I spent the majority of my Saturday this weekend at the Mexico Little League's Community Days held at the Community Park in Mexico, New York. All the proceeds from the event will be split between the Make-a-Wish and Wounded Warriors. I knew the Duck Race and events were happening in town all day but decided to join this event because the funds were going to a great cause. Community Park had many opportunities for family fun and memory making: bounce houses, music, games, face painting, and more. The food was all, only $1. A family of five could get a hot dog and drink for $10 - amazing. I think the competition in town hurt the number of people there yet everyone who came had fun and only compliments.
As one of the vendor tents, it was a very slow day. I was thankful for catching up with some old friends, meeting some new people, and visiting with the vendors near me. Yet, six hours is a lot of time to fill when there aren't really many visiting the tents, but, I brought a book to read, writing to do, school work, and my Kindle...just in case. Even though my bag was full of things to do, I found myself just watching the families interact and make memories. The quiet and talking about Heidi all day triggered the nostalgia...Where's Heidi? Where is my sister?
My tent was directly across from the playground so I had a front row seat to laughter, tears, and memory making all day. Towards the latter part of the afternoon is when the conversations from earlier in the day started to weigh on my heart. With the day winding down, and the playground crowd thinning out I noticed some familiar faces. These lovely ladies and their children, sisters laughing and loving on each other's kiddos.
Sisters making memories together, and setting the tone for the next generation to do things together. I'm thankful to have watched their joy, memory making, and love between each other. This reminded me of the plans Heidi and I had, to have our kids play together, to spoil them, and to never stop doing things together. These thoughts took me from the park and into the day dream state, each time my mind came back to the reality of the moment...tears burned down my cheeks. I missed Heidi yesterday, a little more than most days.
I think this is the reason the conversations and comments from the few people who did stop under the tent, seemed to stick with me. I'll start with the positive. Two or three people stopped to let me know they heard wonderful things about my book and didn't realize I would be there or they would have brought money. They might visit me at the New Haven Farmer's Market this Monday, or something this summer, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. to pick up there copy.
This was encouraging. I also saw my best bud from growing up and we spent a hour catching up. So there were happy and encouraging moments but somehow, in the nostalgic and emotional moments of wanting to make memories with Heidi, I only could repeat the words of others over and over in my head.
I had the banner with Heidi's updated age progression, by Diana Trepkov, displayed. This always has an effect on people. Either they shake their head and keep walking or they share a memory or comment. One gentle man stopped and said, "Funny about Carol Wood, 18 years, you never find someone after that long. Weird." I just looked at him and calmly said "My sister has been missing 20 years and we will never give up.", he looked at me to say "Didn't know it was your sister, sorry" and walked away.
This shook me quite a bit last night. Then Ed worked late and Mary wasn't home so I came home and replayed the statement over and over again. I know this gentleman's statement isn't true, while the majority of cold cases are not discovered (at least to date), many are. They are on the news every week. Yet when our emotions get involved, reality seems to get fuzzy. Have you experienced this?
I can't always bring the age progression because of its size but one thing always travels with me, this picture of Heidi and I. This was taken outside the church after my wedding. It's one of my favorite photos of Heidi, taken with someone's camera, not even one of the professional ones. (The candids seem to always be my favorites.) This photo of Heidi, with me cropped out, and her senior year photo are the two most recognize because they were used on the missing person flyers. To me, it represents the last time we had a family photo, Heidi disappeared eight months later. Kidnapped. Missing...never forgotten.
Well, one woman asked "Who is that?" I pointed and explained it was Heidi and I, the day of my wedding. The woman disagreed with me because she knew Heidi and she didn't look like that. I assured her it was Heidi, it was my sister and wedding and it's one of my happiest memories. She looked at me, picked up one of the buttons and said, "This is how I remember her." I agreed with her because many remember her from the missing person posters and buttons.
She became indignant, pointed to the wedding picture again, "Her hair wasn't like that." I tried to explain that our hair lightens in the summer and I was married in August but there was no sense in arguing, she wasn't hearing me.
She picked up a button, looked from the button to the photo, from each and back to me, then said, "This is Heidi." holding up the button. I agreed and said, "Have a nice day, thanks for stopping and remembering Heidi." What else could I say?
These type of statements happen all the time. My Auntie M and friend Laurie, her sister, Rose Gayhart has been missing twenty-nine years, both reminded me..."When you put yourself out in the public eye, you have to expect the comments - both positive, negative, encouraging, and insensitive." They are right and I'm used to all of them. I think it was just the emotion of the day had my defense down.
I don't usually share these side of returning from a speaking event, book signing, or day event. They happen and before I go to an event, I always pray for God's protection, wisdom, and open doors. I never know if I might talk with the person who holds the key to bringing Heidi home. People are not purposely negative. That man didn't realize I was Heidi's sister and he appeared shaken he'd upset me. The woman wasn't trying to rile me up, she simply remembered Heidi differently...as the face on the flyer...not sisters sharing a photo-op.
I promise, I'm okay. I'm still a little emotional today but then again, I'm tired. And when I'm tired, the emotions run a little higher and more out of control. But you probably never experience anything like this, lol. Emotions are natural, it's how we react and deal with them that is the most important. If my upset, emotional, and missing-my-sister moments are usually shared, then why did I do it last night and again today?
Simple, I'm hoping this will encourage us all to be careful with our words. To think before we speak. I am just as guilty as the next person, trust me. I wonder how many times I've said something with innocent curiosity or concern and it was received as the opposite. We are human. Live and learn but one thing I won't do...is hide again.
Others need to know there is hope and Heidi, and her kidnappers, need to know her family will NEVER give up or lose hope. One day, Heidi's remains will be discovered and she will be given a proper burial and memorial. You hear the statistics of how many children go missing each day, but there are also missing children found everyday...it's just the number that disappear is far greater than the ones recovered and discovered.
We can read the paper for the dirt, or we can seek the truth.
Lisa M Buske
P.O. Box 323