The sides of the mountain are heavily wooded, a palette of greens and browns, but the top is craggy and barren. That lone man, I can see him now, is loping slowly along the ridge. In this weather, he has to be a fanatic. So hot. So humid. 

If I were to do it, the belief that I was suicidal would rise to the surface again. Why do they think that?

I watch that man do a slow, gingerly descent, then disappear into the tree line, lost in my painting. How long, I wonder, will it take him to get through all that tangled brush and meet me here at the bottom waiting for him?

We’ve been friends since childhood. Growing up two blocks apart, we played here in the park, attended the same schools from kindergarten up to and through the University of Hawai‘i. We both went on for advanced degrees, but we traveled to different places on the US continent for that. 

Losing touch can be a terrible thing, I do know. Don’t I know it? I do. I know that.

Eventually, we both returned home, and we both became teachers at the university. I’m retired now, but he’s still poking around the academic bush. I give him great credit, five years beyond retirement now, I’d guess, yet he keeps up teaching, research, and running. Although he calls it ‘fast walking’ now, where is he?

I’ll sit on this bench and wait for him, for him, I’ll wait, to appear again. But this is taking longer, this waiting, than I’d imagined it would. What is he doing up there? Should I call someone? I think I have a phone with me. It’s 911. Where’s my purse? –

It’s not always easy to find her. She wanders off from time to time and then the search is on. It’s just me now. Dad used to go out looking too, but he wore out, so much emotion, trauma. I think her condition must have contributed heavily to his decline. I miss him, miss his love, miss his support.

I’ll have to hire someone to watch here when I’m at work. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. I dread it, every day that I’ll come home to find Mom gone.

At least she has no car key anymore. Taking it away from her, I dreaded that, too. She loved to drive.

One evening our neighbor knocked on the front door. “I think your mother may have backed into my garage door.”

I turned to her watching TV. “Mom, is that true? Did you hit the garage door?”

She gave me a puzzled look, went back to the Wheel of Fortune.  I don’t know where she’d be without that show to help keep her grounded, connected to my Dad. They loved that program.

My neighbor and I go over to his place, and sure enough, his garage door is caved in.

“And look,” he says, “do you see the gray paint here?”

It’s there, yes, and then we walk over to Mom’s gray Corolla, and yes, the fender is bashed in. When I go back, I say, “Mom, didn’t you feel it when you hit the garage door?”

She looks away from the screen, smiles at me, nods. “Too many balls in the air,” she says, turning back to the screen, pointing. And I can see she’s solved the puzzle before the contestants do. Her mind is a wonder to me, what she thinks when she can focus.

That was expensive, that garage door. Dreading it, I said to her, “Mom, I have to take your car key.”

I thought she’d put up a fight. Driving is her thing. She always said it helpled her to relax. She reached into her purse and gave it to me, smiled, and said, “Thank you.”

Every time we pass that garage, Mom comments on how nice and new it looks. “Did I do that?” she always asks. “I did,” she says. “It’s nice.”

I should sell her Corolla. It just sits there, maybe triggering memories of driving with Dad. And independence. I wonder if she thinks about that.

Where is she now? I drive to her favorite McDonald’s, then to Ala Moana. This shopping Center. After they retired, Mom and Dad spent so much time here. It’s like a memory magnet.

I walk around, run into Connie, the head of security there. She knows why I’m there; we’ve talked about this before. She assures me that she’ll put out an alert and have everyone keep an eye out for Mom. They have her picture from searches past.

Where to next? Maybe she’s at the park? I head to Pauoa Valley. There’s a park there where she and my dad grew up playing together. They knew each other from when they were so young. Fell in love early, I think, but took different paths after college. Then they came back and fell in love all over again. They both were so happy, teaching at the university –

Where is it? Why can I never find my phone when I need it? He’s always carrying his phone. He’s good about that. But if he can’t call . . . He could be injured or lost. Running on the ridge. I tell him over and over again, “Don’t run up there. It’s dangerous.” But he keeps on doing it. Running, running, running. I should call someone. But where’s that phone? Where’s my purse? I tell you, that’s life. The more you need something, the harder it is to find –

There she is, sitting on the bench. Thank God. –

“Mom, hey, are you okay?”

Her daughter sits down beside her on the bench, puts her arm around her, hugs her. “Mom, I was so worried. Why do you always wander off like that?”

Her mother points up to the ridge above the tree line. “Daddy was up there again,” she says, “I saw him. I don’t know where he is. Maybe he’s hurt? Or lost? We should call someone.”

She leans her head on her mother’s shoulder, pulls her to her. “It’s okay, Mom. He’s not up there. He’s okay. Everything’s all right.”

“Oh, that’s good,” she says, “I was so worried.”

Her daughter hugs her mother, saying nothing, hugs her tight.

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