Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Weightlessness

The road is long 
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother...
- The Hollies

In 2007, Thomas "Randy" Gatewood disappeared.  His family, including but not limited to his younger brother Gene in San Diego, California, tried everything they could think of to locate him.  Their best efforts unearthed no leads.  Their attempts to find him went unfulfilled.  One day he was alive and well and living in Yuma, Arizona.  The next?  No one in the Gatewood family knew.   Gene Gatewood - having suddenly lost contact with his big brother (two years his senior) with whom he had always been close and with close to a decade's worth of police investigation by the Yuma, Arizona PD and the San Diego, California PD having turned up nothing - feared the worst.  

Thomas "Randy" Gatewood is, now, seventy-nine years old.  He is a retiree, a veteran of the United States Air Force, and suffers from dementia.  Apparently, at some time in 2011 he and another elderly gentleman were left abandoned at a hotel by their caregiver, an individual with an impeccable sense of irony and a negligible appreciation of the value of human life.  The two men were found and were taken to Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, California, where Thomas Gatewood was admitted as a patient.    

National City, California is seven miles from San Diego, California.  

Seven miles.  

The next time you think to yourself about just how small the world can feel sometimes, consider that Thomas Gatewood - at a time in his life when he was less than ten miles from his family - was totally alone in the world.  All of that changed this year.  Beginning with an event put on by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office  - "Identify the Missing Day" - which was held on March 19, 2016, Gene Gatewood and his daughter, Kari, ended up being reunited with Thomas.  Through the forensic marvel that is DNA and the timeless classic forensic tool that is old-school gumshoe police work (performed by National City Police Detective Leiderson Zeiferino), Thomas Gatewood was found.  

The worst fears of Gene Gatewood?  Happily, they were not realized.  When Gene and his big brother were finally together again for the first time in close to a decade, tears were shed.  But they were not tears of sadness and Gene's eyes were not fountains of sorrow.  

Every once in a while a day comes along that offers you an opportunity to bask in the glow of a happy ending.  Today is such a day.  

-AK   

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