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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: 24 Hours (01/27/11)

TITLE: AWOL
By
02/01/11


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Snaking up the mountain road was miserable, and not just because great droplets of rain were exploding on the windscreen before the wipers could whisk them away. Susan’s eyes were strained from weeping most of the night after her brother, Ron, phoned her. After picking up her friend Annie, just after 6am, they began the long drive.

“How could she get out?” Susan cried. She squeezed the steering wheel tighter. “How could they let this happen?”

“Please, Susan, you need to stay focused; otherwise, Ron will need to send out a search party for us too.” Annie sighed. “Hopefully, she’ll be found before we arrive. Those new GPS tracking shoes for Alzheimer patients are well worth the expense in situations like this. You’ll see.” She sent up a prayer as Susan drove into the storm.



Ron met the girls at the car with an umbrella. He shouted updates as they scrambled across the parking lot and into the foyer of the nursing home. Inside, a young aid who Susan had recognized from her visit the week before, greeted them with mugs of steaming coffee. Annie accepted hers with enthusiasm, but felt a twinge of guilt when she heard Susan decline.

“What happened? Who’s responsible?” Susan demanded.

“Please,” Ron soothed. “It doesn’t matter who’s to blame. The important thing is that everyone is doing their best to find her.”

“You’re right.” Susan turned to take the mug from the aid and held it between her shaking hands.

A man wearing a search and rescue uniform stepped toward the siblings. “Ms. Cummings, I’m O’Malley. I’m in charge of the team. I’ve been here with your brother since last evening.”

Susan shook O’Malley’s hand and took another sip of coffee before speaking. “Ron tells me you have people out looking for our mother. How far could she possible get in this weather?”

“We don’t know. It wasn’t until 9pm last night that the um…situation had been fully realized.”

The space between Susan’s eyebrows creased. “What do you mean—‘situation’?”

Ron replied for O’Malley. “Mum had evidently dressed in a hurry. Her slippers aren’t here and her GPS shoes are still under the bed. We think she may have followed someone else’s visitors out the front door around 6pm.”

“Ms. Cummings, we are almost certain she couldn’t have gotten very far but this constant rain has slowed us down.”

“Ron called me at 7.15pm.” She looked at her wristwatch. “It’s almost 9am, O’Malley. If she’s exposed to this weather much longer, she…”



There was still no sign of their missing mother by the time the rain eased at midday. More search teams were quickly dispatched. Annie, Susan and Ron searched the main street. For hours they frantically questioned shop owners and shoppers.

They returned to the nursing home just after three in the afternoon. They swallowed down coffee and sandwiches before they headed out again with a list of more places to search.

Just as they were putting on their seatbelts, a uniformed policeman approached Ron’s window. “I think I found something that may help.”

Ron read from his mother’s diary. “I have to know for certain if my Harold went AWOL. If he has, I know where he could be. We often met at our secret place before he went to war.”

“Why would Mum think Dad had gone AWOL?” Susan asked.

“I don’t remember Dad ever going AWOL, Susan. Obviously she’s confused.”

Annie, who had been relatively quiet, spoke up. “Isn’t there an old army storage unit near here?”

“Yes,” Ron replied. “Why do you ask?”

“When I was here a few months ago with Susan, I remember your mother had an old newspaper clipping about it.”

“You’re right. I wondered at the time why Mum had kept the article.”

“Okay,” Ron said, taking charge. “We’ll check the railway station. If we can’t find her there, we’ll return to see what O’Malley knows about this army place.” He gave the diary back to the officer and drove off.



As a clear starry sky abruptly brought the long day to a close, the trio entered the old army storage unit with O’Malley and two military personnel. Within the hour they had found, huddled in a skeleton of a storage shed, their mother. She was cold and wet but uninjured. With her dirt smeared face looking up at Susan, she apologized for ruining her slippers.

Susan knelt beside her mother. “That’s okay, Mum, we know of the perfect pair to replace them with. Let’s go home.”


~~~~



Authors Note:
It is a heart wrenching experience watching someone you love slip away. Although this story is fiction, a situation did begin in a similar way. A situation that could have turned out just as tragic if Alzheimer GPS Tracking devices were not in use at this particular nursing home.

The future of such devices certainly looks bright. When you love someone who has Alzheimer's, you will not want to overlook any option to protect him or her from a sometimes cruel and harsh world.
http://www.ourgoodhealth.org/alzheimers/Alzheimer_GPS_Tracking.html


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This article has been read 334 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lyn Churchyard02/03/11

This was both lovely and sad at the same time. The love we have for our parents deepens as we see them going through changes such as Susan and Ron's mother is going through. It is so sad when we see our parents becoming frailer and start forgetting things and slipping away from us..

You've handled the topic well, and have courageously given us a glimpse into your own personal heartbreak - thank you.
Colin Swann02/04/11
Yes, these situations can be heartbreaking when parents lose their faculties. You have portrayed this well in you well written interesting account.
Barbara Lynn Culler02/04/11
Glad the story ended ok, but it kept me riveted!
Laury Hubrich 02/04/11
I'm so glad this story had a good ending. I know many that aren't so good. Thanks for introducing us to this new way to use GPS.
Virgil Youngblood 02/04/11
I relate to this. After my Dad "escaped", the nursing home installed an alarm system and key-pad door locks. You have stirred some memories for sure. I enjoyed your story.
Carol Slider 02/04/11
You built the suspense very well, making for a captivating read. The situation is heartbreaking, but I'm glad to know that such devices are actually in development!
Rachel Phelps02/04/11
Heart-wrenching story. The ending seemed a little rushed, but great tension throughout.
william price02/05/11
This story resonated deep within me. Sad, but one that needs to be told. I enjoyed it. God bless.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/06/11
Whata thrilling story! I found myself holding my breath. I've never heard of the GPS sneakers before what a great idea. Your did an outstanding job with the characters and the ending was as good as the beginning.
Lollie Hofer 02/08/11
I think this is one of your best stories...your writing gets stronger each week. Great story line, intrigue, strong emotions, great voice for your mc makes for an excellent story.
Noel Mitaxa 02/09/11
A difficult issue opened up with clarity and sensitivity, with all th e emotions of love, guilt, blame and relief.
The title revealed and concealed the end in a very clever way. Well done.
Theresa Santy 02/09/11
Great opening, great job keeping suspense hanging throughout. Love the GPS tracking devices. I hear some people even use them on their pets.