Last Sunday, my family headed over to my mother's for a typical help-with-a-few-chores, then dinner, which I brought. It was just before 3pm, roads mostly empty, except for a jogger until we reached the local elementary school. Hundreds of people, half of them local police, state troopers, rescue squad vehicles, a few tables set up. As we drove by, the only thing I could think of was the recent TURN IN YOUR GUNS FOR CASH program, but said it would be an odd choice of place and time, as we bumped over the railroad tracks.
Arriving at my mother's, she was in the midst of making dessert. On her kitchen table, as I unloaded my bacon-wrapped baked chicken, a large salad, uncooked carrots and broccoli, frozen Tater Tots, and banana bread with cranberries, I noticed fliers about a missing local man. A grainy color photo showed a man wearing glasses with grey hair and a beard. David Bird, 200 lbs., 6 ft. 1 inch tall, last seen on Saturday at 4:30 pm, told wife he was going for a short walk, never returned, often walked the trails in the woods behind my mother's house. His wife had called the police because he was not home by 6pm, and as a liver transplant receipient, needed to take medication twice a day.
As I rattled off the various chores to both sons, I put out a bag of wild bird seed and two feeders for my husband to fill. I proceeded to re-heat the chicken, put the Tater Tots on a cookie sheet in the oven. My husband kept looking at the flier, but said nothing. One bird feeder needed assembly, so my older son helped. Artificial tree taken apart and put away for next Christmas, one leaking faucet fixed, a quick how-to get on Facebook lesson from the son who doesn't use Facebook and how to look at attachments in emails. I could hear my mother's voice explaining who was who in photos of a recent wedding, "They're all different shades of black, isn't that wonderful?...That one is a judge...those two are both NYC police, just like your great-grandfather...Oh! I just click on this button?" Then the sound of shared laughter.
My husband was happily reading the directions for the alleged squirrelproof bird feeder. "Dad, you just take the top off and fill it." He looked up and said, "I can't stop thinking about the lost man." As I unloaded my mother's dishwasher, I stopped and put the fliers in the other room. "It will be okay, remember all those police we saw. They're looking for him. I'll get some rope to hang the bird feeders up between two trees." As I head towards the garage in search of rope, I hear my husband telling my mother there are over forty birds in the area she lives, swampland. Just like where he worked, less than three miles away.
I find some sturdy rope underneath a leafblower and several pairs of work gloves, some never worn. Probably my Dad's. I hand the rope to one son, the other one carries one bird feeder and my husband carries the one he filled which looks like a lantern. My mother watches from the kitchen window as I continue flitting between the oven, the stove top and the microwave, in an attempt to have the food be ready and hot before 4:30 pm. My mother says, "That doesn't look like a good idea." My younger son is standing on a flimsy plastic summer chair, tying the rope to a tree while the other son is tying the other end to the crotch of one tree, about ten feet apart. "Oh, he'll be alright, Mom, he knows how to fall. However, the rope is slanted; I'll be right back."
I run outside and tell the guys it might be better if the rope was somewhat straight and to tie the bird feeders so they don't move. "Good idea, Mom." Then they look at each other like why didn't we think of this. My husband is standing there, holding both feeders and smoking his pipe. "Good job, everyone. Food's almost done, five minutes." Run back in, and start putting food out, covered. As the guys finish and come back in, "We're starving. Can we eat now?" It's starting to get dark outside. "Just need Dad to carve the chicken and someone to set the table." Done and done.
We fill our plates in the kitchen, then go into the dining room to eat. I pull aside a curtain so we can still see the bird feeders. My mother starts one of her "I'm so thankful for all of the helping hands and that my family is close by and that I'm still going..." (I'm thinking she's about to add the traditional Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts prayer. I'm also thinking the food is getting cold.) Suddenly my husband asks if we could say a word for the lost man, with a quiver in his voice and tears in his eyes. My younger son gives me a look, like come on, Mom, pull it together as my eyes are tearing up.
So, shaking myself clear, I add a simple prayer for God to be with the lost man and his family, as well as those looking for him, Amen. My sons ask if it's okay if they talk business at the table. I say, "Yes, as long as you do it in such a way that the rest of us can understand." They excitedly explain what they're doing, what they want to be doing. My mother is enthralled. I'm glad they changed the subject and the mood, but I no longer feel like eating. My husband is digging in, spreading butter on the banana cranberry bread. "Are you okay now?" I ask and he answers, "Wasn't that my bird seed we just used?"
He had forgotten the lost man and I think this could be the blessing of Alzheimers', a Be Here Now approach to life, on some days, or even for just an hour or two. He and my mother sit at the dining room table talking while I clean up after the meal, leaving a few portions for my mother in clear plastic containers. The guys take out her garbage for next day pick-up, then we head back home.
David Bird is still missing, 55 years old, last seen in a distinctive red coat with two yellow zippers. From various news sources, the portrait of the man is that of a well-known and liked family man, 20 years being a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He had just written his ninth yearly thank you letter to the family whose loved one died, giving him a new liver. He is a Boy Scout leader, recently ran a marathon to promote organ donation awareness, avid hiker and bicyclist. Father of two, ages 12 and 15.
Yesterday I got a call from Long Hill Twp. police asking for help locating the man. They said due to him being off his medication for anti-rejection of transplant, he might appear confused or disoriented, but is not considered dangerous. Several towns have been using police on horseback, ATV's, in helicopters, on foot with K-9 dogs, along with approximately 200 civilian volunteers. They have dragged several rivers and ponds, and are now going through his cell phone, which he left charging, as well as his computer. I cannot even begin to imagine what his wife and children are experiencing, as I silently "say a word for the lost man."
UPDATE: As of this evening, on the 11pm NBC news, it was reported that David Bird had taken his wallet with him and that one of his credit cards showed activity in Mexico. In my mind, this does not bode well for his safe return. I continue to pray for his family. For those who downvoted or maliciously softlinked this, I'll pray you learn to be compassionate.
FURTHER UPDATE: It has been disclosed that his family fears his reporting on OPEC may be a factor. The FBI is now involved. This article may shed some light on David Bird's disappearance.