Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

A strangely pleasant dinner date

MONDAY, February 15 – Went to dinner with lady K. It felt strange, and yet comfortable. She’s kind and sympathetic, and she knows what I’m going through. And vice-versa, at least I hope so. We said our friendly goodbyes. It was enjoyable and that remains the object of the exercise. Just the two of us, man and woman. Enjoyable but strange. She biked home and with a smile I removed the parking fine from the windshield. I had forgotten about feeding the parking meter in time.

No roses, no cards, no kisses

SUNDAY, February 14 – Valentine’s Day. We didn’t celebrate: no roses, no cards, no kisses. Why should we? I did tell the boys how much I love them and how much I loved Jennifer, and still do. The afternoon dragged on.

I’m sitting and staring at the empty page in my diary as I’d had in mind elaborating on how I was planning to buy lingerie for her. How I still walk past store windows and visualize how good she’d look in this dress or in that skirt.

I could have gone on and on about her breasts, about the first day I was allowed to kiss them and fondle them, how they clung to my body. How her breasts became boobs during her pregnancies, how she showed them off , and had me photograph them. (That photo must still be around somewhere.) How on her deathbed I caressed her breasts, which were smaller then, this one last time. And kissed them.

I simply didn’t have the urge or the energy to explain it all in detail here on paper today. The memory was enough, but also too painful. I read what Sander had written on his mother’s Facebook wall: ‘Are you dead? Well, that’s what it feels like. Papa tried to mash cauliflower tonight. It wasn’t a great success. Why can’t we ask you how you do it? Love you.’

Crying and sobbing by ourselves

SATURDAY, February 13 – Irritations pile up. Between the au-pair and the children, between her and me, between the children and me. There is something more than time needed in order to accept a woman into this house. I call a meeting and we compare notes on the first few weeks. Her physical and mental presence is overwhelming and she also wants to know what we think. Communication is the key.

Am I going to tell her what we think, how we feel? Not always. At most I give her a few vital details about the kind of fucking life we’ve been leading. She’s right here in the middle of everything, but can’t seem to grasp it all. She can’t see, let alone experience the pain that once again swept so mercilessly into our living room  this afternoon. It started with a clash between Sander and me. The trigger was the homework which he refused to do and which I in turn ordered him to do.

Of course, that wasn’t what it was really about, but the two of us need to thrash it out. A knock-down, drag-out fight over nothing; but fury at the reality of Jennifer’s death. The powerlessness of the situation. The frustration and the hatred, genuine hatred towards him, that bastard who has all this on his conscience. Frightful arguments, really, with Eamonn as unwilling victim along the sidelines. We ended up on the floor, all three of us, crying, sobbing, and cuddling.

Totally defeated, I was the first to get myself up again. I took a chair, placed it in the middle of the dining room, tied a pillow to it and told the boys it represented the motorcycle cop. I took the lead and started swearing at this empty chair, save for a pillow. I ignored the idiocy of the situation. No blows, just words. Shouts. Then the boys took turns. One at a time, we faced the imaginary motorcycle cop and gave him hell.

It didn’t solve anything; but, we felt better and after that we went go-karting. When we got home later that night, we were in high spirits and E looked at us a bit puzzled. She’d been downtown all day. Still, peace reigned once again and we didn’t say a word about our temporary breakdown that afternoon. That was between just the three of us.

Music and memories. Bad ones

THURSDAY, February 11 – Sander and I have gone to Pat Metheny’s performance tonight in the Concertgebouw. Due to the lousy weather in England, the American guitarist is late. Sander is kept fascinated during the long wait by looking at  Metheny’s huge arsenal of instruments up on the podium until, finally, the melodious racket begins.

After the first song, I sit rooted to my chair. The music evokes an entire palette of images in my head, which follow one another in quick succession, alternating, repeating, reinforcing. Again and again. Jennifer’s cremation, her body in the casket, in the hospital bed hooked up to the machines, on the stretcher in the mortuary.

It’s a horrible sensation, especially since I can’t seem to fight it – it just takes over my thoughts. The procession becomes more intense, more colorful and more intrusive when I close my eyes and try to think them away. This lasts until the fourth song. Then I fall asleep. Don’t know for how long. When I wake up, it’s all gone. I enjoy the music, which lasts until midnight. On the way home Sander and I talk and talk and talk.

And what does Google say?

googlepicWEDNESDAY, February 10 – Everyone is vain, including me.  So, on occasion,  I google myself. Like just now. I noticed that other people apparently google me, too, since Google gives previous search terms as a suggestion. It appears that I am now a media widower, given the following terms:

Tim Overdiek with the search term Twitter: 2350 results

With the term wife 1350

Wife deceased 471

Jennifer 1100

Facebook 2120

NOS 4440

Death of wife 497

Haiti and Hitler

TUESDAY, February 9 – Sitting on the couch, Eamonn leaning against me. He’s reading Garfield and I’m following the news. Haiti. The official death toll has reached 230,000. A man has been hauled alive from under the rubble some twenty days after the earthquake. He’s being interviewed and I don’t give a shit. My world revolves around Eamonn, Sander and myself.

Eamonn looks at me.

‘Papa, what do you think Hitler was like when he was little?’

I laugh. Really loud.

‘No, I’m serious. I always wonder what bad people and big-time criminals were like when they were children.’

It’s the sort of question that only Eamonn would ask. I sincerely hope that when he grows up he will look back on his childhood and accept that despite its bad moments, it still turned him into a good person. I’m convinced that he’s already a good person and will be one for the rest of his life.

When nothing means just that

MONDAY, February 8 – The pain was still there, but now it was surfacing differently. It had started with my son incessantly pacing back and forth across the living room.

‘Eamonn, is anything wrong? I asked.

‘No, I’m okay,’ he said.

I knew there was something wrong, so I asked him again what was bothering him.

‘It’s nothing,’ he again assured me. I followed him as he continued slowly walking around the room, after each round returning to the coffee table where he took tiny sips from his glass of water and I could see an expression of horror in his eyes.

‘Come on upstairs with me,’ I said. Once up in my bedroom he refused to sit down next to me on the bed. He just stood there, stock-still, next to the mirror.

‘There’s nothing wrong,’ he repeated.

Then it started to dawn on me: ‘This nothing. Is that what you have been talking about? Is that what you feel? I asked.

Indeed, this is what he was now feeling.

‘I’m nothing. My body is worthless. It’s nothing but me, and I don’t care about it.’

My brain was going full tilt and I spoke to him straight from the shoulder.

‘Do you want to live?’


Relief. We were in touch. He began to explain.

‘I drink sips of water to push everything back into my head,’ he said.

‘I don’t understand. What do you mean?’

‘I feel like if I don’t do that, I’ll fall apart.’

Eamonn took another sip of water, this time from the glass on the bedside table.  Eventually, he agreed to come and sit next to me on the edge of the bed. He wouldn’t let me touch him.

Trying to comfort him, I said the first thing that came into my head: ‘It’s all right to have feelings like that, when you think that you’ve lost control over yourself. But just remember that if you explode, or if you fall, that I’ll always be there to catch you. I know that you’re feeling totally empty, that there’s nothing that seems to make your life worthwhile and that it feels imposible to find pleasure in anything at all. But listen carefully, and remember this: I promise you, here and now, that one day you’ll wake up and discover that you can still enjoy life. You’ll be able to have fun again and this ‘nothing’ will make way for ‘something’, and gradually that ‘something’ will become ‘everything’. When that happens, you’ll feel Mom close to you, inside you, and know that somehow she’s watching over you.’

I took a deep breath. That waterfall of positive thinking which had seemed to flow so automatically from my mouth was becoming a bit too much, probably. Just so long as he believed that ‘nothing’ wasn’t that bad at this moment in his young life.

He looked at me. ‘I think I’m going to be sick.’

I held his hand and told him to breathe slowly, in and out. For fifteen minutes we sat there together, I was lying on my bed and he was sitting on the edge. That was all I could do. It proved to be enough. Just enough.

An unbearable thought

SUNDAY, February 7 – What bothers me the most is the fact that we are gradually learning to go on living without you, Jennifer. The thought is unbearable.

A breakthrough in grieving

FRIDAY, February 5 – Tears of love ran down my face. Although it would seem I’m not ashamed to cry anywhere these days, I’m glad that Eamonn didn’t see me cry this afternoon. Burying his head in my lap, he had been more open than ever before with the psychologist.

I felt a surge of pride, relief and sadness alongside the love for my son who had talked about the accident for the first time. The dam had burst the evening before when he confessed that he was still tormented by the images of the accident and his memories of the fatal moment.

I couldn’t help him, no matter how much I wanted to. So it was a good thing that a visit to our psychologist was scheduled for today. Eamonn wanted me to bring up the subject and after that he would start to talk.

He described how the mother of his friend, who had both come to the park with them, suddenly called out to him telling him to turn around and go back to the road.  He described how he   immediately realized that there had been an accident and knew that his Mom had been in the crosswalk and he had run back. And then his voice faltered.

He put his head in my lap and through my tears I told him how brave he was and that I was proud of him. I reassured him that the exact words of his story would never go beyond the walls of this room and that gradually all this pain would begin to lessen. Then it was quiet for a while and that was okay.

Tears of pain, but above all, tears of love.

Deleting her out of our lives

THURSDAY, February 4 – I texted E. I’d given her Jennifer’s cell phone. There was no reason not to have done so. Her contract was ongoing and no one else had ever used the phone. Why buy a new phone? Well, for the simple reason that E’s name would have to be added to my contacts. To do that I would first have to remove Jennifer’s name. Goddamnit all to hell, if only I’d realized that before.

It’s another one of those moments when I seem to be erasing Jennifer from our lives for good.  While of course that’s not the case, it’s just one of those strange tricks that your brain plays on you when your heart is demanding precedence.

When E sent a text message in reply, I saw on my iPhone the whole series of messages that Jennifer and I had exchanged during the previous months, right up to October 22nd.  I read through them with a precious sense of nostalgia. If discovering Eamonn’s drawing last week quite unexpectedly had been a punch in the stomach, then these unexpected messages from the past produced a broad smile to my face that I wanted to hold onto as long as possible.

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