Gail Richardson doesn't leave her house much these days. She mostly waits by the phone. Sometimes the 50-year-old will read a book or flip on the TV, indulging in one of her daytime soap operas.
For Richardson, the mother of missing Jefferson City man Christopher Cray, it's all about trying to keep her mind occupied.
"I do pretty much normal things," Richardson said in her Fenton home, 22 days into the search for her missing son. "I just try to keep my mind off of it."
Cray, 23, was last seen on May 20 around the area of Schnucks at 1801 Missouri Blvd. It's believed he may have been headed toward the Belle area of Maries County. On Tuesday, the Jefferson City CrimeStoppers announced a $500 reward for any information on his whereabouts.
Richardson said it's difficult to be in the unknown. As the days carry on, the more she worries foul play may have been involved in her son's disappearance. Cray has never gone this long without reaching out to somebody, she said.
He used to call every day - a real "momma's boy," as Richardson put it. Since both have dealt with issues of depression and anxiety, they always did their best to support the other during trying moments.
Now, three weeks into her son's disappearance, Richardson said she really just wants that phone to ring.
"I'm just not used to him not calling me every day," she said. "He had always been closer to me than anybody ... I miss talking to him."
Although she admits Cray has a history with the law and with substance abuse, she said he's always had strong values - particularly with his family. A father since he was 16 years old, Richardson said Cray's children were his pride and joy. When his first daughter was born, he was so excited he got a light blue tattoo on his neck that read, "My baby Mya."
Since his disappearance, he has missed the birth of his fourth child. It was the first time he wasn't there for a delivery.
"His fourth child being born early and him missing it just doesn't make sense," Richardson said. "That makes me think something's wrong."
Cray's wife, Michelle Reams, was one of the last people to see him before he went missing. The couple, who settled down in Hermann, were visiting a friend in their hometown of Jefferson City. Reams said he left that morning to run a few errands, kissed her on his way out the door and never returned.
At first, Reams said she felt angry. She assumed her husband had impulsively left for a couple of hours, blowing off steam or trying to dodge responsibilities. But as a couple hours turned into days, she grew more worried.
Reams said she called family members near and far, hoping to learn the location of her husband. The answers were all the same - no one knew where he was.
"We decided to do a missing person's report," Reams said. "I was the one who had to do that because I'm the one who knows his state of mind since I'm here with him every day."
Cray's sister, Jessica Wood, has been among those fighting to find him. On top of frequently checking with local and regional law enforcement agencies, she's also posted many photos to her Facebook page. Over the next few weeks, Wood said she plans on posting flyers throughout the Belle and Maries County areas.
"I'm going to do what I can just to get the word out, get his picture out," she said.
But like her family, Wood said she's struggled over the past month. Of her three siblings, Wood said she was closest with Cray. Growing up, she remembers their personalities were almost identical - outgoing and goofy.
Wood has had her fair share of difficult days since her brother went missing. Her birthday was a couple weeks back and she didn't get the usual call from her brother. There was also the night she held Reams' newborn son in her hands, his father absent.
One of the most difficult days for Wood came a few days after Cray's disappearance when Jefferson City police found his car abandoned.
"That was a big turning point for everybody," Wood said. "It's just gotten harder ever since."
Reams, too, has found the past weeks difficult. Unsure of what to tell her kids, she said the anxiety continues to pile on. The day after the birth of her son, Reams remembers breaking down in the hospital.
"I just went into the bathroom, curled in a ball, held my ears, and cried," she said. "That was all I could do."
At this point, there aren't many answers in the search for Cray. Police have reported no new evidence since the discovery of his car, and Woods said there isn't much in the way of leads. Cray, like 550 other adults in the state of Missouri, is missing.
No matter Cray's fate, Richardson said she just wants to know what happened to him. She knows she and her family may not like the answer, but she wants one nonetheless.
"It's more dreadful every day," Richardson said. "Whether he's dead or alive, I need closure on what happened to him."
Anyone with information on Cray's disappearance is asked to call the Jefferson City Police Department at 573-634-6400 or anonymously at CrimeStoppers at 573-659-TIPS (8477).