In the time before—before doctors and hospitals and MRIs ruled our lives—when my mother visited and planned to sleep over on a weekend, it meant that Matt and I could go out, either with friends or alone, without worrying about a babysitter. It meant we could run errands together on a Saturday afternoon while G and H hung out at home.
But like everything else in our Year of Hope, doing what we’d always done was an impossible goal.
On December 2, 2017, my mom came to stay for the weekend. We (Matt, G, H, my mom, and I) took a family trip to the grocery store. I don’t remember exactly what happened on this trip, but afterward, I texted a friend and told her that my mom was no doubt heartbroken by what she’d seen. The truth I’d hoped to hide—from my mom and myself—of how far we’d plummeted was out. Maybe Matt’s temper flared. Maybe instead of attempting to diffuse Matt’s anger, I lost my patience. Maybe G and H acted up because they didn’t know how else to respond to the complicated world around them.
I vaguely remember Matt wandering away into an aisle by himself and worrying he’d get lost, but knowing he’d be upset by that assumption. He returned, eventually, his arms loaded with random crackers and packages, which sat forgotten and untouched in the pantry for too long after February 3rd.
My mom had come to help us, specifically to help me with all that had been pressed onto my shoulders. Distract G and H, maybe throw in a load of laundry, whatever I needed to catch my breath. We—I—had dozens of similar offers from people willing to help. But I declined many offers. When I looked at us—at our family of four—I didn’t know what it was that we needed. We could handle the household chores and piles of unanswered mail. We needed something else.
The cruelty of brain cancer—and the difficulty in caring for a brain cancer patient—is the kind of help we needed might not exist. We needed a time machine to go back to a time before. Or, if that was too impossible because this isn’t a YA fantasy novel, then we needed some way to feel like ourselves.
The way he walked, the way he shopped, the way he thought—it was all nearly unrecognizable. His spark was all but gone. And ultimately, all we needed was help reigniting that spark.
That night, I signed G and H up for a kid’s event at the library scheduled for February 6th, though it had seemed like an impossibly far off date. G and H didn’t go to the scheduled library event. February 6th was the date of the funeral.
When I signed up for the event, I knew our lives might not look normal. But I signed up anyway, because I wanted G and H to have something to look forward to, because I knew we couldn’t stop trying to give G and H a childhood, because that flicker of unfaltering hope continued to glimmer.