I'm standing on a crowded beach on a sunny, summer day. Knee deep in the water with my husband, talking. The tide is fairly high so there is only a small strip of sandy beach between the water and the low bank. We're looking at the new sand bulkhead at the base of the bank along the shore. Wondering how many truckloads of sand it took to build it.
We're looking far down the beach when we notice part of the bulkhead sloughing off. It's only sand, after all. But it's not just sloughing off. Something is very wrong. All the new construction on the land behind the bulkhead has caused pressure. And a massive buildup of run-off water. The bulkhead is forcefully--explosively--being pushed into the bay. And not just in that one spot. It's domino-ing all along the bulkhead.
I scream and begin to run. I'm calling for the boy. The 13 year old, dark haired boy. I don't see him anywhere. "Doug!" I yell to my husband, "where is Phil? Where is Phil? Where is Phil?! I don't see Phil!" Doug doesn't hear me. He's still standing in the same spot, mesmerized by the terrifying spectacle as it happens. "Doug! Doug! DOUG!" I scream at him. My voice finally registers in his ears. Stepping and turning to look at me, I see the 3 year old curly headed blonde boy standing beside my husband. I have been so worried about finding Phil--who is not our son, he is a troubled, orphaned boy we met and became attached to--that I have forgotten about my own child. I am consumed with guilt. And I still don't know where Phil is.
Ben, my beautiful 3 year old, sees the danger. He cries and screams and begins running towards me. He runs past me in the shallow surf. He runs toward the crowd of people who are beyond the bulkhead. I stop to wait for Doug, knowing that I'll find Ben in the crowd and that it's better for him to run ahead of me than to wait for us.
Doug catches up with me and we head toward the waiting crowd. On the way, I stop to warn some teenagers who don't seem to know anything is wrong. I finally convince them that they need to leave the beach and the danger. I have completely lost track of Phil.
We reach the crowd and can't find Ben. Our beautiful, healthy, curly headed 3 year old son is not there. There is a temporary medical facility set up in what is normally a beach snack shop. We go inside but Ben is not there. There is a child, he resembles Ben, but he's much younger. He is a 9 month old baby. He is injured and swollen and lying in a hospital bassinet attached to all kinds of medical equipment.
He is alone and scared. He reaches out for me. He begs me with his scared, baby eyes to take care of him. Please? He communicates wordlessly to me that he will heal much more quickly if he can come home with me rather than stay alone and scared in a makeshift medical snack shack. I hold him close and ask my husband if we can temporarily take this child home while his parents search for him. Doug agrees, as do the medical people, that the baby can come home with us. The doctor starts filling out the paperwork and I cry piteously. I cry for this child. I cry for Ben. I cry for Phil. The injured, swollen baby snuggles in my arms but is still restless.
I wake up sweating. And sobbing. I know "Ben" is fine, but I want to call him anyway. I am unsure where "Phil" is--and whether he is safe. And the image of that injured baby--who can't be cured by any amount of my love--won't dissipate.