missing sons

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Glass shrapnel

*Jake has not yet been found. Thank you for checking in.

People ask me how I am, and I get stuck in a loop where I remember asking Jake the same thing when I knew he was suffering. I feel badly for the person asking me this question because I know the helplessness behind it, and I also feel badly because back then I didn’t know how to help Jake and now he’s somewhere unknown. So  I have truncated my responses. When asked how I am, I answer, “I’m upright.” And thus I avoid the loop.

But truncation leads to isolation. It could be argued that this is self-imposed and all concurrent effects are my own doing. I agree.  But it is infinitely easier to walk alone through the grief than to try to take care of the feelings of everyone around me.  This may or may not be black-and-white thinking. At this point I can’t tell. Heck, I feel badly even posting that I don’t want to take care of people’s feelings because hey, everyone’s only concerned, right?

I could leave it at that and shrug off anyone’s hurt feelings, but I care about those who’re asking me, and I understand the weird spot everyone is in here.

I am the designated driver. Everyone takes their cue from me.

I have puzzled over how to explain what it’s like to walk this path of unknowing, and I finally found a word that encapsulates it: shrapnel. It’s right next to my heart. No explosion put it there, so shrapnel is technically incorrect, but it’s a loaded word that communicates what I feel.

Dr. Christian C. Bannerman writes, in “Wound Foreign Body Removal,” that “[i]dentification of a foreign body can be difficult, depending on the type and location of the wound and the timing and mechanism of injury. Soft tissue foreign bodies most commonly occur secondary to penetrating or abrasive trauma, and they can result in patient discomfort, deformity, delayed wound healing, localized and systemic infection, and further trauma during attempts at removal.”

Delayed wound healing. *sigh*

The fact that Jake’s missing is like a miniscule speck of glass embedded inside me. I had a tiny sliver of glass buried in my foot once. I thought I’d gotten all the wound debris out, so when I felt any pain there I assumed it was just healing. After a week I realized that the spot wasn’t healing, so I went to work on it and eventually coaxed the little piece out and my foot finally healed properly. Lesson: listen to the pain.

This shard cuts deep. I know it’s there and rooting it out is impossible. I listen to that pain and look for small things I can do to make a difference in the day for someone else because focusing outward is the only way I’ve found to legitimately lessen the ache.

I found this song via Bones:
My favorite line:  Storms never come to stay.




The blog of missing: Anywhere but here.

Over the last 8 months I’ve focused on just, you know, staying in the precise center of my boat. I get hit by the waves but I haven’t been thrown overboard. No thanks to any skill I have, frankly. I’m just trying to get there. Wherever there is.

My there is anywhere but here. Here is where despair creeps like fog over the edges of my boat. The tendrils curl around the lip of the boat like fingers, and I know that if I give it too much attention it will yank the sides of the boat apart. I’ve stayed afloat this long by giving it the side-eye, but despair is relentless.

I want to hope.
I want to believe that Jake’s out there somewhere, being Jake.

I don’t.


Despair Machine


Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending how surly you feel–life is relentless, too.
Dawn comes whether you sleep or not.

I had an early morning meeting with people I value, in which we discussed issues and plans for the year. I came back and meditated on goals and lesson plans and syllabi and the dinner menu. I read the Word, which helps me maintain perspective. Last summer I worried that I would lose my faith over this ordeal.  I’d just returned to the faith and had found peace; I didn’t want to lose that.

I haven’t lost my faith.

I’ve learned that I can feel despair and yet feel peace.
I can ache and yet be okay.
I can be in despair and not be depressed.
I can be present for my son, Josh, and be glad for who he is.
I can go on dates with my husband and enjoy him.
I can be in despair and yet laugh.
I can be a ghost mother and walk in the desert and find joy in the things that have always made me happy.

Everything does not exist in the context of my missing son.

I haven’t lost. I’m not lost.

I know this on some level most of the time.
What I’m missing is hope.
Which maybe sounds like I’m not okay, and maybe I’m not.
I have peace with not being okay for now.

partial lyrics:

Have we eyes to see
That love is gathering?
All the words that I’ve been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
Into one, into one
So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below
And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down
‘Cause it’s the world I know
Oh it’s the world I know





Two hundred twenty one days of lossfulness

It’s been, let’s see–
May – 31 days
June – 30 days
July – 31
Aug – 31
Sept – 30
Oct – 31
Nov – 30
=221 days.

I do this mental count like it somehow gives me a handle on things. Counting. What is that, anyway? You count what counts? What?

221 days

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. enhanced-29172-1417629865-22

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 disapproving-husky-dog-is-judging-you



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 tumblr_m79x1s5eac1rbnvj3o1_400


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.