It can take me a while sometimes to see things which ought to be obvious. Perhaps I’m too busy scratching away at surfaces and peering into cracks, as if the only discoveries of any value are buried underground. Today, however, I realised something simple about this transition business.
Writing about my Grandmother in yesterday’s blog post led me to reflect on Dylan’s relationship with his Grandmother, as I drove to see him at his care home today. My mum intuitively built rich and deep relationships with both my children. As an onlooker (an outsider even) I would marvel at the way she unearthed their anxieties and solved their conundrums. I was continually in awe (envious even) of the way she seemed to know exactly what my children needed; a trip out at just the right time or a story or round of toast.
Almost ten years since my mum passed away and it is her photograph which Dylan keeps by his bed and carries with him, now, between his care home and our home. I know that the space mum occupies in Dylan’s life, physically as well as emotionally, is hers alone; when I took photographs of myself and Dylan’s sister to the care home, thinking Dylan might like these in his room, he gave them back. Does it seem strange to him, I wonder, that we should display photos of people who are alive? Does he keep the photograph of his gran, perhaps, because she is gone?
It is this phenomenon – the physical presence of somebody – which was part of my realisation today. Perhaps, I thought to myself, I can have a special role in Dylan’s life like mum did now. Because rather than being responsible for his routine care I am free (as she had been) to appear like a fairy mother in his life. My visits to Dylan are treats in the way our shared life couldn’t be; whereas before I had to manage chores alongside caring for Dylan, now I can focus on him when we meet. Perhaps he will come to think of me as the person who knows exactly what he needs?
So this morning, as we sat in the corner of a cafe sharing toast, I had my realisation. All Dylan’s previous transitions, I reflected, had involved endings. As Dylan has moved between schools, respite services and day care providers, he has had to cope with the sudden absence of people and places he has known and loved, and accept the loss of routines which have been important to him. I, by contrast, have not disappeared; his relationship with me is simply changed. Perhaps because I am still in his life, leaving home does not have to be like the other difficult transitions; now I can be the one to turn up and, at just the right time, take him out for tea.