Good news! I was able to find Keith. He was in a neighboring county, in a town that neither of us had ever heard of before.
I never expected to send that text to concerned family members. I assumed that after 10 years of marriage, I had a fairly good understanding of my life partner. In Italian, there is an expression conoscere i tuoi polli that means “to know your chickens,” or to have special insight into the minds of others due to your knowledge of them. I believed a decade had given me that knowledge. I was wrong.
The first text awoke me at 8:29 on a gorgeous Saturday morning. It was from my husband, Keith, and contained a request to pick him up. He had been out walking in a regional park since 6am, and while he thought he could make it back under his own power, he “had things to do.” The text also instructed me to go to the top of our street, and make a left on to Skyline, a long and winding road with enviable views of downtown Oakland and beyond. Keith would walk on Skyline toward the house. A simple, but effective plan.
Out I headed. A few more rounds of texts and brief phone calls – Keith is a big proponent of weekend business calls handled while out walking, and in calling me between those phone calls – as I drove along the snaking Skyline. No Keith in sight.
Another phone call from Keith saying that he was still walking toward me, and to continue driving. Still no Keith. It was 9am. I noticed that the road sign no longer read Skyline. Not good. I stopped the car. I asked Keith to stop walking, and to use a locating app to send me his address. “Gotta get my steps in!” he cheerfully declined. Not having had my morning cup of tea, I was less sanguine. “STOP WALKING SO I CAN FIND YOU!” I yelled in the empty car, startling a passing bicyclist. A text appeared with Keith’s approximate location: 15 minutes by car, in the opposite direction, on the other side of a major highway. Not entirely plausible. I called Keith to confirm address. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll just call a car to pick me up. Have a call coming in. Bye.” And with that airy statement, he hung up, and I drove back home.
While settling my nerves with tea and a biscuit, the phone rang from an unfamiliar area code. Keith’s voice had lost much of its cheeriness. He was in Canyon, CA. He couldn’t get good enough reception to call a car. Then his phone died. He walked to a school. It was closed. He continued walking until he got to a post office. “A nice lady” let him use the phone. He promised to not move.
Out I headed again. At 10:05 I found him on a wooden bench, sweaty and sheepish after four hours of walking. My mind flashed with annoyance at what should have been a relaxing morning instead spent looking for my husband on what seemed like every dusty, sun-dappled road in two counties. “Are you going to say anything?” he asked tentatively. “I thought you were going to remind me of what you said yesterday on our walk when I suggested trying a new seven-mile trail by myself before you got up.” A dim recollection of a conversation had stirred in the recesses of my mind. “You told me not to. You said, ‘You will get tired, and you will get lost. It will not end well.’”
Maybe I do know my chickens better than I realized…