October 14, 2017 began Matt’s first (and last) weekend at Kessler. Before visiting Matt, H had a soccer game. I drove both kids to the field, coffee in hand like a true soccer mom, and watched as H and the other kindergarten boys chased the ball in one large pack. I recorded the game to later show Matt that H was participating. (This may have been the one and only game in which H participated during the entire Fall 2017 season—it was worth getting on video.)
Afterward, we (G, H, and I) went to Kessler with plans to spend the bulk of the afternoon with Matt. G and H weren’t thrilled with the plan, at first. They didn’t love walking into Kessler. They complained about the sounds and the smells. They were bored after ten minutes with their iPads and annoyed with Matt’s roommate, a man who made sure every nurse at Kessler knew he didn’t want to be there and would not be attending any of his assigned therapies.
In contrast to his roommate, Matt was attending the therapies and working hard at them. He was noticeably stronger physically and mentally. He was able to walk longer distances than he had the day before and his balance wasn’t terrible. He drifted to the right as he walked, but he stayed upright. He walked up and down a flight of stairs with assistance, while G, H, and I watched and cheered.
And most importantly, we (he and I) could have a conversation, or something that very closely resembled a conversation. He was still struggling with the ability to process questions. Answering a direct question like “what did you have for lunch” remained challenging. But we were able to have a dialogue and most of the time, Matt’s response to me made sense. Sometimes, not. Sometimes he’d suddenly leap into a different topic and I’d scramble to shift gears. But we could talk. And after weeks of being unable to talk, there was a simple joy in just exchanging a few sentences.
For the first time since I called 9-1-1 in September, he was making progress. One year ago today, we were officially in an upswing. The headaches were gone. The back and neck pain was gone. Even the double vision seemed to have resolved. Matt’s prism glasses remained, more and more often, on the nightstand beside the bed, serving as a reminder of a critical error in judgment that had almost cost us everything.
Ten years ago today, Matt and I were returning to reality after a two week European honeymoon. While we’d been away, the United States’ economy had collapsed. Stocks had tumbled. Banks that were too big to fail had failed. I remember driving back from Newark, passing the smokestacks churning black smoke into the dreary gray New Jersey sky (nothing like the brilliant blue skies we’d left behind on the Amalfi coast), and feeling like we’d returned to a world entirely unlike the one we’d left behind two weeks prior. I remember how precarious everything felt. How uncertain and completely out of our hands our future seemed. I remember how Matt met my not-completely-irrational anxiety with unwavering certainty—we would find our way.
Ten years later, it seems that history does repeat itself (stock market rumblings aside). The future feels just as precarious, if not more because I am wholly responsible for two lives. I cannot write that I now know everything works out at the end. That confidence was stripped away with the word obviously. The worst can and—though I still struggle to believe this—did happen. And this time, there’s no Matt to calm that not-completely-irrational anxiety with the certainty that we will find a way.
So, how to face a precarious and uncertain future? I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out, some days better than others. But I think, maybe, Matt was on to something a year ago today, when he showed up every day and kept doing the work. Kept believing and kept hoping. Maybe that’s all any of us can do.