April 22, 2017 was not easy. Moments from this day are so stamped into my mind that I only need to close my eyes and I can feel the rain soaking through my clothes at the softball field.
G had a parade for the official opening day of the baseball and softball season. It would be her first time marching in the parade and she was excited to walk down the street with her friends, despite the light drizzle that had started. She needed to be dropped off at a certain time or else she’d miss walking with her team. We were running late and H had a temper tantrum over which sneakers to wear and I was spinning myself into circles trying to get everyone out the door and Matt was…trying. We split the kids up. Matt stayed with H and would bring him to the parade once he settled. I drove G to her team and staked out a spot to watch.
Minutes turned into an hour. G passed by with her team, smiling and waving and adorable. Still no Matt. And no answer to my text messages, either. The rain came down harder. G’s team and half the town gathered on the field for ice cream. I tried to keep my panic down to an ordinary level, didn’t let my mind go into full on freaking out mode. And then a text from Matt: In car.
But more time passed and no Matt, no H. He called me or I called him and he told me he hadn’t been able to figure out how to get the car out of the garage and they weren’t coming. And another bottom dropped out.
It was after this phone call that I walked away from the crowd because there was not enough air to breathe in the wide open, rain soaked field, not with a chest full of fear and mom guilt and wild, unrestrained panic.
We all got home safe, dried off, and probably should have called it a day. But, we didn’t. We (and really mostly me) needed normal. Needed to find a way to prove that everything was still fine. Because not only were we chasing a cure, I was chasing normal. So, we went out.
One of the couples we were going out with offered to drive us (thank goodness because Matt should not be driving anymore). We made small talk in the car. I could hear how off Matt sounded and how hard he was trying to sound okay. I don’t know if the other couple noticed, I have to imagine they did, but they continued to include him in the conversation like nothing was wrong. Then we got to the restaurant and had a drink standing around the bar. Matt chatted and laughed with the other guys, and didn’t notice when his right arm started drooping and his drink started spilling onto a good friend who was gracious enough to laugh the incident away. We sat at dinner. Matt ordered, but then couldn’t remember what he’d ordered. And when the food came, he struggled to hold his knife. It was hard to watch and even harder to ignore.
During dinner, one of our friends turned to me, seeing Matt’s struggle, probably seeing my distress, and said something along the lines of: don’t worry, we (the three couples we were out with) got this, you can take the night off. I couldn’t and didn’t take the night off, obviously, but we made it through the night and managed to have enough fun to scrub out the stain of the morning.
Remember when I talked about help I couldn’t repay because it would take lifetimes? Well, that help manifested in a million different ways, and sometimes it was there, in something as simple and impossible as chasing normal right alongside me.
So April 22, was not easy, and reliving the darkest days is and will be as gut wrenching as I thought it would be, but I’m grateful to find, that even in the darkest times, there was light and kindness, and always hope.