I remember coming home from the beach a month ago, exhausted from watching the road, avoiding potholes, listening to Becky talk about her three kids, the two I jokingly call her bad ones, who refuse to do just about anything for themselves or to help her out around her house, and then tried to hold back my own tears as she cried and told me that the one I call her good child had gotten a job in Eastern Virginia, and would be leaving in less than two weeks, that he had found a place to live while we were at the beach, and that she would be lost without him, that she felt like she would die. It made me secretly happy not to have human children who, no matter what they did, seemed only to break their parents’ hearts.

In addition to Becky’s stressful life situations, I had been pulled over twenty minutes into the 7-hour drive home by a state trooper named Michael, a pleasant-looking man despite the fact that he was a police officer and they never smile, who asked me the ridiculous question that officers ask always when they pull you over, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I told him that I thought I was probably going a little too fast. He wiped sweat from his brow in the early August morning heat and added, “Yes. Ma’am, when you passed that other car, you were going 52 in a 35. Are you visiting with us?” I wanted to tell him not anymore, but I was afraid he’d think I was being a smart-ass and throw me in jail so he could say, “Yes, you still are.” Yet somehow, Michael gave me a break. An amazing break, a warning and even details on where the speed limits changed until I would get back on the interstate. It had been a long, long day.

I remember arriving home, Russ already gone to work, me eager to see my own children, my four sweet kitty-puffs – Sophie, Ichabod, Baltic, and Football. Then looking around for the four kids and only finding three, but continuing to search, opening every door, even the squeaking one in my office, praying that my missing child would look up at me behind his massive frame and meow his hoarse meow, and I’d try to comfort him because he would have been locked up in there for hours and would be terrified.
After finding him nowhere in the house, I messaged Russ frantically, misspelling everything, my chubby fingers hitting whatever keys they hit in my frazzled state of mind
Where is Football, I typed and waited for him to answer, WHERE IS FOOTBALL, this time in all caps.

My heart sank and my eyes stung as they filled with tears. Eventually his answer came back across the screen. “He ran out yesterday morning at 8:30 as I got in from work. Barreled past me. I haven’t seen him since.”

I wanted to scream. I fought the vomit that gathered thick and soured in my throat. I slammed the phone down and ran outside, knowing I couldn’t find him in the dark, but trying, anyway.

The lawn hadn’t been mowed in a month; it was like a freaking jungle. Where in the world could my gentle giant be? Where was my Football baby? And it was raining. Again. It had rained ever since the week I’d left for Hindman, where it flooded and sent us home early, a tragedy where dozens died, and people lost homes and belongings. And the week I had been at the Beach, the rain had droned on, mud puddles in the backyard, me tripping through them as I cried and now screeched for my missing child at the top of my lungs, but knowing that he would not be outside in this weather. That he would have come back inside if he had been anywhere nearby. I climbed the back steps, went back into the kitchen, and saw that the water dish was completely dry. I lost it. That dish would have had to have been empty for at least two of the four days I was gone in order to still be bone dry. And I wondered how I could forgive Russ for neglecting to do such a simple thing. I went to bed and cried. For days. I guess all kids make all parents cry, somehow…