December 23, 2017: To The Mountain

I ended yesterday’s post with this line: for the steadfast burning hope that tomorrow would be better.

And it was. Simply better. Easier.

One year ago today, Matt woke up relatively calm. His cognition hadn’t improved, but he woke up with the ability to recognize that his thinking wasn’t clear. Which meant he asked for help and he took the help that was offered to him. Which meant that anger had dissipated, though the instinct to tread carefully around Matt had not. Would not.

December 23, 2017 marked the first official day of G’s and H’s Winter Break. Winter Break is always a challenge with kids—too many hours to fill with not enough options in a town that feels all but deserted as the friends who are usually available for playdates have left for family vacations. In the time before, Matt would take a day or two off from work during this week and we’d make day trips. Legoland, Liberty Science Center, the Palisades Mall.

I knew well in advance that the Winter Break of 2017 wouldn’t look like it had every other year. This winter break would require striking a balance between G’s and H’s needs—to be entertained and engaged—with Matt’s needs, which changed every day.

Luckily, Matt’s parents had the foresight to realize our family of four might need help during these ten days without school. That I might need help during these ten days without school.

One year ago today, we packed our things (Matt allowing me to help), climbed into the car, and drove to a ski lodge about an hour outside of New York City. Our first ever ski trip. Matt and I had taken the kids skiing once before, to a local mountain. The kids had rented skis and had done little more than slide down the hill that led up to the bunny hill. We’d called it a success and gone inside for hot chocolate. But this time, the kids were excited to learn. They were excited for the change of scenery. I think they were excited (subconsciously) to escape the bubble of brain cancer.

I don’t remember this road trip, this drive to the mountain—only a vague recollection of gray skies and bad visibility. I don’t remember arriving at the hotel. I don’t even remember what we did that first afternoon. But I remember feeling relieved. It was an easier day because G and H were happy, because Matt was calm, because we weren’t alone.

If I was keeping count, that would be twice now that I felt saved simply by walking into a room of family willing to help bear some of the weight I’d been trying to carry. As I’ve said so many times before, we weren’t lucky medically, but we were incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the people who surrounded us.

One year ago today, we didn’t know that we had six weeks left together. One year ago today, I didn’t look at the hospice timeline, the symptoms to expect, and see Matt. One year ago today, I saw only a family that believed they could, together, get through another bump in the road.

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