When it all gets too much

A slight digression, in that this post is about me and not about my relationship with an anonymous alcoholic. As some of you may recall, I recently got made redundant, and then re-deployed into a new job. So far, s’ok.

Maybe it’s just new job blues, but I’m really hating it. Who knew creativity could be so tyrannical? Continue reading

Photographic memories

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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.

“Mummy doesn’t like me”

Source: http://akaspvn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/sad-face.jpg

 

She didn’t say sorry. She never says sorry. She hurt my feelings. Mummy doesn’t like me. 

Poor Rosie. She is standing by the oil heater again, muttering a tearful monologue. I’m dead. I’m a spirit now. You don’t have a child any more… Are you sad? Are you sad that I’m dead?

When I say I am sad, she says: You’re not. You don’t want a child. You don’t like me. When I say I love her, she says I don’t. I’m dead, she repeats. When I protest that she isn’t really dead, because the dead don’t usually speak, she simply says: I’m dead.

The catalyst for this behaviour can be anything really. This morning, there are a series of meltdowns that begin with underpants – pouffy underpants, I should add –  in which she rages that the underpants are bothering her, followed by an extended   lament over her vest (You have to pull it down. You’re talking. SO YOU HAVE TO PULL IT DOWN AGAIN.) She wants me to tuck in her vest but she is sitting down. I mime to her  to stand up (since I’m not allowed to speak to her while she dresses), but she decides this is a game and wastes several minutes going limp as I try to hold her up in a standing position.

Eventually, we get her school uniform on, vest and all, but we don’t get out the door until I have pulled down her vest and shirt another six times to straighten it out under her pinafore. The blood is finally shooting up to my temples now and it is taking a lot of heavy breathing (I try not to breathe too loudly for fear that this, too, may constitute talking) to keep me from exploding.

But when we get out the door and she demands that I pull her shirt down again, I lose it and shout: You are going on the late register AGAIN!!!

Of course this unleashes a barrage of tears and some very public tantrumming on Rosie’s part. My neighbours are staring and I am mortified, but they have seen me in nuclear mode with Rosie, too, so I now figure they have me down as some social services nightmare. I am dismayed.

I spend the rest of the day asking myself why I always revert to type and shout, when I know this will do nothing to help Rosie. And when I get her back home, she starts again – shouting and screaming at me without warning, demanding that I help her remove her sweatshirt NOW. RIGHT NOW!

I don’t shout at her. I just tell her she is behaving badly, that I am trying to get her dinner ready and that I will be with her in a minute. When she throws herself on the kitchen floor, I ignore her. She calms down after a little while and by the time we finish dinner, we are back to being friends.

Until the morning comes and the lines are drawn again.