The reason I spent longer than I usually do with Dylan yesterday is that I won’t be able to see him this weekend. One of the first things I did when Dylan’s residential placement was confirmed, in July, was book myself a place on a poetry course. This was the sort of thing, I told myself, that I hadn’t been able to do while I was caring for Dylan. At the time the course seemed a distance point in the future but suddenly it is here.
I’m not sure I’m ready for it, or that it is something I really want to be doing with my time, so I feel some trepidation about the weekend. I’ve almost cancelled on several occasions but not quite managed it. Most of my reasons for not wanting to go are about me rather than Dylan. I must have had a brainstorm when I booked a place on the course, I tell myself: I don’t like writing in a group; I’m not in need of triggers for poems; and (like many teachers) I’m a lousy student.
I know the flip side of this coin, fortunately. Being a part of a community of writers can unlock a voice in fresh and interesting ways. I like the work of at least some of the tutors leading the course and all will have interesting insights to share. And (perhaps most importantly for me) having space to think about poetry might help me re-engage with my identity as a poet. It has been difficult, in the last couple of years, for me to maintain this; my advocacy for Dylan has taken such a large part of my life that the time I have been able to give to my poetry has been limited. As Dylan settles into his new life, however, I hope to re-balance mine so that I have more time for working on my poems. Perhaps the up-coming weekend will be part of this process, I tell myself.
Still, the thought of the weekend unnerves me. It is many years since I was able to attend such a course; the last time must have been almost 22 years ago as I was pregnant with Dylan at the time. My main memory of that particular course is that I spent a lot of time with a woman called Daphne, helpless with laughter; also, the very late nights, some cracking poems and a wandering moose. I don’t expect the moose will show up and my late nights are over, but some half-decent poems and laughter might make the weekend worth the effort.
Part of that effort, of course, is about leaving Dylan. His visual schedule has made such a positive contribution to his life, in terms of understanding the shape of his week, that I’m pretty sure Dylan realises he won’t see me this weekend. Last night, over dinner, he kept pointing to Saturday and looking at me with quizzical eyes for reassurance I couldn’t give. Back at his care home I drew a column on his whiteboard, next to where he had pinned his visual schedule, and tried to draw a symbol of myself for next Monday. I’m supposed to be going to a Christmas dinner with work colleagues that evening but I suspect I will want to go and see Dylan instead; waiting until my regular Wednesday night visit will seem too long.
I’m sure that with practice I will feel more comfortable about leaving Dylan. When I booked a place on this weekend’s course I told myself it would be a try-out; I should probably think of it as the first step on a road I must travel. It will, of course, be a first step for Dylan too as he will get to experience staying at his residential home for an entire weekend. Other residents will be there and I see from Dylan’s programme that he has some exciting trips to look forward to. Knowing Dylan is being well cared for and having new experiences will hopefully help me to relax and enjoy mine.