One year ago today, I got the official word that Matt would be discharged from Kessler’s acute in-patient traumatic brain injury unit on Friday morning. After three long weeks, he was coming home, and the psychic who’d come to conduct a sage burning in our home had been proven correct.
The logic became this: if she was right about the day Matt would come home from Kessler, maybe she’d be right about it all. That moment when she’d held my gaze and told me Matt would be okay—maybe she’d be right about that, too. Glimmers of hope. I never promised to be rational in how we found our next glimmer of hope.
When a friend texted to ask how Matt was doing, I wrote that he was feeling good, that I felt as if he was more himself than he had been in a long time. He’d begun responding to text messages from friends and watching television and asking about G’s and H’s day. He wasn’t one hundred percent—he’d perfumed poorly on a cognition test earlier that day—but we didn’t need one hundred percent. For now, the ability to text and watch television and show interest in the kids was enough. The ability to smile and laugh and have a conversation was enough.
In slowing down our year, reviewing each day and making sense of what happened, it’s startling (for me) to see how my threshold changed without my noticing. Back in April, I wrote that a text message with a typo set my nerves on edge. I noted that an exam in which Matt forgot one of the words he was supposed to remember made me want to scream for attention. But by October, a failed cognition test barely registered. Somehow, in only six months, incidents that once kept me up worrying into the late hours of the night, now barely caused me to blink twice.
Which is not to say that I wasn’t endlessly worried. Would Matt be able to return to work? Would his sense of humor and razor sharp wit return? Would our marriage survive the shift in relationship dynamics? And, what would our future look like now? Endless appointments and tests loomed on our horizon. Matt would need more therapy after discharge—the doctors at Kessler recommended outpatient physical and cognition therapy three times a week. He would need more tests—the doctor at Columbia wanted to repeat the inconclusive test from the prior week. He’d need scans and check ups and blood work. How long was our road to a cure? Would we ever return to our normal life?
The difference may be only that, six months later, we weren’t wide-eyed and innocent of the cruelty of brain cancer. Six months later, we’d been battered and nearly broken too many times. And every near break, every hard day, had made us more prepared for the next hard day. We knew enough, by October 18, 2017, to save our strength and sleepless nights for the bigger battles on the horizon.
One year ago today, after weeks of being incapable of doing so, Matt called me to say good night before he went to bed. Like he had dozens of time before from hotel rooms all around the world. And that was enough. To keep hope burning for one more day, that was enough.