Like she does most days, Maya Patrick walked out her front door ready for another round of classes at the UNC School of the Arts.
Some days she walks to campus; others, she unlocks her white cruiser bike and pedals overs. “I live pretty close,” she said.
When Patrick went out Monday, she found the freshly cut remnants of her lock lying in the driveway. Her bike was gone.
And she was heartbroken.
Not because it was some fancy racing machine that cost as much as a reliable used car; it was a simple Target model. Nor was it because she had been ripped off.
Rather, Patrick was crushed because the bike belonged to her dad, a 62-year-old who died of COVID-19 hundreds of miles away in a Michigan hospital.
“It wasn’t expensive,” she said. “It’s value is more sentimental. It connected me to my dad.”
After the theft, Patrick, 23, a senior at UNCSA, reacted the way many people do these days. Instead of stapling handwritten reward posters to telephone poles, she took to social media to plead for it’s return.
“*******PLEASE READ AND SHARE********
Hey Fb Friends and especially the Winston-Salem community. I need your help,” her Facebook post begins.
She went to describe the bike - it’s a Kent Glenridge Men’s 700 cc Hybrid Bike - and added a few photos. “If you have any information or have seen it please message me,” she wrote. “And if the person who took it sees this, please simply return it/turn it in and I’ll be satisfied.”
But Patrick’s story, her plea, isn’t about a bike. It never was.
Her father, Craig Patrick, grew up and lived in Detroit. He was an Air Force veteran, a graduate of Michigan State University and an engineer. He’d moved in with his father so that he could care for him full-time.
He enjoyed riding; he didn’t own a car and the Glenridge was his main form of transportation. Craig Patrick was divorced - nothing unusual there - and remained friendly with his ex-wife, Maya’s mother. “Mom would take him to the grocery and check in on him,” Maya Patrick said.
He was an animal lover, too. Maya said that her father would feed the squirrels and ducks near his place at the same time every day to the point they knew when to gather.
“We joked that he was like a Disney princess because he loved all the animals and they loved him,” she said.
On one of those check-in calls in April, Maya Patrick said she overheard him say to her mother that he hadn’t eaten in three days and that he'd lost his appetite. A few days after that, Maya Patrick said, her mom found him in his bedroom suffering from a stroke.
“It’s one of those things COVID can cause,” Maya Patrick said.
Like tens of thousands of other Americans, Craig Patrick needed to be hospitalized.
And like many of the more than 200,000 who have died, Craig Patrick spent much of that time alone, in isolation.
His condition, Maya Patrick said, seemed as if it was on the upswing and then it would deteriorate.
His struggle eventually arrived at a place everyone fears. A daughter knew she had to get home to say goodbye. “It got to the point where I had to think about getting a flight,” she said.
Her friends wouldn’t hear of it, though. The pandemic was raging, and air travel was still considered risky. They piled her into a car and drove her the 600 miles to Detroit.
“I got to be with him for three hours,” Maya Patrick said. “That was really nice.”
Craig Patrick died April 29.
In the days after, Maya and her family went to clean out his apartment - one of those crummy tasks that has to be done. They found a trove of photos, shed some tears and shared good memories.
Then there was the matter of that bike. Maya asked her sisters if anyone wanted it, and if not, she would like to have it. She knew it had made her dad happy, and that in turn made her happy.
So she brought it back to Winston-Salem.
Then somebody stole it from her driveway.
“I appreciate all of the support and effort that everyone put into this and can’t thank all of you enough,” Maya wrote in a Facebook update posted Wednesday. “I’m not giving up, I’m really hoping whoever took the bike sees how much it means to be me or at least sees how much everyone is paying attention and turns it in.”
The search isn’t about a bike; it never was. It’s about connection, and an immeasurable loss.