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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.

Edited: October 17th, 2018

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.

Edited: October 17th, 2018

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

 

Edited: October 9th, 2018

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?

Edited: October 4th, 2018

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.

Edited: September 26th, 2018

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

 

Edited: July 11th, 2018

780 days

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:
https://www.missingpeople.org.uk/how-we-can-help/missing-adults/what-we-can-do-to-help-you/283-sending-a-message-home-to-family-and-loved-ones.html

This song captures my heart for my sons. (Songwriter-performer Kelis wrote it for her son, who is in the last scene.)
https://genius.com/Kelis-acapella-lyrics

Some of the lyrics:
“[Verse 1]
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

[Chorus]
Before you
My whole life was acapella
Now a symphony’s
The only song to sing
Before you
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. 

Edited: June 20th, 2018

How to deal

I have to get up early tomorrow and do range duty as Chief Range Safety Officer for a group of men visiting from out of town. I’ve been doing RSO duties for a long time now, and this is not a big deal.

But I do not want to go. I would rather hole up at home and sew or read or binge-watch something that takes me out of the ache for a while. I don’t want to engage with people, and I definitely don’t want to get up early. Twice I’ve picked up the phone to call Skip, our scheduler, to beg off with the excuse that my heart hurts. He would then have to scramble to find another RSO, but he wouldn’t complain because he feels badly for me and he doesn’t want to add to the weight I carry.

Twice I’ve put the phone down, partly because I don’t want to cause extra work, but mostly because I know that once I get there I’ll be fine. I’ll be in the moment, I’ll enjoy being with the shooters, and I’ll have gotten out of the house. All I have to do is show up.

That’s all I ever have to do, and it’s the hardest decision to make. Sometimes I have to choose it every five minutes.

The last six months have been unaccountably difficult and lately I’ve been faced with the growing possibility that Jake is dead. I think about it every day, and the world looks so…barren inside the idea of no Jake on the planet.

Right now, I deal by showing up. I commit to things knowing that later I probably will wish I’d kept my calendar free. But I also know that just showing up works for me.

I have used emotional pain as an excuse not to show up before. I don’t any more because showing up feels better than not. (Seriously. Beating myself up for letting others down makes it worse.)

I keep thinking of the link between perseverance and strength, and this is true for me, here:  “…tribulation brings about perseverance;and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5: 3b-5

And James 1:3: “The testing of your faith produces endurance.”

Well, I also think that trials and suffering produce resignation. I’m not a fan.

But I recognize strength.

The problem, for me, is that I have to wonder what’s next. I’m getting stronger for what?
My character could always use the refinement, but dang. Can’t we find a way that doesn’t involve pain?

 

 

Edited: February 3rd, 2018

The thing with feathers

Dread has a light touch.

I’ve been told that Jake does not appear in databases after early 2016.
He is smart enough to be off the grid on his own terms, and hope says yeah.
But chances are growing that he isn’t living in the wilderness, isn’t bedraggled and scorned in some inner city grayness, isn’t….
Doesn’t exist.

I am held together by bits of string and stray scraps of paper and cloth; a tumbleweed made of chickenwire and rags.
This is hell.  I may never know what happened.

Wizened and leathery, in an arroyo at the foot of the Chocolate mountains?
In a heap of bones and tattered clothing at the bottom of a mine shaft?
Unidentified skeletal remains in Mexico?

And then hope.
Relationship status: complicated.
It feels like an abusive relationship and the honeymoon phase of the cycle is about 5 minutes long.
But more:

 

Me, intermittently:

 

 

Image credit:
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/mixing-it-up-feathers-and-all

Edited: January 31st, 2018

That old backpack

I visited my son, Josh, in Las Vegas in early January, and I gave him Jake’s clothes. In the parking lot of StorageOne, we sorted through black trash bags filled with jeans, socks, t-shirts, boxers, boots, gloves, and Jake’s National Guard uniforms. We were there to pick up Josh’s bike to take it in for repair, and to store whatever didn’t fit from  the bags of Jake’s belongings.

It’s a cold undertaking, sorting through a missing person’s clothing. It seems more respectful to hold on to it indefinitely for when he comes back.
But I am more pragmatic than sentimental, and I know Jake himself would give his brother his clothes. My pragmatism did not extend to his National Guard uniforms, nor to his shredder, which baffles me. The uniforms: of course.  But I don’t need a shredder. That thing is in my trunk with one pair of Jake’s uniform boots and a sweatshirt with the NewGold logo on it.

Josh rejected all the underclothes with a slight shudder, so those went to Goodwill, along with some shirts that Josh said he would never, ever wear. (Plaid. So much plaid.)  Cold, wrenching hilarity. This is momhood.

I seem to move more heavily these days, like gravity is stronger now, tugging at my feet with each step. Weight gain, yeah, but more; I feel so slow, and the days are dimmer.

Last night in a class I’m taking I stated that I was cynical about positive change happening in multicultural education.
I would never before have labeled myself as a cynic, but I do now, I see. I’ve lost a part of myself in this ordeal.

I’m grief-stricken yet relieved because now I understand why I’m more comfortable by myself lately. I feel like life right now is a poorly-made quilt with mismatched corners. There’s no fixing it apart from ripping out every single stitch and redoing it. How does one unstitch life?

And yet.
In the midst of despair, bits of light. People are loving and concerned and they help where they can. We are not forgotten.

It doesn’t get easier as time passes. I thought it would.
It’s just packed up now, in a backpack I never put down.

This rendition of “Over the Rainbow” captures the tone of my days.

 

Edited: January 27th, 2018

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