Five Years On ~ Missing Dad: Day 5 ~ FOUND

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Tuesday,  June 15th, 2010

That day is a blur; it was supposed to be my day of rest, after going out to Union to search for Dad on Saturday, Sunday, Monday. I had set Wednesday as my return to work, if we didn’t find him. I had very mixed feelings about going back to work. I couldn’t stay out indefinitely; what if we never find him? Sometimes, people who go missing are never, ever found. They just disappear without a trace. How does a person just disappear? The laws of physics tell us that matter cannot be created or destroyed in a closed system; therefore, he can’t just be gone. He is somewhere in the Escheresque universe in which I’ve been living since 8:40 Friday morning; I just can’t find my way to him. The angles are all wrong, they are impossible, incomprehensible.

I’ve been saying: “My dad is missing”. I could just as easily say: “I’m missing my Dad” and mean it in all its double-entendred glory; he’s missing; I miss him; oops, have I missed him? What am I missing?

When someone goes missing, what happens to the people who are missing them? What do they do? Do they return to their jobs? Do they shop for groceries on the way home from work? Do they still buy Metrocards, and make sure that there’s milk in the refrigerator for breakfast the next morning? Do they plan their meals for the coming week? What about the laundry? Do they carry on, do they do all of these things, all the while waiting for a call from the police or the FBI or a hospital or a morgue that their loved one or their loved one’s body has been found?
Or do they simply sit still? Do they wait by the telephone, or stake out a spot in front of the computer, searching, researching, unable to move? Do they take their cellphones into the shower? Do they take showers? Whatever I am doing, I feel like I should be doing something else instead. What if I’m doing the wrong things, and that’s why I can’t find the right angle? Is my approach all wrong?
I don’t know how to do this. If we don’t find him, I don’t know what we will do.
I’ve never known anyone else who had this happen. I have no experts to consult. I need a roadmap for this terra incognita where we are marooned.

My plan for Tuesday was to talk to the detectives in the morning and get them to set the bloodhounds looking for my father. We were in Day 5; Dad had been missing for ninety-six hours (I had decided that, when we got to one hundred hours, I would switch to counting days). Frank and I awoke to the alarm, took our showers, ate our breakfast, drank our coffee, shared the New York Times, watched Weather Channel, just like we do every day. It was all so nice and normal.
I turned on my computer to check email. I had messages from my friend Janice asking if there’d been any word (no); from my friend Peg, who pointed out how easily the elderly become invisible to the rest of us, allowing as how if Dad had gone out in his pajamas, someone might remember having seen him (he had done that already, the week before); from Nancy, letting us know that she, Chris and Grant would be in New Jersey by around 2 that afternoon. She added that Chris suggested that one way to get Dad back would be to buy and install an air conditioner in his dining room (Dad was legendarily spartan about heating and cooling).
The detectives called me while I was still at my computer, sometime after 9AM.
Det. Moutis confirmed to me that today was the day that the bloodhounds would search the woods while the helicopters flew over.

Today was the day that Dad would be found, but I didn’t know that yet.

The search had become its own creature, apart from Dad; Dad and the search for Dad were two separate beings. There had been moments when I felt we were searching just for the sake of doing something. It wasn’t that I thought our efforts were useless or hopeless; there was a small (and shrinking) part of me that thought we might yet find him, and find him alive. Surely there was a reasonable explanation for him being missing; the Laws of the Conservation of Matter decreed that he was still somewhere in the known universe.

What I would say, or do, if I saw my father sitting on a park bench, or walking down a side street?
Would I run up to him, hug him and kiss him and ask him if he was hungry, thirsty, tired?
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Would I just stand there, mouth agape, unable to speak?
Would I even believe my own eyes?
Would I yell at him for putting us through this living hell for almost five days?
Or would the stress of all of it, combined with the shock of seeing him again, cause my body to crumble into a pile of dust and blow away on the wind?

I do not know how to do this.

Since Friday, I had been dealing with the unknowingness of my situation by trying to control those things I could. To be effective, to move forward, I had to be dispassionate about the alternatives that lay before us. I had to be on task, I had to manage time well, I had to ruthlessly prioritize. It was like managing the store (people/product/operations), except this really was life and death. I wasn’t alone; I had lots of help, all the help I could ask for; my husband, my siblings and sibs-in-law, their children, our friends were living through this with me; but I felt so terribly alone.

These were the things I could control at this moment: I could check email and respond; I could talk to people on the phone; I was home this day, so I could do research online to find something, anything; there had to be something, and I was just missing it.
I had promised Frank I would try to rest, just this one day; I planned to take a nap at some point, lie on the couch with the windows open (the weather had been so gorgeous since Friday) and let myself drift…
But first… I had to…
Okay, so the detectives would have dogs and helicopters … Det. Moutis said that we should register for a Silver Alert. I said I’d set it up if he sent me a link.
As soon as we got off the phone, I followed up with him by email, confirming the details of their plan for the day, and copying my sibs; I asked if the police had issued a general press release yet, because some news outlets would do nothing without something from the police.

Monday night, when I got home from New Jersey, before we had dinner, Frank and I were talking about places that George and Barbara and Alyssa and Kevin and Glenn and the neighbors and I couldn’t get into to search on our own. Frank had made a list of the kinds of places that should be searched; abandoned buildings within a reasonable radius; houses that had been foreclosed upon, and were vacant; garages, sheds, outbuildings, even on occupied properties—we’d had a cat years ago who had gotten locked in a neighbor’s garage by accident, and he’d been missing for three days before the neighbor returned, opened the garage, and out came our Patch. Maybe Dad crawled into or under an abandoned car in a foreclosed garage and has been unable to get out and come home. Maybe he fell through a rotted floor in a vacant, derelict house. Maybe he got lost again, and went into a house that he thought was his, except it was empty, and now he thought we had sold all of his things or that he had lost the house to taxes. When we had his income taxes done earlier that spring, he got confused, and thought the new accountant was there to take his house away. Maybe he was looking for Mom.

I asked Det. Moutis if anyone had searched abandoned buildings in the area, homes that were vacant due to foreclosures, sheds, outbuildings, anywhere where someone who was tired, lost, and scared might crawl in to get some rest.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

I asked Det. Moutis if we should hire a private detective. Would that help or hinder the police effort?
I told Det. Moutis that Nancy and her family were coming in that afternoon, that John would be arriving Thursday, and that my siblings and I had decided that I would be the point of contact in order to streamline our communications.
My email to Det. Moutis crossed with his email to me giving me the web address for setting up a Silver Alert. I should have guessed it—www.silveralert.org – and I can’t remember now why I couldn’t. I registered my dad for the Silver Alert and uploaded the picture that we’d used on his flyers. I emailed the link to Det. Moutis and all my sibs with the login and password. For some reason—and I don’t know if it still works this way—the login and password were only good for an hour, and I had to re-log-in and re-upload his picture once the hour was up.

How do people who really are alone in their search for their missing loved one manage the logistics? You have to be at least three people at the same time to do everything that needs to be done; one to be out in the world, searching, one to be researching new places to search, and one to be the operations point person coordinating the searches and eliminating time-wasting redundancies and duplications of effort.

It helped me to try to think of all of this as a management problem, which could be broken down into small, discrete components, and thus be solved.

I called my contact at Union’s Channel 12 to give her Dad’s information and the Facebook page URLs so she could do a screengrab of the flyer. I promised to follow up with a flyer by email, in case the screengrab wasn’t sufficiently clear. Lexi promised to get the information on the air that day.

Janet and Wally were at Dad’s, getting ready to leave for Maryland, since Nancy was coming up. Someone had to be in Maryland to take care of the total of five cats and one dog between the two households, so Janet and Nancy tag-teamed. I think that George and Barbara were both back at work—it’s so hard to remember now, and my cell phone and text records aren’t clear. Alyssa had finals coming up, so she was back in school. John was planning to arrive on Thursday. Maybe we’d find Dad by then.

At the same time we were searching for Dad, we each had to consider the possibility of needing to take time off from our jobs to plan and hold a funeral.

We had arranged for Glenn to be at the house to meet the detectives and the canine unit, so that the dogs could start the search and (we hoped) find Dad. I texted Glenn to let me know when the police arrived.

Done with email, done with the phone, I turned up the ringer on the answering machine in the studio, left my computer, turned on the television to a channel that only played New Age relaxation music, and I lay down on the couch.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

I drifted in and out, aware of the music and the traffic noise from Northern Boulevard, coming and going.

The phone rang: it was Glenn.
The detectives had arrived, with the bloodhound and his handler from the Essex County Canine Unit. It was mid-day. They’d had to wait for the bloodhound to come from the next county, because Union County didn’t have one of their own.

This is what Glenn told me:
The handler needed a scent article for the dog. They used the pajamas that Dad had left on the dining room chairs.
The handler, wearing latex gloves, took my father’s old worn pajamas outside, and spread the top and bottom out on the lawn in front of Dad’s house. (The image I conjured for myself of my father’s nightclothes spread out on the lush grass is indelibly imprinted on my mind’s eye.) The handler wears gloves so that he doesn’t transfer his own scent particles to the scent article.
The dog sniffs and paws at my father’s garments on the grass not too far from the huge oak tree; the dog gets Dad’s scent.
After a minute or two, the leashed bloodhound pulls back from the pajamas, excited, hyper, panting, wanting to go. His handler settles him, looks the dog square in the eyes.
“Do you wanna go find him, do you wanna go find him?”
The bloodhound—his nose to the ground—and his handler quickly turn and head down Huntington to the corner of Livingston; they turn left, and go down the incline (it is not quite a hill).

(Glenn didn’t see this next part. He will recount this to me in our next conversation, after he speaks with the detective by the park:
The dog and handler crossed Forest Drive, and approached the shortcut path that cuts through the woods to Salem Road.
The dog veered left at the head of the path, into the woods, without hesitation.)

Glenn stays at my father’s house. He is waiting.
I am in my living room. I am waiting, too. I text Glenn (not wanting to tie up the phone); he has heard nothing, and is getting anxious. They have not been gone long.

Sometime, not too much later, one of my father’s neighbors, a woman, tells Glenn that there is a police car and an ambulance at the little park across the street from Union Hospital.
Glenn thinks he knows what that is about, and he drives down to see. He meets the detective where the park’s grassy half-circle meets the woods.
They have found a body deep in the woods. Glenn wants to go, but the detective shakes his head, tells him he won’t be able to identify him.

The bloodhound veered left at the head of the path, into the woods, without hesitation. They went deep, deeper, following my father’s scent, over brambles, and weeds, and thickets of vines, into the heavy brush. They found him lying on the ground.

Glenn comes back to Dad’s and calls me and tells me what he saw and heard.
I thank him.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

I don’t remember the details exactly. I think at some point, not too long after, Det. Moutis called me.
They found the body of an elderly man, a man they believed was my father, in the woods, about fifty yards from where the grassy half-circle of park begins.
He said it would have been impossible to find him without the bloodhound. The brush and tangles of vines and weeds were more than two feet high; Dad had sat down on a log, taken off his shoes, and either lay down or fell back. He was on the ground, his glasses and tan hat were off to the side, his watch still on his wrist. He was clothed except for his shoes, which were on the ground next to the log.
They would have to confirm his identity with dental records. He had been out in the elements for more than one hundred hours. The coroner would later say that he had almost certainly died the first day. That would account for the lack of sightings, I thought to myself.

Nancy, Chris, and Grant arrived at Dad’s house at about the time that the detectives were calling me. I must have called Janet and Walter, John and Cheryl, Barbara and George, but I don’t remember doing so. Frank came home sometime in the late afternoon and I told him. I am sure I was crying, but I don’t remember. I texted my friends. I called the store and told Emery that they had probably found my father, and I wouldn’t be coming in on Wednesday after all.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

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Five Years On ~ Missing Dad: Day 4

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Monday, June 14th, 2010

Dad has been missing for over seventy-two hours; sometime soon, I will switch from counting hours to counting days, but not yet.
Janet and Wally are due in from Maryland at about noon. I have to make some calls before I leave. I’ll be on the 9:47AM LIRR to Penn, and pick up the 10:37 NJT train to Roselle Park. That will get me to Jersey at about twenty past eleven. I’ll have the chance to get a couple of things done here before I leave, and to get a couple of things done at Dad’s before Janet and Wally arrive.
Every single second is precious and must be used to a purpose.

I call the UCPD. The dispatcher recognizes my voice. I ask to speak to the desk sergeant. I verify that the new platoon has my dad’s photo. I tell them we are continuing our search today, and that I need to speak to the detectives when they come in.
I want to know when they are going to start using search dogs. I still don’t know that search dogs are used when they are pretty sure that they are looking for a body.
I realize that I have not yet called my mother-in-law to tell her about my missing father. I have to do this before I leave, or it will prey on me all day.
“Hi Mom, it’s Claud.”
“Oh, Claud–how are you, dear?”
And I tell her that Dad went for a walk on Friday morning and no one has seen him since.
She wails, “Oh that poor man! All alone out there…”
I can’t listen. I love her, and would have spared her this news if I didn’t feel I had to prepare her for a bad outcome. But, I have my own burden of fear to carry, and it is heavy enough. I detach myself carefully, tell her I have to leave for New Jersey to continue the search, and promise to keep her informed.

Next, I call Meals-on-Wheels and suspend Dad’s deliveries, pending…whatever happens. When I tell them he went missing on Friday, they tell me he was there at the house when they delivered his meal on Friday at about half past one.
I already know it wasn’t my father who received the meal; it was Glenn who accepted it from the delivery lady. He was talking to the detectives in Dad’s dining room when she rang the doorbell.

George and Glenn are waiting for me at Roselle Park. As we edge out of the parking lot, I look at each of them and ask if they mind if I speak very freely. They both nod for me to go ahead.
“I think that if we find Dad, we won’t find him alive. We may not ever find him at all. He’s been gone too long.”
Glenn says that he didn’t want to be the first one to say that, but he agrees. So does George. They are both relieved that I have said this out loud. I ask George if he thinks Barbara and Alyssa are preparing themselves. He isn’t sure. I tell him about my conversation with Barb in the A&P parking lot on Sunday, when I asked about Alyssa.

I really want the UCPD to search the woods with dogs at this point. We have covered all the obvious places, and the less obvious places, many times over; we need help to get to the places we can’t reach.

We get to Dad’s and open up the windows to air it out. The weather’s been beautiful since Dad disappeared; there was only a brief shower on Saturday, late afternoon; otherwise, it’s been sunny and not too hot. Glenn’s been taking care of the mail over the weekend, not letting it pile up on the porch. The neighbors all know about Dad, and have walked the woods and the neighborhood themselves. Ron, the neighbor across the street, tells us about a shelter in Elizabeth; maybe Dad is there. George’s neighbor Joanne had mentioned one too. Both places were on the list that Nancy and Janet have been calling all weekend. None of the neighbors, or the shopkeepers, or the cemetery workers saw him Friday morning. It’s like Dad walked out of his door and into thin air.

I have been playing phone tag with the detectives through the day. Finally, I get to speak to them briefly. They give me their direct dial numbers and email addresses. I talk to them about where we looked for Dad over the weekend. Detective George Moutis told me that everywhere he and his partner, Detective Ken Elliot, canvassed, we had already covered. He and his crew had seen scores of our flyers all over Union. And they had fewer leads than we did—they had no sightings at all. They hadn’t come across even one person who had seen Dad on Friday, or since.

They will keep up the investigation, and the platoons of patrolmen will keep looking for Dad; by tomorrow, if there’s no progress, they will call in the search dogs.

Janet and Walter are going back to Maryland in the morning; Nancy, Chris and Grant will be up in the early afternoon. Barbara is at work, and Alyssa is at school. John is flying in on Thursday. I am going home to rest for a day, and go back to work on Wednesday, unless of course Dad is found.

Wally drives me to the station, and I make my way home, Roselle to Newark to Penn to Murray Hill. I am exhausted, disappointed, frightened, resigned; I am struggling to keep a glimmer of hope alive in me but it is nearly impossible for me to do so.

When I get home, I tell Frank about what the day has held. We eat our dinner, watch a movie or some South Park episodes (I don’t remember, and I think I fell asleep). Before bed, I email the detectives’ contact information to all the sibs and spouses.

I fall into dreamless sleep, exhausted.
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Five Years On ~ Missing Dad: Day 3

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In the Catholic Church, June 13th is the feast day
of Saint Anthony of Padua.
He is the patron saint of lost things; my father was named for him.

I had hoped that Saint Anthony would bring us back our missing dad
on his feast day, Sunday, June 13th, 2010.

I am up by 6AM. Dad has been missing for forty-six hours. I take my shower, check my email and begin with my plan for the day. I spend the early morning tracking down local media outlets—broadcast and cable television, radio, newspapers–and emailing them flyers. By 9AM I have contacted local channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and NJ 12 (who said they needed a press release from the police—that will be my first thing Monday morning, if we haven’t found him by then). I contact the NY Post and the NY Daily News. I don’t bother with the Times because this is happening in Jersey and they won’t care. If he is still missing tomorrow, I will also hit the local New Jersey newspapers—I can look them up and get their contact information when I get back tonight.

A bit past 9AM, I talk to the dispatch officer at the police station at the beginning of the day shift. The new platoon is out with pictures of Dad in their cars. My mom’s best friend Thea has made the same arrangements at the 110th Precinct in Corona, just in case Dad (somehow) did make there. It is looking less and less like a realistic scenario, but we all feel the need to cover all the bases. If I thought he could come up with the idea of flying somewhere, I’d have posted at the airports too. I just want to find him.
The dispatch officer assures me that they will notify us right away if they hear anything. In the meantime, he says, keep posting flyers, keep looking.

All the sibs have the flyer in their email inboxes, and all the sibs are forwarding it to their address books with instructions to pass it on. All of us on Facebook have forwarded the page I created last night. Alyssa made up her own page, using the same layout, and called it Help Me Find My Grandfather. She forwarded the link to all of her Facebook friends and they are in turn forwarding it to theirs. The page has over a hundred “likes” already, most of them Alyssa’s friends in Union. John and Cheryl are tweeting it on Twitter, Barbara is posting it on her fitness boards. Barb emailed me first thing this morning that she’d had a dream that their cat Dallas was missing. She said she found her on the side of Dad’s house, alive, buried in some snow.  Barbara says she is going to look by the side of Dad’s house this morning, again, just in case.

I head back to New Jersey to look for Dad again. We will post more flyers, check hospitals and shelters again, talk to more people.
At this point, we know that if Dad hasn’t been taken into an ER or shelter by someone, his mobility will be limited, he will be exhausted, hungry, dehydrated, off his meds for more than forty-eight hours. Our best hope for finding him is that he is resting somewhere—a park bench, bleachers, a shady spot under a tree. We covered that ground yesterday and will do it again today. We’re going to visit some of the same places, in case there are new people there who don’t know about Dad.

Before I leave, I email Nancy and ask her to find email addresses for Our Lady of Sorrows and P.S. 19 in Corona, and send them the flyer with a note. I ask her to get email addresses for the hospitals and shelters on her call list, and send them the flyer. Everyone at these places is aware that we are looking for Dad; it will help keep him in the front of their mind if they have a picture to refer to, and the knowledge that there is a family who desperately wants to find him. Barbara offers to fax the flyers from work to any place that doesn’t have an email address.

I make my usual trip to New Jersey: the LIRR/Murray Hill to Penn, NJT from Penn to Newark, Raritan Valley line to Roselle Park. George and Glenn pick me up at the station at ten before noon, and we stop at Overlook Hospital (formerly Union Hospital) on the Chestnut Street side, and I run into the ER to see if anyone has seen Dad today.
The guy at reception today is the same guy who was there yesterday, and he still hasn’t seen Dad and there have been no John Does admitted. Our flyer is posted on the wall behind the desk, behind the thick Plexiglas window that separates him from me. I use the hospital rest room and go back out to the car. George takes me back to his house, where he and Glenn are working replacing a faucet, and Barb, Alyssa and I leave in Barb’s car.
We cover a lot of the same ground, the cemetery again, the parks, the hospitals, the shops. We put up more flyers.

At 2:02 PM, my cell rings. It’s George. Patty from Café Z thinks she saw Dad near the Lowe’s on Morris Avenue in Union. It’s two miles from his house, but Dad has walked that far in good weather many times. George and Glenn each get into their cars and separately approach the location Patty described from opposite sides of Morris Avenue. They don’t want to miss him.

Walter calls me at 2:08 and I tell him about the sighting. I am talking with both him and Janet when Glenn calls me. I switch to Glenn’s call.
“I see him!”
Glenn slows the car down and comes around next to where the elderly man is standing by the side of the road.

It’s not Dad.

George is coming up in the other direction, sees Glenn’s car, sees the old man, sees it’s not Dad. They go to Café Z to tell Patty, and to thank her. It’s the only real glimmer of hope we’ve had in fifty-four hours. They go back to the house, deflated.

At 2:24, Patty calls my cell.
“Claudia, I’m so sorry…”
“Patty, I am so grateful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, from all of us.”
“I’ll keep an eye out. Again, I am so sorry.”
I appreciate that she cares enough about my family and what is happening to us to give us what would have been a lifeline that we might have missed, if it had been Dad, and if she hadn’t called.

(The elderly man that Barbara saw yesterday at 7AM by Union Station was the same elderly man that Patty, and then Glenn and George, saw today at 2PM. These were the only sightings throughout our entire search.)

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Five Years On ~ Missing Dad: Day 2

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

I take the 10:03AM from Murray Hill to Penn. I bring an extra $50 and the Capital One credit card statement so I can stop at the bank at the corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in between trains. The NJT train won’t leave until 11:07AM anyway. That’ll give me almost half an hour to cross the street and pay the bill on its due date. It’ll also add the slightest semblance of normalcy to my increasingly surreal situation.
How can I think about paying bills, and the schedule at work, and when to do the laundry, and is there milk in the fridge, and what will we have for dinner tonight, when I have no idea if my father is alive or dead? I am used to multitasking, but a part of me is standing here, looking at my self, arms crossed across its chest, and shaking its head at me.
“You cannot control this situation. You should try to control what you can, though.”

When I get to Penn, I go to the NJT ticket machines and get two off-peak round trips (I can always use them, is my very practical thought). I go up the escalator, turn left and walk to the Capital One on the next corner. It is empty at 10:35AM. There is one teller on, and no line. I pass the statement and my fifty-dollar bill under the bulletproof glass. She takes the statement and the money, inputs the account information, completes my transaction, and slides me my receipt.
“Thank you”, she says.
I want to say, Please pray for my missing father, I am so scared right now. But I don’t.
I walk through the door, and as I cross the street back to Penn Station, my tears blind me. I stop for a moment and just stand there, crying, while people in the middle of their Saturday mornings pass me quickly on both sides.
I collect myself, pull out a tissue and wipe away my tears, and walk back to Penn.

I arrive at Roselle Park at ten to twelve. George is there to pick me up.
We go back to Dad’s, so I can walk around the house myself. I just want to see for myself how he left things. I know this is not logical, because since Dad left, Vee has been here, Glenn has been here, the policemen have been here, detectives have been here, George and Barbara and Alyssa have been here, and maybe some other people, too.

I just want to start at the beginning of Dad’s day yesterday.

The self that was standing next to me earlier, looking at me and shaking her head—that self is looking at me again.
“Do you think you can change what happened if you look around this house, these rooms, look at his clothes, his bed, his kitchen table? Do you think that if you retrace his steps, you can unwind them, and rewind them so that the result is different?
“You can’t. Go find him”,
this other self says to me.
We leave Dad’s, grab a quick bite at Galloping Hill, go back to George and Barbara’s house, and go over what’s been done so far. They walked the woods by the house yesterday, and again today. They walked the woods by Washington School again this morning. They’ve been driving around the neighborhood.

Barb thought she saw Dad when she was out driving and looking. It was about 7AM. She was driving up by Union Station, on Morris Avenue, when she saw an elderly man walking. She slowed down, and took a good look. She couldn’t really tell; he had his hat pulled down, and he wasn’t facing her. The man’s clothing was similar…. could it be Dad? She got out of the car, and went up to him, looked at his face, closely.
“Dad?”
Not Dad.
Back in the car, and back to searching.

I’d brought my staple gun and packaging tape with me from home. We have to make a flyer for posting. I ask Barb if I can use her computer. I go downstairs to work. I remember that Alyssa has recent pictures of Dad on her Facebook page—she and Dad visited the cemetery right after one of the huge snowstorms this past winter, and I know that there are a couple of full-face ones. I right-click copy the one where he and Alyssa are looking right at the camera, paste it into an image editor, and crop Alyssa out. I close in on his face and center it. I type my text, fine-tune the spacing and size of the text so it can be easily read from a passing car, and print out about a hundred of them.
Then Barb, George, Alyssa and I get into the car and go to look for Dad.

The first place we visit is the cemetery. We post a flyer on the tree by Mom’s grave and ask her to watch over Dad, and to please help us. We know that if he can be helped, she will see to it.
We go to the office and speak to the manager; he knows my dad. He has seen Dad visit Mom’s grave every day in every kind of weather. He says all the groundskeepers know who Dad is, too. He asks the ones on duty if they saw him. No one can remember if he was there yesterday or not.
He promises to keep an eye out. I give him some flyers, and ask his permission to post some more around the cemetery. He agrees. I look back at him over my shoulder on my way out, and I catch the unguarded sadness on his face.
We drive the cemetery road carefully, the four of us looking out the windows in four different directions, seeing nothing. We take the turn out of the gate on to Galloping Hill Road.
We drive around Union and the surrounding communities.
We visit every park, every local body of water (dementia patients are attracted to bodies of water, I had read somewhere, sometime) every doctor’s office, school and playground that Alyssa ever went to with Mom and Dad, posting flyers. We go to Town Hall (post, outside and in), to the library (post on the bulletin board and on trees in the parking lot), up to Café Z to tell Patty, the owner, and leave her some flyers and our cell phone numbers. She knows Dad well—we’ve had our family Thanksgiving dinners there since the year Mom died. We drive up and down endless streets, posting. We leave flyers with whomever we speak with in Union. We post more. In Westfield. In Kenilworth. In Cranford. In Garwood.

We go to Dad’s church, Holy Spirit, and to Mom’s church, Saint Demetrios. We speak to a handyman at Saint Demetrios and give him some flyers, and get out of the car to post some more on the church grounds and on the nearby telephone poles.

The first time Dad went for a walk where the cops brought him home, they found him up by Saint Demetrios, almost three miles from his house, a few blocks away from the precinct house. That was almost three months ago, in late March. Two patrolmen just starting their midday shift saw an elderly man who seemed confused and went up to him and asked him if he was okay. He couldn’t figure out where he was, but he knew who he was and where he lived, so they took him home and called Barb at work. At about 2PM, George left a voice mail on my cell to let me know what had happened, and that he had sent Glenn over to Dad’s to look in on him and make sure he was all right. I called Dad as soon as I picked up the voice mail, but only got the answering machine (with my mother’s voice on the outgoing message; we’d never changed it). I called Barb, and we tried to figure it out; we thought that Dad must have been on his way to the cemetery, which meant he was walking for about four hours, if he followed his habit of leaving the house at around 8AM. He had probably just continued on Chestnut Street instead of taking the left fork on to Galloping Hill, at the Five Points intersection where Galloping Hill Road and Chestnut cross the end of Salem Road. He was found all the way up on Rahway Avenue, past the entrance to the Garden State, past the turnoff on to Stuyvesant and Cioffi’s, almost as far from the house as Alyssa’s high school and Café Z.
When I talked to Dad about it later that afternoon, he said he didn’t know what happened, that he was “in a dream”. He said he’d gotten turned around and “a little bit lost” before, a block or two off course, but he’d always been able to right himself.
As I saw it, the good news was that his physical therapy was working; he could walk all that way, and all that time, without falling. The bad news was that he hadn’t known where he was when he stopped.
This happened at the end of March, on the first real spring day of 2010. It was the first time he couldn’t find his own way home.

We drive and walk and post flyers for a few more hours, all over Union. By Dad’s house. Around the corners, both ways. On Salem Road. On Chestnut Street, by his bank and the vegetable store where he buys his bananas and the Dunkin Donuts. By Eisenstat’s office on Galloping Hill Road.
I am finally exhausted, and George drives me to the station so I can go home. We post flyers all along Chestnut Street as we go. Tomorrow, we will do this again.

Dad has been missing for almost thirty-six hours now. It will be a while before I stop counting hours and start counting days.

Missing Dad Flyer

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Five Years On ~ Missing Dad: Day 1, continued

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The police meet Vee and Glenn at Dad’s house. They call me for details about Dad and where he would be likely to go. They want to know where he shops, where he banks, if he has friends he liked to see, who his doctor and dentist are, which area schools are the ones Alyssa has attended (since he had shown up at her elementary school in his pajamas just eight days before), what church he attends, and anything else that might help.
I told them everything I could think of; I told them things I didn’t realize I knew. They thanked me and said they’d be in touch.

I have to leave soon, to go to work; I am the manager-in-training at the Papyrus flagship store on Broadway and 76th Street in Manhattan. I am scheduled for noon until closing, which means I need to be on the 10:33 train. I would call out if we weren’t so short-staffed. As it is, our full-time keyholder, Mary, will be alone until I get there. Emery has a travel day and is going to be at both of his other stores giving performance reviews. Jacque isn’t scheduled until four, and since her review is supposed to be at the Columbus Avenue store, she probably isn’t even going to get to Broadway until almost five.
If I call out, Mary will be alone either until Jacque comes in, or until Emery can get there. That just won’t work—that store is just too busy, and cannot run with only one person on the floor for six hours—is there anybody else who can cover me on short notice? No. (So, what would happen if I got hit by a truck on the way there? Would they find someone then?) I’ve managed the floor by myself for hours, or worked a thirteen-hour open-to-close shift when staff calls out or just doesn’t show up; that’s precisely why I don’t do that to other people. Not even today, with this good a reason.

I call Mary on my way to the train to tell her my father is missing. She said, “Oh, did they find him?” I said, NO, HE IS MISSING. No one knows where he is.
I text Emery to let him know what is going on. I add that I am on my way in, but that someone else will have to close with Jacque if my father doesn’t turn up soon.
I get to Penn before eleven. I have no news from anyone. I have enough time to try to find a charger for my phone. I hadn’t charged it the night before and I’ve been on it almost the whole morning. I take the local to 79th Street, stop at the T-Mobile store to see if I can find what I need. No dice—the sales associate practically laughs at my three-year-old no-frills Samsung. I try the electronics store across the street. They don’t have one either, but I do replace my broken watchstrap with a new black leather one.
I get to the store by 11:30, clock in, tell Mary there still hasn’t been news, and try to concentrate on my tasks at hand.
I never bring my cellphone on to the sales floor, but I make an exception this day. I am fielding texts from my sisters asking if there is any news, while I am emailing back and forth with my district manager and Corporate about a man who had attempted to make a fraudulent return in our store. In between, I am ringing up Father’s Day cards for customers.

Frank checks in with me a couple of times, to see if I’ve heard anything, to hear how I sound. He knows me better than anyone else on God’s green earth. He can pick things up in my voice that even I don’t know are there. Such are the blessings of a long-term happy marriage.
“Hi Claud. Anything new?” (Are you okay? Tell me how you are really doing.)
“I haven’t heard anything from anyone. I’m going to Port Authority after work, in case Dad got on a bus.” (I’m scared and I don’t know what else to do.)
“Please take care of yourself.”

I have Mary take her lunch break at 2, and hope I don’t have to flee while she is gone.
Emery calls to check and see how I am doing.
“No news. Yes, thank you for offering, please come and close the store with Jacque. I don’t know where my father is, and I don’t know what is happening.”
I haven’t really taken a break this day. Jacque comes in at 4:40. Mary leaves at 5:20.
Emery comes at around 6. I tell him that I am taking a sick day the next day, either to go looking for my dad, or to recuperate from the stress of this day, depending.
Then, I am out the door.

I grab a cab on Broadway, and I call home from my cell as the cab makes its way downtown. I am going to Port Authority on the small chance that somehow, my dad tried to come to see me in New York. Maybe he waited at our old bus stop, got on the 113S bus, got out at Port Authority and…. what? Did I really think he could find his way to the 7 train, go to Corona, or to Flushing? No, I didn’t. But in case he did, I need to tell the cops to be on the lookout.

I hear the worry in my husband’s voice. I have to do this anyway. My mind’s ear hears him saying, “Come home now” when what he is really saying out loud is good luck, be careful.
The cabdriver has overheard my conversation, and asks me if I am okay. I tell him my dad disappeared that morning and has been missing all day. I tell him why I am going to Port Authority. He asks me my father’s name so he can keep him in his prayers. We take the turn east on to 42nd Street, past Holy Cross Church, and at the southwest corner of 8th Avenue, he lets me out.

I find the police station in the terminal. I speak to the desk sergeant, who asks me to take a seat and wait for the officer who will help me. She is very understanding and kind—she has heard this story before (but it was never my story before).
I give her a description of my father. I pull out the wallet-sized studio photo of my whole family that my brother had set up for Dad’s 80th birthday. She photocopies it. When she comes back, I tell her that the day we took the photo was the first time in twelve years that we had all been under the same roof. The only other picture I have of Dad in my wallet is the one from December 1972, with him and Frank and me all dressed up for a gala dinner dance celebrating Our Lady of Sorrows’ 100th anniversary. In that picture, Dad is five years younger than I am now.
The officer reassures me that if Dad makes his way into the system, I will be notified. They will keep an eye out for him.

I call my mom’s best friend, Thea, as I am leaving the police station—she works at the 110th Precinct in Corona, our old neighborhood. She still lives next door to the house I grew up in, on 42nd Avenue. She will put the word out at the 110, just in case Dad somehow finds his way “home” to Corona. As soon as her husband hears the news about my dad, he takes a folding chair downstairs and sets it up in front of his building. He will wait there until about midnight, until he is exhausted and has to go upstairs to sleep. He is determined that, if my father comes walking down 42nd Avenue, he will intercept him and return him safely to Union, New Jersey.

It is 7 PM and Dad has been missing for eleven hours now. I call Frank and tell him I am done at Port Authority.

“Come home”, he says, “You’ve done all you can for now. Just come home.”

I won’t find this out for a while yet, but throughout the day, Frank has been trying to find ways to help me. Friday is one of his days at NYU’s School of Medicine, where he is the computer tech for a research group in the Psychiatry department. He has been asking the doctors who work there how he can best help me through whatever is coming.
On his way home from work that Friday, he goes up to a police officer and tells him about my missing dad. The cop gives him an outline of what to expect and when, if Dad isn’t found on the first day. Frank is taking the long view; he already knows that if Dad isn’t found before nightfall, the outcome is unlikely to be positive.
It will be longer before I come to that realization.

When I get to Penn, I stop into the police station on the Long Island Railroad concourse, and tell them my story. They are very kind and, as the Port Authority police did, they take down my information. I get on the 7:49 Port Washington train to go home.

I get in at about twenty past eight. Frank has dinner waiting for me, keeping warm on the stove. I eat, we talk. Unless we hear something tonight or early tomorrow, I will go to New Jersey in the morning to search for Dad. I will be with Barbara, George, and Alyssa. They, and Glenn, and Alyssa’s boyfriend Kevin have walked the woods by the house and near the Washington School several times already to see if they can find any sign at all of Dad.

After dinner, I turn on my computer. All of us sibs and spouses discuss next steps by email. Nancy and her husband, Chris, are thinking of coming up, but I think it’s better if they stay in Maryland for the time being. Their eleven-year-old son, Grant, still has another week or so of school. Nancy and Janet (who lives two doors down from her, with her husband Walter and their four cats) can make calls from home—they will call hospitals, senior centers, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, urgent care centers, clinics, and any other place they can think of to see if there are any John Does matching Dad’s description.

I send this email to everyone in my address book:
Subject: Prayer request – my dad is missing
Date: Jun 12, 2010 12:12 AM
Hi friends,
My 88 year old dad wandered off from his home and has been missing since 8AM Friday morning. He was gone when his morning caregiver arrived. Our extended family and friends and the Union County police are looking for him. I visited the station at Port Authority and talked to the PA police (just in case he got on a bus, but I doubt it). I notified a friend of mine who works in our old home precinct in Corona (just in case he tries to go back “home”).
Please just keep us in your prayers.
Thanks so much~
~Claudia & family

I am emailed and talked and texted out. It’s time to sleep now, and I will sleep the sleep of a loving daughter exhausted by grief and worry.

My father has been missing for more than sixteen hours. It’s dark out. He is almost always cold, even on hot summer days. I try not to think about this. I do not succeed.

All of us, at Dad's 80th birthday.

All of us, at Dad’s 80th birthday.


 

Five Years On ~ Missing Dad: Day 1

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Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Sometime between dawn and eight AM on Friday the eleventh of June, Tony Karabaic left his home to take a walk. He locked the inside door and the porch door. He didn’t set the alarm because sometimes he would forget how to make it stop. He walked down Huntington, made a left at the corner of Livingston, and walked down past Forest Drive to the shortcut path through the woods to Salem Road.

At 8:10 that same morning, his morning caregiver, Vee the RN, arrived. She rang the bell; no answer. She took out her key and let herself in. She stood in the living room and called his name; no answer. He was hard of hearing; maybe he just didn’t hear her. His tan corduroy recliner—its worn fringed throw flung haphazardly over it—was empty. The piles of papers on the coffee table were in the same places they were in yesterday. Nothing seemed to be disturbed. There was no radio on—maybe he wasn’t at home? She would have to look.

She walked into the dining room. His pajamas were draped over the back of a dining chair. That was good—the last time he went out for an early morning walk, he was wearing his pajamas and slippers. Vee went into the kitchen. No dishes in the sink or on the table, but the bowl and glass were in the dish drainer. Had he eaten his breakfast? Where was he? She glanced over to the kitchen table, to see if his pills were in the gold glass ashtray on the table. There were a couple left in there—she looked to see which ones they were. Good—the afternoon and evening doses of Sinemet, his Parkinson’s med. The morning dose, the Xalatan, and the Felodipine were gone. She walked out of the kitchen to check the small bedroom, where his granddaughter Alyssa’s toys and drawings were. The high-riser bed was made up, with its hand-crocheted afghan neatly tucked beneath the foam bunker cushions, the little stuffed cats and bears neatly arranged atop them. He sometimes took a nap here later in the day, but this bed hadn’t been slept on lately. He was nowhere to be seen.

Vee went back into the living room, and up the stairs. She turned left at the top of the stairs, to look in his bedroom. The room reminded her of a monk’s cell, with its spartan twin bed, simple chest, and holy pictures on the wall. The bedsheets and blankets were rumpled; the room bore the warm, heavy scent of sleep. Okay, it looked like he had spent the night here—that was something. She went into the master bedroom, where his late wife, Georgia, used to sleep. There were papers and envelopes neatly arranged on the white chenille bedspread, but no Tony. She looked in the little office. She looked in the extra bedroom where his kids slept when they stayed for the weekend. She entered the bathroom, pulled the shower curtain aside, checked the bathtub. She went down to the basement. Those stairs were so treacherous. She walked around, both hoping to find him, and hoping not to. But he wasn’t there.
She went back upstairs.
The clothes he had worn the day before were also on the dining room chairs. That was another good sign. That meant he definitely hadn’t left last night—Vee had probably just missed him. Maybe he went to the store. He liked bananas, and he’d eaten his last brown one yesterday. She went back outside to see if he was in the yard.
“Tony? Tony!”
The car was still there, but that was because the battery had died two months ago, and his children had not wanted to replace it. No one wanted him to drive anymore. She’d heard that they’d already talked to him about selling the car to Alyssa’s boyfriend. Vee couldn’t get into the garage, but she knocked hard on the door, and then listened to see if she could hear anything inside. Nothing.
“Tony? Are you in there, Tony?”
She walked around the garage to the backyard, looked behind the shed, went around the other side of the house, past the lilac bushes and the dogwood tree.
“Tony? Are you there?”
Nothing. No one.

She called Glenn, his midday companion, and told him that Tony was gone. They talked for a minute, and decided it would be most efficient if they each got into their own cars, and drove around Union separately to look for him.
Vee texted Alyssa’s mother, Barbara, that our dad had gone wandering again.

Barbara is the youngest of my three sisters. She, her husband George, and daughter Alyssa live about a half-mile away from Dad’s, on the other side of Salem Road, in Union, New Jersey.
Barbara had been through something just like this with Dad the week before. In the early morning of June 2nd, he showed up at Alyssa’s old school in his pajamas and slippers. The cops had brought him back home.
Barb had emailed me that night, saying that we were going to have to find him a daytime nurse to keep him from wandering. That was the third time now, and so far, we had been lucky.

Vee and Glenn drove for about a half hour, crisscrossing Union. They went to the cemetery—always the first choice. Until recently, no matter what the weather was, he visited Mom’s grave every single day. It had been almost five years.

As soon as she got Vee’s text, Barb emailed me that Dad was missing from the house and that Vee and Glenn were out looking. Just before I saw this in my inbox, my husband Frank came into my studio to say we’d had a missed call from a 908 number. I figured it had to be Vee checking in, so I called her, and that’s how I found out Dad was on the move and no one knew where.

I called Barbara. We decided to get the Union County police involved right away.
It was around nine when I called them—they had been so helpful the other three times this had happened—the policemen had found him and brought him home before any one of us ever knew he was lost. The UCPD dispatcher told me they would send someone to the house. I called Vee, and Glenn, and they went back to Dad’s to meet the cops.

Dad1209

Dad and Alyssa, December 2009, at Graceland Memorial Park

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REBLOG: I Come from a Long Line of Warrior Queens

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Today would have been my mom’s 92nd birthday.
This is a repost of a blog I wrote 2 years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!


Mom & me, Early 1955

Mom & me, Early 1955

Today, Mom would have turned 90 years old. We lost her on July 18, 2005, after a brutal and harrowing couple of months that I covered here, here, here, and here. I am very fortunate that in her final years on this earth, I made my peace with her and she with me; her last words to me were “I love you, you’re my prize.” A person can live happily for a long time on a memory like that.

For me, winter and early summer are about my dad; he was a January baby, and we lost him (literally) in June of 2010.
Spring is always about my mother; when the snowdrops start to peek out of the cold ground, and crocuses begin to unfold, the forsythia blossoms bright yellow and the Bradford pears start their bridal march up Northern Boulevard, their white blooms wafting on the warming breezes, my mother is close by. She’s never too far– there are times when I imagine I see her face in the mirror overlaying my own– but she breaks out in the spring. It’s her birthday, Greek Easter, Mother’s Day, our first communions…spring is and always has been her season.

When I was a teenager and then a young adult, and thought I knew everything about everything, we rubbed each other the wrong way, often. As stubborn as my mother was (she was, after all, born on the cusp of Aries and Taurus), I could match her. We would yell and carry on; she’d forbid me to do one thing or another, and I would do it any way. I honed my passive-aggressive skills at her knee.
If she knew she was right, she would not cave; neither would I.
Those battles were great training for life. It wasn’t until I was older, and we made our peace with each other, that I recognized what a boon her fighting spirit was to me. When I was young, I felt thwarted by her restrictions and demands and opinions; in retrospect, I see that her fighting spirit was what made my life possible.

Here’s one story:
I decided sometime around the fifth or sixth grade that I wanted to go to the High School of Art and Design. The twin sisters of a grade school classmate had been accepted to A&D, and when I heard about it, I wanted nothing more than to go to a school where I could draw all the time. I told my folks, and I think they were hoping I would get over it, the way I got over wanting to be a nurse (when I was six) or a Maryknoll Missionary nun (when I was eight).
I didn’t get over it.
Fast forward to eighth grade, and taking the diocesan placement tests in mid-autumn (for the Catholic high schools); my choices were Mater Christi (where almost all my friends would go), The Mary Louis Academy (where my close friend Carol was trying to persuade me to go), and St. Agnes (where I REALLY did not want to go, but I needed to list three schools). I did very well on the test, and would have no problem going to the school of my choice. In January, I had the placement test and portfolio submission for the High School of Art & Design. I’d worked on my portfolio all during my Christmas vacation with Our Lady of Sorrows’ third grade-and-art teacher, Miss Mary Biedermann. She helped me matte all my artwork while listening to Leonard Cohen songs (a revelation!) and eating brie (ditto!!). It was a glimpse of what a student artist’s life might be like and I was hungry for it.

I wondered in later years if the nuns knew that Miss Biedermann had helped me; she did so outside of class and on her own time, in her own home. I travelled by myself on the subway with my art and supplies in hand; she picked me up in her car near Borough Hall on Queens Boulevard to take me to her place in Richmond Hill. I do not remember how or by whom the arrangements for all of this extracurricular activity were made. Miss Biedermann wasn’t even my teacher– my middle sister Nancy was in her third grade class– but, at some point, my parents had to be involved with the planning. I remember bringing home the day’s matted work and showing what I’d done to my mom and dad; I remember thinking they did not really understand what I was doing, but at least they were not fighting me. At that point, I don’t they thought I would get into A&D; they knew I loved to draw, but I don’t know how talented they thought I was, or –even if I was talented enough– whether this was a path from which I could be diverted. There were no artists in my family; there was no road map for them, or me, to follow. They were not sold on the idea of me being an artist…but time could change things, and anyway, maybe I wouldn’t get into A&D.

I got into Art and Design; my real life would begin that fall. All I had to do was tell Sister Mary Dorothy, the principal of Our Lady of Sorrows.
I told my teacher, Sister Regina de Lourdes, that I’d been accepted to A&D.
She, or someone, told me and told my parents that there would be a full scholarship for me to go to The Mary Louis Academy, an offer which was rarely made to anyone.
I told my parents about the scholarship, and that I didn’t want to go “Snob Hill” (what everyone called The Mary Louis Academy in those days).My mom asked me where I did want to go, and I said Art & Design. They asked me if I was sure, and I was, so that was that; there was no fighting.

I recognize now, as an adult, what an extraordinary leap of faith that was for my parents to make. Their firstborn thirteen-year-old daughter would be going to a high school that none of her classmates were attending, taking a subway into midtown every day, learning to be a professional artist.
She/I would be doing this instead of going to a Catholic high school that wanted me enough to pay the full freight, a high school that would put me on track to St. John’s, Fordham, or even an Ivy League school.Inexplicably, they let me do what I wanted to do.

It wasn’t over at OLS, though; Sister Mary Dorothy was incensed by my choice. She called my home while I was in school to speak to my mother. She yelled at my mother, carried on about how my mother was letting me ruin my life, that I wasn’t old enough to make such a choice, and on and on; she pulled every manipulative trick in the book to try to get my mother to change her mind, or better yet, change my mind for me.
My mother refused, and told Sister that it was my choice, and it was done. Sister persisted, and yelled some more.
My mother hung up on her. She fought for me, against every grain of her own doubt and fear about my choice, and she hung up the phone on the principal of my school.

I don’t know that I would have been so brave had I been in my mother’s place.
When I asked her, many years downstream, why she had let me go, she said “Because you wanted to– it meant so much to you.”
That is love, and courage, and faith, and hope, wrapped in the fighting spirit that my mom held on to until her last breath. She not only gave me life, but she gave me MY life, the life I was truly meant to have.

On this ninetieth anniversary of her birth, I say THANK YOU, Mom, for all your many gifts, but especially for that one. It was the fork in the road that made all the difference.Geranium Blossoms

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Reblog: What Is Love?

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Our First "Walk" as Husband and Wife
Our first “walk” as husband and wife, wearing our stephana (crowns)

I originally posted this three years ago. Everything I said then still goes, so I am reposting it today, on our 37th wedding anniversary.
(And I still wouldn’t trade a single day.)

Today is our 34th wedding anniversary. Later this year, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the day we met.

We met for the first time in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art. I was there with my sketchbook, drawing the massive Gaston Lachaise bronze nude, an Amazon standing with her hands on her hips, surveying the territory (I really wish I had kept those sketchbooks). A voice behind me asked me what I was drawing; I turned and told him; we introduced ourselves; we spent the rest of the afternoon walking MOMA, showing each other our favorite paintings; he walked me down Fifth Avenue to the subway stop by the main library on 42nd Street. He asked me for my phone number, asked if he could kiss me. I said yes, we kissed, and that was it.

When I got home that afternoon, I told my mom I had met the man I was going to marry. Six years later, we did. Thirty-four years later, here we are.

See, Mom? I was right!

It all goes by so fast; one day, you’re seventeen years old, drawing in the museum, and then you turn around and you’re middle-aged, looking back at forty years with the love of your life and praying for forty more. Some days are interminable (days when you’re waiting for test results, days when a parent dies, or a job is lost, or you find out you have to move from a place you’ve called home for twenty years)… but how then do years fly by like torn-out pages on the wind? Every breath, every kiss, every quarrel, every walk in the park and movie watched and meal shared, every laugh, every tear, bridges that first moment, that “What are you drawing?” moment, with this one, right here, right now. These moments are tied together, and tie us together, like the ribbon that joined our stephana, the crowns we wore as we took our first walk as husband and wife. We have our crowns still, sewn into a linen pillowcase that I embroidered with our initials and wedding date, carefully tucked into the drawer of my maternal grandmother’s tabletop shrine. We wed at the same altar where my parents said their vows, almost twenty-five years to the day before we said ours. All these moments, and days, and years, all are joined and twined into a garland of life and love and joy and tears.

Husband&Wife

We begin.

And THAT is what love is. It’s made of air, water, flesh, earth, fire, time, effort, grace, joy, pain, grief, laughter, stubbornness, tenacity, art, music, dark chocolate, good red wine, and whatever else is important enough for you to feel compelled to share with your full heart and your open mind. It’s what we are here for.

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Happy Birthday, Dad

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Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday.
Here’s a bit of his story, in pictures.

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The Year of the Pithy

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So, I know you remember what my friend Peg Streep and I started working on last year. I talked about it here and here.

In case you don’t remember — We have come up with a growing collection of graphic quotes that we call “Pithies”. You know the memes you see all over the internet, that presume to give you advice or make observations, sometimes spiritual, sometimes psychological, and usually accompanied by mundane and cliched pictures? We wanted to reinvent that. We wanted to combine smart advice, grounded in neuroscience and psychology, with a spiritual bent, good writing, and thoughtful, interesting imagery. We call them “Pithies” because we are offering more substance than your average meme.

Peg does the writing, and I do the art and design. We hope you will enjoy the fruits of our labors enough to want to share them with your friends and families. VERY SOON, we’re going to be launching an online storefront with pretty and useful things featuring our Pithies.

Just to remind you what we’ve done so far, here’s a glimpse. You can see more on my Facebook fan page and Peg’s FB Author Page, as well as catching up with the other things we work on independently. You should check out Peg’s Psychology Today blog “Tech Support”, too, where she writes about relationship issues in the digital age.

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