I went to see a film with a couple of friends last night. The movie wasn’t great but I was happy to be out; it was only the second or third time I’d made it to the cinema since Dylan moved to residential care. One of the things I’ve found most surprising about transition is how little advantage I’ve taken of my sudden freedom. When I was Dylan’s carer I used to imagine all the things I’d do if I got the opportunity: I would, I promised myself, go to poetry readings and the theatre, take trips to random places, sign-up for evening classes and take up bell-ringing. In the four months since Dylan moved to his care home, however, I’ve done little or none of this.
Today I’ve asked myself why these activities are proving such a challenge. In the early days of Dylan’s transition I preferred to stay home in the evenings in case the care home telephoned (they never did). Once I’d discovered the joy of having the house to myself, however, I started to make excuses to stay home; these were the nights of long baths with the door open and Bach on loud. Then I realised the years of broken nights were finally mending; I started to sleep so deeply in the evenings I couldn’t wait to get to bed. Finally, it was simply easiest to stay home. There have been some bursts of activity; I remember a week I went out three nights running for example. Mostly, however, I have been hibernating.
I did, at some point, try taking a leaf from Dylan’s book. Realising the transition was as much mine as his, I drew up a list of activities and a proposed timetable for myself. If structure and routine were helpful for Dylan, perhaps they could also support me through the difficult early weeks? I adopted the same approach to constructing my timetable as I did for Dylan; I considered the balance of activities and their sequence and pace through the week. The timetable would, I thought, provide me with a safe framework as well as the challenge I needed to jump-start my life. Here I am, however, more or less still stalled (with the exception of last night).
While I did once worry about my apparent lack of motivation, recently I have developed a different way of thinking. I think of ‘transition’ as a bridge (or series of bridges) which I must use to reach a distant river bank. Some days I visualise the bridge as high and rickety, a rope slung over a high gorge. Other days it is low wide concrete or (Dylan would like this) it runs perilously alongside a railway crossing. I am, I tell myself, in a sort of limbo, crossing over from one world to the next; in this held place I am both carer and simply mother, neither entirely one thing or the other. It is, I think, a state of waiting for something to begin.
The photo is of Harry Potter’s bridge, on the Fort William to Mallaig railway.