January 13, 2018: Paper Cuts

One year ago today, Matt, his sister, and I left G and H with my mom to spend the weekend in the city. Matt had started the increased dose of Dexamethasone—and, according to the text messages, that anger came back almost instantly.

No matter how much I stretch my memory, I cannot dredge up a single moment of Matt’s anger toward me on this day. I don’t remember what incited his anger, whether it was warranted or not. I’d like to say that the memory didn’t stick because I knew the anger wasn’t his, it was the tumor’s and it was the steroid’s, and so I simply shook off the harsh words. But, saying that would be saying an untruth. Because each angry word that wasn’t his left a paper-cut sized wound before I could shake it off. And eventually all those paper-cut sized wounds began to add up, and the wounds began to hurt. And there was no one to blame for the hurt, because it wasn’t Matt’s fault. Not even a little.

When we arrived in the city, Matt went to lunch with his cousin while I went to watch the Broadway play Dear Evan Hansen with Matt’s parents and sisters. Though Matt had gone to Hamilton weeks earlier (and loved it!), we were all fairly certain that Matt, even Matt before Glioblastoma, would have hated the play. Too much drama, not enough Lin-Manuel Miranda.

One song from the show stands out in my memory with a heartbreaking kind of precision. At one point, Evan Hansen’s mother sings about being a single mother. I couldn’t stop the tears. In the theater. In front of everyone. I cried because I was a child of a single mom and I saw her struggles reflected in that song; I cried because I’d felt like a single mom for so many of the last few months; and I cried because—though I was terrified to even allow the thought in—I realized that I might actually be a single mom at some point in the future, and (as the song suggested) there’d be moments I’d miss, moments I felt too small for the role I would have to fill. I cried because I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in a row in weeks, because I didn’t know what tomorrow would look like, and because holding it together was beginning to tear me apart.

I remember returning to the hotel and finding Matt with his cousin. I remember dinner and a handful of awkward moments. I remember going to bed, worrying whether Matt would be okay overnight in an unfamiliar place, whether the bathroom floor was too slippery, whether there was some safety protocol I hadn’t thought to put in place.

January 13, 2018 was a last. A last non-medical trip into Manhattan, the city in which our relationship had blossomed and grown; a last dinner out, even if it was hard; a last chance to feel a little normal.

That night, as we went to bed, I asked Matt what he thought of the day. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember falling asleep grateful in the knowledge that Matt was happy. Happy he’d celebrated his mom’s birthday, happy to have an incredible view of the city, happy, maybe, thanks to the lingering glow of a loving family. It had been a tough day, but Matt was happy and all the rest became static, at least for a few hours.

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