December 18, 2017: Finding Footing

One year ago today, Matt started his last week of radiation. He had three more days and he’d be finished with his fifteen doses of whole brain radiation. The end of our daily trips into the city was in sight, and I was thrilled.

For a few reasons. One, and most importantly, I hoped that soon we (Matt, me, everyone involved in Matt’s care) would start to reap the benefits of those fifteen days. Maybe Matt’s cognition would get better. Maybe his vision would clear. Maybe he could decrease his dose of Dexamethasone, as planned, and that anger would fade. Two, I was looking forward to slowing down the pace of our days, getting back to a more normal routine.

And three. I’d tentatively begun to believe that if the worst of the side effects the doctor had warned us about—namely, the memory loss—hadn’t occurred by now, then those worst side effects wouldn’t occur. His memory seemed to be intact, or at least as intact as it had been before he’d started whole brain radiation.  Maybe Matt wouldn’t suffer any significant side effects.

I have a single vivid memory from December 18, 2017. While washing the dinner dishes, I heard Matt, who was seated in his spot on the couch in the living room, on the phone. It didn’t sound as if he were speaking with a friend. I dried my hands on a towel and went to check. I don’t remember exactly how I knew, what he said that caught my attention, but I realized he was on the phone with a telemarketer—and rooting around for his credit card or license in order to give personal information.

I think I panicked, asked Matt to hang up immediately. He did—but he was furious. He couldn’t understand why I was so upset. And for a moment, I couldn’t either. Similar to the scissors incident (wherein Matt insisted he could write with scissors), I questioned my perception of the world. Maybe it’s perfectly fine to hand over personal information to a random person on the murky end of an unknown number. But unlike with the scissors incident, I didn’t call a friend and, in tears, beg for her to set my view of the world correct.

Because after that moment, I remember swallowing the uncertainty and (figuratively) digging in my heels. Yes, I was right to ask Matt to hang up, to not give up his personal information. Sometime between those very first conversations and arguments that had started the shift in our relationship and December 18, 2017, I’d begun to find my footing in our new roles. Begun to trust myself a little.

Or, at least, taken a tiny step in that direction. In Post Hope, I can’t say I trust myself completely in this new role as a young widow and single mother. I definitely haven’t yet figured out how to confidently steer the direction of our (G’s, H’s, and my) lives the way Matt knew how. But maybe that’s okay.

Maybe it’s enough to take a small step every day.

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