2000. The business had been going great. Juanita had just given birth to their fifth and last child. They both agreed that five was enough.
He was concerned about her, though. She didn’t look well. She seemed tired all the time. Weak.
She had stopped working at the studios, handing her responsibilities off to Lil. This was unusual. She never gave up work if she could help it.
The worst of it was when she would suddenly become ill unexpectedly. He knew there was something not right. He didn’t want to lose her. She was all he had.
Well, not quite all. He had the children too. But she was all that kept him going. Hell. She kept him sober.
Her love kept him strong. She had been his rock. His support. and now, she was ill.
He felt helpless. He felt as if he couldn’t do anything to help her. The doctors were mystified. Nothing was showing up in the tests. And that, alone, made him feel powerless.
And he hated feeling powerless. And small. He wanted to always be the white knight who rode in to save the day. But that was not the case now.
But, as always, she pt on a brave face and tried to struggle through every day. He hated to see her struggle. She was so used to being strong and healthy. So used to being independent.
He continued to work, but he couldn’t keep his mind on it. T-Bone noticed the decline in quality. He knew that Matt needed to be home with Juanita.
He entered Matt’s office. “We need to talk.”
Matt looked up. “About what?”
Tyrell looked him in the eye. “About where you should be.”
He seemed unfazed. “And where is that?”
His friend shook in head in disbelief. “C’mon, Bro. Quit acting. You should be home with your wife, not here. She needs you. Go ahead and take as long as you need. You always have a place here whenever you decide to come back.”
Of course, he already knew that he’d always have a place in the company. Hell. He was a founder. He just didn’t want to go home and face the truth. He didn’t want to think about possibly losing the only woman who had loved him back.
Working had given him a way to ignore it all. A way to deal with the pain and stay alcohol-free. If he faced it, he wasn’t sure if he would be strong enough to remain sober.
Solomon, their third child, was now in school. But he was wise beyond his years. He knew his mommy was ill. He knew that daddy was wracked with guilt over it. And he knew that little Tariq would need to be taught about mommy, should anything happen to her.
Egypt knew, as well, that she would have to help care for the younger children now. Mom was ill. Dad was a wreck. She and Sahara both moved back home to help with things around the house. They knew they would be needed.
She knew it would be a miracle if her dad could manage to get through this unscathed. Emotionally, he was about to be ruined. Physically, he might withstand the storm. Mentally, well, that was another matter.
Matt suddenly realized that Tyrell was right. Instead of working to hide from things, He needed to be home with Juanita. He needed to take care of her. Nurse her back to health. Or, at least, try to.
He needed to be there for her. Even if he didn’t know how to fix this, or even if he couldn’t fix it, he had to be there. He had to try. He had to fight to save her.
He didn’t know what he was going to do if he lost her. He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t see losing as an option. Not with a One year old Tariq beginning to walk. He didn’t want her to miss all the firsts.
Deep down, he felt that he was fighting a losing battle. He couldn’t help but feel like a rat on a sinking ship. For the first time, he had no idea what to do. At least in the past, he had a plan of action. But now, he had nothing.
He went home and began being all he could be. He swallowed his tears and fears. He tried not to let his emotions show as he began taking care of Juanita. He struggled to keep himself under control
Every day was going to be a fight on more than one front. He knew it would be. Watching her deteriorate was tearing his heart out. Trying to be strong was wearing as well. So was trying to remain positive.
And the mounting frustration made it hard to refrain from screaming at everyone. The doctors still had not found the cause of her illness. That, alone, made him feel like they weren’t really trying even though he knew they were doing their best. They continued to run every test known to the medical profession. And those tests continued to come up negative.
He didn’t know how much longer he could take this. Although he knew he had to remain strong for her, He didn’t know if he could remain strong for himself. Or whether he would begin to crumble. And he didn’t want to crumble. Not in front of the kids.
At night, he went into his office and sobbed. Sure that no one could hear him, he allowed the emotions of the day wash over him. He prayed. He ranted. He screamed. He raged.
Every day, he seemed calm. Strong. Collected. But, deep inside, a war raged.
He didn’t want the children to see how bad he was hurting. How helpless he felt. How sad he really was. He couldn’t afford to allow them to see him that way.
So he went through the day with a warmth to his words that spoke of positivity, and a smile that belied how he felt. He felt guilty for putting on a facade, a false front, but he knew no other way to handle things. Especially this. This was not like things back in the seventies. Not one bit.