Name: Whitney Dafoe
Missing Since: 2006
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Written by: Janet Dafoe, Whitney’s Mother
“I have a beautiful son.
At about age 21 he started getting sick, and gradually faded from us. Whitney’s been lying in bed for 3 years, unable to speak with me. Now, even his memories fade from him. We had such a wonderful life together in our family.
On good days, when he has enough energy, he scrolls through his memories: putting together boxes and boxes of Lincoln logs on the floor when he was home with the Chicken Pox, putting together communities of Playmobile–Eskimos visiting the African jungle and the American West, with the rifles used to tranquilize and study animals, not to kill them. Letting him stay home from school to play with Ron and me just because. Riding in his Uncle Rex’s little trailer behind his tractor to go pick green beans. Eating more raspberries than he put in the bucket, while protecting his sister Ashley from getting hurt in the stickers. Going to a funky cabin on the Oregon Coast each year, where I grew up playing in the waves with my grandma. Running on the beach and hunting for agates. Watching him scream in delight and fear at the big waves. And at home, teasing him in the pool about the sharks that were about to get him.
That squeal! I can hear it. Not any more. No sounds at all. No laughter, no smiles, no teasing, no wisdom from the wisest of sons.
Backpacking in the Sierra each summer, cross country over the granite, playing on the “Giant’s big marble field”.
Whitney hated to stop and look at a map. “When I’m older, I’m going to just come out here and hike without a map”. That and his love of the book Into the Wild was enough to scare his mom!
Trudging on glaciers in the rain in Denali National Park, he stayed with the guide and asked questions incessantly, to the guide’s delight. Rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, looks of wonder and excitement on his face. Screams of delight going over those big rapids.
Photographing the albatross, the blue footed boobies and the iguanas in the Galapagos – stunning photographs – his first foray into his art.
That boy had compassion, even as a toddler. In first grade he stuck up for a Chinese immigrant boy who was being teased and they were friends for years. Always teasing Ashley and encouraging her to believe in herself. Brave and courageous defender of justice and the rights of all people, passionately campaigning for Obama. Capturing the essence of the face of America in his photographs from every state. Writing funny emails about the food he knew I would love in a little village in India. Walking with a Shaman into the jungle in Ecuador learning about the healing plants with awe.
He had his issues with me. I made him do his homework. But one of the last things he wrote to me was, “Thank you for the magical childhood”.
He won’t be at the wedding of his sister, but will be in his bed, in his room, with tears running down his cheeks. He can’t even manage to have her come see him in her wedding gown.
My heart is breaking. I miss my son.“