dear boy - han cto nijmegen - 2006

May 2006 Bart Drost got his degree as a Art Therapist at HAN-university. He ended his studies with the performance 'Bill, Betsy, Bob and the others'. In that performance he . In it he reads a fictional letter that the late his mother would have been able to write to him . In this performance he also shows for the first time a series of portraits of patients who he guided in therapy at  the Neuro clinic of the Vincent van Gogh Institute in Venray.


the text

My beloved boy,


Here I am again! About time I got in touch with youagain. Though for a long time we did not get in touch with each other, pleaseknow I keep up with you and your doings. If you don?t hear anything from methat doesn?t say at all that you are beyond my scope, you know. All the same,you always are a part of my own flesh and blood and as such I am a part of yourlife and whatever touches you I feel too. You are such a sensitive boy!


What a surprise is was to us when you decided tocontinue studying. And for that matter, to study to be a creative therapist. Andthat at your age! In fact we didn?t know at all what a creative therapist is?It was a little bit frightening too: you having to work with all those pitifuland depressed people. That?s what is worrying me: you were our problem childand I think you always will be. Can you cope with it? That?s what is worryingme. You are and always will be our problem child.


But keep one thing in mind: do not allow it to standin the way of your art! Because you are making such wonderful works of art. Itis said you inherited that creativity from me. Sad though I only started topaint after I had suffered that stroke. Only at that moment I got to realizehow beautiful it is if one can create things just like that out of oneself. Howone is able to say things with colours. And that I had a gift for it. And Iworked very hard, just like you.

The number of paintings I have made! Innumerable. MostlyI made portraits. Nothing else could interest me. But what was I supposed to dowith all these things at a certain point?

They didn?t provide me with anything? And to give themaway to everyone and his dog?

But tell me, you didn?t have to receive a training atall, did you? You had fixed up things financially, didn?t you? Your work didsell very well, didn?t it? And now and again you received wonderfulassignments.


Probably it is because you like to be among people. Ilike that too. Whenever I am among people, I bloom. That creativity, daddy didnot possess it at all. Most of the time daddy liked to be on his own. He alwayssaid to me: ?Do try and behave like a normal human being.?

Well, look who was talking! Because, just between ourselves,he was the one who went crazy.

Though that would not be the way to say it of course. Itsounds a bit mean. Because it was very sad for him when he had his nervousbreakdown. But for us too! Thank goodness, you don?t know anything about it. Youdidn?t witness it. At that time, you were just four or five years old. Do youknow that daddy has stayed in Venray in those days? The place where you areworking right now. They treated him with electroshock. Do they still treat withelectroshock nowadays? How terrible it was! Afterwards daddy never has been thesame again. And he was such a warm and affectionate man before. He was sospontaneous. At that moment there was not much of him left. And what is more,he never needed to go to Venray after all. If he only had had a bit moreconfidence. Because he could have had, I know.

And I told him so, over and over again. If he only hadwanted it, it would not have come that far. ?Where there is a will, there is away?, I always say. What would have happened if I had hanged my head too! Doyou remember that I forbade you to use the word ?crazy? whenever dad wasaround? Thank goodness, all of it is long gone now. And forgotten. But all thesame, it was a very sad period.


Tell me, boy, was that the reason you were so upsetlately? When that patient of yours, Bill I believe, had hanged himself? I sawyou crying on your bike on your way home from your work to the station. Ireally felt sorry for you. But in reality it was not your father, who hadhanged himself, was he? Your father stayed alive. Then. Then he did. But themoment I needed him most, the moment I depended on him after my stroke, he didnot persevere. Then he did not. He was afraid of his cancer which was in hisbody. Was afraid of becoming incurably ill. Fear of Alzheimer. Then, he did notfight. He was put to sleep. I am still mad about it. Things were going easy foryou at that time, In fact, you did not need him anymore.

You had been living on your own for several years andlived your very own life. A life we knew nothing about. How old were you? 38? Butthat you watched over his deathbed at that time, until he died, that I admirein you. I wasn?t able to do that. I didn?t want to witness it.

In fact, dad was still having it his own way.


But, but, Bart, what a good laugh I had lately! Tearswere rolling down my cheeks. I didn?t have so much fun for a long time. Thatthing with you and Betsy. When was it that that woman was attending yourtherapy group. I think, it has been a long time ago. But I remember it as if itwere yesterday. Such a person one does not forget easily. The way that womansat on your back! She didn?t give you a moment?s rest! ?Bart, am I doing itright this way?? ?Do I have to do it in a different way, Bart?? ?Bart, what doI have to do next?? ?Come and have a look Bart.? And always cling to you. Andfollow you around. Like honey catches a fly. I would have gone crazy. Such ashow-off! How can someone fall back that much? I don?t understand. That someoneelse has to tell you what you should do or shouldn?t do. Darned, you know thatyourself, don?t you. And asking once is more than enough, or, if necessary,twice. I can imagine very well that at a certain moment you pushed her awayfrom you.

I saw it happen. ?Go away?, you said also at thatmoment, I believe. But why did you have to feel unpleasant with it? The womanjust asked for it! She provoked it! No one is able to take that. Be that as itmay, as a social worker you need to have a thick skin. And you haven?t, boy.

I approved of you raising it with your school. Youdoing something with it at school. But it wasn?t as easy as you thought itwould be to act as that Betsy, wasn?t it? At the drama lesson.

I say it alright. At first you almost dislikedyourself. And then all of a sudden it finally clicked. Only then you realizedwhat it was Betsy had to cope with. That it weighed so heavily on her. Itpleased me to see that you and Betsy got along very well afterwards.

The ice had melted. And what was even more beautifulwas the fact that you and Betsy even could talk about it. That you could evenjoke about it. Both of you. Drama?Do you know that in former days I wanted tobe a singer? The stage, the audience? Applause?


And now for that nice young man at therapy. What washis name again? Oh yes, that Bill.

What a nice boy that was, wasn?t he? Too bad that sucha healthy young man had to end up in such a dreadful ward. How can such a thinghappen? And what was the matter with him anyway? All right, he was a little bituncertain, maybe. And he wanted to do everything right.

To the point of perfectionism. A rather wise guy. Sometimeshad a high opinion of himself.

Do you remember that he said he himself was rather anartist too? But in my opinion you treated him very well. You accepted him theway he was. That boy wasn?t crazy at all! A gender problem? There, there, whatkind of modern word is that again? In my time such a word didn?t exist.

But, tell me, boy, do you remember? When all of asudden the very same Bill was driven to despair. Out of rage. And all he wantedto do was cry. But couldn?t do that in the group of course. Neither could Imyself. In public. He wanted to keep up appearances. I considered the way youhandled it at that moment as most beautiful. That both of you went to another  classroom where at that moment no one waspresent. And there Bill could give his tears free play. He cried like a baby. Youwere standing close to him. I still see it before me. And then you put your armaround his shoulder very gently. You supported and consoled him. Actuallywithout words. Just to be with him. And let him cry. That I found verytouching. But I would be scared out of my wits if would happen to me whathappened to you: your member was swelling in your underpants!! It did! It wasonly for a moment, down there, but it happened.

I witnessed it myself! That can happen now and again,doesn?t it? That breeding will out, as it were. What surprised me though isthat you weren?t upset at all. On the contrary, you could handle it very well,so it seemed. It did fit in in the whole situation. As if it were the usualcourse of events. Well, boy, don?t tell anyone about it. That will only causetrouble. That causes problems. Those are the kind of situations which should bejust between ourselves.

But somehow I also think it is very beautiful. That itcan be so humane, I mean, that kind of contact between a patient and histherapist.


Well, boy, this is it for the moment. I could writemuch more. I will save that for a next time.


All the best.

You will always be my boy.



Tell me, boy, those portraits,  the ones you are creating in your studio oflate, by heart, of patients who finished therapy. What do you call them: reconstructionsof your meetings with them. That beautiful project. Do you intend toexhibit them sometime somewhere? Or do they stay in your studio too? And isthat nowadays your art? Or it is something that rather belongs to that school? Andtell me, that Bill, is he in them too?


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Bart Drost

free artist

Graafseweg 183a
6531ZR Nijmegen
The Netherlands