June 17, 2017 Matt had his first (and possibly only?) tennis match as a member of the lake tennis team. I’d like to say he won, but I don’t understand tennis scoring so the numbers he texted don’t mean anything to me. Afterward, we had plans to meet friends at the lake. But then the rain poured down.
We ran to the car and sat there, hoping the rain was nothing but a passing shower. But minutes ticked by and the rain didn’t let up by a drop. So, we moved our plans indoors.
Seated with our friends around the kitchen table, the rain ruining our fun day out in the sun, the subject of Matt’s fast approaching 40th birthday came up. Matt and I had been tossing ideas back and forth for months. At first, we considered throwing a huge party and inviting all our friends, new and old. Then the second tumor was discovered in February and we narrowed the guest list from all our friends to most of our friends. Then April’s swelling happened and we narrowed the guest list even further. By June 17, Matt was less interested in any kind of party. Our friends mentioned a trip to Napa, and Matt and I were sold instantly. We’d gone once before, years ago, and it was one of our favorite vacations; we’d always wanted to go again. So, we scrapped all the tentative party plans and turned our focus to planning a trip to Napa.
That evening, when the rain stopped, we went to another party at a friend’s house. H had a very public meltdown. So we left sooner than expected.
I remember June 17, 2017 well. The rain, the decision to book a trip to Napa, and the meltdown to end our night. And yet, I wrote the story and feel completely disconnected from the events. In news that will surprise no one reading along, I’m struggling to tell today’s story in a worthwhile way. I’m finding it impossible to put myself back into the mindset of June 17, 2017. Post-hope, June 17, 2018, is too intrusive.
In 2017, today wasn’t Father’s Day, so I don’t have to write that post yet. I don’t think I could today if I had to. Because even though it’s only morning, even though the kids are still sleeping, I can feel the weight of the day pressing in already, muddling my thoughts, silencing my words and ability to find a glimmer of light within a dark tale. To be honest, I’ve been feeling the weight of this day press in for weeks, for months. I’ve watched this date creep closer and closer on the calendar and hoped some brilliant morsel of inspiration would strike and I’d know how to protect G, H, and myself from the day.
That brilliant inspiration never arrived. G said yesterday that she’s going to spend the day “crying her eyes out.” H spent yesterday morning alternating between acting up and curling into a ball on my lap. I spent the day telling myself if I prepared enough for the heartache, it wouldn’t hurt that bad. But I’m waking up today simply afraid. Afraid of the hurt and the silence at the breakfast table and the way G and H will be pummeled by the reminder of what they do not have. Afraid the day will be too much for all of us.
I write a lot about where we found hope, how we clung to hope. But in telling the story of one year ago today, against the backdrop of a morning when I hoped for inspiration that never appeared, I see only the reminder that some days the rain didn’t let up. Some days life wore us down and we didn’t have the energy to throw the huge party we’d planned.
Looking back at one year ago today, I’m reminded that even in our year of hope, some days we had to scrap our plans and find a new path.
That might seem like the opposite of my usual message at first, but it’s not. Because it was hope that gave us the resilience to change course so often. It was hope that let us believe Matt would be healthy enough to take that trip. And it is hope this morning that is steering me toward a new plan, one that acknowledges I can’t protect G and H from the pain, gives permission for the day to simply be too much, and resolves to nevertheless find a way to smile and celebrate the person we had.
I ended my May 13, 2018 post with a message of hope for anyone following along this post-hope journey who was struggling with Mother’s Day. I’m repeating that message today for Father’s Day and adding this note: hope can survive a bad day. Hope can withstand the weight pressing in. Hope is tougher than it sounds.