Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lost and Found


It all began with a late afternoon notice of possible credit card fraud. Recent purchases in New York City triggered the alert. Looking at the particulars, it was clear that the charges were not made by anyone in our family.

It was 5 PM on Saturday. We had been trying to reach our daughter Alex all day. She was not responding to our calls, or emails, or texts. That was very unusual for her. Worse, her phone was immediately going to voice mail. She never turned her cell phone off.

She had alerted us that she intended to do some work during the day. I had attributed the silence to her commitment to get something accomplished, or maybe to some other innocuous cause that I had not considered. But now, I was getting worried.

This was not the first time there had been fraudulent use of one of our credit cards. But, never in the city where our daughter lived.. Maybe it was in fact someone who had our daughter's card in their possession and was trying to use it. But where was our daughter?

My wife and I had dinner plans, and I didn't want to do what I always do, jump to the worst of all conclusions. On our way to the restaurant, we called our son and asked him to keep trying to reach his sister, and to let us know as soon as he heard something.

When we arrived at our destination, I had my wife text our daughter's good friend and co-worker to see if she had any information. When she wrote back that she didn't, that it was in fact unusual that the phone was off, and that she had made tentative plans with our daughter for the day but hadn't heard further, our collective concern exponentially increased. Our daughter's friend said she was leaving her apartment and heading over to Alex's to see what she could learn. She would knock down the door if she had to.

My son was now checking his sister's bank account and other credit cards to see if there was any unusual activity on them. 

As I ate sushi with our friends, I tried not to dwell openly on what was occupying my thoughts. But, I was harboring images of those families who put posters of their child all over the city. I am, even in the best of times, a major league worrier, really an all Star worrier. My son calls me a Jewish grandmother. I told myself that if the meal ended and there was still no answer, I would allow myself to go into full meltdown.

Can there be more terrifying a circumstance to contemplate? We all have seen the images and read the tales. For someone like me who believes the worst until he is proven wrong, who raced home from work one day, honking my horn at any car in my way, narrowly avoiding disaster when our son was half an hour late coming home from grade school, this was all playing out as my most terrifying nightmare.

And then the cell phone rang.. Our son had gotten through to his sister. She had been asleep. But it turns out this had not been a normal sleep. Alex had been suffering from a sinus infection early in the week and had been prescribed a series of different drugs to knock it out. It seemed their cumulative effect was such that she went to bed at midnight on Friday and woke up at 6 PM on Saturday. 18 hours of continuous slumber, phone off, no texts, no emails, nothing. It was as though she had disappeared. And, in my mind and that of the rest of our family and at least one friend, she had.

Thankfully, the worst turned out to be  a credit card that was canceled and a daughter slightly disoriented after pulling a minor Rip Van Winkle.

It was strange to hear my wife and son tell me that, for once in my life, I may not have blown something completely out of proportion, that maybe the facts were there for me to begin my "what ifs". It was a kind of vindication, realizing that after decades of misconstruing and misinterpreting the signs that I had, for a few scary moments, ample reason to be who I always am.

Such is the story of the nutty father and the lost and found girl who never left her room.

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