January 22, 2018 is the date of the last text message I ever sent to Matt. At 8:50 p.m., after G and H had gone to bed, I wrote: You awake?
The text seems insignificant—two words strung together without a linking verb to form a complete sentence—and yet, this text might be the most hopeful of all the texts and words I’ve ever typed. Because Matt hadn’t properly texted me in over a month and nothing in his day would have made me believe that tonight would be the night he’d pick up his phone to check his messages and respond. And yet, I texted and watched my phone for those telltale three dots. That hope, that what if question: what if tonight there was some improvement?
It had been another difficult day at Columbia. The full spinal MRI had been put on hold indefinitely because the doctors were concerned Matt wouldn’t remain still in the MRI. That snap of anger, that spark of frustration, had reached his interactions with doctors and nurses and they didn’t believe he would cooperate for the hour long test. The plan was to taper his Dex, again, and hope for a chance the next day.
Nevertheless, as expected, rumblings of discharge began to filter into the doctors’ discussions. Save for the spinal MRI, Matt needed no further hospital intervention—and a MRI wasn’t a reason to keep him in a hospital setting, particularly when patients were being turned away at the door from the ER. A MRI could always be done as an outpatient procedure at some later date when Matt’s cognition improved.
We (Matt’s parents and I) wanted Matt to receive the help he needed to begin to regain his strength–physically and mentally– and to return, at least in some small part, to himself. Nothing else mattered. However, no rehab would accept Matt in his current state—confused and agitated and off-balance. No rehab would accept Matt because he needed too much care and the hospital wouldn’t keep him because he didn’t need enough care.
I began to consider the logistics of Matt coming home. I’d need help–experience had taught me too well that I could not be a mother and a caregiver at the same time. And without a doubt, we (Matt and I in our forever home) would need a hospital bed of sorts on the first floor to save Matt from having to use the stairs twice a day. When I mentioned the idea of a hospital bed to Matt days prior (the day he’d fallen at our home), his reaction had been to let me know he’d throw any hospital bed out the window. But this time, his reaction was muted, almost indifferent. Which I know frightened me more than his anger. Because if we were fighting, if that’s what Matt wanted to do, his heart had to be in the fight. If his heart and soul no longer had the energy to fight, then we’d already lost.
Maybe that’s why I texted Matt one year ago today. Not because I hoped for an upswing, for a Matt-like response—a splash of humor, a complaint about the food—but because I was hoping for a spark of fight, for confirmation that his strength of conviction was still in place.
Maybe I just wanted a reminder that we were still on the same team.
One last hopeful night.