When Dylan first moved into residential care I missed the rhythm of our shared life so much I checked his weekly programme constantly. ‘Dylan will be in the swimming pool’ I would say to myself or ‘he’ll be helping prepare lunch now’ or ‘he’s probably still driving back to the home.’ Being aware of Dylan’s activities helped me to feel close to him and that he was still part of my life.
A few weeks ago, feeling Dylan’s absence one Sunday evening, I looked to see what he had scheduled. If I was feeling bereft, I told myself, it was likely Dylan was too. I had developed the idea that there were parallels in the way we were experiencing transition. One day staff reported that Dylan had spent the evening saying my name and wandering from room to room, unable to settle. I had been doing the same that night, I realised; up and down the stairs I had paced, opening and closing doors, breathing his name. We keep deep rhythm with each other; some nights when I can’t sleep I later find Dylan has been restless too.
I’d hoped there was something to distract Dylan that night so he didn’t miss me too much after the weekend. Dylan, I discovered from his schedule, was having a ‘Foot Spa’. Foot spa? I wondered what that involved. It wasn’t something I’d experienced. Later that evening, heavy with absence, I’d fetched my big tin basin. Dylan and I were sharing the difficulty of separation so why not its benefits? If being aware of Dylan’s programme helped me feel close to him, how much nearer might doing the same thing bring us? So I lit candles and sat with my feet in water.
The foot spa helped that night; somehow the emptiness and anxiety quietened and the evening became possible again. This still seems like miracle to me. How did it happen? Had my grief accumulated in my feet? Was it between my toes I had clenched the sadness? Do I carry my vulnerability on the heel? Or perhaps it wasn’t about the foot spa at all but simply the act of making a connection – that mirroring Dylan’s schedule had given me emotional access to his world.
Dylan hasn’t had ‘Foot Spa’ scheduled at this time again but every week now, on Sunday evening, I fetch my big tin basin.