Today I had lunch with a friend who I don’t get to see often enough. We are constantly trying, and failing, to fit such meetings into our diaries. We had the foresight, today, to fix another date before we parted. We will need another; there was so much to catch up on we were still exchanging news as we left.
I had some to share today which was so new I didn’t know whether to splurge or keep it stacked like a plane in air traffic control. I remembered that the last few times I’d seen my friend I’d had similar news to share; how strange, I thought, that whenever I see her there is news of my daughter. I landed it with the coffee and ginger flapjack: ‘Actually’, I said, ‘she’s back. She had Dylan’s room last night.’
The last thing I expected was to have my daughter home. One child out of the door, another one in. Life continues to surprise me with its sixpence turns. While I was cooking our meal last night the phone rang. I used to not answer it but I do now that Dylan is in residential care; it is an impossible possibility to ignore. ‘I’ll just get that’, I said to my daughter, ‘in case – you know – your brother’. Either I couldn’t bring myself to speak the words or thought them over-anxious. This time, however, they weren’t: Dylan had been sick. What was ‘dimming’, the care worker asked? He was saying this repeatedly and no one knew what it meant.
I felt my urgent self surfacing. What should I do? Get the car out? Whose responsibility was it when Dylan was ill? The home might be his care-provider now but he would want his mummy wouldn’t he? I wrestled the anxiety far enough down to ask the calmer questions – what had he eaten? had he a temperature? Was he bouncing earlier? As the care worker reassured me that he seemed well in himself – that it was just ‘a courtesy call really’ – I remembered the answer: ‘Tummy! Tummy!’ I cried.
‘Oh not at all’, I said afterwards. My daughter had thought such a call might be a regular occurrence. ‘That’s the first time it’s happened actually’. It’s so strange, I said. Dylan doesn’t normally get sick. Then I remembered that the last time my daughter had come back like this – unexpectedly one evening – Dylan had also been sick. ‘Do you remember?’ I asked her.
As someone who likes order, I have a tendency to look for patterns in random events. I suppose it helps me to feel more in control. Today I realised there is another link between my daughter’s homecomings and son’s sickness; both times we were mourning the passing of friends. ‘Do you think’, I asked my daughter, ‘Dylan somehow senses our sadness?’