Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A lost father, 'bout so high?

I had no idea my 87-year-old father could book it with his walker.
But in the time it took to drop him at the entrance to the Veteran's Administration hospital and get back from parking the car, he had vanished.
"I need to go find a restroom," were his last words to me.
Next thing I knew, I'm standing in the crazily busy lobby looking everywhere for a thin, feeble guy with a red walker.
People started wondering why I was stationery in the middle of pedestrian traffic when clearly I was in the way.
I asked the ladies at the information booth which way it was to the restrooms.
"Both ways," they said with curious looks.
"I've lost a father," I explained to rather shocked looks. "He came in about 15 minutes ago from the front headed for the bathroom and now I can't find him."
"What's he look like?" they asked.
I looked around. Well, he looked like most of the other old guys sitting around in wheelchairs, tottering on walkers and riding away on golf-carts.
"He, um, is wearing a black coat, black pants and he has white hair," I said rather lamely,  trying to think of a distinguishing feature that would help. "He has some dementia."
They suggested I leave my cell number in case he passed by.
And I started searching. The VA Hospital is a huge place with long halls and about 35 buildings.
I figured he couldn't get too far so I didn't panic. I just walked around a lot...and tried to find the various places we needed to visit along the way.
I found the billing office and the pharmacy and the travel office. I kept circling until it had been more than an hour.
I went back to the ladies at the booth, more worried now.
"No luck?" they said. "Do you want to try the police?"
I looked over at the door. Why not?
I knocked and a bleary-eyed dispatcher opened up.
I described my situation and he sighed. I think perhaps their clients get lost a lot.
"Well, we can check the cameras," he said. "Come in."
He was just bringing up the images when another guy came in. "I have this old guy, a Mr. Hitchcock, downstairs, looking for his daughter," he said.
"Mr. Hancock?" I exclaimed. "That's my dad. Where is he?"
Seems he had finished his business and then started to try and find the money he'd left behind the last time he'd been hospitalized. He didn't have any ID with him so they whisked him away to the identification station two floors below for a new ID card.
"Hey, dad," I soon said to a very relieved old man. "Do you need this?"
I showed him the planner I'd brought with us right after he told me he wouldn't need "any of that stuff today."
He grinned. I sighed.
I guess I need a leash.

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