I heard the story so many times, I could tell it verbatim to the doctors and nurses who asked.
Yes, Shawn went to a baseball game early in October. Yes, he had at least one hot dog. Almost immediately after, the pain started. We thought he had food poisoning at first, and then maybe an infection. But it was that day – the day the pain crippled him for the first time – when things became truly concerning.
That day was October 10th.
He had some small warning signs before that. An upset stomach here or there, a twinge of pain every once in a while throughout the few weeks prior. But the terrible pain didn’t start until October 10th.
I know it was that date because he said it all the time, to every medical professional we met. October 10th. October 10th. October 10th.
Of course, tomorrow is October 10th.
In many ways, this date separates my life before and my life after. When I think about the times when my life radically changed, I usually think about Shawn’s diagnosis date and the day he died. Those dates are extremely significant for me, as I’ve documented on this blog.
But when I think back to when my life was normal, I think about the time before October 10th. Back then, in the “before” time, I worried about potty training and the overabundance of preservatives in our food and whether or not my 3rd grader really understood multiplication. In the “before” time I argued with my husband about who was doing the majority of the clean-up after dinner and yet I also snuggled into his chest at night as we watched b-rate sci-fi movies. In the “before” time I felt stressed by life sometimes, but I also knew I had a full and generally happy life.
That time was all before October 10th. Once the pain hit Shawn, I wasn’t worried about making sure we had plenty of paper towels and the right sized winter boots. I just needed him to start functioning again so that I didn’t feel like I was single parenting anymore. I needed him to be fully present again, dammit.
We all know the end to this story. Shawn never got better, not even for a few days. It was a steady slide downhill for the next three months.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I knew things were drastically disintegrating. But the time when my life really changed was October 10th. Before that date, life was normal. After it, everything was different.
Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I just thought it was a momentary setback, at least for the first few weeks. I didn’t know it was the beginning of the end.
I think most everyone in my life remembers that Shawn died January 9th. For a the first year, a had a few friends who even texted me on the 9th of every month, just to check in. Even two years later, I know people will remember the anniversary of his death.
But to me, this other date – October 10th – is almost as significant. It’s when my life changed, even though I didn’t yet understand.
Now, two years later, I face another October 10th. Another realization that my life was once so different than what it has become.
There was “before.”
And now there is just “after.”