Memoir of an aging Zebra.

Real Estate Agent with Jameson Sotheby's International Realty

It was a number of years ago... the assisted living facility has "misplaced" our mother.

"What do you mean she's missing?"

"Well, she didn't get back to her room after dinner... "

"Dinner?!  It's nine o'clock... dinner was five hours ago...   Mom has been missing for five hours!?"

"Well, we've looked all over the campus, we've checked everyone's rooms, the stairwells, the elevators... we suspect she may have left the building".

"We'll be right there".

My sister and I drove the 30 minutes to the facility and joined in the search.  I drove around the neighbourhood hoping that I would spot her Zebra print jacket that she always wore.  The police had been called, and we gave them a recent picture, and sent them out looking for her.  After all, she could be anywhere in the city of Chicago.

The police determined based on surveillance footage, that she HAD indeed left the building.  I could barely get her to walk to the elevator, but there she was cruising out the front door, and down the street... like a 60-year-old.

Eventually they reviewed the security footage at the grocery store a half mile south of her building, and there she was "sampling" the grapes in the fruit section.  But by the time we got there, she was gone.  Dang she moves fast for an 80-year old with a walker.

It took a couple more hours... and they finally found her walking through the parking lot of the Greek Orthodox church, now, about a 1/2 mile to the NORTH of her building.  She'd walked over a mile.  Amazing.

She was fine... she was surprised to see us "What are you doing here?!" she asked.  "We're here looking for you... where have you been?"  "I've been right here" she said.  "No, you haven't... the police just brought you home".

"Oh!?" she said with a quirky smile... she almost seemed amused.

relief.  I'd love to be back there, now.  Mom's still around... in a more secure facility, and a far away look.

Posted by

 ALAN MAY, Realtor®   
Specializing in Evanston Real Estate and North Shore Real Estate

Jameson Sotheby's International Realty, 2934 Central Street, Evanston, IL 60201
Office: 847.869.7300      Cell: 847.924.3313      Email:

Evanston Real Estate & North Shore Real Estate
Licensed in Illinois



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Mimi Foster
Falcon Property Solutions - Colorado Springs, CO
Voted Colorado Springs Best Realtor

Oh, Alan. It's hard to find words to respond to this. Having been the caregiver in our home for the last ten years of my mother's life, I can attest to the fact that it's not always easy. I'm so very patient with older people because sooner than I know, I'm going to be one. Really makes you wonder how she made it so far so fast.

Feb 20, 2020 08:31 PM #1
Sussie Sutton
David Tracy Real Estate - Houston, TX
David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers

Geez Alan... I am so sorry that she has that far away look. That just kills me. I remember daddy laying in his bed; just waiting, not being able to see nor hear. Well he is past that now. Miss him terribly. 

Feb 20, 2020 08:45 PM #2
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Alan. Not a phone call I would like to receive for sure. Glad she is in a more secure location. Enjoy your day! 

Feb 21, 2020 04:16 AM #3
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team

My mother is 97 and in a local nursing home.... her dementia is progressively worse  but she is physically strong in her wheelchair....those feet can move that chair up and down the hallways and the doors are alarmed.... when one goes off, they all know it's Gladys trying to escape!

Feb 21, 2020 05:38 AM #4
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Oh... that must have been such a difficult evening. So full of worry and frustration. And so sad that now she's stuck inside herself. From personal experience, I know how hard that all is. So sad what brain diseases can do to us.

Feb 21, 2020 05:54 AM #5
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Alan. What a frightening story. We all have something.....either dealing with the stages of a parents demise or grieving their loss all too soon.

Feb 21, 2020 06:48 AM #6
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

right in the feelz...yes, even engineers have them.

Feb 21, 2020 07:55 AM #7
Candice A. Donofrio
Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial RE Broker - Fort Mohave, AZ
928-201-4BHC (4242) call/text

LOL, oh wow, what a relief and so blithe.

And I am glad this was not a trip down the Zebragate memory lane! LOL

Feb 21, 2020 09:13 AM #8
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Alan- my mother was much the same as yours. Physically, she had no problem getting around but it was where she might go that was a concern. But that said, she very content in not knowing. 

Feb 21, 2020 04:29 PM #9
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I'm so sorry. The next time you see her, give her an extra hug from a stranger in Idaho.

Feb 21, 2020 08:34 PM #10
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Alan:

What a dreadful experience to live through. Thank goodness she was alright.


Feb 22, 2020 10:21 AM #11
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Oh that's  a scary sad that as we age, often confusion and dementia follow

Feb 22, 2020 01:37 PM #12
Steve Loynd
Alpine Lakes Real Estate Inc., - Lincoln, NH
800-926-5653, White Mountains NH

My mother just turned 82, I think I will have her fitted with a GPS... glad this Zebra was found

Feb 23, 2020 05:28 AM #13
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Oh Alan, what a story.     I'm sorry your mom now has that far-away look.     My mom is fading - my husband never got to meet the former powerhouse brilliant woman / concert pianist she used to be.     But, I'm grateful both parents are still with me.    As you say, sometimes we catch glimpses of who they used to be....

Feb 24, 2020 09:51 AM #14
Gloria Benaroch
Heritage House Sotheby's International - Rumson, NJ
Monmouth County Real Estate,Author, CRS, e-Pro

How wonderfully you regaled a not so funny incident. My heart goes out to you. Give her a hug frim the Jersey Shore. 


Feb 24, 2020 11:32 AM #15
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Good for her for making the escape and sampling the grapes!  We're all in this same boat it seems.

Feb 25, 2020 04:56 PM #16
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

That must have been a crazy story.  Thank goodness for cameras!  So sorry, but I guess it is what it is.  We all age one day at a time.  Visiting a client this past week in Assisted Living and he smiled and wouldn't let go of my hand.  Heart warming and sad at the same time.  Losing clients is like losing family sometimes.  All the best to you and your family :)

Mar 01, 2020 02:19 PM #17
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