Joseph Cramer, M.D.: 'It is not lost just misplaced'

Published: Monday, Dec. 9 2013 11:20 a.m. MST

We know these physical objects do not disappear by transforming from matter to pure energy. Besides what is the energy potential of one ankle-length, white cotton gym sock?

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If you happen to be a regular reader of this column, you should know by now I often can’t find things. On a recent vacation, I misplaced a black felt hat. I say misplaced because my mother would correct me. “It is not lost just misplaced.” In this case and others, bless my mother’s heart, she is wrong. The hat is gone, no more, non-existent, in the lost-but-not in the Found Department, irretrievably lost.

When one travels across the country or globe and fails to return with a hat he started with, it is lost. There is no misplacing about it. We have all misplaced our keys or perhaps even a child for a moment. Prayerful the child is quickly found, but the keys may take a little bit longer. They are misplaced.

There is probably no one in this world who has not lost something. Perhaps they were important pictures or documents. For others, glasses, articles of clothing, a purse, a wallet, a computer cable or a credit card have vanished. How about the class pictures from the seventh grade, the year of the braces? Thinking about that particular artifact one would want not only to lose but destroy it.

We know these physical objects do not disappear by transforming from matter to pure energy. Besides what is the energy potential of one ankle-length, white cotton gym sock?

Of course, we blame others. We imagine burglars who leave the stereo, TV and silver, and just grab one sock. They somehow enter the home without any evidence of a break-in, steal the sock from the dirty laundry bag, then escape into the night.

Then picture them trying to sell it on the street. “Hey, man, you want to buy a smelly gym sock?” Stained cotton, wool and synthetic blends, including some with holes in the toes, would fund whole criminal enterprises. I don’t think so.

Therefore, if these so-called misplaced objects are not in the drawer or on the shelf, then where are they? Is there some vertex in the space-time continuum that has been breached? Are they in a different dimension?

Erma Bombeck, a former columnist from Phoenix, surmised that lost socks went to some heaven. She speculated that only deity would know exactly where. It certainly feels like that. How is it possible that something is right here one minute and gone the next? The missing item was important, so you put it in a special place for safekeeping.

You distinctly remember putting it right there in that drawer and now it is gone. In fact, you use exactly those words, “distinctly remember.” It was not half-remember or sort-of-remember, it is distinct. Unfortunately, distinctly remember does not make the lost item appear. Instead, it probably condemns it to outer darkness.

If socks and hats and hearing aids and passports and computer-charging cords and shoes and credit cards don’t go to heaven or another sphere of existence, where are they? From the Marvel Comic character, Thor, we learn there is a creature called, the Collector. He must have them.

In contrast, magicians make things disappear all the time. The difference is the randomly selected participant from the audience in row 5 seat 14, who has never met the magician, always comes back. There is a trap door or some mirrors. However there are no trap doors in the Laundromat. I know. I have checked.

This disappearance of solid objects into thin air is tantamount to one losing his mind. We know it was here a minute ago, but now it is no longer on top of the shoulders.

In the Resurrection, there is supposed to be a reuniting of body and spirit. The question remains, is there a resurrection of stuff that is lost? Is there a reuniting of the owner and his watch or long-departed shoe? I certainly hope so. I really liked that hat.

Joseph Cramer, M.D, is a board-certified pediatrician, fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing physician for 30 years, a hospitalist at Primary Children Hospital and the University of Utah. He can be reached at jgcramermd@yahoo.com.

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