Sometime between 10:49 a.m. and 1:23 p.m. on July 25, 2017, Matt called me. We rarely spoke on the phone during the workday—if we had, this blog wouldn’t be possible. So when he called, I answered. He told me something strange had happened at work. He sounded calm, but the buried terror beneath that composed exterior caused my heart to miss a beat.
He’d been sitting in a meeting—Matt used to joke he had meetings about having too many meetings—and he’d looked down and couldn’t read the numbers on the paper in front of him. He’d looked at the presentation he’d prepared and couldn’t find a way to speak the words in his mind.
His words were trapped. The connection between mind and body, thought and speech, had been disrupted. I know the level of panic I reached when Matt recounted what had happened, but I cannot imagine the level of fear and distress Matt might have experienced. I don’t know the kind of strength he must have summoned to escape that fear and distress. Something more than heroic, right?
I told Matt I would call the doctor. He told me not yet; the episode hadn’t lasted long. I told him if it happened again, we’d have to call. He agreed. And I dropped it.
Because Matt hadn’t called me because he wanted to make me panic. He hadn’t called to make me worry. I think, though I can’t know for sure, that he called because he needed to be grounded. He needed to be reassured that he was okay, and we were okay, and everything was still going to be okay. He needed a dose of hope, and for Matt, I could reach around my own panic and fear and distress and find hope to give him.
I did the only thing I knew how to do. I developed a cute theory to explain the episode in the morning meeting. I told him it was a blip. A blip and nothing more. A short, random, isolated incident.
I spent the rest of the day finding a reason to text him, though I managed to ask if he was okay only twice. The first time I asked, he told me he was fine, but he’d only spoken to one other guy and he hadn’t had to read or count anything. The second time, after his afternoon meeting (meetings about meetings, right?), he didn’t quite answer the question and I had to ask again, more directly. He said, “Yes, just insanely busy.” And I dropped that line of questioning again. I let Matt change the subject.
Because the episode had passed and he’d accepted the theory I’d crafted for him. It was a blip. One time.
An hour later, Matt texted me this: Going to book flight to Napa. All good?
I responded: Yes!
Over the next half dozen text messages, we focused on nothing but flights and logistics.
Within the span of a few hours, hope had again replaced fear. A blip was not a reason to once again change our plans for Matt’s 40th birthday party. A blip would not impact a trip planned for October. The idea that our lives might be unrecognizable by October, that Matt would not be well enough to travel across the country to celebrate his birthday, never even crossed our minds. Not for a moment.
The speed of it all is simply baffling. A year ago, Matt experienced a blip. Today, in post-hope, the six month mark is achingly close and I am still bewildered by the swiftness with which this disease assaulted our lives, stole my husband, took a life.
One year ago today, we didn’t know that a blip could cause your heart to miss a beat, and also, eventually, cause the entire world to start spinning in the wrong direction. We didn’t know a blip was a siren screaming a desperate message of warning into an invisible void.