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 store’s district manager and regional manager, sending prayers and good wishes, telling me my flyers were posted in our New Jersey and New York store windows; 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. Detectives George Moutis and Ken Elliot were assigned to our case, Missing Person: Karabaic, Anton — Case #10-3121, Event #10-54696.
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…
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. )