By the time his wife rang me at nearly 2pm he had been missing for more than five hours. By then the police were involved.
The problem is that Sandy looks normal. He is forty-two not eighty-two. Eighteen years ago, eleven weeks after their wedding day, Sandy had a seizure, then another seizure and another. They found a tumour and removed it. Sandy survived but he now has the mental age of a three year old. He has profound receptive and expressive aphasia.
Occasionally there will be little bits of behaviour that suggest Sandy has not lost everything. He can, thankfully, go to the toilet alone. He can dress himself - although his wife will put out the clothes he is to put on. He cannot tie shoelaces anymore but they solved that problem with trainers with the velcro straps. He plays with the velcro straps. He will wipe the dishes but he can no longer mow the lawn.
His wife has stuck by him. "I married him for better or worse." They have no children. Her parents-in-law live in the next suburb. Whether they appreciate the problems is questionable.
Her mother is not alive. Her father comes in on Thursdays so that she can go shopping or to the doctor or to other appointments. He retired early to help.
Sandy should, at very least, be in day care but there are no places available. Day care is reserved for those whose families really cannot cope. She is coping. Just.
Yesterday someone left the gate open. Sandy walked out. Given the chance he will wander. He will go and watch the trains. If there is nobody in the little playground near their home he will go and play on the swing - just gently rocking backwards and forwards. They found him once playing in the creek bed that runs through the next suburb. There was not a lot of water in it but Sandy was soaked through. We can only assume he fell in.
Sandy knows me. He calls me "Daisy". He calls my tricycle "Daisy two". Somewhere, in the confusion of his brain, he seems to remember "A bicycle built for two". If you sing it he will nod excitedly and point to my tricycle. When I went to visit them first he got very agitated until I pointed to the seat, pointed to him and indicated that he could ride it. His wife and I stood by the closed gates while he rode it up and down their driveway.
Communication has been the big issue. It is why I became involved in the first place. Sandy has limited communication skills, very limited communication skills. He says about twenty words. He has a communication board and he can use some signs. You have to sign to Sandy. He understands very few words.
This makes searching for him difficult. He looks normal. He will not respond to people calling his name.
His wife wants to know if I can think of anywhere else Sandy might have gone. They have searched the obvious places. I have seen Sandy home on a number of occasions. He might be on the move of course. If he has seen any of the cyclists from the big race he will have stopped to watch. I ask what route they were taking. That's a thought. She passes me over to the policeman who is with her and I explain. I also suggest the underpass at the railway station further up the hill. He likes to sit in that, presumably to hear the train go over his head.
Forty minutes later there is another call. They have found him walking through the underpass. He will not come with them. They are concerned because he is getting agitated. His wife is waiting at home in case he reappears. Will I come up and see if I can make him understand?
I treadle up. Sandy is sitting on the ground rocking backwards and forwards. There are two policemen in one car and three just standing a little distance away. His behaviour suggests he is frightened. I ask them to go further down the hill before I go to talk to him. Yes, I am confident he will not attack me.
He sees me. "Dai-sy."
It seems to me that there is one sure way of getting him home safely. He must be thirsty by now.
"Sandy," I sign, "You - me - house. You drink. "
We start down the hill.
"My place," I tell one of the policemen. He nods.
Sandy and I go in silence. He holds on to the basket at the back. It is seven long blocks to where I live. The police car crawls some distance behind us. We get to my place. Dad is out. I take Sandy inside and give him a can of lemonade with a straw. He goes outside to drink it. I offer drinks to the two policemen. They accept cold water. They have 'phoned his wife. She will come and get him.
Sandy finishes the lemonade and rides my tricycle around and around in small circles leaving confused tracks all over the lawn. He is making a noise. The rest of us look at one another. Sandy is trying to sing. One word is almost clear, "Dai-sy."