G woke up not feeling well on February 2, 2018. She was tired and cold, but not feverish, and after an internal debate that raged into the first minutes of the school day, I decided to let her spend the day at home. Or more accurately, at my sister’s house, because even without knowing that I could count the hours and minutes we had left together, I couldn’t be away from Matt for an entire day.
I texted a friend to tell her that Matt’s breathing was more even than it had been the day before. I was no longer assessing our days in terms of upswings and down cycles, or steps forward and back, but studying Matt, overanalyzing his every breath, was habit. And the measurement became simply this: if his breathing was more even than the day before, then my breathing was more even than it had been the day before.
I don’t remember much of this day, the logistics that went into getting H to and from school and G to and from my sister’s. I know by the afternoon, G had napped and fought off whatever bug might have been brewing, and we (G, H, and I) spent the afternoon and evening with Matt. We brought in quesadillas from Chipotle (one of the few things H was willing to eat during these days—sometimes still the only thing he is willing to eat) and I don’t remember the rest. How we arranged ourselves on the furniture in that quiet room and the things we talked about are memories that have faded into the blur of this final week.
It’s only in hindsight that I know February 2, 2018 was our last family dinner.
When a storm is coming, when the weather forecasters are issuing warnings for blizzards or hurricanes, sometimes the sun is still shining, still filtering into a quiet room with a courtyard view. The dark cloud isn’t even a blip on the horizon, and it’s almost hard to believe a storm is barreling toward you. And yet, you know it’s coming, and you know you’re helpless to stop it, so you prepare despite the sunshine and the clear horizon. You gather supplies and prop up shutters to protect your most vulnerable planes, and you wait, defenseless against mother nature. Maybe you hope the forecasters were wrong and the storm will miss you. Maybe you just breathe and stare at the sky, waiting for a change, maybe waiting for a rainbow.
Sometimes it’s easy to weather the storm. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, the storm is too strong. Sometimes, the storm whips away all your supplies and breaks down all your shutters and there is nothing left—there is nothing left between you and that storm. So you face it, head-on, because you have no other choice. And you hope you don’t break. And you hope if you do, there will be someone to catch you.
February 2, 2018 was the day before the storm.