Matt and I exchanged four text messages over the course of the day on July 13, 2017. Which, though unusual, is not concerning. Sometimes we just didn’t have all that much to text about because we didn’t have much to discuss. One year ago today, Matt had taken the CCNU, his next Avastin appointment was booked, the furniture for our forever home had been delivered, those pesky bathroom blinds had been installed. Things were as settled as we could hope they’d be while waiting for the next MRI to show us how that third tumor responded to treatment.
If brain cancer was out of the equation, I might almost have been worried that things were getting too boring. But brain cancer was in the equation. So hopefully instead of worrying, I relished the unusually quiet day. Truthfully, I don’t remember. Though, I can almost guarantee I spent at least some of the afternoon, while waiting for G and H to come home from camp, on the computer, searching brain cancer forums for someone whose story echoed Matt’s story, someone who’d had three tumors, failed Temodar, but flourished with CCNU.
To write today’s post, I cycled back through the years. I stumbled on more than a handful of emails and photographs, but nothing worth writing about until I reached July 13, 2011, when we were on the verge of yet another life change. Seven years ago today, Matt and I announced to the world (or, more accurately, to Facebook) that G was going to be a big sister. Seven years ago, we announced that we would soon be a family of four.
When Matt and I first got engaged, first started talking about the kind of family we would want, Matt told me he wanted five kids. I told him no. (Emphatically told him no.) I wanted only two kids. He said let’s see what happens. Then, in 2010, we had G (and I’ve shared her birth story in a post on April 29). After G was born, Matt agreed that maybe he only wanted three kids. I told him no. (With the same emphasis.) Then we had H, and in the delivery room, moments after officially becoming a father of two, Matt agreed: Yep, we’re done.
That’s a story Matt and I liked to tell often. And—with utmost modesty—I can admit that we were excellent at telling this story, each knowing our respective lines, where to interrupt and where to flash a mischievous grin.
H was (very much) wanted, though not exactly planned. G was only a year old when I woke up one morning and told Matt that I thought I was pregnant. He quirked his head, looked at me, and said, “Oh man, you are.” Two weeks later, I took a test to confirm the truth we both somehow already knew.
Nine months later, H was born.
The other day I visited the hospital in which H was born. It was also the hospital in which Matt had brain surgery and the one in which he spent most of his September. Needless to say, driving into the parking lot, walking through the doors, passing the same personnel, brought back vivid memories. Memories I have shared and plan to share as part of our story. Memories that steal the light from a room.
But, as I sat visiting my nephew, the third nephew born since February 3rd (and yes, the heartbreak associated with that statement dips into unimaginable depths), I realized I’d let all the bad memories at this hospital shove out all the good memories. I’d forgotten that H was born at this hospital. I’d forgotten that once I’d walked down those same hallways, with a swollen belly, Matt by my side, joking that it felt as if we were checking in to a hotel. (Scheduled c-sections leave very little room for dramatic entrances.) I’d forgotten that once I’d wandered through that parking lot, with Matt and a baby in a carseat, trying to help Matt remember where he’d parked the car that morning.
I don’t know why the bad memories are easier to recall. There must be some reason that those worst days come to the surface of consciousness so much faster than the good days, the days like July 13, 2011 and July 13, 2017. But what I’ve learned is that for every bad memory that threatens to pull me into the darkness, a good memory will push its way through. Because the good memories are, maybe scrappier, maybe a little less vivid, but just as determined to rise to the surface, if I’m willing to give them a chance.
I suspect in the long run, the good memories may even outlive the bad memories, though that’s only a guess.
But while I’m making guesses, I’m guessing, also, that facing the bad memories will be worth it in the long run, too. Because if I hadn’t faced those bad memories, risked a step into that darkness, I wouldn’t have made the space to make a new memory with my newest little nephew.