Matt didn’t go to work on September 18, 2017. He was still suffering from minor bouts of confusion and in too much pain to be on his feet all day. We (Matt and his parents and I) agreed that he should take it easy for at least a couple of days. Truly rest and heal. He napped and took a trip to the grocery store with me and napped a bit more.
That afternoon, G complained of an earache at school. I made an appointment with the pediatrician and G, H, and I drove there in the late afternoon while Matt rested. The pediatrician confirmed an ear infection and called in a prescription.
When I arrived at the pharmacy, I learned that the prescription was delayed. We went home, ate dinner, and the kids sat on the couch with Matt to watch television. An activity they could do together. The pharmacy called to say G’s prescription was ready and they were closing soon.
I remember being trapped by indecision. (Matt used to call this particular phenomenon analysis paralysis.) The pharmacy was (is) seven minutes away. Taking into account the speed of the drive-through window, I knew I could be home in sixteen minutes. I had a choice: disturb G and H, who were calmly watching television with their father and drag them out of the house again, or let them stay with Matt. I was afraid to leave G and H with Matt as much as I was afraid to leave Matt with G and H. What if Matt needed something while I was gone? What if he confused his words and grew frustrated, and his temper (which had been calm all day) snapped? What if G and H needed something and Matt couldn’t help them?
The fact that this internal debate existed in my head was a reminder that though we’d spent the day in relative normalcy, nothing was normal.
I decided to leave everyone at home and race to the pharmacy. In looking back, I think I made that choice because I was afraid to face what it would mean if I couldn’t leave them home alone together for sixteen minutes. My heart pounded during the entire drive. As the pharmacist keyed in my name and address, I counted down the seconds while every worst case scenario ran through my head.
Back home, everyone was safe. But when I arrived, H came to me in tears. He’d wanted to play soccer or basketball or wrestling with Matt and Matt simply hadn’t been able to. Matt was heartbreakingly crushed by the admission.
That was the last time I left them all home alone together.
I suspect that’s hard to read. Or maybe just hard for me to write because I remember the looks on everyone’s face and the desperation I felt to fix this for all of them.
These days in September were hard. And to be honest, I’m not sure this story will ever stumble upon a day that wasn’t hard again. With that in mind, my concern is that these hard days will overshadow the message and point of this entire project.
So I’ll leave today’s post with this thought: there’s a difference between hard days and hopeless days. Every hard day we lived left us exhausted—mentally, physically, emotionally—but every hard day also taught us that we were stronger than we knew, made us more prepared for the next day. Every time we felt the breath knocked out of us but found a way to breathe again was a triumph. We couldn’t have survived any of the hard days if we’d been hopeless.
So the reminder I’m leaving as the story gets darker and harder to write is this: I’m not writing to tell a tragic brain cancer story, I’m writing to tell the story of a hope so bright, almost nothing could destroy it.