So, Ben has moved closer to us. He’s about 10 minutes away by bike. This has meant more frequent visits from him, although he rarely stays over. He’s still in sheltered accommodation, still on benefits, still in recovery. It hasn’t even been a year, so early days yet.
He comes round to spend time with Rosie (and me, he says, though we say very little to each other) and do a bit of maintenance work on the garden and flat. It’s his way of contributing to the upkeep of our property. And he does something he never did before – he makes time to spend with us as a family.
A view from above
Yesterday, we took the tube out to North Greenwich and rode the cable car across the Thames to the Royal Victoria Docks. It wasn’t the most amazing view of London (quite a lot of mounds of building rubble, assorted car parks and the Thames Barrier looking somewhat unimpressive) – but the sun was out and all the familiar landmarks – the gherkin, Anish Kapoor’s Olympic tower, the shard – asserted themselves along the horizon.
On our way back, we hopped onto a boat at North Greenwich, riding it to London Bridge. We passed Greenwich Hospital (now a part of Greenwich University) – a masterpiece of English Baroque architecture by the genius, Sir Christopher Wren. We sailed past a cluster of colourful boats, assorted ducks and ducklings, beneath Tower Bridge, past the Tower of London (where, I explained to Rosie, Elizabeth I locked up Mary Queen of Scots before having her beheaded). As HMS Belfast reared up beside us, we found ourselves at London Bridge, ready to take the penultimate leg of our journey home.
It was a day of travel for travel’s sake, and Ben and I matched Rosie’s enthusiasm throughout. It was, to borrow from Wallace and Gromit, a “grand day out”, and it was all Ben’s idea.
This is a departure for Ben, who had for so long been passive and generally reluctant/unwilling to go out with me, and later, Rosie and me. Of course with time, I didn’t want to go out with him either, particularly not when his drinking overwhelmed us all.
Ben’s forays into family life push him further along that tortuous path to recovery. This evening, a mutual friend of ours offered him her house. She and her husband have a place in London – dilapidated, to be sure, but habitable. They need someone to house-sit. Ben, with his penchant for DIY, is the perfect option.
Before he left today, he asked me to think about it. “Me?” I said. “But it’s your decision.” Still, I told him I felt uncomfortable about him living alone in a house with no one there to check in on him. Coupled with DIY (which he hates but seems incapable of resisting, and which contributed to his mental breakdown), I wonder whether it isn’t a little too early for him to break out on his own.
Then again, he has to do it some time, and here is an opportunity for him to get busy and maybe even start working again.
In the old days, I’d have let anxiety take over and browbeaten him into seeing sense (meaning whatever made sense to me). But I suppose it’s a measure of how far I, too, have come along that tortuous path, that I recognise this as his decision to make and not mine. I can’t own his recovery. For a long time, I tried to, but as all of you (who are so much wiser than me) know, that’s a path strewn with briars, overgrown and ultimately unnavigable.
No, I need to take that other road – no less tortuous – that begins with trust.