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home : commentary : columns February 22, 2019

I once doubted St. Anthony but now am not so sure

By Moises Sandoval | Catholic News Service

For anyone wondering what seniors do, often it is dealing with the consequences of forgetting. I spent Friday night and Saturday last week looking in vain for a lost hearing aid, a very expensive item to replace and thus causing me great angst. In the end, it all turned out well, thanks to an ancient Catholic tradition in which I have never placed much stock. But first the details of my travails.

I have used hearing aids for decades and never lost one. On the other hand, my wife just lost one of a pair purchased less than a year ago at a cost of $6,400. After searching the house and car for days, even inquiring at the stores where we shopped for groceries and prescriptions, we ordered a replacement, under warranty but still $428. Mine, older, would have cost much more. Too late, her lost one turned up in a grocery bag.

My saga began with something I never do: After cleaning the aids before retiring Thursday night, I put them in their case and left them on the kitchen table. Invariably, I always leave them in my home office. On Friday, I did not go looking for them until evening. Imagine my consternation when I found the box empty.

My wife said she knew nothing about them, but I felt that unless a burglar broke into the house and took them, she must have moved them. A 24-hour search began, starting where I thought she might have put them. I soon found one on her bedside table, so I knew that she must have moved them even though she had no memory of having done so.

Both of us had a very bad night, and Saturday morning she said that after further reflection she remembered finding one on the floor and putting it on her bedside table. But she had no inkling what happened to the second one.

I looked in the kitchen again, even going through the trash and garbage can piece by piece without success. Then I went through my office looking everywhere with the same result. At that time, having no place else to look, I told her I was giving up, resigned to pay whatever it cost for the replacement. I spent the day doing other things. Then, feeling tired, I lay down to rest. While there, I remembered that my mother always prayed to St. Anthony when she needed help finding something.

But I rejected the thought that it might help. It seemed as futile as my late mother-in-law's practice of placing a statue of St. Jude on her TV when the reception was not good. I never saw much improvement, but she seemed to draw some comfort from it. I decided it could not hurt to try once more.

On a chest where my wife has all sorts of little boxes with jewelry and other knickknacks, I opened a little box labeled Altoids Mints, filled with earrings. We had been through it several times. My eyes fell upon what looked like a partially hidden hearing aid. I kept staring at it, fearing I would be disappointed again. Slowly, I lifted it out, examined it, put it in my ear. It was the missing one.

Did St. Anthony help me? I do not know. But I do know that we spend too much time reveling (and writing) about what we know. We ought to pay more attention to what we do not know. Henry David Thoreau wrote: "Direct your eye right inward, and you will find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered."

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