But mostly the days are easy. Too easy, I think to myself sometimes. How can I have slipped so effortlessly and quickly into life without Dylan? I almost feel guilty, some days, for not suffering more. One evening, cleaning my teeth before bed, I realised I hadn’t telephoned to ask how Dylan’s day had been. How was it possible that this had slipped my mind? I had been overtaken, I told myself, by an excess of ease.
Perhaps, I speculated, this was a temporary response to Dylan’s leaving; that I had collapsed into sleep and forgetfulness after my years of being vigilant and on alert. It would pass, I told myself, when I had drunk my fill of the waters of recovery. Because it must be more difficult than this, I told myself, unless there was something I was missing?
And then two things happened. This morning, a memory. A passport-sized photo of my Grandma I had found recently had fallen over in the night. I picked it up. It wasn’t, I thought to myself, the Grandma I remembered especially; the frames of her glasses were too modern and her coat too casual. It must have been taken the year she went to Germany, I thought. That trip had been a talking point in my family; if Grandma’s decision to join her church exchange visit had surprised us, it had shocked her. What I found unfamiliar in the photo, perhaps, was the sense of adventure.
Grandma’s trip to Germany was, in a way, the culmination of the life she re-built after my Granddad died, relatively young, from TB. I remembered how she had stayed with us the night he died and I had watched her, curiously, the next morning as she prepared my breakfast. I wondered if grown-ups ever cried. Why did Grandma seem so normal?
It would be years before I realised she had been keeping busy. Just before she died (aged 96) Grandma talked to me about how hard she had found life without Granddad at first. It had taken her a while, she told me, to understand she would have to build a new life for herself. And now, she told me, it felt as if she’d had two lives. Had I known when your Granddad died she said, shaking her head, that I would be on my own for 25 years… She stared at her hands, twisted her wedding ring.
I stood Grandma’s photo back on the chest and thought of Dylan. It’s not the same I know; my absence is not a husband nor through bereavement. Even so, there are parallels in our experience it seemed to me; I will have to rebuild myself, live differently, have another life. And this is perhaps the thing I have been missing; that Dylan is not away for a week or a month but permanently elsewhere. I have been easing myself in a day at a time, I thought to myself, as I drove to work.
And then the second thing today; an email confirming Dylan’s transition review. This is the point at which a placement is confirmed and becomes permanent. I realised, with a shock, that the situation was not temporary; Dylan hasn’t been away on holiday, nor I on extended respite. I stared at the email, thinking about Grandma making my breakfast that morning years ago. Ahead of her, a quarter century. I could still do it, I thought. I could just say: Thank you. Now could Dylan come home please?