I recently watched a news report about how British police were stepping up their efforts to find out what happened to Madeline McCann, the British toddler who vanished without a trace back in 2007. As part of the authorities’ efforts to find her they released an age progressed photo of what she would look like today, and it got me thinking. Would I ever commission an age progressed photo of my Maddie? Is that something I would benefit from doing? Or would it be a terrible mistake?
Since Maddie passed many people have suggested that Heather and I have an age progressed photo of Maddie made, but I never gave the idea too much thought because it was too depressing. Today, however, I feel a little different. It has been three years since I last saw Maddie, and I can’t help but wonder what she would look like now that she would be just a few months away from turning five. Five. Five is the year she would start kindergarten. Man, what I would give to see my sweet, little kindergartener.
There is a magical element to this age progression stuff. It’s almost like something you’d see in a movie, where you get the chance to see what your life would be like… if only. That Nicolas Cage movie, “Family Man,” pops to mind. If you haven’t seen it Cage’s character gets a chance to see what his life would have been like if, instead of breaking up with his former girlfriend, he’d married her and started a family.
The problem is that, while “Family Man” ends happily with Nicolas Cage discovering he has a chance at a future with his former girlfriend, there can be no happy ending for me. I have no chance at a future with Maddie, and the photo would just be a mirage of a future that will never be. Is it really worth putting myself through that? It’s like scratching a bug bite. It might relieve my agony briefly, but make me feel a lot worse later on.
The other thing I worry about is that seeing an age progression photo of Maddie might muddle my vision of her. Right now I can close my eyes and see her – the real her – exactly as she was. If I look at a photo of this other, older Maddie, would that become the image I see when I close my eyes? Because if it is, even a little bit, I don’t want it.
Still, the allure of seeing what could have been – of seeing my kindergartener – is very powerful. It’s not a decision to take lightly though as it’s the type of thing you can’t un-see once you’ve seen it. Really, what I want is a happy ending like the one seen in “Family Man,” but unfortunately that’s the kind of thing that only happens in the movies.