December 30, 2017: A Night With Friends

One year ago today, we (Matt and I) took G and H to see Ferdinand. We met up with close family friends at the movie theater and afterward we (the other family plus our family of four) went back to our house to order in dinner and let the kids play.

I only vaguely remember this night. I remember that Matt ate with his hands, scooped food with his fingers. I remember he disappeared into the bathroom for a while and everyone grew slightly nervous, even as I smiled and tried to reassure everyone, including myself—everything’s fine. I remember the irrational need to entertain, as if that might distract from what was happening with Matt. The family friends we had over knew the truth about Matt—they’d seen it for themselves and heard the stories—but somehow I still wanted to protect everyone from the truth.

One year ago today, we had exactly five weeks left—thirty-five days. These thirty-five days were filled with lasts. Last conversations, last text messages, last hopes. The story of December 30, 2017 is also the story of a last. A last movie. A last dinner-in with friends. A last attempt at normal.

A few days ago we returned from our second ever ski trip. I’ve spent the days since we returned trying to collect my thoughts on the trip. Days later, I still don’t have a comprehensive overview to offer. The grief that accompanied this trip was different. Though it was our second ski trip and first without Matt, the grief that accompanied this trip wasn’t for what had been. Nostalgia and sweet memories didn’t lurk around every corner. More often, the memories were harsh. The grief that accompanied this trip was solely focused on what might have been: G realizing Daddy will never see her ski down the bunny hill, H looking around the ski lodge at all the families of four.

Matt and I had always wanted G and H to learn how to ski. We’d wanted them to learn, though neither of us had any interest in going out onto the cold, snowy mountains. Matt and I had big plans—his sister and her husband would take G and H out on the slopes, and he and I would drink wine in the lodge. This trip, with the knowledge that Matt wouldn’t be there to sip wine with me in the lodge, I took a ski lesson. Maybe in the spirit of trying new things in Post Hope, proving to myself that I can do the things I never thought I could do.

The lesson was fine, I didn’t fall on my face, and except for one incident in the line for the ski lift, I wasn’t half bad (if I do say so myself). I could have talked myself into another lesson, another day of skiing. But I didn’t. As I sat in the lodge, missing what might have been, I thought of how I’d spent the last year proving to myself that I can do the things I never thought I could. But maybe it was also time to prove I could still be the person I was, do the things I’d always wanted to do with Matt, even without Matt, even if that seemed like the harder path forward. So, while G and H skied, I sat in the lodge, missing Matt and remembering a little bit of the person I was when I was with Matt. And I realized that maybe I could somehow be this Post Hope version of myself and myself. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s more than okay to realize the person I was before February 3rd isn’t completely gone, after all.

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