Elaine Soloway's Caregiving Series: Crime Scene Investigation Chicago
It was like an episode of CSI when the team prepares to search a dumpster for some vital clue. I was pulling on a pair of white vinyl exam gloves — latex free, powder free — and smoothing each finger so the glove would hug each digit.
I used an empty plastic garbage bag to hold the contents of our tall kitchen trash can. Unlike the TV investigators who would be seeking elements of a crime, I was hunting for Tommy’s lost keys.
The receptacle was an inspiration and my last hope. My husband and I had already yanked inside-out all the pockets of his clothing. Had already peered under the bed, under the nightstand, under the couch cushions, under the couch. When all of these turned up empty, a dark thought entered my head: Tommy must have left them in the front door and some miscreant absconded with them.
So, I decided to change our morning’s plans. "We’ll go to Sunday breakfast," I told my husband, "but instead of continuing on to do our banking and our grocery shopping, we’ll come home straight away. I’ll call a locksmith then to change our bolts." He gave my plan two thumbs up.
As a devotee of all crime shows, I figured that whomever purloined the keys would be watching our house and burglarize it the minute we left. So after exiting the driveway, we drove around the block and crept back home. Since nothing was amiss, we proceeded to a nearby diner.
I raced through my egg white omelet with thoughts of my iMac and iPad being lifted from the house and piled into a white van with the misleading logo of a repair company. "Finish your coffee," I said to my husband. I was already standing and packing up. "We’ve got to get home."
No white van was parked in front of our house. Inside, my Apple products were safely tucked in their spots. Nothing had been disturbed. Still, I called a locksmith. While waiting for a callback, I decided on the dumpster-dive routine.
One by one I plucked. Gingerly. First, I lifted out a white cone-shaped coffee filter filled with the morning’s Trader Joe's French Roast. Next, crumpled paper towels that earlier held the ice pack used to soothe my aching back. Onward to dust and dirt swept up from the kitchen floor. Finally, I drew out several tiny foils that once wrapped around miniature chocolate candies.
And there they were: Tommy’s keys, staring up at me as if to say Ta-da! First, I cancelled the locksmith. Then, dangling the keys, I raced upstairs to our bedroom where my husband had not given up the search. "Look," I said. "I found them! They were in the garbage." He grasped the keys, smiled, and plunged his fist deep inside his pocket.
This is what I figured happened: Tommy had left our neighborhood block party before me. He let himself into the house, removed his keys from the lock, but kept them in his hand. Then, he went straight to the freezer, plucked a candy from the door’s shelf, unwrapped it, and tossed foil and keys into the garbage.
I could ascribe Tommy’s lapse to his illness, but then a list of my follies — and that of my two daughters — popped into my brain. Once, I left my fully-loaded backpack on the floor of a local McDonald's — overnight. Gratefully, the manager spotted the bag and held it for me until I came for it the next morning.
Another time, I left my wallet on the counter at Trader Joe's. I didn’t discover my loss until I got home and was about to put away my receipt. An eagle-eyed employee had spotted it and kept it safe until I returned within the hour to retrieve it.
I remembered Faith's story of leaving her MacBook on a seat at the boarding gate and not remembering it until she was belted in. A plea to the flight attendant miraculously won her an escape to pick it up exactly where she had left it.
And Jill left her MacBook Air still charging at her sister's house after she had hugged goodbye and departed for Los Angeles. Federal Express brought it home to her within two days.
I relate these tales — you are likely already contributing your own lost and misplaced examples — to emphasize that sometimes, missing objects are not a result of some sort of theft, but instead are just a case of plain old absentmindedness. Nothing more.
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