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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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