Soft return

This is a story in pictures – Rosie’s. They’re all family portraits of sorts, drawn between the ages of 3 and 5, spanning Ben’s descent into the morass of drink and his slow resurrection – his soft return to her.

Daddy (©Rosie, aged 3)

Daddy (©Rosie, aged 3). Early days – shortly after I discovered that Ben was drinking while Rosie was in his care. I stopped leaving her with him. He was shaking miserably back then, in constant withdrawal, by turns vomiting and sipping beer through a straw, because he couldn’t keep still enough to drink it directly from the can.

Mummy ( ©Rosie, aged 3)

Mummy ( ©Rosie, aged 3). Giant egg, always on the verge of cracking and spilling my yolk.

Family portrait, left to right: Ben hanging upside down, Rosie, Mummy (©Rosie, aged 3)

Family portrait, left to right: Mummy, Rosie, and Daddy hanging upside down (©Rosie, aged 3). I remember Ben looking at this and whispering to Rosie, “Daddy’s just a small bastard, isn’t he darling?”

Left to right: Rosie, Mummy, Daddy (©Rosie, aged 3)

Left to right: Daddy(?), Mummy, Rosie (©Rosie, aged 3)

Rosie (left) and Mummy (right; ©Rosie, aged 3)

Rosie (left) and Mummy (right; ©Rosie, aged 3). Ben, lying like a dying man on the couch, moaning periodically to himself, sleeping, endlessly sleeping.

Bunting featuring Mummy and Rosie (©Rosie, aged 4)

Bunting featuring Mummy and Rosie (©Rosie, aged 4). For a while, Ben disappeared from Rosie’s drawings. When I asked her where Daddy was, she would say: “He’s in the sky or he’s in the sun or he’s sleeping in the house [if there was a house] or he’s at the doctor… or he isn’t there.”

Rainbow world with Rosie and Mummy, both of us towering over the sun. (©Rosie, aged 4)

Rainbow world with Rosie and Mummy, both of us towering over the sun. (©Rosie, aged 4).

Left to right: Rosie's cousin, Mummy and Rosie in heart world. (©Rosie, aged 4). Ben has been in and out of two detoxes and has failed day rehab, too. After countless relapses, he goes into rehab. Rosie and I are on our own, the flat finally ours again.

Left to right: Rosie’s cousin, Mummy and Rosie in heart world. (©Rosie, aged 4). Ben has been in and out of detox several times now and has failed day rehab, too. After countless relapses, he goes into residential rehab. Rosie and I are on our own, the flat finally ours again.

A recent portrait, series of 2. Rosie, Mummy and Daddy, all wearing rainbows. (©Rosie, aged 5). Ben has been doing two weeks of observation at Rosie's school as a prerequisite for teaching primary. As a consequence, he is with us every morning as we make our way to school - and discovers more about Rosie and her secret life at school than I'll ever know.

A recent portrait, series of 2. Rosie, Mummy and Daddy, some of us wearing rainbows. (©Rosie, aged 5). Ben has been doing two weeks of observation at Rosie’s school as a prerequisite for teaching primary. As a consequence, he is with us every morning as we make our way to school – and discovers more about Rosie and her secret life there than I’ll ever know.

This one speaks for itself. (©Rosie, aged 5)

This one speaks for itself. (©Rosie, aged 5)

20 thoughts on “Soft return

  1. These are wonderful pictures (and I’m a primary teacher, so I know! ;) )! I love children’s art. It’s so expressive – everything is right there, if you care to look hard enough.

    • Thanks, Pinklea. Yes, Rosie’s drawings tracked Ben’s disappearance and reappearance in her life. I added a caption to one of the images explaining this. He gradually shrank from view, just as he shrank from life.

  2. Oh Wow. She’s a wonderful little artist. It’s amazing how you can see the biography of your life in her drawings.

  3. Pingback: Consequences | married to an alcoholic

  4. There is nothing more powerful than seeing the world through the eyes of a child. I believe there is more to their drawings than we will ever understand. You must never give up. 30 years was a long time for me, but I survived and the man I married has returned to me. It’s the time in between that made it the hardest.

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