Papa loved to go walking. The first two years he lived with us we occasionally accompanied him, but often he made it quite clear that he wanted to go alone. Though we were sometimes reluctant, we also did not wish to overdo the supervision. He expressed a desire for independence and we gave it to him. Sometimes his walking ventures successfully ended back home, but many times they didn't.
He was always very proud of himself when he safely found his way home. And when he realized he was hopelessly lost, he did not hesitate to ask for assistance. During the summertime, people were often out in their yards so he would stop and tell them he was lost. Sometimes they were able to query him sufficiently to get a last name and then check the telephone directory. When the phone call came, we would hustle off to retrieve him. At other times Papa was unable to accurately communicate his name and eventually we would hear from the police, either to pick him up at the station or to give an address for them to deliver him.
I'll never forget the day I discovered him gone for much longer than expected and knew I'd receive a phone call sooner or later. When it came, the police indicated where they were with him and it was a short distance up the hill from our house so I suggested I would come get him. The scene as I approached the address nearly had me double over in laughter. Three policemen stood encircling Papa on the driveway of a home while two police cruisers sat precariously on the street. Apparently he had gone to the door of this home and the woman inside was afraid so called the police. He could not be more mild mannered and to see him being treated like a criminal was rather humorous.
As getting lost became more the norm we knew his independent walking trips were history. At first I would allow him to leave independently and then follow half a block behind so he still thought he was walking alone and I had the security of knowing where he was. When he became obviously lost I would approach him and offer to direct him home. Sometimes he expressed awe that I had found him.
This strategy worked for a while but when he took a turn down the alley to collect rocks and disappeared before I caught up, I knew we had to insist on accompanying him. Once again I was reminded that my time was not my own because Papa often wanted to go for walks, several times a day. He was frequently bored and walking helped to occupy time. I slowly learned not to begrudge these interruptions to my day because the walks were good for my health too.