Suzanne Tobias

Suzanne Perez Tobias: Gadget lost, perspective found

In the grand scheme of things – a world riddled by war, famine, fires and floods – a missing iPod is inconsequential.

It is a thing. A gadget. A toy.

It’s embarrassing to say you love it or can barely live without it, as my daughter did, or to nod knowingly, as my husband and I did, because you realize even as you do that it’s ridiculous. A missing iPod is a microbe on a flea on the big toe of the elephant of your life. It is nothing.

But when something – anything – goes missing, when it suddenly vanishes from the kitchen table into the atmosphere, you tend to obsess. Or maybe that’s just me.

When it costs a couple hundred bucks – untold months of babysitting, house-sitting and other odd jobs for the average teenager – and contains photos from a concert that was the highlight of your life, you tend to panic. Or maybe that’s just Hannah.

So we searched the house. We searched the cars. We retraced Hannah’s steps. We found the last thing she posted on Instagram and said, “OK, where were you standing when you took that picture of the dogs? Where did you go next? …”

We turned the house upside-down and inside-out. We called friends. We looked in all the typical places (purses, jackets, drawers, couch cushions) and the non-typical ones (shoes, closets, fridge, recycling bin, dog dish).

We searched, then sighed. Searched a little longer, then said what everyone does in this situation:

“Well, it can’t have just walked away!”

“I didn’t just disappear!”

“It has to be here somewhere.”

You’d think. But it wasn’t. Isn’t.

Along the way, Hannah experienced all the requisite stages of grief: denial (“No, it’s not lost. It’s here in this house…”); anger (“It’s gone forever and I DON’T DESERVE THIS!!”); bargaining (“If only I had put it back on the charger… If only I had installed that find-my-phone app…”); and depression (“I’m sad and iTunes-less. I need a hug.”)

The last stage, acceptance, eludes her still.

At the dinner table on Day 3 of the search – about the time you officially “give up” but still randomly open drawers and shuffle things around, or lie on your stomach at the door of the pantry to shine a flashlight behind the potatoes – Hannah shook her head.

“This would be easier if I’d just left it on some shelf at the mall,” she said. “I’d go back, and it probably wouldn’t be there, and I’d say, ‘Oh well, someone took it. It’s gone.’

“Or if it fell on the floor and shattered into a billion pieces,” she added. “That would be better.”

I nodded. Amazingly, yes. I’d prefer a billion pieces of iPod to this uncertainty.

I chatted with friends who knew the feeling well.

“Buy a new one,” one said on Facebook. “That will guarantee the old one will show up. Oh, and as you’re looking, let me know if you find my keys.”

“I will pray to St. Anthony,” said another.

That seemed at once ridiculous and comforting. Pray for a lost iPod? Not being Catholic, I researched the prayer out of curiosity and discovered several that reminded me of children’s verses:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony,

Please come down,

Something is lost

And can’t be found.

Or this:

Dear St. Anthony, I pray,

Bring it back without delay.

Then I found a version of the novena that goes: “O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find (name the item) which has been lost …”

I smiled at the matter-of-fact, nonjudgmental “name the item,” which proves it’s OK, I suppose, to pray about anything, even an iPod. Then I read on:

“At least restore to me peace and tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss. …”

Yes, I thought. “Restore to me peace and tranquility of mind.” At least that.

That loss is the true affliction at times like these, isn’t it? And so many, many other times.

Whether we’re pining for a lost gadget or a lost relationship, mislaid car keys or misplaced faith, having things means losing them, at least sometimes. It can seem like the end of the world, but it isn’t.

You’ll find the thing, or you won’t. You’ll get angry and throw things or shrug and go on with your day. You’ll learn that loss is part of life.

You might even say it’s good for the soul.