One year ago today a violent, surprise thunderstorm tore through the town. The wind knocked down wires by the entrance to the highway and the police texted an advisory that traffic was backed up for miles. I don’t remember the traffic being backed up, or the wires down, but I remember the storm. I remember watching—from a bench at the ice cream parlor where G, H, and I had gone to celebrate G passing the level 1 swim test—the dark storm clouds crawl in. I remember G and H had barely taken a bite of their ice cream when the wind picked up. I remember thinking we didn’t have to leave yet because the storm might pass right over us.
When thunder rumbled in the distance, G, H, and I left.
We escaped to the safety of the car moments before the rain pelted the windshield. G and H shrieked during the entire three minute car ride home and asked if we’d be hit by lightning. I affirmatively told them no and gave some explanation about rubber tires that I think is true, but, honestly, I’m not sure.
When Matt texted me, around 7, that he was leaving work I told him to drive safe and find the windshield wipers in his new car before he got on the road. He told me it wasn’t even raining by him yet.
Around 8:45, I texted him: Make MRI appointment for August 16 in the morning. I can only assume we were sitting next to each other on the couch when I sent him that text message, and it was less a command and more of a reminder, a message he’d leave unread until he picked up his phone in the morning. On July 17, 2017, Matt was still scheduling his own appointments.
Aside from that single MRI reminder text, nothing brain cancer related comes to mind in the story of one year ago today. (Except a somewhat obvious metaphor involving brain cancer and watching an oncoming storm approach, hoping it’ll pass right over us.)
Looking through our emails, mine and Matt’s, I can tell that Matt was busy at work. We didn’t email each other much and our texts are mostly, somewhat, administrative.
So, I started scrolling back through my phone, I found a catalogue of emails Matt sent me over the years with nothing in the message but “Good morning. How’s your day going?” or sometimes “Crazy day here, I started writing this email two hours ago.” Sometimes the emails would be timestamped by 8:45 in the morning, bare minutes after arriving at work.
I didn’t do a thorough search, but I scrolled long enough to realize that in 2016 and 2017, emails like that don’t exist, or if they do, they are few and far between.
At first, the absence of those emails broke my heart a little and my mind instantly went to blaming the brain cancer. It stole away the man I married, the one who sent me emails just for fun twenty minutes after he left for work in the morning. But then, practicality set in. Brain cancer did take parts of Matt, but to blame only brain cancer is to ignore half the story. Matt was one month into working a business that was evolving in a thousand different ways. He was busy in an entirely new way that required every moment of his attention. And I wasn’t sitting around waiting for him to email like I had been when G and H were babies and I was stuck home waiting for nap time to be over. We were still emailing (or texting) all day, only rarely about nothing. We’d both changed, together.
The key word is together.
When Matt and I became serious, at some point after the first “I love you” and before moving in together, Matt told me he never understood why his dad would always get in the car and instantly call his wife (Matt’s mom) who he was driving home to see. Matt would tell me that as a kid/teenager/young adult he didn’t understand the impulse to call someone who you’d just left. On the day he told me this story, he said (and I remember because it made me infinitely happy), that now he gets it because he keeps picking up the phone to call me.
G and H won’t have the experience of seeing their dad call their mom the way Matt saw his parents. But they’ll have this, a blog that is possible because their parents emailed and texted, exchanged funny bitmojis and memes in a way that probably kept the phone companies in business. The content changed from light and nothing to heavy and something, but the desire to share all of it with each other never did.
The hope a year ago today is the same hope that was present every day, even before brain cancer. It’s the hope and simple joy of marrying someone who you want to call on your way home to them. The hope of marrying someone with whom you could weather the storm. (Sorry, I actually couldn’t resist that metaphor.)