One year ago today, we did not have to wake up and rush into the city. We could do whatever it was we used to do before our days revolved around trips to Columbia for radiation, or, reaching further back, before our days revolved around trips to Kessler for cognitive and physical therapy. We could just be Matt and Elaine, without any appointments on the horizon. It was the first time we truly had that option since September.
But what it meant to be “just Matt and Elaine” had changed. In the time before, Matt would leave for work by 8 and I’d play wife, mother, and aspiring author at home.
I don’t remember what we did on December 21, 2017. The text messages give no clues as to how we passed the hours while G and H were at school. The photos saved on my phone give a little insight into the day. Pictures of bills. Screenshots of confirmation numbers for bills paid. The emails are full of “forgot password” confirmations and “set new password” notifications. Which all leads me to believe that one year ago today, I set to work on the mountain of mail, paperwork, and bills that had piled up while we’d focused on Matt’s treatment.
It should have been easy. For Matt—the real Matt—it would have been easy. A matter of simply logging in and confirming payment or entering payment information. For me, it was a time-consuming exercise in frustration. It was a matter of resetting passwords and guessing log-ins. It was hours of wishing I’d listened to Matt when he had previously encouraged me to learn the passwords and log-ins for the various utility companies and service providers.
If Matt had been Matt, I’m sure he would have delighted in being proven right—and I can almost imagine the good-natured way he would have laughed when I admitted exactly how long it had taken me to do what would have taken him just minutes.
December 21st, also known as the winter solstice, a day marked by the longest night of the year, is the official start of winter. The sun is gone by 4:30 and the night feels endless. And yet, (almost paradoxically, given that I’ve admitted how much I dislike winter), it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Every year on the winter solstice, I liked to remind Matt (whether he wanted the reminder or not) that, in regard to the darkness, it’s only getting better from here. I liked to point out that from here on in, the days will get longer and the nights shorter—imperceptibly at first, but then undeniably. Essentially, I’d tell him the worst of the darkness was over.
One year ago today, the winter solstice, our first day with no treatment, no therapy, no doctor appointments in the near future, it was so easy to believe that the worst was over, that our own darkness was going to begin to subside. Slowly, imperceptibly, no doubt. But hopefully, maybe, soon, undeniably.
In Post Hope, I’ve found myself looking forward to this day again. If only because I love the reminder that the darkest days don’t last.