Three weeks later here we are, on a cool autumnal evening, just the two of us, driving to pick her up for an evening out to watch her cousin play in a concert at Hexham Abbey. This is the longest we have been apart, and my emotions are really in a spin. Can I hold it together if she suddenly gets clingy at the end of the evening? What if she doesn't want to stay when it comes to saying goodbye?
Hayley has been so excited. For the last week, each time she calls, she has been asking about what we are doing on Monday. It's her way of anticipating a special event. It's a ritual we go through whenever there is something she is really looking forward to. Not only is she excited about seeing us, but she loves listening to her cousin playing her Violin. Hayley is obsessed with the instrument. She wants to learn to play herself. Even now as I write I can only imagine what the sound of Hayley learning to play the violin would be like!
On the way she rang us to say how she was looking forward to seeing us. She was really animated and inside I suddenly felt a bit worried. What if she wants to come home with us, or starts to get upset when we leave? How would we cope with that situation? The rest of the journey became a quiet dread of this all spiralling out of control.
As the car drew up outside her cottage I couldn't help smile. Her bedroom curtains were closed even though it wasn't dark yet. That was another of Hayley's little foibles. She never liked her curtains opened even on the dullest of days. I'm not sure why, but that's life with when your child has special needs.
I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe I thought that there would be squeals of excitement, or lots of giggling, but the cottage was quiet and orderly. No sign of my daughter though!
A member of staff went up to tell her we had arrived and we duly waited in the dining room for her to appear. And we waited, and waited. More than ten minutes passed. Eventually I could hear her footsteps on the stairs. At last!
She looked lovely and had spent a lot of time getting ready. She was calm and matter of fact. Well, this was different to how I had imagined. Inside I was relieved. She was pleased to see us but obviously felt that this was her place and we were definitely her visitors.
We had a lovely evening. She chatted and laughed and told us all about what she had been up to. She hadn't changed much. After all it was only three weeks since we had seen each other. But she seemed different.
When it came to saying goodbye it wasn't the wrench that I thought that it would be. Instead I had a peaceful feeling inside. This was now her life and she was embracing it with both arms!