For weeks and months before January 6, 2018, G had been asking me for a sleepover. All her friends had started sleeping at each other’s houses, and she wanted to have a friend sleep over at our house, too. For weeks and months, I’d been telling her it was a bad time; Daddy was too sick and things were too hectic.
But one year ago today, I gave in. I told G she could have the sleepover she’d been asking for. Matt wasn’t better, but he wasn’t angry, and that felt like enough of a step in the right direction. Without that snap of anger, things felt reasonably calm in our home and I couldn’t say “no” anymore.
My plan was to keep Matt and the kids—G, her friend, and H—in separate corners of the house. For the most part, I was successful. While Matt was downstairs, the kids played in the basement. When Matt went upstairs, the kids watched a movie. We all (Matt, G, her friend, H, and me) all sat in the same room only once, for dinner.
The meal was blissfully uneventful. The kids rushed through their slices of pizza to return to playing. After the kids left, Matt asked when we were going home. I remember the way he smiled up at me as he asked the question, the innocence in his expression, and I asked if he was joking. He said no, he was ready to go home. I remember the way my heart skipped a beat. We’d had snaps of anger and failed cognition exams in the doctor’s office, but this was something new, something infinitely more terrifying—Matt didn’t recognize our home. I told him we were home and asked whether he recognized our kitchen. He said he didn’t. Another heart beat skipped.
I remember when I told him we were home, I said, “Yep, this is it,” and then I asked—because I couldn’t help myself, because I was trying to find a little light in a terrifying question—whether he was disappointed. He laughed a little and looked around the kitchen, which was admittedly messy, and said, “Yeah, kinda.” I laughed—a laugh that was part hysteria—and he laughed, too.
Afterward, I led Matt upstairs and helped him get to bed. I placed the newly delivered cane beside his bed, and he promised me that he’d use it if he needed to go to the bathroom at night. (He did not use the cane, at least not correctly, though that is a post for another day.) Matt went to bed and I focused my attention for the rest of the night on the kids, who were busy with their own games and movies and snacks.
Days later, at our next neuro-oncologist appointment, I told the doctor about this particular episode—Matt not recognizing his home. The doctor noted it and asked with a fair amount of incredulousness why I would add the stress of a sleepover to our nights. I told her I didn’t know. But that was a lie. I did know. Because we (Matt and I) had two little kids at home who deserved a million miracles, and if we couldn’t give them that, then the least we could do was give them a fun sleepover and a slice of normal.
To see G and H happy–after all, that’s what we were fighting so hard for.