The weather blew worry into our hearts. Storm clouds gathered, indicative of our family turmoil.
Could it be that Jason’s detachment from the family was more than everyday teenage rejection of control? If he knew the impact his behavior had on his mother, his sisters and I, would he even care? Would he feel remorse in any way?
I’d come to think that that might be the case. For years I’d rejected the signs. I’d thought they were me applying my seldom used psych degree as an analytic exercise. I’d done the same to dozens of people I worked with, or knew around town or, most often, to family members. I never shared my theories. I never took them seriously.
In the past, during relaxed chats, my son and I would glibly toss around terms like sociopath as we talked about the news and our local community. We discussed the concepts that many CEOs and political leaders had to be sociopaths in order to make gut-wrenching decisions. Hurtful, callous choices meant to save the whole by eliminating the parts deemed superfluous. “Cut out the disease to save the body.”
I recall how Jason had sided with the executive’s decisions without a second thought to those “downsized.”
These thoughts swirled around in my head as I drove through the night searching for him. We’d been informed that a massive storm system was headed across the Midwest. Something called a derecho, a thousand mile-wide storm with winds exceeding one hundred miles per hour.
Jason had slammed the screen door that morning, a sound that never ceased to yank me out of my calm morning. The slamming had become his signature. “Fuck this family,” is how I interpreted it. We’d had that tracker installed on all the kids’ phones. It could tell us, approximately, where they were. Jason had disabled his as soon as he could. But I knew his hangouts, or thought I did.
I stomped on the brakes in my pickup. A white plastic bag, spirited to life by the wind, dashed across my vision. I breathed a sigh and began to crawl forward, senses painfully acute.
The streetlights were few and seldom along River Road. It was the last on my list. My phone rang, Sharon, the strain in her voice like piano wire, imploring me to return. I told her I would just as soon as I’d completed my “best effort.” That term was one of Jason’s and mine inside jokes. What if your “best” wasn’t good enough?
I could feel the storm starting to shake the truck. The gusts, they said, would precede the rain and lightening. Leaves, dust and even branches now performed a Fantasia like dance outside my windshield. The first spattering of rain the size of tiger-tears began to smear the spectacle. Jason’s early years had been full of tigers. Toys, movies and posters. When he’d cry—which was infrequent, now that I thought about it—we’d call them tiger-tears.
Behind me, a substantial limb crashed across the road. I rolled down the window and the sound blasted in like a raucous crowd screaming for justice or music or just screaming to be heard. I’d keep at the search for a little while longer, I told myself. The city park, where the river made a big loop, was just ahead. It was a good place to teach youngsters how to fish. I’ll pull in there and honk my horn and wait until I could wait no longer.
Just a few minute more, I’d say to no one. I’ll flash my lights and Jason will find me. I know he will.