Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Blue scarf and sturdy boots

TUESDAY, November 10 – I was throwing out odds and ends. Starting with the contents of her purse. Was the word ‘horrible’ invented for moments like this?  Her tampons, lip gloss, a small pink bag with a pair of panties, in case her period came unexpectedly. Lifeless crap. A sales slip from the hairdresser’s : Coloring €48.50.  The Tuesday before the accident we’d gone to the hairdresser’s together. I’d just taken photos of the dog in the park.  With the boys.  With her. Got a fabulous shot of her with her unruly curls, trimmed and tinted that same afternoon.

15:30 – You were here again, Jennifer. This time in the park, where Elsa and Eamonn and I were racing around on a field of grass. Again, we sensed a presence, a perceptible dimension suspended all around us: your presence, a tangible blanket that made itself felt briefly – but long enough to get the lay of the land.  I let it come over me, and accepted it for what it was.  Beautiful.  I don’t ask myself questions.  I don’t want to hear that it was just my imagination.

Ten minutes later, we were walking down the street and I hear the sound of boots. It’s a woman who wants to pass us.  I look around, half expecting to see your curly hair, the black leather jacket, the blue scarf and those sturdy boots. It wasn’t you, Jennifer. It was just someone who sounded like you.

Gathering outburst of fury

MONDAY, November 9 – Crap day.  Cried in the lawyer’s office. Cried while I walked the dog. Cried on the toilet. Cried with Eamonn on my lap. Cried getting dinner ready.

Am I coming out of shock?  It’s all true, true to life, and I feel rotten.  Anger is  boiling up inside me, an outburst of fury is gathering.  Anger at the stupidity, the idiocy of traffic.  I’m incensed about the motorcycle cop. It all comes together when I happen to see one thoughtless neighbor after another run a red light or fail to stop at a cross walk.

Then the nightmare takes on a new dimension, dear Jennifer, and you can’t do a thing about it. Our mortgage is no longer valid.  We bought the apartment less than two months ago, and now it’s about to slip through my fingers.  With two incomes we could swing it and we were proud that we’d done it together. But the life insurance policy isn’t valid, since your appointment for the medical checkup was scheduled for three days after your death. Because you’re an American citizen, the notary public needs more information in order to establish the right of inheritance. The police investigation is going to take a while.

Is this only the beginning?

Empty couch, hard to stomach

SUNDAY, November 8 – Jenn couldn’t stand the smell, while I love it. Clean the mackerel, add crispy toast (just short of burnt), melted butter, and plenty of salt. Yum. The three of us are having a great time and, as in the past, I look at the last bite, the bite traditionally reserved for her, and then into the living room where Jennifer should be sitting. I should be walking over to her now, to put that last bite into her mouth. The thought of having to eat that bite myself comes across like a punch in the solar plexus.  It leaves me breathless.  Literally.

23:00 – ‘A smile on my face. My dear son Sander just ironed a shirt for me,’ I twitter. Too many wrinkles, let me do it, he had said. A burst of uplifting energy, but only for that quick ironing job. For the rest of the evening Sander was inconsolable.

Thinking about death. And sex

SATURDAY, November 7, 8:30 – A long walk with our dog Elsa.  No pressure, nothing that needs seeing to. This gives me the mental leeway to think about ‘good things’, to reflect on how the past week really was. I think about Jenn, her death, her life, our life, myself.  I also think about how strange it is – or perhaps hopeful – the way emotions can have a physical charge.  I have very tangible sexual desires.  I masturbate and fantasize.  Not that I invent a new relationship or a new partner, but I do speculate on how long it will be before I begin to long for someone else. What will it be like to find someone else, to experience that intimacy again?

My thoughts reach further.  Ludicrous, but still there is this sensation that’s both physical and emotional. I look at women, make a list of acquaintances who might be eligible candidates – some day.  For now, my lad, we’re on manual control.  No idea how someone else would fit into our present life.

Would the status of widower have more advantages than disadvantages compared to that of a divorced man?

17:15 – Sander and I have come up with the ‘taking a shit theory’.  What if.  ‘What if’ is constantly going through our head. It’s the question-of-the-week for me, for Sander, for Eamonn, and for all three of us collectively. What if. What if we had done this or what if we hadn’t done that, then…

A few seconds would have made all the difference.  The difference between life and death.  I’d begun to philosophize out loud when Sander, again, asked that maddening question that I was getting a bit tired of thinking about. The very pointlessness of it.  So, I tried a different approach.  ‘Look at it this way: If Mom hadn’t picked up the phone in Januay 1991 when I called her boss in New York, then we would never have met and she would never have come to Holland and we would never have moved to the States and you would never have been born.’

I could see the light dawning in Sander’s head. Time for the philosophical knockout punch.  I reduced that idiotic ‘what if” to the following scenario.  What if I’d gone to take a shit before calling Mom’s boss in New York?  What if.  Mom had told me that she was just about to go home. What if I had taken a shit before calling…?’

It began to get through to him. ‘Gee. You know what, Papa?’ Sander said. ‘When we went to the park with Elsa, I did have to shit.  If I had, then none of it would have happened.’  Exactly, my son, the difference between life and death is a lousy turd.  Shit happens, and even that doesn’t change anything.

Crying over her obituary

FRIDAY, November 6 – Good morning, Jenn.  You would have loved this. Eamonn is sitting on the couch with your laptop.  (Naturally Sander knew what your password was.)  He’s just started on a book, and prefers writing to watching TV. The story is about living food, and Uncle Pete appears in the form of a peach.

10.50 – Our first session with the family therapist.  N is petite, just like Jennifer.  Her office is near Vondelpark and is, thus,  close enough to go to by bike. She’s British and we speak English with her.  It feels strange. The boys wonder why we’re there. Let them discover that themselves. Read more…

Feeling her presence. Really

THURSDAY, November 5 – Settled the first misunderstanding. This morning I realized that Sander doesn’t have the faintest idea what I do for a living. He went to pieces and had a crying fit – complete with reproaches and desperation before, ultimately, a confrontation with me.

‘Why are you always working, Papa. Why don’t you ever have time for us?’

‘Working?  Me?’  I said.  ‘Come with me,’ and Sander was more than eager to comply.  He hates gym class, especially first thing in the morning. Off to Bagels & Beans for a cappuccino instead. Then I explained to him just what I’d been doing the last few days.

The mortgage, bank business, taxes, the two lawyers I’d approached, etc., etc.  Sander’s face lit up. All along he thought I was back at my job with NOS, simply because I was at the computer and busy calling people.  His mind is at rest, but mine isn’t.  It’s a big job, at least that’s how it feels right now and yet quite simple.  One thing at a time and if it doesn’t get done today, there’s always tomorrow.

I’ve already made that our family motto. Eamonn laughed himself silly when I ordained: Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow, and we only worry about tomorrow when tomorrow is today.’  The reasoning is watertight and it’ll do for now.

14.30 – Off for a long walk with Eamonn and Elsa nearby Haarlem, together with F who’s promised to take our dog out for a run a couple of times a week. It was a fun afternoon that included nine other dogs.

It happened on the way back to the car. Eamonn and I were walking side by side, with Elsa just ahead of us. I felt Jenn’s presence. It’s hard to describe exactly what it was. An attempt.  I was aware of a visible and tangible dimension, with several vibrating layers. A kind of undulating focus around us.  It felt good, reassuring.

Eamonn said that he had noticed it, too, after I mentioned it.  He talked about it quite casually:  ‘Look, Elsa’s walking alongside Mom.’ Seconds later it was gone. Beautiful.

Getting up is our ambition

WEDNESDAY, November 4 – This time it’s Sander who’s having a crap day. He’s beginning to realize that you’re gone, Jennifer. We have a cuddle.  He’s not going to conservatory tonight. Just let things ride for a while. As long as we get up in the morning and start the day. We’re all crazy about Elsa. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for bringing this wonderful dog into our lives.  She’s hasn’t been here for long, but she’s a life line – I can tell that already.

Shopping instead of school

TUESDAY, November 3 – A crap morning.  Eamonn sums up our feelings and he’s right. Just like yesterday, I pick him up at the end of the morning.  When it comes to school, I’m not going to be difficult about it.  We go downtown and buy him a winter coat. It’s even on sale.  Yes, Jennifer, we can!  Bet you didn’t know we were such good shoppers:  a really neat coat and… the price was right.


Now it’s just the three of us

MONDAY, November 2, 2009 – No fucking way, let’s get that on the record. Nobody’s going to get the better of us. This is Day One of our new life. From now on, it’s ‘the three of us’. Three guys who have to rely on each other. No idea how we’ll make out, but time will tell.

This morning Sander even joked about the situation. My cooking, to be precise. ‘You’re going to have to do something about your crispyness, Papa.’ I’ve been known to let food burn, and this is the euphemism I use when I claim that something is just the way I like it: crispy. We can laugh about it, and that’s a good beginning, fuck yeah!

(This is the first entry of my diary. Click here to read how it all came to be.)

The year after my wife’s death

Diary of a Widower describes the first year after Jennifer, my wife and mother to our two young boys, died at the age of 41. This blog was officially launched on November 2, 2012, and provide my almost daily diary entries. Below you will find some of the later entries, so you get some idea of what’s to come.

For more background, please click on Introduction above, for the first chapter in my, which I will make available as an e-Book when it’s ready for publication. It has just been translated from Dutch. See for more information (in Dutch): tranenvanliefde

Also, read the Accident entry (see above), which will tell you about the week that ended family life as we knew it, and that started that first year without her.

For example entries out of Diary of a Widower:
Read more…

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