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Blessed are the searchers

My son couldn’t find any pants. He had some excuse: we were way behind on folding laundry, so there were several overflowing baskets of clean clothes to root through. A pantsless teenage boy is not at his sharpest, mentally or emotionally, and he truly did not know what to do. I told him to go through each basket systematically, taking out an armful of clothes, looking at each item, and then moving the discarded armload to another basket until he had reached the bottom. Then he should put all the discarded clothes back in the empty basket and start on another basket.
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Sure enough, he found pants. And I thought to myself, “How many hours of my life have I spent teaching kids how to look for things?” From the very first minutes they breathe the air of the world, they are looking, searching, rooting around. A newborn baby is comically bad at finding the breast. How many times have I laughed in pity, or wept with frustration, as the poor little thing frantically shakes his head from side to side, searching for the breast which is right there, it’s right there, baby! Oh, foolish baby.
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And it goes on from there. When they’re young, I help them find things, but really, my job is to help them learn how to look. “Mama, I can’t find my shoes!” “Check by the trampoline; check under your bed; check by the back door. And good grief, if you would put them away in your basket when you took them off, you would always know where they were.”
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Repeat ten billion times.

“Mama, I can’t find my library book!” “Picture yourself reading it. What room were you in? That’s probably where it is.”
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Repeat ten billion times.
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And then there are the problems I don’t have a ready answer for:
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Mama, I can’t find a friend.
Mama, I can’t find a job.
Mama, now I’m 18, and I can’t find my way.
Repeat. Break my heart.
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Janet Smith, who cares for her elderly mother, wrote this short observation on Facebook:
Those who have dementia have a powerful yearning to “go home.” No matter where they are, even when they are home. When I tire of responding with “you are home” to my mother’s repeated requests to “go home” (an answer which sometimes embarrasses her), we get in the car and drive around for about 5 minutes and come home and she is very happy. A caretaker taught me this trick.
Ah, I knew it. It will not end, this searching; not until death. The ten billion tricks we learn over the course of decades and decades are just that: tricks to momentarily lull us, to quiet the sensation of lostness. Blessed are the searchers. They know they are not home.
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Image by Christos Loufopoulos via Flickr (license)

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