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). 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). Giant egg, always on the verge of cracking and spilling my yolk.
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: Daddy(?), Mummy, Rosie (©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). 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).
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, 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)