It’s been, let’s see–
May – 31 days
June – 30 days
July – 31
Aug – 31
Sept – 30
Oct – 31
Nov – 30
I do this mental count like it somehow gives me a handle on things. Counting. What is that, anyway? You count what counts? What?
Three digits. Macro in micro.
Two hundred twenty one days since Jake went missing.
It’s winter now, and it’s cold everywhere.
I put on my slippers and I think of Jake’s feet.
Not just, “Are they cold?”
I remember him wearing shoes that were too small. That made him limp. I am fixated on this.
Why did he wear shoes that were too small? I forgot what he said. I don’t like that I forgot something he told me.
I walk outside in the morning, feel the bite in the air, and wonder where Jake slept last night. If he slept. If he’s even alive.
Yesterday was his birthday. I navigated through my responsibilities with remarkable aplomb, and gave myself space to breathe, and did some genealogy research on Susan B. Anthony because I’m pretty sure we’re connected, which resonates in me fiercely. Doing such research seems to be the way I get out of my head most effectively. It’s a problem to be solved that CAN be solved.
There’ve been several birthdays I didn’t get to celebrate with him because of our estrangement. I’d adjusted–I knew he was in town then. Mad at me for inexplicable reasons, but safe.
Every year I remember his 18th birthday and laugh, because that day I’d taken him to San Diego and on the way back got pulled over by CHP for going too slow in the second fast lane. Jake’d been making me laugh. If you know him, you know how he is. I hear the bloop of the siren and toodle over to the side of the road, roll down my passenger window and the cop leans down to talk to me.
“Ma’am. Did you not see my lights in your rearview? Did you not see everyone passing you? License and registration, please.”
I know my jaw dropped. I got pulled over for nonspeeding. For driving like a granny. How can you not laugh at something so absurd? Oh, how I laughed.
The cop frowned at me.
It did not squelch me.
The cop asked, “What’re you laughing at? You think this is funny? Are you laughing at me?”
“Sir, no, no, no. I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m the funny one here. I’m funny. I’m laughing at myself.” And continued laughing.
The cop stood up abruptly, and I’m guessing he might’ve been struggling not to laugh and it’s not good protocol to laugh with someone you pull over, right?
Jake’s looking at me like
Then the cop bent down to the window, handed back my stuff, and said, “Lady, stay over in the right lane. You can go 40 miles an hour and it won’t be a problem. You can go as SLOOOOWWWW as you want.”
And he looked at me like
I wonder what Jake remembers about that. Did he think about it yesterday?
I thought about what I could have done differently that could have prevented …whatever this is. I don’t even have a name for it because I don’t know…anything.
Today is harder than yesterday was because I don’t have anyone depending on me for anything. So, time to think. And actually, no. It isn’t harder. It’s more feel-y. Feely and thinky. So here I am. Counting.
24 days till the end of December. The end of 2016.
17 days till I get to see my youngest son, Josh.
140 books to Urban Life in San Diego.
50 books to one of my students for the ASES program where she tutors.
Today I’ll be counting squares I sew on my sister’s quilt.
Tomorrow I’ll be counting toys that my RWS 100 students are donating to Toys for Tots at SDSU-IV.
Counting what counts.
Nothing adds up. It doesn’t change anything. Counting doesn’t matter.
But it quantifies things so that I feel like my existence matters. I make differences that I can sometimes count in the midst of the intangible, unquantifiable fog of loss. I’m enshrouded by the uncountable. We all are.
But I hear Morgan Freeman saying this in his “God” voice:
So, okay, it’s raining and foggy and uncountably lossful.
And I’m reminded of another Jake story.
He was five years old. It was raining outside, raining so hard it hit the sidewalk with fat splats that sounded like hundreds of small wet mops slapping the ground. Jake cocked his head, listening to it, and asked, “Mommy, what’s that pokeness?”
My heart still leaps at that word. I love its descriptiveness, its logic.
We went outside and stood in the rain, listening to it hit our faces and clothes and the sidewalk. The wet didn’t matter. It was just part of the day. The dichotomy in the picture below is unnecessary and oxymoronic, but I think the underlying idea must be to move into the uncountable. Move with it. Some of it becomes part of who you are, like the ache that seems normal now. The ache makes me weigh things differently. The rest of the uncountable will eventually lift. I know this because I’ve been here before and survived.