long with paid care providers — not all of whom are as good as Rubertina. I wonder if he was enrolled in school on time. I wonder if anyone has addressed his learning delays and behavioral issues. I wonder if that open face with its transparent joy to see me has been totally closed down by neglect and hard life.
What I really wonder, though, is whether anyone keeps track of kids. There is no one who knows where he went and would know if he was ok. Is there some sort of registry where if children don’t show up, someone notices? What if there are no friends and family? No concerned grandparents or Sunday School teachers? What if no one expects to see a child anymore because they’ve moved across country? I don’t know what check or balance there is against that. And I worry about Gabriel.
Wherever he is, I hope he is ok.