That Time My Dad Went Missing In Lake Tahoe

Oren Cohen

My dad never admits defeat, even against nature itself, and sometimes it takes him to dangerous places.

Photo: Unsplash

Back in 2017, when I packed for a visit to my brother in California with my parents, it never occurred to me I may find myself stranded in the snow, yelling, “DAD!!! Where are you?!”

We came to visit my brother just before Passover in America. We had a feast together on the holiday evening, and we went to see many sights. When you’re a Jew from Israel that only eats kosher and never eats fish, there’s nothing to eat in Passover. Regardless, my brother impressed me with his ability to come up with such a generous offering of kosher for Passover foods.

We had so much fun! I made many incredible memories during that trip. One of the planned activities burned into my mind was a weekend in Lake Tahoe, renting an apartment with Airbnb. This weekend was the last one of our vacation with my brother and his family.

We had just got back from Las Vegas the night before the ride to Lake Tahoe, and I had left a small bag with my fucking passport in the airport bathroom. I was so worried. I was supposed to return to Israel on the following Tuesday. Without my passport, I had no idea how to get by. The passport thing is a whole other story. It all got resolved in the end, and we’ll leave it at that.

When we got to Lake Tahoe, I remember the first thing popped into my eyes as I stepped out of the car was the locks on the trash cans. When I asked my brother about it, he answered that these were locked so that bears wouldn’t eat from the trash cans and accidentally choke on plastic bags.

“Bears? There are bears here?”

“Yeah, but maybe they haven’t woken up from their winter sleep yet.”

That entire weekend I slept knowing that there’s a chance a bear was right beside the wooden wall of the apartment. Terrifying.

On Saturday, we decided to take a walk and explore the area of the lake itself. We had a beautiful view from the apartment, but we had already come all this way from Sunnyvale. It would be a shame to spend the entire weekend in the apartment even though we had all we needed.

So, kids in tow, we went to take some pictures by the lakeshore and play with some snow. It was cold, but even though it was April and the season was officially Spring, there was still snow. This was my first face to face meeting with actual snow. Israel’s winters never feature snow where I live.

My nieces made sure I had a chance to get to know the snow up close. Over and over again.

When we went back from the lakeshore to the apartment, my dad saw an opportunity to take a shortcut. Anyone who visited Lake Tahoe knows that it’s best suited to move around with a car. Unless you’re staying close to the lakeshore, and then it’s a short walk away. Otherwise, there are heaps of trees and snow separating the terraces where houses were standing.

Let’s take a shortcut from here,” my dad announced and pointed.

We couldn’t see the other side of where he was pointing. My mom, bless her heart, countered that the kids are tired and shouldn’t make this a hassle more than it has to be. If it proved to be successful in getting us to the higher terrace, my dad's way would involve some form of climbing where keeping to the road would be longer but probably safer and less tiring.

In a fit of rage that was a painful reminder of my entire childhood, my dad split from us and went climbing on his own, where the rest of us continued on the road.

When we got back, we were sure my dad already made it before us.

Imagine my surprise, discovering he wasn’t there.

My dad didn’t pick up the phone the first few times we called. Then, after a while, he did pick it up, saying it was in quiet mode, so he didn’t hear.

My brother asked him where is he and why is he taking so long. My dad started by saying, “everything is okay,” and then continued to describe how he fell in the snow and didn’t know where he was and how he didn’t see houses anymore, only snow.

Seeing as though he wasn’t in any immediate danger, we waited some more. My brother turned on the TV to distract us.

Now, I don’t watch TV on Saturdays, but my family is less religious than I am. One thing I did overhear on the TV while not actively watching was this:

“First Bear Sightings on Lake Tahoe. Early than usual this year.”

My brother started laughing, but I immediately put my cold shoes back on, and without a damn doubt in my heart, went to look for my dad in the snow.

I stepped on what looked like reliable snow and fell to a hole in the ground. My shoe got stuck there, and I had to reach down with my hand to grab it.

I’ve been searching for my dad for like twenty minutes straight. Yelling, “Dad!” into the snow. The first few times, I heard him yell back my name. But he was moving. At some point, I was yelling at the snow and the trees.

I had to face the reality of the situation. I’m in Lake Tahoe, thousands of miles from my real home in Israel, where my other brother and his family live. I’m looking for my dad in the middle of a goddamn forest of snow and old trees. And now I’m wet, cold, and at a much higher risk of hypothermia.

It was no surprise when I broke down in tears.

In those few moments, I talked to god and said, “I know me and my dad have our differences. I know we don’t always see eye to eye. But please, he’s my dad no matter what. I love him even if sometimes he drives me crazy, and I want him to be safe.”

After a while, I wasn’t hearing him anymore. My muscles were sore, and my body was shivering. I decided to make my way back. Was it unreasonable to think he may have already made his way back to the house? If he didn’t, I would ask my brother to help search.

I made my way back to the road leading to the house. And there my dad was.

He was searching for me now.

When I got back to him, I started yelling that he should never do something stupid like this again. Then he told me that he managed to get back to the house, was told that I went looking for him, and got back out to look for me.

We made our way back together to the house.

After a day like this, I was more than ready to head home, truly home, to Israel.

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I'm a geeky content creator. My content will usually be helpful articles for other content creators like me or some fun geeky articles about shows, video games, and literature. Recommend me a new fantasy book! Also, I'm working on my own fantasy story so stay tuned for that, too.

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