By ROSIE WATERLAND
My sister and I are playing in the park with some kids when one of the boys starts screaming that he’s found a dead body. We all run over to take a look. It’s my dad. He’s not dead – just passed out drunk in nothing but his underwear. My sister starts crying.
The principal knocks on my classroom door and calls the teacher over. My stomach drops; I know it’s about me. My mum hasn’t been home in two days. Mrs. Blythe comes over to my desk. “Mummy didn’t come home last night, Rosie. There are some people here to take care of you.”
My dad decides that he wants burgers for dinner. It’s a really long walk. He passes out in the middle of a busy road. My sister and I don’t know what to do. A lady stops her car to help us.
My mum got back from rehab today. I walk into the kitchen and see her sneaking wine into her glass. I go to my room and cry.
The after-school-care lady comes over to me with a concerned look on her face. “Rosie – is your Dad’s name Tony? He’s here to see you. Does he drink a lot sweetie?”
I don’t have the energy to talk my mum out of killing herself again. I leave. That night she takes off with a girlfriend and leaves my two little sisters home alone. Bella is 2 and wakes up screaming because of a fever. Tayla is only 5 and doesn’t know what to do. She drags Bella into the night to try and find an adult. The next-door neighbours call the police. I never get over the guilt.
My dad is dead. They say it’s a heart attack from drinking but there’s an empty pill bottle and vomit. A part of me is relieved that I don’t have to go and stay with him anymore.
My mum gets really drunk and calls the police to tell them she no longer wants us. I help my little sister pack her bag. We watch TV in my room while we wait for the police to come and take us away.
***I have countless stories like these. My parents were just not equipped. They were both struggling with mental illness and addiction. I used to feel anger towards them but as I’ve gotten older that anger has just turned to sadness and pity.
My mother just couldn’t look after her kids. She’d had her own problems in life that meant she was still looking to be taken care of herself. She loves us, absolutely. But she just couldn’t do it.
My sisters and I were taken away and returned several times. We lived with family members, friends, foster parents – whoever would take us. Sometimes we were together but mostly we weren’t. We were infant nomads, never quite fitting in anywhere.
Just as we would start to get used to our new lives, our mother would ‘get herself together’ and we’d be sent back. We always wanted to go – when she wasn’t drinking she was a fabulous mum. The ‘cool mum’ that all the other kids liked. But it wouldn’t take long for her to lose it again, and we’d be taken away; forced to start over for the upteenth time.
We were removed from her care for good when I was 14. The only reason we didn’t go back that time was because she didn’t try to get us back. My older sister was 17. My younger sisters were seven and three. The four of us were split and sent to live in different places. We never lived together again.