Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

You don’t look good. Oh really?

MONDAY, January 11 – A colleague I’ve always liked falls into step with me in the corridor and tells me how great it is that I’m back.

‘The feeling is mutual,’ I assure him, and no matter how ‘standard’ that sounds, I really mean it.

‘Just one thing,’ he says. You don’t look too good.’

‘Well, thanks a lot,’ I say with a laugh. (How are you supposed to handle a remark like that?)

‘No, I’m serious. You really don’t look good.’

Then he throws one arm around me and adds, ‘It’s plain to see you’re having a hard time dealing with it all.’

I was upset for hours. There you are, walking down the hallway, cheerful and full of energy, and boom; someone hits you with that.  Does everyone expect to find you to be well-rested and carefree, since everything has so obviously been going your way?

‘No, you fucking idiot, at the moment I’m living through a nightmare. So keep your goddamned  trap shut, will you?’

Unfortunately, a retort like this always occurs to me too late to be of any use.

Road rage from the heart

redlightSUNDAY, January 10 – Things are starting to get out of hand, Overdiek. This week I caught myself in full pursuit of the driver of a police car on Beethoven Street. He had ignored a woman who was in  the crosswalk, while I’d stopped for her. I followed the patrol car until it entered Beatrix Park. What on Earth was I planning to do?

Only a few days later, I found myself ranting and raving at a woman who had calmly driven straight  through a red light  while it had been  green for me. She didn’t even notice since she’d been talking on  her cell phone. I shouted almost screamed at her, but of course she didn’t hear me. The dog was scared witless. My rage has begun to take on absurd proportions. Must do something about this.

This morning I decide to change my tactics. Radically.  In fact, I am switching to normal misconduct. I take a deep breath and decide to cross against the light at a leisurely pace, all the time looking around me.  Not a car in sight. It feels good, after several months of abiding by traffic regulations rigorously.

Moreover, I realize that waiting for green is no guarantee. Jennifer waited until the light turned and that cost her her life. So it feels good to return to my old self, to rely on my own common sense and innate caution. Being part of traffic, instead of fighting it.

Who let the beast in?

SATURDAY, January 9 – Is this the beginning of depression knocking at the door, just as bereavement experts predict, or did  the beast already sneak into the house while I wasn’t looking?

Tomorrow never dies

FRIDAY, January 8 – I was still dreaming when I got up at 5:48. In the final scene I went downstairs, where the whole family was strolling around. Jenn had just put on her coat and we were about to say goodbye to her. Mom was finally going to go on that week-long meditation retreat she’d been contemplating for so long.

Until I woke up, that is, initially still in a cheerful mood. It disappeared within a second and a half, when I realized that I had experienced all that in my sleep and that Jennifer had left for a retreat that would last forever. I felt an icy shiver run through my body. I went for a shit and then headed back to bed.

When the alarm went off at 6:15, I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I stared at the ceiling until 6:45, when I had to answer the call of duty. Children, dog, breakfast, lunch, school, and then what?  I stayed home, didn’t feel like working, dilly-dallied with odd jobs. Found a morsel of satisfaction in the most minimal chores. Tomorrow’s another day.

Celebrating his ‘Half-Birthday’

halfbirthdayTHURSDAY, January 7 – Had a sudden crying jag this morning. I miss her so much, her presence in our day-to-day life.  No doubt this is due to the fact that today we’re celebrating a crazy family tradition:  Eamonn’s Half-Birthday. Today he is precisely nine and a half years old.

Jenn came up with the idea. Because both boys were born in July, their birthdays were celebrated at a time when most of their friends were away on vacation. So we had always ‘pre-celebrated’ their birthdays halfway through the year. The celebrations are accompanied by the traditional Super Cookie, which has the dimensions of a pizza. I made one last night with M&Ms. I also baked brownies, which are inextricably bound up with Jenn’s skills as a pastry chef. Had to look up both recipes on the internet. I found a brownie mix in the supermarket  in a spot I had not discovered before and got the KitchenAid mixer out of the closet.

It took me a while to figure it all out, but I discovered that it wasn’t really that difficult. No complicated culinary fireworks.  Just mix a few things together and shove it all into the oven.  The house smelled great. Sander sampled a brownie. ‘Not bad for your first try’, observed the overly-frank critic. ‘And maybe you should use a bigger pan next time.’

Eamonn had almost forgotten about it, until I wished him a Happy Half-Birthday.  Go look in the oven, I said, which he immediately did. ‘Wow, that looks great!’  I agreed, but his sincere compliment and my sense of pride dissolved in the face of the sadness that suddenly came over me. That’s why I cried then, Jennifer, and why I’m crying now. Because I miss you so terribly.

11.30 – I couldn’t help smiling when I took her ATM cards to the bank and the woman wrote down Jennifer’s balance on a piece of paper. I had absolutely no idea. Well done, Nolan, very well done. At the same time, I felt like a posthumous peeping Tom and a bank robber.

Finding a wedding treasure

THURSDAY, January 6 – Sometimes you’re actually searching for something, but more often these things appear an accidental discovery. Like the way sudden reminders of Jenn present themselves: brief but tangible memories that suddenly come to mind.

The most recent link with our past must have been lying hidden for over thirteen years: a folded piece of paper in a drawer of the hall table.  It was Jenn’s hand-written list of all our wedding expenses.

Dress material  $454.28

Appliqué?  $17.30   (No idea what this is, too lazy to check it out)

Shoes  $89.95

Bra  $26.00  (Can’t remember what it looked like)

Chapel fee $500  (Without air-conditioning.  Catholic cheapskates)

Deposit Cranbury Inn  $100  (Country inn, opposite a small but picturesque church. A different religion, but we inquired if Catholic services could be held there. Soon learned it was a stupid question) Read more…

Not there. Except for me

WEDNESDAY, January 5 – The missing wedding ring is still visible.

Widower buys new house

soldsignMONDAY, January 4 – In the end, it was a joyful occasion: the actual closing on our new house. The boys were excited and enthusiastic and their mood rubbed off on me. I felt thankful for this since I had woken up this morning with a strange feeling, conscious of the bizarre day that lay ahead.

After a final inspection, we were off to the notary public by bike. The seller is, himself, a widower. His wife had owned several apartments in Amsterdam which he is now successively selling. The word closure has a double meaning. What I kept telling myself as I was getting  dressed was something that our American real estate agent had impressed on us after we’d sold our house there.

‘When all is said and done, the sale of a house is no more than a transaction.’

In other words: forget all the memories and emotions that lie hidden in your house. The new occupants will replace them. They’ll look at the rooms, closets, kitchen and bathrooms with different eyes. What takes place during the conveying of a house is that two parties sign their names on a pile of documents and that one party hands the other a check. It is a transaction, pure and simple.

But this morning such a down-to-earth approach proved to be a bit much for the boys. We had barely taken our seats at the large wooden table in the stately office of our notary public when they began to get itchy. I sent them out into the hall and suggested they occupy themselves with their iPhones. Luckily they quickly complied, since I had a premonition about what was to come.

On the first page of the contract, at the bottom, was a painful piece of text the notary was about to read aloud, and that was gonna hit me like a sledgehammer. Officially, this is who I am:

Mr. Thimotheus Henricus Maria Overdiek, residing at 1077 DN Amsterdam, Gerrit van der Veenstraat 37-11, born in Tilburg on the second of April, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, legitimating himself with his passport, number X, issued in Amsterdam on the ninth of June, two thousand and nine, unremarried widower of Mrs. Jennifer Mary Nolan and not presently or previously registered as partner, who intends to take possession of the above mentioned  house, henceforth known as ‘the buyer’.

‘The buyer’ had tears in his eyes when the notary came to the passage in question. He was handed a glass of water. The procedure was resumed. The boys came back just in time to witness the signing of all the papers pertaining to what was both a transaction and a joyous occasion.

Early signs of acceptance

SUNDAY, January 3 – Eamonn brings up the subject in the car. ‘Where do you think Mom is right now?’  It’s a tough question. Fortunately,  he tries to come up with an answer himself since it is something he and his mother had discussed.

‘Mom believed in reincarnation, didn’t she?’

A difficult word, which he pronounces without a hitch.  He also says he understands what it means, my little smart aleck.

‘Yes, Eamonn.  And if that’s true, which no one knows for certain, then Mom lives on as a better person, because she was kind, and loving, and  because she was a good human being.  Don’t you think so?’


‘But she could come back as anything, couldn’t she? Read more…

Another death. Her car’s battery

miniSATURDAY, January 2 – After five minutes behind the wheel of the Mini Cooper, I concluded that the battery was well and truly dead. Her pride and joy, the kick-ass little car we brought with us from England.

Until the arrival of the yellow Mini, Jennifer had shown no interest in cars.  However, she did  have to confess that while careening along the winding, wind-blown roads of the English countryside, she had finally discovered just how much fun driving could be. We disposed of our British Volvo without so much as a backward glance while it was a foregone conclusion that when we moved to the Netherlands in 2008, the Mini would go with us.

I must admit that she looked quite enticing, almost sexy, when she was behind the wheel. For the past month and a half now, the car has been parked two streets over. Coincidentally, and thankfully, it’s not been in front of the house. That would have been too painful.

Just what I expected, indeed happened:  the car wouldn’t start. The battery was totally dead. I’d brought along a garbage bag, so I could empty out the car, but in the end I just left everything as it was. I’m going to have to make a decision. Keep it or sell it? She was so proud of that car and especially the fact that it was registered in her name.  It belonged to her.

A few weeks ago I received a letter, as is standard procedure these days, simply addressed to ‘The Estate of J.M. Nolan’.  It stated that an automobile may ‘not remain registered in the name of a deceased person for longer than five weeks’.

Fuck the bureaucrats, I thought to myself. They’ll damn well have to wait until the time is ripe.  In any case, it’s her car, and right now nothing can change that.

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