December 22, 2017: The Steadfast Burning Hope

I remember the argument we had on December 22, 2017. I remember the overwhelming feeling of helplessness, the moment when I fell apart and thought this—this nightmare we couldn’t escape—was too much. The weight I was trying to bear alone was too much.

Matt had accidentally received (been copied on) an email from work about a payroll issue. The issue, as far as I could tell, was wholly irrelevant to him—and also he hadn’t been to work in any real way since September. But, in his mind, he jumbled that email with a personal financial issue I’d been trying to untangle for us.

For a reason I couldn’t understand, he tried to log in to our mortgage account. He couldn’t remember the password or log-in information, and I didn’t help him retrieve that information. I believed he was too agitated that night, too confused. I told him we’d work on the issue together in the morning, hoping that, by then, his thinking would be clearer.

But it was a bad night. Matt grew furious that I wouldn’t give him the log-in information. He called our mortgage company and was directed to customer service. For more than an hour, I pleaded with him to hang up the phone as he was put on hold and transferred from agent to agent to manager, none of whom could make sense of his nonsensical requests. As the minutes ticked by, his anger grew. And I couldn’t find a way to calm him down. He wanted an answer to his irrational question from someone who wasn’t me.

I tried calling his dad, who attempted to explain the email that incited Matt’s concern. I tried redirecting his attention. I tried showing him the paperwork related to the personal financial issue to prove the mortgage company was uninvolved. He only grew angrier, and the customer service agent on the phone grew more confused, possibly suspicious. I was certain the mortgage company would freeze our account or worse.   

Often during these December days, when Matt’s temper would surge, mine would surge to match his. On December 22nd, it didn’t. I was worried and desperate, but I wasn’t angry. I couldn’t be. Because I knew what Matt was trying to do. He was trying to be the man he’d always been—the one who managed our finances and paid our bills and knew how to make it all look easy. He was simply trying to help. It wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t.

But he was so angry and so stubbornly determined to find the answers he was looking for, and I didn’t know how to defuse the situation.

Finally, a branch manager ended the call. She or he took Matt’s number down and scheduled a call for after Christmas. The promise of a conference call was enough to assuage Matt’s anger. He hung up and his rage subsided. The rest of the night, he watched television upstairs, while G and H watched a movie downstairs. I sat on the top steps, halfway between the kids and Matt, and tried to breathe through the stress of the night, the night that had escalated and spun out of control. Tried not to listen to the voice that was telling me I wasn’t strong enough to get back up.

In the days and weeks between December 22nd and February 3rd, that voice surfaced more times than I’d like to admit. So many times I felt simply broken, too tired. So many times I nevertheless stood back up. For Matt. For G and H. For the steadfast burning hope that tomorrow would be better. That hope kept us standing when the weight of it all pushed us down.

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