Try to put yourself in the shoes of Crystal and Bruce Dunahee this week as they await results of a DNA test on a young man said to resemble a grownup version of their son, Michael, who disappeared more than two decades ago.
The Victoria couple have been clinging to hope Michael is alive, 22 years after he vanished from a school playground where the family was taking in a touch football game.
Now, according to the Globe and Mail, police are testing the DNA of a Vancouver-area man after receiving tips he bears a "remarkable" resemblance to Michael Dunahee, who disappeared without a trace March 24, 1991.
Victoria police confirmed the move in a news release Wednesday.
The man, who lives in suburban Surrey, reportedly posted a message on non-hockey form on canucks.com, the NHL club's fan web site.
“I was contacted by Victoria police at my old work … and obviously I didn’t believe them at first,” the man wrote, according to the Globe.
“They told me the Michael Dunahee story and explained that people have gave them tips or whatever, and that I resemble him, I match his age etc., so they asked me to meet with them. So I did last week, they got my blood and told me they didn’t know exactly when results are coming but will contact me when they knew.”
The man said he moved a lot when he was a child and went to many different schools but can't remember much from before he started Grade 1, the Globe reported.
VanCityBuzz.com posted a photo of the man, who it said uses the handle "Canuckels" on the fan site, and reproduced more of the purported post.
"I don’t know what to think," he writes. "Part of me thinks it could be but others don’t, I just want them to take my DNA and figure this out, think about this for a second, you second guess everything in a short period of time this is really tough…and with my mom passing away recently doesn’t shed any light on me but we will see soon enough, I’m undecided ...
The man writes his mother kept him apart from the rest of his family and that his father left when he he was young.
"I never once said I am him, but I’m obviously curious if they contacted me and want a DNA test…ok," he writes.
Victoria police Const. Mike Russell played down the likelihood the man was Michael, who would be 27 now.
“We have absolutely no information to suggest that it is Michael; in fact we have lots to suggest that it is not,” Russell told the Globe.
“This is standard procedure in this case and we do this to exclude people from the list as well. It shows our commitment to the investigation and that we take every tip seriously.”
Russell told CTV News that in fact police don't believe the man is Michael.
"But we do owe it to Crystal and Bruce and everybody in B.C. and across Canada who’s followed this case over the last 20 years to just go that extra mile and make sure," he said.
This isn't the first time Victoria police have done DNA sampling to rule out someone as the missing boy. The Dunahees, who've doubtless had their hopes raised many times, are not grasping at this latest one.
“They don’t think there’s anything to it, but they’re just being thorough,” Bruce Dunahee told the Globe.
And yet they must nurture some hope, against all expectation, that maybe this time . . .
After all, other families have been reunited with their lost children. Think of Jaycee Lee Dugard, found alive more than 18 years after being snatched on her way home from school, or Carlina White, taken from the hospital as a newborn and raised by her kidnapper before she solved the mystery of her own abduction 23 years later.
More recently, three Cleveland women were found alive, rescued from their abductor's house, a decade after they disappeared.
“It’s been since ’91 – 22 years – and they’re still looking, so that’s a good sign," Bruce Dunahee told the Globe. "Meanwhile, we haven’t given up hope either.”