It's one of those stories that you've probably heard at least once or twice. A man, father, woman, mother or lover 'went out for milk' and still hasn't come home.
While it's become a widely accepted idiomatic scenario, it is actually a real thing that happens. There are actually people who tell their loved ones (or not so loved one) that they're out of milk or cigarettes (or whatever) walk out the door and just don't come back.
They often give no sign they are leaving and take nothing with them but the clothes on their back, which makes it even more crazy and unbelievable that it really does happen. A lot!
It's some common in fact, that theres a thread on Reddit that asks, 'People who have "gone out for a pack of cigarettes" and never went back to your family, what happened after you left?' and people share their stories.
We've selected 15 of the most interesting - so keep on scrolling!
"When I was five, my dad came home from work, and my mom informed him out, completely of the blue, that she wanted an immediate divorce (I found out many years later she’d had an affair and was pregnant). He moved out of the house (they had three little kids together; I was the oldest), and she married her second husband (twice; they weren’t divorced the first time). He was paying child support as he was supposed to, but she was calling him at work and sending him letters at home (his sister kept them), asking for more, and he began to get complaints about it from his bosses. He asked his mother what he should do; she advised him to tell her he was giving her all he could, and all he was ordered to, and that he was going to lose his job if she kept it up. And, that if she didn’t stop, he’d leave the state, and she’d never hear from him again. She thought that would make her wise up and leave him alone. So, he did. But she continued. So, he asked his mother for advice again. Her advice was to follow through. And so, he did. He packed his clothes into his car, and headed for Canada. He got as far as two states north from where he began, liked a little town he came across, and got a job there.
I never forgot him. I was the only one of the three of us kids that had any memories of him. But when I was 16 and moved away from my extremely abusive home (in every way), I called my aunt, whose name I knew, who happened to live in the town I was also then living in, and told her I wanted to meet him. Coincidentally, he happened to be visiting her. I met him, my aunt, my grandfather, and my grandmother while he was there. It turned out to be the only time I would ever meet my grandfather; he died two years later. But I will never, ever forget it – he wrapped me up in a big, strong bearhug; told me how beautiful I was; how much he loved me, and how much he’d ALWAYS loved me, and how very, very happy he was to see me again after all these years. I cried then, and I’m crying again now, writing it down. I can still feel the love and caring in his arms.
I wasn’t ready to get to know my dad at 16 though; I realize now that I just wanted to “see” him. It took me another 10 years before I contacted him again. But I did; when I was living in California. And when I did, he took two weeks vacation (so did I), drove down to see me, and we spent the entire two weeks getting to know one another. And once he left, we were in contact daily. And I quit my job and moved up to the PNW a month later, because I knew the hole in my heart would never be filled until my dad was a part of my life. And I was correct.
My son has a grandpa because of my decision, and my dad is the greatest grandpa there is. I wish he’d have always been in my life, but the outcome I received is worth everything I’ve been through. I love you, Dad. <3" - Popcorn_n_Jellyfish
"I was a toddler. 2 or so. After 9/11 my mother moved ya up to Vermont with her boyfriend who, for what it is worth, is now in federal prison for first degree murder of another girlfriend. As that indicates he wasn’t a good guy. He wouldn’t let me drink water unless I’d eaten a full meal, and I was two, so my mother had to serve fruit with every meal so I’d have moisture and let me drink water while he was at work. On days he didn’t work she & I would go out and explore as much as we could. We took to cleaning up old over grown graveyards, since it was interesting and fun and most importantly time consuming. But he was very controlling and didn’t want us to leave. She didn’t have a car so we had to walk everywhere. Being from NC and with no ability to purchase a train ticket because he controlled all her finances and she didn’t have a phone, she was forced to use a pay phone to contact my grandparents to fly up and come rescue us and fly us back. And had to tune it with his work schedule to make sure he wasn’t there when they came because she thought he might try to hurt me if he saw them come to take us." - AngelOfDivinity
"I didn’t go out for cigarettes, but I pulled a similar stunt.
My mom is abusive and I had no spine, so I told her I was going to move in with my dad for the summer, I said I would be back before the end of August. After I moved in with my dad I got my state ID (my mom didn’t want me to have any kind of id) and I finally got my drivers permit a few weeks later. I felt bad for lying at the time, but now l know if I didn’t lie to her I would have never gotten out of there. I would be stuck living on a shitty little hobby farm with a woman who did everything in her power to tear me down and hurt me." - ice-nymph
"When I was 18, I moved out from my abusive father. I was commuting to college at the time and I had morning classes so the night before I packed my car with as much of my stuff as I could, and set off.
One of my professors that I regularly talk to after class noticed that my car was full of clothes and asked if everything was okay. Over lunch I explained my situation, and he offered to take me in. I had already made arrangements to live with my mother. After my classes for the day were over I went home for the first time since I was a child to live with my mother.
I slept on the couch for months before getting my own bed, and we didn’t always have the money to eat, but we made it work.
I have seen my father one time since then because he swore to me that he had changed, that night he proceeded to get wasted and tried to put his hands on me. I haven’t seen him since, and I have no regrets.
Edit: Thank you for the gold and silver! I didn’t expect it. I was just wanting to finally share my experience with a wider audience, and maybe bring hope to anyone else in a situation like mine.
Edit 2: Just to clear up some confusion that I’ve noticed in the replies, I am a male. “Put hands on me” is a slang term for starting a fight. I’m not sure if it’s popular slang, or regional slang (southeast US) but at no point was I sexually abused. I apologize if there was any confusion." - Seyenogard7
"ETSay: thank you everyone for all the kind words and support and awards. I felt a lot of love reading it all today.
My mom just all of the sudden wasn’t there anymore.
She and my dad were miserable but my dad wouldn’t agree to divorce. He was a minister at a big church and didn’t believe divorce was right and so instead he tried to stay married to my mom, all while avoiding her and all the unhappiness at home.
She never really left her bedroom. She was miserable and she made everyone else miserable, too. She was horrible to me in those last few years. We had been really close before that.
She started moving stuff out of the house little by little when no one was home. Like, one day a bookshelf would be gone. And we’d all notice but just kind of go on with our lives.
And it bothers me very very much, but her moving out was so abrupt and so ambiguous, that I don’t remember specifics about it. Like I don’t know if it was during the school year or over summer – I don’t know where I was or what was different when I came home that day – but at some point, she didn’t live there anymore.
I was 14.
My dad told me that God told him she would never come back. I looked up to my dad a lot – he was kind-of on the same level as God in my mind – so I believed him. He soon after started dating another woman – secretly because the church didn’t know he was divorced yet. He intended to marry her as soon as possible.
I remember I had to pose for “family photos” with this new woman and her 2 kids. They were printed up and put into a frame and hung over our fireplace.
Then one day, my mom came to the house. She told me she had made the biggest mistake of her life, that she loved me, and my brother and my dad, and she wanted to work everything out.
I guess God was wrong when he spoke to my dad…
Then she walked out of my room and saw the new family portrait over the fireplace. She left quickly.
A few days later, she called the house, my dad answered, and she told him to “tell the kids I said goodbye.” Then she hung up. We started calling everyone we could think to call. We tried to call the phone operator, asking if they could trace the call. (this was 1995 so no caller ID or cell phone with a callback number)
A bit later that night, my new step-mom-to-be came over and pulled my dad aside. She saw a car at the end of our neighborhood that looked like my moms. My dad called 911. Everyone showed up. My mom had taken a BUCKET of pills. She was barely alive. They took her to the Er and pumped her stomach and intubated her. They told my dad to call my brother so he could come say his goodbyes too.
I was let into the room for a while. I looked at the machines and they were plugged into the wall and I stared for a long time thinking I should unplug it because she really didn’t want to be revived and I couldn’t understand why we were doing all of this. But then a nurse came in and said I had to leave while they did stuff.
My mom survived. My dad married the other lady. I think this messed me up and I honestly can’t believe Ive typed up this entire recollection. I don’t think about it very often and maybe that’s why I can’t remember the details of the day I realized she’d moved out.
TL:DR dont move out and leave your family without so much as a note, and don’t tell people God told you stuff." - happyorchardale
"I grew up in a very abusive strict home. My step father beat both my sisters and then when they left I was next. Anyways one night he made me walk home from the mall because he wouldn’t give me a ride. I called and asked around five and he said you better have your ass home at five. I walked the eight miles and was pretty wiped out when I was coming up the driveway. We had a big front window and I saw him sitting in his chair drinking whiskey waiting for me. When I walked in he said something and I replied you won’t do shit. The next thing I knew he had me pinned to the wall and punched me in the face until I was knocked out. When I woke up I remember feeling the blood from my nose and my mother was standing there and told me I was a disgrace to go clean my face off. I went upstairs and grabbed a hat and walked out and never went back. I was 14 years old at the time. Edit: Gold! Thank you kind strangers!:" - anon
"My grandmother did. Just left her husband and three kids, the eldest in elementary school.
My grandfather made it through. He worked at my great-grandfathers business and went on to own it. He also remarried a few years later.
About 25ish years after she left, she contact my dad wanting to meet her grandkids (my older brother and me) and reconnect. I was around two, my brother 5ish. My brother called her by her. This was upsetting to her and she left.
15 years pass and once again, she wants to be in our life. This time we go to her. I was excited to meet her, as my grandfathers wife hated her step kids, and thus her step-grandkids. So my teenage self set up a false reality. One bug happy family. Reality was, she had a whole different family she was happy with. A granddaughter who she loved dearly and made quilts with. She called me the wrong name the whole time we were there, even when corrected. She had a cute house with family pictures all over – none of us of course. It’s like she forgot all about her other three kids.
She’s just some lady to me. I only know her first name honestly. And I know that I never want to be like her. Edit to say because it did just end: it’s been about 10 years since we last saw her.
My dad… he hides it. His life growing up was not great as a result. He’s angry about it, but pretends not to be. But my dad had never, ever not been there for me. He’s honestly sometimes too much there for me." - Reddit
"I was ten years old when my mom and dad split up. We had been expecting it, but I didn’t know that my mom had packed up suitcases for herself, my sister, and I. One day we went to school like everything was normal, and went to my mom’s parents after school. It wasn’t unusual for us to have dinner there. But then mom sat us down and told us we’d be staying there for a while.
Ended up being six years before we got our own place. I never got to go back to my bedroom again. My dad got remarried and his wife’s daughter moved in and repainted my room. When I had to visit them I slept on the couch while she slept in my room.
Edit: I clearly do not check reddit enough. Thank you for all the love and support everyone is showing to everyone! And thank you for the silver kind strangers 🙂" - Ironsweetiez
"When I was 16, I moved out without telling my stepdad, but my mom was in on it. And I just moved in with my grandparents. I left on a Friday. Got all my stuff in just two trips. I was told he didn’t even notice I was gone the first weekend. He was pretty mad once he figured it out, but it was all mostly a non-event. Everything turned out okay for me. It will have been 21 years, this September." - ArmyOfDog
"My ex-husband was extremely physically and emotionally abusive, as well as an alcoholic/addict. He obsessively controlled the money and every second of my daily routine; an unplanned five minute delay to get gas on the way home would result in a dressing down (if I was lucky, a beating if I wasn’t). We had three daughters, and on the few occasions I threatened to leave, he’d tell me to go ahead and leave, but I couldn’t take our daughters with me.
At one of our couple-friends’ wedding reception, he got drunk as per usual and lost his mind over something insignificant, dragged me around in the street by my hair, and pulled a gun on me (in front of the wedding party). One of his friends – who was a real POS – took me aside while the groom’s mom was driving my ex home, and told me “you don’t have to live like this.” It was like a light went on in my mind – THIS GUY says I don’t have to live like this?!?
It took me a couple of weeks to put a plan in place, but one morning after my ex left for work my dad helped me pack everything that would fit in a uhaul, and I gtfo.
I’d like to say I never saw him again after that day, but I was pretty lucky he decided to leave me alone after an initial period of stalking and a bout in jail for violating an order of protection. Fast forward 15 years, and I finished undergrad, law school, and post-doc. I’m remarried with two more amazing kids, and life is pretty much goals.
EDIT: I forgot to mention the kids! I did take them with me – that was why I left the way I did, since I knew he wouldn’t let me leave with them otherwise. Unfortunately, it’s not been all sunshine and rainbows since, although we had some pretty wonderful times over the years. My ex passed on to the girls a genetic predisposition to serious mental illness, and I lost one daughter to suicide when she was 14. We all were (and are) pretty traumatized, but we cope the best we can and try to appreciate all the other wonderful things life has brought us.
EDIT 2: Thanks for the gold, and for the positive comments. All this isn’t something I talk about much in my d2d. It’s been years, but a lot of it is still fresh, and it’s occasionally cathartic to open up to strangers. - amcoco
My dad died when I was pretty young. My mom eventually remarried to a pretty cool guy when I was young. He was honestly an amazing dad, and when my mom got sick when I was a 12, he was absolutely incredible- taking care of everyone, and reaffirming that I was his son. When my mum died, it was just me and him for a few years – and there were some amazing times. He made sure I was seeing a counsellor, and we did family things on the weekend. My friends used to joke that he wasn’t even my biological dad and he still made more time for me, and did more things for me than their bio dad’s did.
When I was 15, he got remarried. I didn’t exactly like my new step mom, but I didn’t hate her. I think I just thought that the relationship wouldn’t last and he’d move on to someone better. Then they got married and it was kinda weird. I did get an amazing baby brother from that – not all bad.
My dad died when I was 17. Literally taken out by an undiagnosed severe allergy. My step-mom got me from school and drove me to the hospital, and when my dad passed away, she handed me my baby brother and said she needed a minute by herself. I never saw her again.
She was much younger than my dad, and was an ex-foster are kid with no family or best friends to support her – and I think she looked at her newborn baby and the kid her dead husband inherited and just couldn’t handle it. I sure know I wasn’t prepared to handle it – but my mom and my (biological) dad had been ex-foster care kids and mom told me a few fucked stories so I wasn’t going to let that happen to me or my brother. I do sometimes feel a little resentful that I can’t have the normal life – I’m working too much, and I have a six year old to figure out, to consider college but I don’t want my family to just be cycles of poverty and dead-end jobs.
**Edit: Wow guys! I’m touched by the response. I have full custody – my step-dad adopted me when my Mom died so for all intents and purposes, my brother is legally my brother. Afraid I can’t give too many details – I want to adopt him and there’s a court case or two that I don’t wanna compromise just in case – movies have told me that anyway!
Step-mom will probably be charged with abandonment when she can be located – but so far we haven’t heard anything. I’ve always been worried that she had a mental health break and either killed herself (I used to call up locally and ask for Jane Doe’s that fit her – hey coping mechanisms amirite?) or she’s had a mental health break and something snapped. Abandonment didn’t really fit what I knew of her – and I remember that she had some kind of mental health problems – it’s not like we talked about it though. She could have gone off her meds in the chaos and snapped. I’m more worried than angry – but my first concern will always be for my favourite little tyke.
We’re doing pretty well – we have a support worker who has been fantastic, helping us get access to free and reduced cost services. I’m also pretty thrifty – I youtube’d how to knit socks and fix clothing and thrift stores are great. I don’t live near a major city, and so it’s not as expensive as it could have been. Being frugal also helps.
There’s usually always good stuff out there if you know how to ask for help – and my dad always told me the hardest thing but the most important thing to do was to suck up your pride and ask for help. I’m getting better about that, but it’s hard. My dad making me do therapy helped a bunch to admit when I need help – he said that needing help wasn’t about not being capable, but about being smart. That if you’re carrying an expensive tv you could carry it by yourself but you’re smarter if you grab a friend.
I’m almost finished an apprenticeship right now – and I’m in a Union that’s decent enough that wives used to drop off casseroles and leave cribs and stuff on our porch. Everyone should be involved in their community. I wouldn’t have survived without everyone willing to go to bat for me.
I’m working pretty hard because I’m incredibly fortunate that I met good people along the way. I owe them a lot. I also work part time at a nursery helping with plants and stuff on weekends for the staff discount and free stuff. I taken home more than a few half-dead fruit trees and vegetable seedlings. The more I work, the more I can throw into savings. It’s morbid but I want to make sure if I die, he’s not frantically worrying about paying for that. It’s – not exactly a good feeling.
My bro and I have been working on expanding our tiny garden to try and off set the cost of food and he seems to like gardening just as much as my dad did. Last year we didn’t buy a single potato or any herbs. It’s been the best low-cost high-involved activity we’re doing – and it sometimes makes me feel less guilty that I can’t be there more for him like our dad was for me.
We have glass pasta jars and tin cans growing basil and rosemary right now – I told my bro if he can keep them alive all year without me needing to intervene, we can look at adopting chickens. He specifically wants two chickens named ChicKEN and ChicBARBIE because he’s funnier than I am.
I’m working a bunch now because I want him to be in a better position in the future – my dad left a small, but decent amount in a trust – and I pulled from it when I first got custody when I was scrambling to afford everything. I want to replace everything I took, and also make sure he can afford to do the things that I couldn’t when growing up. When he’s in high school and wants to celebrate by going to Mexico, then he’s going to Mexico.
I do miss the stuff I can’t do – I’ve never not had responsibilities. I’m still friends with people from school, and they’re doing cross-country adventures and dropping money on expensive stuff. It’s such a weird idea that they can just go to music festivals without worrying about anything while I’m trying to find a detergent that doesn’t set the bro’s eczema off. Wouldn’t trade him for the world though.
We have saving accounts and insurance policies and I’m probably better off than a lot of people. The comments have been incredible with people offering help from everywhere – I needed that help when I was 17 and scared out of my absolute mind.
I’m almost 24 now and I’m stable – but paranoid and weird for sure. If you’d like to donate, please direct them to local organisations fighting the good fight. The difficult part of the story is basically over – until he hits teenaged years probably. God knows how I’m going to handle that. That’s a problem for future me. I don’t need that kind of help anymore, and I’m moving into the phase of life where I just want to give back to people that have helped me, by passing it on. I joined reddit because I saw that post that said “Today you, tomorrow me” – that’s my philosophy in life.
There are a lot of people out there like me, and they deserve to be able to grow garlic in old jam jams with their family just as much as I did.**" - Idrhagun
"Didnt leave my wife and kids as I dont have any but i did walk out on my mother and siblings without any notice. Dad was not in the picture.
After? Best decision of my life. My mother refuses treatment for her very serious mental illness or illnesses and was incredibly abusive physically as well and neglectful while i was growing up. I saw the affect it had burn out older siblings with no motive or drive and instead embraced the crazy just to feel sane in the toxic family home we lived in.
I was homeless for about a year and a half living out of a duffel and bumming food from friends. I feel like my life hasent even started until i left it behind. I feel like it held me back for 17 years and i now am finally being able to find out who i am.
Mom never came looking for me, i reconnected with my estranged father, whome i learned was in the military from the moment he was 18 until he was HD at 43. He has severe PTSD from his 3 tours in Iraq and afghanastan. He’s now getting his Masters in outdoors leadership which i believe is a perfect way to use his massive skill set. I dont see him much if ever but at least i know some blood is still thicker than water" - largePPguy
"For us it was that he went out for milk. Dad told me as the eldest surviving kid I was “The man of the house” until he got back, so it was my obligation to help/defend/take care of them for him until he came back. He never came back." - honestduane
"my real dad ghosted like 4 families. his first family, he had a son. he was in that family for 13 years, his son had a motorcycle wreck and ended up in intensive care. a year later he ghosted that family and moved to a new state. just up and left, didnt take anything but his clothes and his car.
second family, he had a daughter. he left almost immediately.
then he moved to another state, and married another woman, and had two more kids whom ive never met or spoken to. dont even know their names tbh. jake? john? jordan? josh? something with a j. he went out for a pack of smokes and never went back(his own words)
then he met my mom, and had my sister first. he ghosted my mom 3.2 years later, then showed up for some quick whoopie, and i happened. he ghosted her, but didnt leave the state. she called the cops and my first memory is of the cops bringing my dad to the house in cuffs and letting him go, only for him to attack my mom while she was holding me and she dropped me. then the cops arrested him. he wanted out, he got out.
he had 2 more marriages, but no kids. its his MO to shack up with well off women and mooch until they either kick him out or he gets bored.
its really fucking painful to see, because i want to be an asswiping dad whose there for his kids every fucking second of their lives. i want to be the exact opposite of him." - Anon