Looking For Caylie
An Unabashed Memoir of the Battle, Breakthrough and Future with a Genetic Variant
by Misty Wolf
Genre: Non-Fiction Medical Mystery, Parenting Memoir
When you become a mom, there is forever a piece
of your heart out in the world. Try as you might,
you will not be able to protect your child from
everything. I expected stubbed toes, scraped knees, and maybe
even a broken bone or two, but nothing prepared me for the
phone call I received that Wednesday afternoon.
“What do you mean, ‘Caylie is missing’?” I asked my mom.
“I dropped her off at exactly eight-thirty this morning. I saw
her walk through the door.”
“Yes, they said Caylie was in her classes today.”
“Okay, then what’s the issue?”
“I think you should head over here, Misty.”
If things had been usual, I’d have picked Caylie up after
school today anyway. But my coursework was heavier for this
six-week term, and I was determined to get through this degree
on schedule. When Mom and Dad agreed to pick her up, it gave
me the whole unbroken afternoon to work on assignments.
Going to Caylie’s school now, for example, would mean more
research hours tonight when I seriously needed to sleep.
Suddenly what Mom had said sank in. Lack of sleep I could
live with—but my daughter was missing? As the full realization
hit me, my heart raced, and a chill up my spine reflected the
late winter afternoon. I quickly grabbed my purse and jogged
from the house to my car. Once the motor was running and
I’d backed out, I pulled out my phone. Of course. Why hadn’t
either Mom or I thought of it? No doubt Caylie’s father had
picked her up and hadn’t called to let me know.
Caylie would sometimes visit her father on Fridays, but today
was Wednesday. Regardless, it wasn’t fair to make assumptions.
Instead, I decided to call him.
After three rings, there was the standard faint click to his
“Please, please, please tell me you have Caylie,” I recall trying
to ask, but it came out begging, “Tell me you picked her up at
school, and this is all a big miscommunication.”
It took longer than I cared to admit at that moment that,
in reality, a voicemail is simply a recording service. I decided
that a second phone call was necessary. Our child was missing,
and I had questions only he could answer.
The second time through the voicemail, I knew I had to be
clear and concise, “Please tell me if you picked up Caylie? If I
misunderstood something or forgot something you said, say so.”
We both vowed that, whatever else we did, we’d always stay
in touch about Caylie. Maybe we’d talked about something
special that would happen today. I didn’t think so, but . . .
A text lit up, and I pulled over to read it.
“I have laryngitis,” Caylie’s father wrote. “I have no voice. If
I did, I would be screaming. Where is Caylie?”
If I’d known where Caylie was, I wouldn’t be frantically
phoning him, would I? I wouldn’t be begging to know she was
with him. If I knew where she was, I wouldn’t be turning into
the school parking lot now, and I would know Mom and Dad
had picked her up. If I knew where Caylie was, this whole day
would not be turning into my personal horror story.
“When I know more, I’ll text you,” I answered, trying hard
to sound more sympathetic than I felt.
Nothing seemed real. The ten-minute drive to Caylie’s school
felt like hours, like floating through a slow-motion movie, the
tension rising second by second, every sound exaggerated—the
crunch of a leaf underfoot, the faint swish of your running
shoe on the asphalt. Just when you think you can’t stand the
wait any longer, you’re in the building, and my Mom is there.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Your dad and I were over at Jack-In-The-Box getting dinner. We’d
brought something for Caylie, and we were about three minutes late
getting here. She wasn’t where she always waits for us . . .”
“But Jack-In-The-Box is in the school parking lot. It shouldn’t
have made any difference . . .”
“It shouldn’t have.”
Mom looked like she was about to cry. “They have people
looking everywhere,” she said, “and they’re calling Caylie’s
“Well, I dropped her off at school. I watched her go through
that door—right there—and she walked past that desk—right
there . . .”
“I know you did,” Mom said, putting her hand on my arm.
“He’s going toward the 5 freeway and the Old Road.”
“Maybe she went that way.”
“Why would she go that way? I never go that way. She
wouldn’t know what was over there. Why would . . .”
“Your dad is just trying to find her, Misty. We’re all just
trying to find her.”
Sometimes it takes longer for my brain to compute and
process information in a way that makes logical sense. However,
it was becoming abundantly clear that my thirteen-year-old,
blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter was now a missing person.
No one who would have been with Caylie or seen her on a
typical school day had any idea where she could be.
While Mom looked downstairs, I ran up the stairs to where most
of Caylie’s classes were. I went through each of her classrooms and
called her name, opening every door and closet. Desperation
was setting in as I searched, and Caylie didn’t appear with
some sarcastic comment about being “right there.”
There is a large multi-pane window that spans the upper
and lower hallways of the school. When I’d searched every
possible place Caylie could be, I looked out and realized that the
afternoon light would only last a few more hours. I knew what
Caylie was wearing, that she would be cold if the wind kicked up.
And did she have a water bottle? Panic was setting in.
I took the elevator down, and when I exited, the voice of
Caylie’s upper school principal broke through my foggy
thoughts. I remember just staring at her, trying hard not to
scream. I’m grateful I didn’t say the words I was thinking.
The many voices around me were trying to give me
information, effectively making it impossible to process what
I was being told or asked. The voices turned to white noise as
my panicking mind went through everything I knew to be a
fact. Finally, I heard myself demand, “Where is my daughter?”
“We’ve called the sheriff’s department, and we have everyone
looking for her.”
I could hear my heartbeat loudly. It was impossible not to
think of the countless television news stories that opened with
the sheriff’s department looking for a child. I bit my cheek hard
enough to hurt before I thought of what to say.
“How could you possibly have lost my daughter?”
“Ms. Wolf, we know Caylie was in all of her classes, and we’ve
called all of her teachers. Every one of them saw her walk out
with the others in her class.”
“Of course, she was in her classes. I watched her come in
through the front door. It was your job to keep her safe until
we picked her back up.”
The principal looked beyond distressed. “Can we get you
anything?” she asked. “A bottle of water, perhaps?”
“Please don’t change the subject. I moved Caylie here to give
her the best education possible, and now she’s missing.” I said
much harsher than I had intended
“We’re doing everything we can, Ms. Wolf. Everyone is
working to find her.”
There was nothing more for anyone to say to me. Mom had
remained quiet throughout all this, and I silently thanked her
for not trying to interfere.
A steady stream of people was coming in and out of the
office. I didn’t know who they were or why they were here.
Soon, though, I recognized that two uniformed officers who’d
just come in were sheriff’s deputies—a man and a woman. The
principal spoke to them and then brought them towards where
Mom and I were sitting. I didn’t feel like talking anymore,
but I braced myself to cooperate. I knew that the two officers
required information to help them with the search, and they
would have to ask questions.
“Did Caylie seem upset today?” the uniformed young woman
“She seemed fine. She loves to go to school.”
“Does Caylie have a cellphone?”
“She had one, but she misused it with apps. I plan to get her
another one, but I wanted to wait . . .”
“Her grandfather and I are getting it for her for Christmas,”
Mom interjected. It was news to me.
The guy was writing on a small, lined pad. “Did Caylie do
drugs?” he asked, “or would she be looking for drugs?”
“No and no, she’s a terrific kid who would rather be reading
a book. . .”
“Never gets into trouble,” Mom added.
“Is there any reason Caylie would want to run away?” the
young woman asked.
I shook my head. “Caylie never spoke to me about running
away for any reason. She has everything she could want, and
she loves the bookstore and the library. She even collected
books from the neighbors and made a library for her classmates
“Are there friends she might have gone with?”
I was starting to reach my absolute limit with people asking me
questions. I had developed a raging headache, and my politeness
was continuing to dwindle, “No. Caylie is new to the school. She
wouldn’t just walk off with somebody she doesn’t know.”
“Just a couple more questions, Ms. Wolf,” the young female
officer continued. “We know you’re tired. Has Caylie ever
done this before?”
I wasn’t tired, just incredulous that this was happening.
Caylie wouldn’t disappear on her own. Precious minutes were
ticking away, and still, no one had found her.
Misty Wolf resides in Santa Clarita, California, alongside her beloved Caylie, her parents, and their Shih Tzu named Gilly Goose. Misty focuses her writing and speaking on her experience of being the mother of a child with a rare mutation disability. Misty completed her education with a Bachelor of Arts in Project Management (with a minor in Criminal and Civil Law), and a Masters in Criminal Justice, with a specialization in forensics.