Dad called from the airport and said he was coming home without my girl. He had called everyone he could and no one knew (or was telling) where Rich and Karrie were living. Dad had to get back to work. I cried.
Karrie had not wanted to leave that summer. She knew Katie would start walking and she’d miss her first steps. She begged me to stay home but because of the law I had to go against what we both wanted and help her prepare to go visit her dad. Part of my encouragement was that it was only two weeks and that Katie wouldn’t be walking by then. That two weeks would go quickly. I was not prepared for this situation. Neither was Karrie.
My mother-in-law, Ruth, called me and apologized. She didn’t know where they were. She was very upset about the situation. After Rich and Karrie visited one day, she called to tell me that Karrie looked healthy and happy. She was able to talk to her and reassure her that Mommy loved her and missed her.
For eight long weeks we tried everything to find Karrie from 1,000 miles away. I found myself wondering if I’d ever see Karrie again. I painted her furniture and put strawberry decals on her bed. I bought toys and clothes, mostly from garage sales. That was my way of saying that she would come home. I prayed constantly. Friends and family prayed and encouraged me.
One day as I walked to my office in the church basement I felt the prayers of people surrounding me. Hebrews 12:1-3 filled my mind, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I muddled through the weeks that summer. My boss had to check my work carefully because I made silly little mistakes. My mind was not in the game. It was 1,000 miles west.
Even Katie missed her sister. Katie had a way of bouncing on the floor when she was happy. With her feet pressed together, she could lift her bottom off the floor, laugh, and bounce. One day she was extra fussy about life. Dad took Karrie’s picture off the table and set the frame in front of Katie. She leaned forward, kissed the picture and started bouncing. Whenever she became fussy, we gave her the picture. We even delayed her first birthday until Karrie would be home.
In August Dad decided we should go out to Colorado and try to find Rich ourselves. We knew he was still working at the railroad and Dad decided we would simply follow him home from work at night, get his address, and give it to our lawyer. I was ready. People started praying.
We stopped at my brother’s home on the way out and traded cars. Dad had thought through the details. This would be a car unfamiliar to Rich. We stayed at a hotel in Boulder which was not our regular hotel. The next day we drove around praying and searching. We ate at a Burger King for lunch. We prayed for Karrie. Mom said she felt that Karrie was close by. Mom, the optimist, knew this would work.
At 10:00 that night Dad and I drove to the railroad yards, parked outside the fence where we could see Rich’s truck, and waited. About 11:30 I told Dad I had to go to the bathroom. Nothing in sight, so I waited.
I still can see Rich coming out to his car that night, unaware of what was about to happen. People were praying. We asked that God would hide us from view. Dad followed behind as Rich started the drive home. We hit the interstate which was almost devoid of cars. Dad held back. Rich took his exit and we knew we’d have to pull up behind him. Out of nowhere a car flew past us, took the exit, and was the buffer between our cars. That angel really knew how to drive.
We followed Rich to an apartment complex across the street from the Burger King where we had eaten our lunch. Karrie had been close by. I wrote down the address. But, Rich had seen the car and he came flying back down the stairs and got in his truck. Dad pulled out and Rich followed. I had been instructed to scrunch down on the floor of the car. Dad didn’t want Rich to know I was there. From the floor, I directed Dad around town and we took off up the mountains. Dad did not want a confrontation, nor did he want Rich to know where we were staying, so he just drove. With a full tank of gas, we were ready. Rich followed. He was angry. He passed us, then pulled off, then made obscene gestures, then followed us again. After about 30 minutes he finally pulled away and left us alone. At the top of Boulder Canyon I was finally able to get out of the car and attend to a very important matter. I desperately needed a bathroom! This was about 2:30 in the morning. Dad slowly drove us back to the hotel in Boulder. (We noticed Rich’s truck at the police station in Boulder as we drove by. I was worried. Dad said we’d just been out for a drive and we did nothing wrong.)
First thing the next morning I called my lawyer to give him Rich’s address. He’d been trying to reach us all morning. (This was before cell phones.) Rich’s lawyer had called that morning saying Rich wanted to give Karrie back. That afternoon we went to his lawyer’s office and I had my little girl back in my arms.
The other lawyer’s secretary (Lois) told my lawyer’s secretary (Beth), “They didn’t need to harass Mr. Goebel by following him home from work.” to which Beth replied, “They wouldn’t have needed to follow him home if she had known where he lived, if her daughter was ok, and if he’d been communicating with her.” Lois was shocked! Apparently, Rich had told the lawyer that I was fine with him keeping Karrie for a longer period of time and that I’d been in contact with her each week. His lawyer apologized to me. I think it also later affected the way he interacted with me.
No action could be taken against Rich because our visitation agreement had not been specific. My lawyer quickly requested a date for us to firm up the documentation so that nothing like this could ever happen again.
We immediately left the lawyer’s office, with Karrie in the back seat next to Katie, both of them almost as happy as the adults. I still remember Karrie telling Grampa to turn on the “heat” so she could “cool herself up.”At another point in the ride, I was holding Katie on my lap, when Karrie asked “Mommy, can I have a leg?” meaning that she wanted to sit on my lap, too. At the hotel that night, Karrie saw her baby sister take her first steps (in the hotel.) Katie had been trying to walk for weeks, but we kept setting her down and not encouraging her. Dad finally said to us, “Let that baby walk.” So she’d been walking for a few weeks, but we celebrated with Karrie.
So my adventure as a spy came to a wonderful end. My family was together again. We thanked God. We sang. We laughed. We drove home with hearts full of praise.