Today I lost my father.
No — it’s not what you think. I misplaced him, or he misplaced himself.
It felt a little odd to tell people, “Umm… I can’t find my father.”
He had a doctor’s appointment this morning, so I dropped him at the hospital door and went to park the car.
Every single other time that I have done this it has worked. He slowly makes his way to the registration, answers the questions about black lung benefits and whether he has traveled outside the country in the past three weeks — and somewhere in the midst of this I catch up with him and shepherd him to the appropriate clinic.
This morning, however, I had trouble finding a parking spot. By the time I got inside, he was nowhere to be seen.
I ran up the stairs to the second floor where the Prime Care clinic was. He wasn’t in the waiting room.
I ran back down the stairs to registration. “I lost my father,” I told the woman at an open registration desk. “Can you verify for me whether he checked in or not?”
After answering a few questions, she confirmed that he had registered for an appointment in Prime Care.
Up the stairs again — but he still wasn’t in the waiting room. I went to the reception desk there. “I lost my father,” I told the woman who helped me. “Can you call back and see if he has already gone back into an exam room?”
“Oh,” she said, “did you want to go back with him?”
“I need to be back with him,” I told her. “He’s 87 and has some dementia.”
She called the nurses’ desk immediately and then said to me, “No, he’s not back there.”
I ran to the third floor. He goes there for cardiology appointments. Maybe he was confused about what clinic to go to. But nope.
I ran to the first floor. Maybe he went to surgical clinic. We’ve gone there a few times recently. No sign of him, though.
I ran back up to the second floor. I was getting my stair workout in early. There was still no sign of my father.
My last idea was for them to page him over the loudspeaker in the hospital, but, to be totally honest, I wondered if he would even hear it. And where would I ask him to be directed to? I was running out of ideas. But I approached the reception desk anyway.
“I still can’t find my father,” I said.
She looked at me sympathetically. “Do you want me to try to put an announcement on the PA?”
I sighed, and looked around hopelessly.
Just then, who should come shuffling along with his walker? My father.
“I went up and down on that elevator,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing to not know where you are.”
Yes, I thought, it was a terrible to not know where you were.