The Case of the Missing Phone

My beautiful Aunt

It had been a while since I last visited my 97-year-old aunt. She lives with her son and her grandson in the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains. As planned, I picked up my cousin Debbie and then drove to my tia Pilar’s house. While parking, both Debbie and I noticed a strange man watering the lawn. I immediately became an expert on people who are drug abusers. “This guy looks like a heroin addict!” Debbie was in agreement with my observation. I grabbed my purse and made sure that no valuables were left in the car. As we made our way to the door, the stranger greeted us. He was wearing a wife-beater tank and his arms were covered in tattoos; he was really frail looking too. He introduced himself as our aunt’s caregiver. “My name is Santos, because I am like a saint,” he said. “Oh, so you say you’re a saint?” I replied. Tia Pilar was sitting on her ottoman, waiting for us and asked if we could help her get her earrings on. Both Debbie and I could not accomplish this simple task. I set my purse on the table next to the ottoman and helped get my tia into her walker. As we were walking out I noticed a pair of sunglasses and my cell phone. I asked my tia if the sunglasses were hers and she answered, “No.” “Those are mine,” Santos replied. Pilar was still making her way to the car when she announced that maybe she should use her wheelchair instead. We called for her grandson Brian, and he came out to assist. While we were talking to Brian, another man was exiting the house. Debbie asked our aunt, “Is that Ruben (another grandson)?” Pilar answered, “No! I don’t know why he is here!” She was not happy about the situation. When the young man (Joe) was headed to his car I asked, “Who are you?” but either he could not hear me or he ignored me. Then he went back into the house to retrieve something and off he went.

We finally made it to the car and headed out to a Mexican restaurant in Redlands. We got settled in and the conversation was about my recent wedding. I wanted to share the blessed event with photos, but my phone was missing. I have the most ridiculous handbag with so many compartments; it took a while to discover that my phone was missing. I went out to the car, but still there was no phone. We ordered our food, but I could not eat because I knew for sure that I left my phone on the table. My tia suggested that I call the house, but neither my aunt nor my cousin brought their phones. I made the call from the restaurant and tia Pilar’s son Adam answered the phone. He told me that there was no phone on the table. I could not eat, besides I ordered the wrong meal (story of my life)! The mood at lunch was dismal and the conversation went from, “Don’t worry,” to “Do you think that guy took the phone?” When our food arrived, my aunt ordered cocido, a Mexican stew. It looked delicious and the serving portion could have fed half the restaurant. But my mind went back to the missing phone.

The Suspects

When we returned to Pilar’s house, I ran ahead of them and took the cushions apart where Pilar was sitting, but still there was no phone. Both Debbie and I were pretty certain that Joe or Santos took my phone. In a panic I called my daughter and told her the story. My daughter always puts a tracker on my phone. The last time my phone was stolen in Israel she tracked it to a city outside Jerusalem. “Mom, I never placed a tracker on this phone! Let me see what I can do. What is your Apple ID?” I did have the ID but it was in my phone. “I can’t help you! Don’t you remember it?” she sternly said. Of course, I had no idea what the Apple ID was.  In the meantime Adam was on the landline attempting to call Brian. “Where is Santos? Maybe he took my phone. Please call him.” Adam could not text Brian because he left his phone in the car that Brian was in. I was frantic and asked Debbie, “What should I do? Should I call the police?” Debbie said that it was Joe who took the phone and we needed to inform the police.


The Saint, Santos

Santos returned with a bouquet of fresh roses and a grocery bag. I could see through the plastic in the bag that he had purchased a variety of cat food. In my mind  Santos was not the thief. He truly is saintly. Who buys cat food for a cat that’s not even his.  And the flowers for my aunt was such a sweet gesture. So now that left Joe and maybe Brian.

The Police

My cousin Adam had a business card to the local sheriff’s because his bike recently had been stolen. Adam and my aunt got into a little heated argument. “I know Joe took my bike too! He should not be here!”

I was on the phone with the police. “Can I help you?” “Yes, I want to report a burglary!” I answered. “Okay, what happened?” the dispatcher asked. “My phone was stolen, and we know who took it.” “Well, ma’am, that’s not a burglary, it’s a theft.” “The name of the guy who took the phone is Joe, and he drives a gray Honda.” When those words came out of my mouth, I knew I turned into that crazed person, calling the police for petty theft. The dispatcher placed me on hold and told me that the sheriffs were busy, but if time allowed they would send someone out. My cousin Adam was certain that Joe took my phone as well. I stepped outside and said a prayer, “Dear God, please help me remember my Apple ID!” I called my daughter Sonja and between her and my husband Mike, they were able to change my passcode and lock the phone.


By the time Brian arrived, we all attacked him at the same time. “Please call Joe and tell him to bring my phone back! I called the police but we did not know Joe’s last name. What is his last name?” I asked. Brian looked at me blankly and said, “I don’t know.” In unison we all yelled, “How do you NOT know his last name?” I was worn out, and there was not a thing I could do. I looked at Brian and pleaded with him one more time. Brian, who has always oozed with charm, looked at me and said, “I’m going to get your phone back Lynda, I promise.” For some strange reason, I believed him. I kissed my aunt good-bye and turned to Brian and asked, “When?” Brian answered, “Today.”

Mea Culpa

When we got to Debbie’s house I needed to use the restroom. As I walked past  her dining table, there, in plain view  was my phone! I could not use it because it was locked. Thank God Debbie has a landline. The first call was to Pilar’s to inform her that I found the phone. Brian answered the phone, and I shared the great news. I heard him telling my aunt, “Lynda found the phone, praise God.” Then he hung up.

Now I understand the Confiteor prayer we say at the beginning of Mass. We strike our heart three times and say: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”

Eating Crow

If I could have gone through a drive-through with specialty foods, I would have ordered crow with a healthy portion of humble pie. I felt so terrible, and this all started with me judging Santos. The phone on the table was not mine; it belonged to Santos. Santos does help with my tia: he cleans the house, does the yard and buys her groceries. He is a recovering heroin addict and a living example of a successful rehab story.

My tia Pilar has always opened her doors to people who are one step away from being homeless. Though we may not agree with some of the characters that swing in and out of her front door,  she has provided a temporary safe haven for them. I came to the realization that she, too, is a saint because she’s trusting them to live in her home.

On the drive home I headed directly to our grandson’s baseball game. My husband Mike greeted me with these words: “Why did the San Bernardino Sheriff call me?”

My Prayer

Dear Lord, please forgive me for judging others because of their outward appearance. Help me to understand those who are struggling to find a place to live. Give me the heart of a loving servant, and remove the worldly attachment I have to my phone. Lord, I ask for Your forgiveness in this disastrous oversight on my behalf. I pray that my tia Pilar and my cousins would forgive me as well. Amen.

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