My dad was always losing things – keys, files, glasses – but would never admit they were “lost.” He insisted they were “misplaced.” I’ve misplaced quite a few things in my time, including a kid on two occasions, but never my wallet.
Last Tuesday, tired of sitting on my wallet, I placed it in my car’s center console. I was much more comfortable, as I spread misery across the South Side of Chicago, serving the unsuspecting with summonses. When I returned to Forest Park, I billed out my cases. Feeling exuberant, I mailed invoices from the post office and continued my walk to one of my favorite Madison Street joints.
After dinner, I reached for my back pocket but didn’t feel the old familiar bulge. Embarrassed, I told the bartender I had left my wallet in my car. A customer a few stools down, a perfect stranger in every sense, offered to pay for my dinner. I declined, confident I’d find the wallet in the console.
When the car arrived home, there was no wallet inside. A search of the house was also futile. The stages of grief kicked in, and I moved beyond denial to acceptance. I couldn’t sleep that night, though, as I did a mental inventory of the wallet.
It wasn’t so much the driver’s license and credit cards; it was the loss of sentimental items that pained me. I know some people have memory drawers or boxes. My memories had fit nicely in a thin leather wallet.
My 17-year-old’s first footprint, which I’d often shown to admiring strangers, was in there, along with my 28-year-old’s Little League pictures. More up-to date were my daughter’s wedding picture, a glamour shot of my younger daughter and my grandson’s smiling face.
Then there were the ticket stubs: U2 at the United Center, Frank Sinatra’s last concert in Chicago and the receipt from the Bateaux Mouches which cruises the Seine River in Paris.
I also carried the death notices of my brother and brother-in-law, a list of 20 stages of embryonic development that I used to start writing my autobiography and the only guest column that has appeared during my tenure, written by Forest Park’s own Rosa Chun.
There was a $25 gift certificate for Centuries & Sleuths, which still had $7.68 left on it, a Jimmy John’s Repeater Eater Card (with one sandwich checked off), and my private detective license, which no one ever asks to see.
The next day, I replaced my driver’s license and went off to spread more misery. After surprising five strangers with summonses, I returned home to find an e-mail from the Madison Street joint. They had found my wallet. It had somehow survived 24 hours stuck in the recesses of the barstool.
Like my dad would say, it was only misplaced.