In the past week, Anne Caplin keeps coming back to one word: Where?
Where did Harvey go? Where could he be?
Last Tuesday evening, when she left their Glencoe home for a quick drive to the post office, she asked her husband if he'd like to come along.
"You don't need me for that," she recalls him saying.
When she returned, he was gone.
By all appearances, Harvey Caplin, at 82, had walked out into the dark night, alone. There was snow on the ground and ice on the quiet street, with the temperature headed toward zero.
To judge by what he left behind, Caplin was wearing his black leather jacket and a medical bracelet but no boots, no gloves. The brown cowboy hat he loved was still in the front hall closet.
"What I think happened was, he changed his mind," Anne Caplin said this Tuesday afternoon, sitting next to the fire in her living room, her small feet bare to keep winter slush off the floors. "He wanted to come with me."
By the time he reached the garage, she speculates, she had driven off.
Harvey Caplin was a walker, a familiar sight in Glencoe, a tranquil North Shore suburb of wide front yards and big trees. Even after dementia set in, he might walk several miles a day, often to the Starbucks in the village, where he liked the coffee and the pretty girls, though he sometimes forgot his wallet.
Once in a while, back when he still carried his cellphone, he'd call his wife, disoriented, and after she quizzed him on where he was, she'd go pick him up.
He hadn't walked much in the past few months, though, slowed by a condition that caused him to fall, and then by surgery to fix it. He rarely went anywhere without his wife, and she rarely went anywhere without him.
"He was glued in my pocket," she said.
Except that Tuesday night on the quick trip to the post office.
On that evening, an ambulance and squad cars were outside the Caplins' ranch house, which abuts a forest preserve, within minutes of her call. An officer slept outside in his car all night, she said, and a man from family services sat with her until 3:30 in the morning.
Odds were that Harvey would make it home. From time to time, Glencoe police say, other residents with dementia have vanished for a while; they rarely wander far and are usually found within a few hours.
The hours passed. And then the days.
Several people reported seeing someone who looked like Harvey, walking; one sighting was along a spur of the Edens Expressway.
Law enforcement officers, aided by volunteers, scoured the forest preserve, the lagoons. There were scores of searchers, along with bloodhounds, helicopters and snowmobiles. Police went door to door asking residents to check around their homes.
During those days, the weather was close to unbearable for humans, yet it brought some small blessings to the search.