On April 19, 2017, I forgot to bring G’s glove to softball and showed up with the wrong kind of helmet. I said “half and a half” in a text message to Matt instead of “hour and a half”. Chances are I forgot to buy half my grocery list at the supermarket that day, too.
It’s a funny thing to remember sending a text message a year ago. And I don’t remember. Not in any real way, anyway. I don’t remember what H was sick with or whether the fever he came home with broke in a few hours or a few days. But I remember re-reading my text message after Matt responded (with his one word answer) and seeing my typo. My typo. A word mixup, which looked nearly identical to some of Matt’s typos over the last few days.
There I’d been, studying and worrying and overanalyzing Matt for mixing up words and sending typos in text messages, and I’d just done the exact same thing. For each instance of Matt saying cold when he meant hot or up when he meant down or attempting to use the rounded back of a spoon to scoop oatmeal, I’d have two —or three or seventeen—episodes of less than perfect brain function. (I forgot to bring a glove to a softball game for goodness sake!) How could I note and dissect every single one of Matt’s missteps, when I was having just as many of my own, if not more? And worse, how could I criticize and obsess over his mistakes when I was the only one who saw them?
People who ran into Matt would frequently comment to me on how good he looked or how great he seemed. When we were on an upswing, I agreed whole heartedly. (Yep, he’s doing awesome. See, never anything to worry about.) But when we were at the beginning of a downturn, or nearing the bottom of one in this case, all I could do was grit my teeth, nod, and collapse into a storm of self-doubt and uncertainty. I hated myself for not agreeing, scolded myself for being overly critical, and told myself to stop imagining problems. But I couldn’t stop seeing the mixups and the mistakes and the miscalculations, and I couldn’t simply wave them off as being the kind of mistakes we’re all guilty of making, no matter how much I wanted to. Why? Why couldn’t I focus on the fact that he was doing great at work and coming home to read to the kids? Just agree with everyone else and move on? I don’t know.
Now that I’ve had the honor of connecting with other brain cancer caregivers (thanks to this blog) I’ve learned that I wasn’t alone in this particular experience, in succumbing to self-doubt. But back then, on April 19, 2017, I didn’t have the benefit of this connection. I knew my world felt tilted just enough off center, that something wasn’t quite right, and I thought it was Matt, but if no one else agreed, then…maybe it was me? Just me, imagining problems and creating drama for no reason. And after a while, it becomes hard to trust your own instincts, to believe what’s in front of you because it’s become second nature to doubt yourself. I did eventually trust my instincts when it came to Matt, but it took me a very long time, possibly too long.