I have spent half my life looking for things I’ve misplaced. I have spent the other half finding things for Larry that he claims I lost to make his life more difficult.
Recently I was visiting my daughter Julie, her husband Sam, and my granddaughter Sylvie in Colorado. That morning, I had unplugged my charging cord for my phone from the power strip next to my bed. I was sure that I had plugged it into a kitchen outlet. Later in the morning, however, the only charger, looking mysteriously larger than mine,was connected to Julie and Sam’s iPad.
“Sam, are you using my plug to charge your iPad?” I asked.
“No,” said Sam. “That one is mine.”
I spent a good chunk of the next few hours looking for my missing cord. I looked in my traveling charger case, my pocket book, my suitcase. I rechecked the outlet next to my bed and every other outlet in the house. After we returned from a walk and lunch on Main Street, I rechecked the outlet, my charger bag, the pocketbook, the suitcase. Then I pulled off all the bedding (maybe it got tangled in the sheets when I was making the bed?) MIA. Julie just rolled her eyes. Mom has lost something- AGAIN.
Misplacing something is part of my personality. Keys.Cell phone. Favorite water bottle. Sun glasses. Larry has grudgingly accepted that every time we head out, we have to allow enough time for me to make one more frantic trip into the house to search for my frequently lost or left behind items (which I refer to as FLI’s)
I know that my misplacing things is not tied to cognitive impairment, a concern as I work my way through my sixties. I have not yet found my cell phone in the freezer or my keys in the microwave. Thankfully, my losses are usually a result of multitasking or not giving myself enough time to put the item in its proper spot in the first place.
To compensate, I have established assigned places for the FLIs. My keys go on the key rack next to the door. The cell phone goes on the kitchen counter, plugged into the permanent charger. My favorite water bottle gets rinsed and put back into the refrigerator. On my good days, the system works.
I’ve given up on the sunglasses. After several last minute scrambles,I finally purchased several additional pairs for my pocketbook, each car, the beach bag, the lanai. This system also works—on my good days.
Larry, on the other hand, rarely loses anything. His keys, his wallet, the checkbook, even his clothes, are organized in such a way that he can find them quickly and without angst. He even has a system for items on his desk, where he can locate exactly what he needs from the piles that totally defy my sense of order.
Unfortunately, as we share the same house, our lives—and stuff—intersect. For example, we share laundry duty, but it is usually on my watch that one of his socks goes missing.
“What did you do with my Smart Wool?” he demands.
“You’re missing one?” I respond. And the search begins. The washing machine. The dryer. Then the rest of the laundry to see if it got stuck to a recalcitrant tee shirt or pair of shorts. The loss is yet to be permanent.
The second most FLI is the checkbook. Larry has a particular Spot for it. There are times, however, that I need it. Invariably, I either don’t put it back in the Spot fast enough or I don’t put it exactly where it belongs. Then, the scenario begins.
“MAR-i-lyn! Where is the checkbook?” The situation is quickly resolved. (EXCEPT when we moved into our Florida house, and one of us put the checkbook in a “safe place” before we left for a long trip to Colorado. If anyone has any suggestions as to where our “safe” place was, please contact me! Two years later, and the checks are still missing.)
Remember I said that Larry rarely loses anything? Let me relate the Famous Missing Fleece Incident.
While still living in Upstate New York, our son Adam came home in July for a visit. One surprisingly cool morning, the three of us went on a bike ride. Larry had Adam use his road bike, and he took his hybrid.
A couple of weeks after Adam left, Larry asked me what I had done with the University of Rochester fleece he had worn on the bike ride.
“I have no idea,” I said. I probably washed it and put it in your closet.”
“Well, it’s missing,” Larry said.
Thus began a three-month intermittent search. I checked our closet and every other closet and dresser in the house. I called Adam and asked if he had taken it back with him to California. Nada.
“Maybe you gave it to the Salvation Army,” Larry said. “I can’t believe you would give away my favorite fleece.”
At the end of October, Larry and I decided to go on a bike ride. The roads were wet from a recent rain, so we took our hybrid bikes for better traction. Halfway through the ride, it began to rain again. Larry paused to put his phone, which was in a case on the handlebar, into the saddle bag to better protect it.
“Hey! Look what I found!” Larry exclaimed. “It’s my missing fleece! I must have put it in there in July when it began to warm up on our bike ride with Adam!”
“YOU misplaced it!” I said. “Don’t you feel badly for accusing ME of losing it?”
“No, that’s okay,” said Larry. “All’s well that ends well.”
And the charging cord I “lost” in Colorado? Turns out that Sam had rolled it up and put it into a canister where he and Julie stash all their extra cords. So I actually wasn’t at fault that time either.
Elizabeth Bishop wrote: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master; /so many things seem filled with the intent /to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” In my world, losing “stuff” may be a problem.” As long as I keep what is important—my family, my friends, my memories—it will just be small stuff.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Jewish World News, a bi-weekly subscription-based newspaper in upstate New York.