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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.
1,050 days missing
In a month and a half it will be my birthday and the anniversary of Jake’s disappearance. Three years. 1,095 days. No sign of him, still.
I often think about his last text to me, in which he said, Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.
The text is saved on a phone I don’t use any more, along with his other messages from the months before. I don’t turn the phone on any more for fear of accidentally deleting anything.
The last few sets of skeletal remains that were found have been dismissed as not being his, and I no longer haunt the NamUs website for clues because it takes me too long to recover.
I still have days I think he is probably dead, but I now wrestle with the likelihood that he is missing on purpose. If he is safe, I can have peace with that. Sons leave their mothers as a natural rite. We never like it, we always mourn, even when they have only moved a few blocks away.
Motherhood is mourning. For me, even in the happy parts, even when I know I’m failing forward. My friend, Natashia, told me that we must give up the hope that we could ever change the past in order to truly move on, to let go, to forgive oneself or others. I harbor the hope of time-travel, apparently.
Some days I have my own secret snow muffling the outside world. Maybe most days. I’m living with a permanent open wound that somehow is not getting infected, or if it is, it’s invisible to me. It hurts all the time, and I am thankful to hear from those who wonder where Jake is.
This passage from Literary Trauma resonates with me: “…psychoanalysis believes,” Deborah M. Horvitz writes, “that crucial to recovering from an experience of trauma is the capacity and willingness to incorporate that traumatic event inside one’s self as an indispensable piece of personal history and identity. Since, in the fiction in this study [Literary Trauma], narrative is inextricably entwined with memory and the process of remembering, the greater one’s ability to “make story” out of trauma, which is defined differently for each protagonist, the more likely s/he is to regain her or his life after that trauma” (6).
We survive by telling the story because we are the story. Not to tell the story is to brick ourselves into an airless box. We suffocate and no one knows. To tell the story is to make people uncomfortable and helpless, caught like flopping fish in a net because, no, they’re not getting out. You can’t get out; no one can, no matter whose pain it is.
Pema Chodron says that facing this is what will help make the world a better place. She writes:
What produces a genuine person is being open to not feeling okay.
“What produces a genuine person, I realized, is being open to not feeling okay. It means to be open to everything — to all the horrors as well as the beauties of life, to the whole extraordinary variety of life. I began to realize that this whole mess the human race is in—the fact that we don’t take care of the planet and we don’t take care of each other, the wars, the hatred, the fundamentalism — all actually come from running away. Individually, collectively, we are trying to avoid feeling bad about ourselves.”
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:
- “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.
- 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
So if these are Jake’s remains, he was at least wearing shoes that fit.
How will I breathe?
I also do not want to know.
There’s no meaning in this hideous suffering, only in doing something useful.
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.
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:
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?
noun, plural lim·bos.
- [not applicable]
- a 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.
- an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place.
Transitional. This is a transition from…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.
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
I haven’t written, but this ain’t me:
By vice of hermitry, I rarely venture out of the house unless I absolutely must. I’ve become a hermit because of grief, and I’ve yet to ascertain whether this is to my detriment.
Today I was reminded of the outside world and others who care about Jake, and me, to some degree by association.
The handle on the shut-off valve to our water tank broke this morning, which I knew would mean I’d need to go out in the heat, so I mentally lumped the task with other errands. But it turned out I didn’t need to because today was our water delivery day. But that’s not the cool thing. (Jake has not been found.)
When I took the handle out to inquire about how to get it fixed, I was told that our regular guy had called in, but he, Robert, would see to it that the info was passed on. As he was climbing down the ladder from filling the tank, he said, “I have an odd question for you.” I braced myself, thinking, “Oh, heavens, he saw the kitchen.” He stood carefully, like he was braced, too, and he said, “You have an unusual last name, so I’m wondering if you’re related to this guy I worked with.”
It took me couple of beats to move from Bodus to Furrer, and then I knew he meant Jake. “At the mine, you mean?” I asked.
He nodded. “He taught me some. I didn’t know him well, but, you know, sometimes we had 12-hour shifts in the truck.”
He didn’t realize that Jake was still missing, so I caught him up and gave him the URL here (http://onegirlriot.com/about-stacy/info-on-search-for-jake/) so he could stay abreast if he wished. Before he got back in his truck, he said, “I guess I should tell you this. Jake used to talk about getting back to basics, so you know, maybe that’s what he did.”
My takeaway: this was an enormous God-hug. The synchronicity delights me: regular guy calls in, my handle breaks, which prompts me to go talk to the new guy, new guy worked with Jake. I wouldn’t have gone out there if that dumb handle hadn’t snapped in my hands.
This situation is still difficult. I ache every day from the not-knowing and the fact that I do not have my son in my life at all. It also hurts that, if he is not dead, I am part of what he sought to escape. No mother wants that. I would have given him space if I had known, which I believe he understood, but I’m part of the community so ….
If you’re reading this, ever, Jake: I love you and hope you are safe and content.
There’s a way for you to reach out to me or anyone and remain unfound:
This song captures my heart for my sons. (Songwriter-performer Kelis wrote it for her son, who is in the last scene.)
Some of the lyrics:
I was walking, was living
My melody was acapella
There’s a beat I was missing
No tune or a scale I could play
The sound in the distance
No orchestra playing together
Like a boat out to sea
The silence was too deafening
My whole life was acapella
Now a symphony’s
The only song to sing
My whole life was acapella
Now a symphony’s
The only song to sing”
Even when they’re missing, they’re part of the symphony. It doesn’t matter where they are, your song will never again be acapella. My own symphony has music from the unknown and the known, and I am thankful.