June 25, 2017 marked another last: Matt’s last Yankees game with H.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote that I couldn’t wait to get Matt in front of a doctor so that someone could (hopefully) invalidate my concerns. Today, I’m writing the exact opposite. I was uneasy about Matt going to the Yankees game, without me, because I was worried our friends would validate every pinch of worry I’d had. The only way to explain the contradiction is to shrug and acknowledge that brain cancer impacts an entire family, not just a patient.
The opportunity to go to the game had come at the last minute; we’d gotten a call from a friend who happened to have two extra tickets. The friend asked if Matt and H would like to go and they jumped on the chance. We scrambled to find H’s Yankees gear and lather up on suntan lotion before the long ride to the Bronx. And the entire time an ill-defined fear churned in my thoughts. I wanted Matt to be Matt at the game, but I wasn’t sure he could be.
I couldn’t put into words exactly what was causing my dull panic. I still can’t. Even with the benefit of hindsight in post-hope, I’m not sure exactly what I was noticing. As I wrote this post and tried to find the words, I Googled (again) symptoms related to the third tumor that will soon enter this story. Again, the results were irrelevant. Not one of the associated symptoms helped me identify what I saw in Matt. There was something in his humor, his logic, his wit, which was just that much off.
Even a year later, that feels cruel to admit and every part of me wants to add a footnote putting the fault on me for overanalyzing Matt. Or worse, for not accepting that life had thrown Matt a curveball and he couldn’t be the same Matt he was before a tennis ball sized tumor landed him in the ER. Maybe he was changed, because of life, rather than tumor. Or, maybe he wasn’t changed at all and I was examining every word he spoke too closely. Or maybe, the residual effects of tumor and radiation and treatment were beginning to impact these microscopic portions of personality.
Truly, I don’t know. And I won’t know. Brain cancer took so much of Matt so slowly that I will never be able to pinpoint the date his personality first started disappearing.
That internal conflict I wrote about yesterday (and many times before) raged on silently but surely on June 25, 2017.
A year earlier, on June 25, 2016, Matt and I also drove into the Bronx, but to go to the Bronx Zoo, not a Yankees game. More accurately, I drove (another first: my first time driving into the Bronx) and Matt navigated (no doubt wishing he’d been cleared to drive). We’d gotten a prescription for the MRI, but the radiology center we found wouldn’t let Matt make an appointment without pre-approval from the insurance company. And since June 25, 2016 was a Saturday, we weren’t getting through to anyone. We had the prescription, but we were still stuck.
The memory I’ve just shared from two years ago today doesn’t add much to the narrative. I could have skipped over this particular flashback since it doesn’t add any new information or conflict to the story. But the unlikely coincidence of Matt traveling into the Bronx on the same day, a year apart, struck me and I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s something poetic in the symmetry. Maybe any story involving driving over the GW Bridge will catch my attention (and trigger a flood of memories from the winter of 2018).
Or maybe I just like the reminder that even though everyday was a new battle (or an evolution of the same battle), we had so many good memories embedded into the days, too. A year ago today, Matt and H had a great day at the Yankees game, eating hot dogs and candy and hanging out with their friends. Two years ago today, we had a fun day at the Bronx Zoo, feeding llamas and seeing the animals. And those memories shouldn’t be lost or overshadowed, not even for this story.