Diary of a Widower

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

Mom in the present tense

MONDAY, December 14 – Scene 1, near the stairs, 8:15, on the way to the front door. Sander and me.

Me:  ‘It’s way too cold out, you need a scarf.’

Sander:  ‘No, I don’t.’

‘Yes, you do.’

‘No, I don’t.’

‘Here, take this one.’

‘Papa, I’m okay. Just leave me alone.’

‘You’re not okay. You were under the weather on Saturday, and yesterday you said you had a sore throat. So put the thing on.’

‘Oh, all right.’

In the car he puts it on. But the minute he gets out, he stuffs it into his schoolbag. It’s too late to intervene. And his coat wasn’t buttoned either.

Scene 2, in the bedroom. Sander walks in.

‘Papa, you really ought to straighten up your stuff.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘The mess you make in the bathroom.


‘The sink is overloaded with your things. The stuff for your lenses, your glasses case. I don’t have any room for my own stuff.’

‘Okay, Son.’

‘No, Papa, I’m serious. I want you to straighten up your things.’

‘All right, Sander, I promise.’

Who needs Mom?  We are Mom.


‘Hey, Sander, have you noticed?’

‘Noticed what?’

‘That I’ve cleaned up my stuff.’

‘Oh. No, not really.’

Scene 3, Eamonn in my bed. He’s getting sick. Sitting in the chair by the window, I look around me, observing my own reality.

I see myself sitting here. I look from me to Eamonn. Laptop on his knees, concentrating on a video game, not really that ill, but still under the blankets. Bodhi the cat between his legs. There is the warmth of the animal who senses when he’s needed.

‘Can I have another blanket?’ Eamonn asks.

‘I have something better,’ I say.

I open the bottom drawer of her dresser and take out Jennifer’s afghan – one that was crocheted by Aunt Evelyn. Eamonn smiles and pulls the blanket up to his chin. The dog wanders in. I conclude that there’s nothing wrong with this reality.

Who needs Mom?  We do. We need Mom. We’re only her boys and we need her.

I get up from my chair and offer Eamonn to make him some popcorn.  He had fruit with his breakfast and a few crackers, so popcorn’s allowed now.

‘No,’ he says. ‘No popcorn. Just a couple more crackers. When you’re sick, you’re supposed to take small bites. That’s what Mom always says.’

I notice that Eamonn still uses the present sense when he quotes Jenn.

He is Mom.

22.30 – I take the dog out, and cry the whole time. My phone rings. Sander:  ‘Papa, I want to wake up from this nightmare! Now!’

I know, I know, Sander. I know myself that there’s nothing to wake up from. It’s all horribly true, but at least we’re going through this nightmare together.

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2 thoughts on “Mom in the present tense

  1. My husband passed away a little over a year ago and in the beginning my young daughter would follow me around the house trying to help me with the daily chores, as well as nagging me to tidy up my things all the time. She still refers to Robert constantly with a “that’s what Daddy would say” or a “Daddy told me to always ‘listen to your mother'”. The other day she was home sick from school and I wrapped her in one of my husband’s jumpers. Sometimes you don’t realise how much you still need someone until all you have left is a favourite sweater.

  2. But then again that favourite sweater will be a strong comfort for years to come. And a bitter reminder. I have learned that the bitterness slowly seeps away.

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