Diary of a Widower

Daily entries by a husband, who stayed behind with his two sons

Feeling a body no longer there

SUNDAY, November 15 – For the first time since the accident, I have trouble sleeping. I wake up to find myself entangled with Eamonn, who at some point has crawled into bed with me. It’s still strange to find him in the spot where Jennifer lay for eighteen years.  We were bedmates, she and I, whereas, Eamonn and I are now fellow sufferers filling the emptiness of that same bed with our combined presence.

I’m confused. My eyes are open but my head isn’t awake yet.  Confused because I’m seeing Eamonn while I’m thinking of Jennifer.  I always used to caress her warm body when I got into bed.

Often, late at night, when she was already fast asleep, I’d run my hand over her right hip and then further, into her panties, and over her bare bottom. No more than that. Just a brief caress. Sometimes she’d respond briefly. She wasn’t startled exactly… it was more of a physical acknowledgement that I was beside her again, and she was beside me.

Occasionally she’d move a few inches in my direction and we’d embrace, me snuggling up to her back. In her sleep she’d allow me to hold her breasts, just for a moment, and I’d bend forward over to kiss her shoulder.  And that was that. Waking her up for sex was never a good idea. ‘Sleep is the best therapy’ was her motto. A sleepless night guaranteed a thundering bad mood in the morning. Sometimes she’d lie there awake staring at the ceiling with her will unable to control her racing brain still fully at work while her body longed for rest.

I lie there in the conjugal bed – the intimate playing field of love, sex, security, insomnia and disquiet – becoming ever more confused because I’m seeing Eamonn where I’d imagined Jennifer.  I can deal with the loss of sleep.  Eamonn wakes up and says he slept like a log. We celebrate with a big hug.

11:00 – Step by step I make my way through her virtual veins, and stroll through her head. I take a quick look at her email account. Log into her Facebook account. Leaf through her diaries. Snatches of her life that had to do with her alone. And live she did!  That’s why I loved her so dearly, because she lived life with a vengeance. But there were parts of her life that were hidden from me. Those ‘virtual’ spaces could yet be a source of new pain. I will have to face up to them and I know I can do it, but not yet.

17:00 – By far the most difficult moment so far. Sander is performing with his fellow students at the conservatory. Miles Davis Day: there’ll be workshops morning and afternoon, followed by watching a documentary, and then a small concert for family and friends. They played just two numbers:  ‘All Blues’ and ‘Summer Time’.

It was overwhelmingly beautiful, but also overwhelmingly painful. We enjoyed every minute –  Eamonn, Oma, my friend R and I.  At the same time, it was sheer torture.  My heart cried, bled… hurt like a mother-fucker.

Jenn should have been there, beside me, to experience this, to share it with me, to look at each other, and enjoy the sense of parental pride.  Damn it, that’s our son Sander up there, in the here and now, at the launch of his musical future and, still, the past ruins everything.

In London, Jennifer was the driving force behind Sander’s budding talent. She found piano teachers. She stood by him. She was a part of his music and that’s why I accepted the pain and the emotion. In the end, those sensations, too, are dear to me:  bittersweet.

21:30 – As queasy as I was yesterday, that’s how famished I was today while I was on the phone with Jenn’s parents. Hunger with tears, but that’s okay, too. There’s no place for trans-Atlantic pep talks when it’s logical and even important to cry our eyes out together, if on the phone.

Again, we talked about the memorial service in their parish, but this time I wanted to know everything   and devoured the details. Who attended the service, what was said, what happened afterwards. Tell me. I have to know, have to hear, have to talk about it, have to cry, have to laugh, have to keep silent, have to sigh, have to do something with it. Apathy is not an option.  I must think about something, so I can go on.

Sander Nolan playing When Morning Comes (W. Hamel). For more: youtube.com/sandernolan


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