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No time for a break

One benefit of being busy with work and school is that you have no mulling minutes. Everything’s coagulated beneath the surface, cold and solid.
But a congealed bloodclot at any stage is really only a blockage that prevents hemorrhaging.

I don’t have time for a break of any kind: no heartbreak, especially. And I think this squeezed space is part of what fuels my impatience with my schedule.
I think I want time to mull, but I don’t. I don’t.

What does Jake look like now? Has he given up wearing shoes that are too tight? Does he wear shoes? Does he even exist? It seems like a mother should sense these things, and I don’t sense anything. I have no knowing in my bones, just this soft scab that will not bear picking at.

Jake’s birthday is coming up. It’s just another day, without him.

Not Jake.

A briefly anonymous man was featured on the news up in San Francisco. He’d been found at 170 Pacific Avenue in San Francisco. 6’2″, 350+ lbs.
An acquaintance on Facebook alerted me to the news clip, and when I saw the photo I was convinced my son had been found.


https://abc7news.com/society/sf-hospital-needs-help-identifying-patient-in-its-care-/6171263/

Patient at Zuckerberg Hospital in San Francisco

I’ve blown this image up 300% to look for some clue for yea or nay, and his best friend does not think it’s Jake, but I can’t unsee the strong resemblance. It’s difficult because his face is swollen, and I can’t see his eyes, yet his eyebrows, nose, and beard are uncannily similar.

So I contacted his former commander in the National Guard, the officer who has been diligent on his case, the San Francisco hospital contact, the San Francisco Sheriff’s office, and the NamUs database volunteer.

DOJ has identified this man based on his fingerprints; this man’s name is not Jake Furrer. I am not satisfied with this, but I don’t know if this can be pressed much further than what I have already done.

Here is my quandary: I’ve said before that my longing to know where Jake is is not more important than his right to privacy. How loving is it to chase someone to the ends of the earth when they don’t want to be found? What would love do? Would love keep chasing? Some would argue yes. Love does not give up. But if I keep chasing, who am I serving? He was not a child when he disappeared. His mental state has been my chief worry, but what if he simply felt he could not safely be himself here in the Valley?

I’ve been told numerous times that not finding a corpse is unusual. My problem with that is how easy it is to be anonymous if you really want to. It’s easy for a scraggly, smelly person to die unnoticed on the streets anywhere because they are unseen. My son could be one of them.

The words in the email from the hospital spokesperson had a sense of finality to them. I begged that they check for a tattoo or scar, but they’ve got those fingerprints, and they’re very sorry about my missing son.

How very tired and broken I am over this. Despair leaches me. I’m not angry with God, but I wonder why I must bear so much.

I’m not the only person to wonder this. Not the only person to suffer so. I’ve been thinking of moms whose children have killing diseases, dads who can’t see their kids, little ones who are trapped in abusive homes. The weight of the world crushes us. What are we to do about it?

I will tell you how people have helped me: they don’t forget. Oh, maybe for a little while, but they come back and they ask, have you found Jake yet? They tell me they’re praying for all of us, that they think of Jake often.
Today people checked on me.

Nothing assuages the grief, but the connecting comforts me. I will always have an open sore, but people will always be the salve.

Days uncounted

I get to see my missing son when I sleep.
He looked like Jake, but his voice was childish, like when he was 7 years old. I thought in the dream that it was because his circumstances had made him more childish–he spoke of what gas stations would let him pick off the ground, and of people shoving him away from them with such force that I saw that he winced when he touched himself.

He stashed little boxes inside his shirt to hold food and treasures, and although he had politely declined food when I bought a sandwich for myself, when I couldn’t finish it he eagerly accepted it from me then, and I saw how he had altered, and the grief woke me up.

And now I’m awake, and I’m cognizant that this Jake is a construct of my mind, and it occurs to me that I am perhaps losing the sound of his actual voice.

I fell asleep in the wee hours thinking that Jake could be mad at me, that he is staying away because he does not want me in his life. Apparently my subconscious mind rejects that notion, or just cannot deal with it.

I have never dreamt of finding his lifeless body. I suppose I think it often enough when I’m awake that my subconscious knows I’ve got that covered.

I remember a fellow writer asking me why I thought all these horrible things. Why not assume he is happy?

Jake could be happy and at peace and relieved to have his own life away from family. He could be happy without me in his life. How unpleasant for me, thinking that. Of course it makes better sense to his mom that he’s miserable and helpless without her. Or dead. How self-centered and self-serving.

I want him to be happy, to make friends, have a family. I wish I could be part of it, but the best solace is in assuming he is alive and thriving.

I’ll be grieving for myself, of course, but I’m clearer now.



The October 2018 Files

Part 1:  October 21, 2018
I’m still not in. Not mentally. Not in my body. Not in my sanity.

Rollercoaster is a cliche.  “Being on a roller-coaster” doesn’t fit any experience like this because 1) you choose to get on roller-coasters, and 2) you can get off.

I’m on fire and grey-cold.

You know how your skin feels when you have a sunburn, like layers have been scorched off and the tips of your nerves are exposed and if someone breathes on you you go through the roof? My soul feels like that. The weight of a gaze like hot breath on seared skin. The weight of words in the air.  The weight of my thoughts. It’s ridiculous to try to make this tangible, but I need words for everything.

I am waiting for final confirmation that the body found in Ocotillo is not Jake. I got my preliminary answer to this far faster than I expected because my husband called the right person, not the person I pointed him toward. He got nowhere by calling the coroner so he called someone he knew–and I had an answer that evening. Dental records do not match.  Thank God for smart husbands.

I myself called the coroner. Got an answering machine, left a message. Called the officer on Jake’s case. Emailed the missing persons’ case manager for the unidentified body. Neither the coroner nor the case manager returned my messages, but the officer did, and he thinks that he should have the confirmation by tomorrow. Or negation.  We shall see.

 

I am coping with quilting, of course. It works because the emotion part of the brain hibernates while the rational part is focused on something else.

Part 2: October 24, 2018

My phone died this morning just as the police officer was about to either confirm or deny that the remains were Jake’s. All he got out before I lost him was, “I just want to let you know–.”

I could not get re-connected to a power source for an hour, and during that hour I realized two things:

  1.  “I just want to let you know” is different from “I’m calling to inform you.” Somehow I knew this immediately, but it took me a bit to figure out why I wasn’t in full-blown panic.  “I just want to let you know” is informal–I just wanna let you know your car trunk is open/your fly is open/your dog is running wild in the streets again/your cat has made my flowerbed a toilet/the check is in the mail/I won’t be there today.  Such benign things. I just want to let you know.”I’m calling to inform you” is formal and menacing–I’m calling to inform you that your bank account is overdrawn/your car needs a new engine/your mother is in the hospital/there’s been an accident/those are your son’s remains.
    Words mattered hard today. In this case they kept me from throwing up or running off the road.
  2.  It’s a bad idea not to carry a charging cord everywhere when you’re waiting for news. I’m always waiting, really, so this is a timely reminder to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’ll just stick them with every set of reading glasses I have.

The remains that’ve given me fretful sleep do not belong to Jake, but DOJ is still going to run a DNA test. I don’t know why they’re doing that except as a final check, but I’ll take it. The coroner’s office is also going to request another set of remains be compared to my DNA, and possibly others that they’ve found in the past two years. While I’m relieved these weren’t Jake’s remains, I’m now sick with the old lurking dread that his actual remains will surface.

I’ll be adding to this post but for now I’ll leave you with this:
If you struggle with what to say to someone who is suffering, this page has some helpful info.

HOW TO SHOW EMPATHY – WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY

I’m sharing Brene Brown’s video here, too, so I have it in my media files. If you want to connect with me, to help in any way, I ask that you watch this video. It will help others, too.

 

 

 

The Land of Of Course

I’m not here right now.
I’m mentally out in the desert, trying to retrace the steps I imagine my son must have taken in the last months of his life. Weeks?

I don’t know he’s dead yet, but signs are pointing to it.
I don’t know what shoes he was wearing, I don’t know that it’s his remains that have been found, but the possibility…the possibility has opened up a new door I have never considered.
Through that door I see the of-course truth. Information flyers would not be seen in the desert. Who looks at flyers in the desert? No one. The desert has no trees to nail flyers to, and even so, the one out there was seeking to escape and would have ignored them anyway. Of course he wasn’t found. No one looked for him there. Not even his mother. I did not look for my son in the desert. I am the mother who let her son die of thirst and hunger in the desert.
I am not here right now. I am watching my son die, over and over.

I am driving myself crazy, of course. I am in of-course land.
Of course he didn’t hitch a ride and get out of dodge.
Of course he just kept walking away from town–I drove him away by making everyone look for him and he had no transportation. He had to walk.
But those shoes…. Did he own Adidas? Or was he still wearing those tight boots?

Of course it’s not my fault he was grieving and needed space. Of course it’s my fault he had no place to land, that he wasn’t found safe.
Of course I didn’t know, should have known he was wandering in the desert hoping to die. And then he did. Did he?

I think he must be dead, and I am just waiting confirmation. What a miserable place to be in, this in-between knowing and guessing. I am thinking the worst because it makes sense. Hope doesn’t make sense.

I cannot sleep. I know I must, but my brain will not shut up.
I am trying to figure out how to live the rest of my life with a dead son. Others have done it, so I think it can be done, but it does not feel possible right now.

His mental health was worse than I suspected. I don’t know how I can forgive myself for letting him down.
Of course life goes on.
Of course the sun will rise in a few hours, unfairly, indifferently, brightly.
Of course students will turn work in.
Of course my stomach will rumble.
Of course Jake’s unit could use wet wipes on deployment.
Of course I’m tired.
Of course he died.

Unidentified Persons Case #17369

In the news today it was reported that a body was found near Glamis, or partial remains. Now I don’t remember and I don’t have the heart to go back and look it up because I rabbit-trailed over to the Missing Person’s site and found an unfortunately promising lead.

This: https://www.namus.gov/UnidentifiedPersons/Case#/17369/details is what I found.
If you scroll to the bottom, you will see, after

Condition of Remains
Not recognizable – Partial remains with soft tissues

Clothing and Accessories
Item     Description    Accessories

Black bag  Near the Body

Footwear

Black and white Adidas shoe size 13          On the Body

 
 

Jake’s shoe size is/was 13. Part of why he limped was that he’d insisted on cramming his feet into size 10 boots.
So if these are Jake’s remains, he was at least wearing shoes that fit.

   

Why, in the face of insane tragedy, do we focus on ridiculous details?
How will I breathe?

 

I need to know. To this end I’ve emailed the case manager and a PI.
I also do not want to know.

 

And oh, my famous words, finding meaning.
There’s no meaning in this hideous suffering, only in doing something useful.

 

I was not careful in what I wished for, was I? http://onegirlriot.com/2017/11/27-november-2017/  Why wasn’t I more careful with my words?

The only hope I have is that they ran the DNA through a database and came up with nothing.
I am sick with hope.
I should have kept looking for him.
I should have guessed he would have walked till he dropped.

 

Today’s partial sanity is brought to you by quilting and the sound of rain:

And an insistent cat.

When your son might be dead

My hold on equanimity is precarious. I’m fixated on “Jake’s totally off the grid, if he’s alive and well.”
The implication is that he probably is not alive.

This supposition does not bring closure because there’s no body.
When others suppose your son could be dead, it only just barely penetrates your awareness. You can think the thoughts, but the actual possibility sits on the periphery, like the time your mother told you her cancer had metastasized and you were surprised when she died because you had this membrane of denial protecting you.

Except that membrane now has a couple of tears in it, and images of what could have happened to your son ooze in and take root and grow until all you see in your mind are barrels of acid, withered, leathery flesh, white bones, ragged t-shirts and holey shoes, a lone skeleton propped against a tree in meager shade.

It’s not just that he is dead. It’s how he died. Where he died. If he died.
When your son might be dead, you grieve and hope simultaneously.
The boy I swore to protect, my beloved young son–vibrant, lifeless, vibrant, lifeless, vibrant, lifeless.

I saw a license plate frame two days ago that tore the membrane: The best mothers graduate to be grandmothers.
Another mom’s celebration just tore my denial veil.
And again, I’m reminded of my mother. When she wrote about my decision to give a baby up for adoption many years ago, she described “grandmother empties.” But adoption is not death.

A disappearance is not death, and neither is another person’s supposition.
This is a comfort, this tiny flickering flame.

It’s wondrous that it has not been doused. It’s like one of those unkillable candles that you hate to have on your birthday cake.

I don’t usually tell people I’m praying for them because I think practical help is a better way to show love and support. But I accept and respect that others are praying for me because I sense this. I’m a strong person, but I can’t manufacture inner peace. I can meditate, but we’ve seen where my thoughts go.  I’m dealing with monstrous grief and I have questionable coping skills and I have this inextinguishable flame.  If you are praying for me, thank you.

I have no idea what will transpire. I cannot affect the physical outcome. I’m helpless, and I’m a reminder that we all are. But Viktor Frankl reminds me that I have the freedom to find meaning in the midst of my suffering. He states that even in the most miserable circumstances life has meaning. And he himself lived this truth when he was in a concentration camp. I’m living it now. Just as Jake is irreplaceable, so am I.

I have found that making quilts grounds me, so that’s what I do in my spare time.
Here is one I completed for my beloved Aunt Nancy:

 

Detail:

 

 

http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org/About_Logotherapy.html

 

Day something

Today I heard from my P.I. friend that “Jake’s totally off the grid, if he’s alive and well. I remember that last year all of the P.I.s that helped us were shocked to see how nothing is current in any database, even the one a lot of us think is the best.”

If he’s alive and well.

Jake is certainly capable of going completely off-grid intentionally. Was capable?

limbo

1

[lim-boh]

noun, plural lim·bos.

  1.  [not applicable]
  2. place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside,forgotten, past, or out of date: My youthful hopes are
    in the limbo of lost dreams. I am in limbo.
  3. an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place. 

Transitional. This is a transition from…what? To what?

TO WHAT?

878 days missing

When I calculated the days for this year so far, I was surprised that it’s only been 148 days since May 1.  Two years ago on this date, Jake had only been missing 148 days. That doesn’t seem very long.

I don’t really live in days, anyway. If you calculate minutes,  148 days = 213,120 minutes. Today the total is 1,264,320, and lately I’ve been feeling each one that passes like a 10lb musket ball. I’m shot clean through, and some days I feel like there’s not much left of me.

I keep finding myself humming songs from my childhood, like there’s something in them that comforts me.  Today it is Mouth and MacNeal’s How Do You Do.

I re-read Day 709 today, and I think I’m doing my math wrong. Just as well I don’t really count them.
I still carry his boots in my car, and I keep in sporadic contact with his former unit now that they’ve deployed. Sending baby wipes and handmade kerchiefs comforts me, too. Doing these things are little minutes I’m able to claim for myself.

Thank you for asking about Jake, George Morgan.
And thank you, Natashia Deon, for asking the right questions.

Write Rite Right of Passage

I am embarking on a trip in a few days that will lead me to connect with my past in good ways, and I am in full panic mode. I’m half convinced I’m going to die, the same way I used to feel in the past when I went over bridges. I read years ago that it was likely rooted in my fear of change. My therapist told me that a lot of people fear heights because they’re afraid they’ll succumb to the urge to jump.

In this case I’m taking the leap.

So I’ve got 3586.6 miles ahead of me.
(I shouldn’t have added that up. It adds a whole new layer of dread.)
But there it is.
And I am going.

I’m going to see my mother’s sister for the first time since the 70’s. Mama is dead, but I hear her voice when I talk to my aunt.
I’m going to meet my very first born son and his parents–him for the second time, them for the first. I am very blessed to be welcomed and loved there.
And then I’m visiting my best friend from elementary school, whom I have not seen since 1976.
How does so much time slip by?

I’ll write about it as I go to keep my brain occupied with the beauty and adventure. I’m bringing my sewing machine and some fabric, which strikes me as hilarious but I’m telling you, it’s absolutely necessary.

I will be thinking of Jake, too. He traveled up in the area where I’ll be the winter before he disappeared, and I know I’ll look for him. I’ll have to.
I won’t find him.
I know.
But I’ll have his boots in my trunk.

My mantra: When you’re going through hell, keep going.
The moon is packed. http://onegirlriot.com/2017/07/pack-up-the-moon