Friday, February 01, 2008


I have worked a myriad of jobs in my life. Through the course of my sorted, sordid employment experiences, I have been introduced to numerous important lessons and linguistics. I have learned everything from how to skin a fish to how to administer shots. For example, the first time I recall having encountered the phrase “elopement risk,” was in a brief stint at a community adult day care program, where I also coincidentally learned to two-step and shoot pool.

I was re-acquainted with the phrase when I went to work for an organization that runs group homes for people with cognitive impairments, known here in Kansas as Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded. In both locations, as the addition of the term “risk” would seem to indicate, elopement was seen as a bad thing. Heretofore, I had always thought of “elopement” as an exciting, romantic term, one which conjured up images of a love that could not be denied, the exhilaration of the open road, and the freedom of unencumbered travel.

Perhaps it is my age. Perhaps it is an overweening and misdirected maternal instinct. Perhaps it is the lull of a careful, measured life. Whatever the reason, I have come to embrace the phrase “elopement risk” as exactly the type of situation that demands immediate attention and intervention.

In less anxious times, I would romanticize Trinity and Emmett’s elopement risk as another manifestation of their deep and multi-faceted love and mutual adoration. Really, how could I blame them? I have spent the better part of my life as an elopement risk when I was not busy self-fulfilling my prophecy of elopement reality.

Beyond the fear and anxiety experienced by the bi-pedaled non-elopers as we envision scenarios involving our two, sweet lovebirds in a close encounter with trains, automobiles or other undesirables, I have to confess to a low level of longing. I wish I could be there to see them dipping under barbed wire fences, splashing across creeks, zig-zagging from tree to tree with their noses to the ground, and chasing each other through open fields.

These days, the elopement risk amounts to another point of desperation in what we hope are the waning days of our life in a trailer. The house has been designed with a designated dog room overlooking a dog yard that will be measured in square acreage, not footage. As with everything else, far from the wild abandon of elopement, the dog yard has been carefully designed and thought through so they will have at least the illusion of freedom and a variety of topographies while they remain safely restrained.

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