Photographic memories


So, the first thing you should know is that the ‘b’ on my keyboard is missing. I look down and I swear I’m using a Hill Billy‘s teeth to write this post (no offence intended). It still functions, but it’s playing havoc with my touch-typing. Thank goodness I’ve got another computer on the way.

This laptop has served me well (even if it is a PC). I’ve had it since Rosie was born – about four years now. I guess that’s – what? – 10 in computer years? And 10, as we all know, might as well be 100.

A few hours ago, Rosie and I were looking at some old video footage of her from when she was a baby. Lots of funny shots of her drinking – practically chewing – water, or tripping out to a musical star-shaped light. In among them were shots of Ben and Rosie. Ben looking normal around the time Rosie was born, then slowly deteriorating as the years scud by.

This is the problem with looking at Rosie’s baby pictures. I look at them, and no sooner do I smile than I’m looking away, not wanting to see the other thing growing: Ben’s disease, his depression, despair and alcoholism… his barely-there-ness.

It really only struck me today how much Rosie has been through, how much she has lost. How much we all lost. The pictures and videos tell a skewed story. Ben looks ok in many of them,  I’m actually smiling or laughing, Rosie appears oblivious. It is the lie – the fallacy of a happy family – that will assert itself when strangers view this footage somewhere far in the future. Rosie may even decide to create a new narrative of her childhood based on it, one that does not have a shouty mummy and drunk daddy.

As for me, I can’t reconstruct anything from those images but the memory of what it was. This makes me doubly sad, because Rosie’s baby pictures are forever tainted by Ben’s alcoholism. What a lot she has been through. What a lot we have all been through.

It isn’t over, of course. I will  not allow myself to become too comfortable with Ben as he is now. I want him to succeed and stay clean, but I know the odds are against him. It has only been seven months. That is no time at all to undo a habit of a life time.

In the mean time, I hug Rosie as hard as I can, as if that can make it all better – not just for her, but me, too. Wrapped up in everything is guilt, my guilt at not managing my anger better (something I struggle with every day). If only, I keep telling myself.

If only I had a calmer demeanour. If only I reached out before instead of shutting down. If only I had appreciated things when they were good, instead of looking for the bad all the time. If only I had opened my heart to Rosie right away, from the day she was born, instead of spending weeks worrying there was something wrong with her. If only I could stop obsessing about all the things we should be doing, and concentrate on what we are doing. If only, if only, if only.

Pictures and their thousand words. For us, a thousand memories, like subatomic particles, zooming about, triggering all sorts of unexpected reactions. I suppose, there is loss and then there is gain. Right now, things are ok. Tomorrow, they will be better. The day after that… it doesn’t matter.

What matters is now.


17 thoughts on “Photographic memories

  1. Teengirl’s dad is an addict. I left him when she was 7 months old like you all the photographs of her first few months are tainted with the bad, sad memories and my anger.
    Teengirl didn’t have any contact with her dad for 10 years, until he was clean and sober. He’s now been clean for 4 years and they’re creating a new relationship and making new memories.
    I just wanted to reassure you that it can be done, addicts can stay off their addiction.
    I love your honesty in your blog.

    • Yes, it’s heartening to hear, because so often the stories I hear are the reverse. I’m amazed you had the courage and will to chuck him out when you did. And that you were willing to give him the chance to re-connect with his daughter – that you were able to trust him again after so many years.

      • I don’t trust him fully and never will, how can we ever trust these men who tear our lives apart with their lies and disappointments and let downs?
        But Teengirl needed to know her dad so I tracked him down and went with her for the first few meetings. And I finally got some really important apologies from him.
        I had always been honest with her about why he didn’t live with us so she understood his problems and issues (as much as a 10 year old could) and before I let her meet him alone I gave her all the tools(and a mobile phone!) she could ever need should anything go wrong when she was with him.
        I worried a lot when she was with him, i still worry even though she’s older. But she ‘s so incredibly wise and grounded that she’s just taken it all in her stride.
        Children are quite amazing in their resilience.

      • That is amazing. I am struck by my 4.5-year-old’s resilience, too. I imagine it will all start to explode a few years hence. Or maybe not. Her capacity for compassion is impressive.
        I’m so glad you finally got the apologies you craved. I don’t think I will ever get mine. How did you feel when he finally said sorry? I believe it is vital to be honest about these things with our children. If we don’t, they will only distrust us further down the line. And, as you say, they are able to take things in, in their own way. We just have to pitch it to them correctly. You’ve done a great thing for your daughter – and her dad.

  2. If we could only undo our past! Rewrite our past stories, and those for our future. Ahh!

  3. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I look at old photos, and I, too, see the progression of the disease, how he starts to disappear. Our last trip together we went to Spain and France. In every picture, he has this deer in the headlights look of panic. The only thing he was thinking was when he could get away from his family to have a drink. Now he has that look when I see him in court.

    • Yes, that look of panic is so familiar, isn’t it? We went to Morocco a while back, and it was the same thing. We stayed in Fez, which is dry – that is, you can’t easily get alcohol there. It was a deliberate choice on my part. But the riad we were staying at served alcohol, and he left payment for the alcohol he was drinking in the fridge – so it wouldn’t turn up on the bill (where I would have seen it)…. So, court, hunh? I expect he has reason to panic!

  4. Hello! I have a question about a possible post. Is there another form of contact? Thanks! CJ

  5. I totally understand what you mean about looking at the old pictures. In each of them, I can pin point 1) had he been drinking or 2) was he hung over, or 3) was he getting ready to drink. I find myself taking most pics of him with my kids mid-day, post hang-over, but not yet drinking again that day (usually). And when I look at the progression, in particular from my daughter being born to present, the transformation he’s taken has been mind blowing.

    I’m so glad your little Rosie is getting to experience sober daddy.

  6. Married to an alcoholic as well. Have stories that are just too much. I so know the way photos can bring up so much…was just going through albums this weekend. There were some photos that brought up unexpected anger and sadness. Others that brought tears of joy, and some that opened up a myriad of good and bad emotions. I have 6 children ages 14 to 22. We are all healing and learning to forgive. ( seems that ‘s where my freedom comes). Husband has been sober for a year, and we are all treasuring each day. There IS hope…will pray for you and your Rosie. Thankful she’s still so young.

      • You know what I love though? The whole day by day thing….with each new day of sobriety, more of the yuck melts away and leaves more to see of the amazing man I fell in love with so many years ago. So thankful that he’s still in there. That’s grace in itself! Will look forward to reading your blog. You’re not alone 🙂

      • I’m so happy for you. Sadly, this is not replicated in our case. We are near strangers to one another, despite the numerous phone conversations. Thanks for sticking with my blog. I look forward to more of your observations. Will check out your blog, too.

  7. Pingback: Trust | married to an alcoholic

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