Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Angry. Just angry. Very angry

SATURDAY, March 20 – Listless and agitated at the same time, I get angry with Sander for no reason, which makes me angry with myself.

I’m pissed off at the parents of Eamonn’s friend, who have simply dumped their son on us, while they go downtown to shop together. Together. I think bitterly of the fun they’ll have.

I stroll down Beethoven Street and walk into a couple of stores, just to watch people. I’m lonely. I feel abandoned. I know Jennifer would have thought up something interesting to do with the boys, done something on her own, or all four of us together. And me? My specialty is making time pass by doing nothing.

I pace around the house, walk into her study, and with a wide sweep of my arm, I send everything on the table crashing to the floor. Her handbag comes to a halt upside down, and a tampon lands at my feet.

16.40 – Five shirts ironed. Now what?

Lying on my bed, I stare up at the ceiling. Have no idea what the boys are up to. Somehow or other they’ve managed to get through the day. Just as at some point it’ll dawn on me that it’s evening. That’s how meaningless it all seems. So somber. So insignificant within the all-encompassing entity of life.

Is every day going to be like this? The rest of the year? For years to come? Who’s going to guide the boys through high school and on to college? Who’s going to encourage them and kindle their enthusiasm?  Who’s going to do all that? Right now I see myself as a worthless, totally inadequate human being. The only thing I manage to do is keep the household functioning: a meal now and then and the laundry.

I iron the two remaining shirts.

23:00 –  Eamonn was sitting dejectedly on the couch right after his friend left – who proved  that he wasn’t a real friend by calling him an ‘oddball’. Fine. We won’t be inviting him over again. It was all too much for my little guy, the reversal in a false friendship. Who can he rely on?

He mumbled something about not having very many friends at school and that sometimes he felt excluded. Later on I realized that all I had to do was give him a big hug, but I went on and on, trying to impress on him how special he was, how intelligent, how generous, in short:  a cool kid.

He retorted that I shouldn’t say that because it wasn’t true. We tossed a few complimentary and less complimentary traits back and forth, until it seemed like a good idea to just go to bed. However, not before he grabbed hold of me and said, ‘I wish Mom was here.’

I know all too well that Jenn would have been able to give him more love and self-confidence than I did. But I’m doing my best and he knows it.

In and out at the hospital

FRIDAY, March 19 – The damned ring is still visible. Or is it my imagination?  Sander has a dental appointment today, at the AMC, the hospital where Jenn died. Where I was handed her wedding ring, engagement ring, and a few other pieces of jewelry in a plastic bag. That was when we were still hoping that she would awaken from her coma.

Hoping in vain.

It turned out to be not as bad as I had expected. The orthodontist was satisfied and Sander doesn’t have to go back for a surgical procedure the dentist had tentatively considered.  When we get home, the emotions that had been switched off while we were at the hospital break loose. We both start to cry.

‘I’m so tired of everything,’ Sander says. I couldn’t agree more. We light three candles in front of Jennifer’s photograph, the way we did that night when we said goodbye to her. Back to that day, the source of all evil for us.  It feels good.

Hardly any time to grieve

THURSDAY, March 18 – Overwhelmed. Totally overwhelmed.  It’s all getting on top of me and I’m ready to collapse.  There’s so much to do while at the same time  I’m longing for the moment when I can resume my life. Start with a clean slate. That’s all nonsense, I know – starting with a clean slate, but that’s what I want.

So tired and yet so energetic. And so happy together with the children, so full of hope, so optimistic.  Still, sometimes it feels as if I have nowhere to turn. I want to be super dad, Superman, super lover and super employee, preferably all at once while, in reality, I barely have time to grieve for Jennifer.

There’s a tiny voice inside me that keeps shouting: ‘Call it a day, Overdiek, take a time-out.’ but it’s beyond me. I can’t manage to listen to that voice and it feels as if I’ll sink and drown if I don’t take action. There’s so much to do and so little time for self-reflection, so little time to think about what has actually happened to Jennifer, to me, to us.

This all seems so contradictory, since things are actually improving or maybe that’s just what I tell myself. Aren’t they just words to use when people ask me how I’m doing and I reply  ‘Better and better’. Since,in reality there’s nothing but chaos inside my head and in front of me I see the ‘To-Do List – Urgent’.

My job is slowly but surely making more and more demands on me. What it boils down to is that I don’t have the energy to do everything.  Emergency scenarios pop into my head.  Should I call in sick? Is it an option to apply for paternity leave? Or should I simply establish priorities and stop whining?

My life and that of the boys continues as usual; but, what, indeed, is ‘usual’ when you no longer have your life under control?  As far as my work is concerned, it is my fervent wish to get back to functioning at my old level. There are so many challenges ahead of me and so many fun things waiting for me, but I’m not up to it. I’m simply not up to it.

Again, the ‘taking a shit’-theory

WEDNESDAY, March 17 – After lunch, I finally get Eamonn to go along to the park with me, to give Elsa a run. However, the dog chooses this moment to have an attack of the shits on Beethoven Street, which results in numerous gagging passers-by, including Eamonn. He wants to go home, but I force him to keep walking.

I know how it works. Once we’re in the park, everything will be all right and we’ll end up having fun. That’s my goal today, having fun in the park – despite the fact that our route includes a tricky crosswalk. Not the one where Jenn was knocked down, but one further ahead, just around the corner where Stadion Road crosses Beethoven Street. We’re in luck: the light is green.

We can keep walking, instead of waiting, in which case thoughts might stray to that Thursday in October, some two hundred yards from here. As we cross, things go wrong. Well and truly wrong. In the distance, a siren sounds. The ambulance is heading in our direction at top speed. We’re already about a hundred yards from the crossing when the ambulance whizzes by behind us.

I reach for Eamonn’s hand without looking at him. He holds my hand tight, and we keep going. I try to broach a neutral subject, but Eamonn turns away.

‘It’s not about Elsa’s poop,’ he says.

‘I know, Eamonn. It’s the ambulance, isn’t?’

‘Yes.The ambulance.’

‘I was thinking the same thing, Eamonn .’

We walk on another hundred yards or so, and we’re almost at the entrance of the park when he jumps into my arms and begins to cry, and cry, and cry. We stand there for several minutes, motionless. If Elsa hadn’t had an attack of diarrhea on Beethoven Street, if she hadn’t taken a shit first, then we would have long since been in the park and none of this would have happened.

But it did happen.  Slowly, we walk back home, carefully avoiding ‘the crosswalk’. I try to make it clear to him that it might help if, at some point in the future, he went by the place where the accident took place. To see with his own eyes that it’s nothing but an ordinary crosswalk.

He looks at me angrily and says, ‘It isn’t an ordinary crosswalk. It’s a shit place where my mother was killed.’

Again we hold each other tight. Now we’re both crying. What’s left to say? Quite a bit, it appears, during our walk home. Eamonn tells me that ‘after the accident, while Mom was lying on the ground surrounded by medics, there were a couple of teenagers hanging around who started making jokes about it all, and calling it cool.

At that moment Eamonn had been sitting on the curb. ‘Later I wished I’d smacked them in the face, so that they fell on the ground and died.’

We walk on in silence. When we get home, Eamonn immediately starts on his homework.

Where to start? The end

TUESDAY, March 16 – The alarm goes off at 6:15.  I’m tired but fulfilled, as they say. I don’t feel guilty.  At least, I don’t think so.

I walk around the house like a chicken without a head. Don’t know where to start, what to do, which direction to go, and haven’t a clue where it’s all going to end. Administration, taxes, car papers to transfer… there are documents lying around that I have to deal with, but I can’t find the right ones so I can cross them off my list. I focus on Jenn’s car.

Where the fuck is the registration certificate for the Mini Cooper? I decide to give the house a good going-over. Then, after spending an hour and a half vacuuming and giving the toilets a good going-over, I remember that the cleaners are due this afternoon. Bizarre. I’m in control, but not capable of exercising control and I still can’t help crying.  As I search for official paperwork, I come across photos, objects of hers, notes, and memos.

Each discovery is accompanied by memories. Each object, no matter how inconsequential, pierces my heart like a dagger. This is my life, but I’ve lost it. I want her back, but first I have to clear away the final remains of Jennifer’s life and, really, I don’t know how to cope with it all? How to replace her? How to come to terms with all this, and ease the excruciating pain?

Do I feel guilty after sex?

MONDAY, March 15 – It’s only just after midnight, but let the record show my widower’s virginity has been out asunder. Yep, and it was great. Our emails had crossed, we talked on the phone, and late that evening I dropped by.  Eamonn was already asleep and Sander, who was in the shower, had no objections when I said (ahem) that I was going out for a beer.

I was on my way home when she called. ‘If you have any regrets, I’ll understand.’ That was the last thing that occurred to me!  No fucking way. It was intimate, tender and satisfying, but also difficult. Physically complicated.  To make love is one thing, to come is something else.

‘Do you feel guilty?’ she asked.

Loneliness of single parenting

SATURDAY, March 14 – Another old-fashioned crying jag.  This morning it was during a walk in the park. The dog seemed surprised that we were alone. Where were her playmates? I was conscious of the solitude and overwhelmed by the moment.

No doubt I was feeling the loneliness of caring for the boys on my own again. Yesterday I fired our au pair and, once again, I’m their sole caregiver.  It’s like taking a step backwards. She’d had no sense of responsibility for the boys, she’d fallen down on the job in various respects – serious and less serious; but, to the extent that I began to worry about the well-being of my children.

She spent the whole day glued to her laptop, asleep, or watching TV, had no idea what the boys were doing, couldn’t cook, and never once took the initiative when it came to the most elementary household chores. One afternoon she came home stoned when she was supposed to be taking care of the boys, in violation of our agreement.

She didn’t take proper care of herself, but what was even worse, she was never there for the boys when they needed an arm around their shoulder or a bit of extra help in the kitchen. She didn’t realize that we were managing quite well on our own, but expected the occasional sign of encouragement and support.

After a month and a half, I’d had quite enough of this litany of annoyances – the minor but rapidly accumulating mistakes – that made me wonder whether it was worth giving up our privacy. The latter has been restored, now that I’ve made the practical decision to dismiss her. This saddles me up with a serious logistical problem, but I’m not too worried about that. We’ll think of something. Two nights until Monday, departure day.

What does bother me is the realization that I’m totally on my own again. That’s probably why I briefly faltered during my morning walk. I’m distraught with fear, but at the same time I’m aware of a new strength, a greater self-confidence, and a conviction that this obstacle, too, can be surmounted.

The boys were surprised by the speed and the consequences of the decision. Relief was the dominant emotion. Eamonn raced around the house naked on his way to the shower. ‘Now we can do our naked dance again!’

Feeling a great sensation

WEDNESDAY, March 11 – I text my good friend R:  Let the record show that at 14.30 this afternoon I exchanged passionate kisses with a woman.

It began one evening with coffee, then dinner, a walk and a sidewalk café, and continued this afternoon at her place for a heart-to-heart conversation. Just before I left – there was no turning back – we stood there French-kissing like there was no tomorrow.

A great sensation. It was the intimacy I’d longed for. I leave her house with a big grin on my face. Two hours later it’s still there and my mouth is starting to feel stiff. Can’t get the thing off my face.

He replies: ‘Hear, hear, spring is in the air!’ and as if that isn’t enough, this afternoon the kitchen was installed in our new house.

Death works from nine to five

March 10 – It’s just a routine day and yet, time and again,  I’m reminded of my personal tragedy to the point where people are beginning to notice.

Just before the start of a big meeting, I see a colleague heading in my direction. He saunters at first, but then firmly sets course in my direction. Then comes the question:  ‘And how are you doing now?’ Well meant, of course, but clearly the wrong moment, with people all around us. I hear myself saying something about spring being just around the corner. My heart contracts.

It’s even worse when a colleague describes to a small group of people how he suddenly had to race home because his wife had fallen off a ladder and had been taken to the hospital by ambulance. No details were spared: wounds, blood, bandages, and the shock of it all. I continued to listen, but I felt the tears welling up, saw Jenn lying there.  At first they said everything was going to be all right. The colleague looks at me despairingly, then he comes over and we hug briefly.  No problem.

In the corridor I chat with two staff members about foreign correspondents and their expense accounts. I speak from experience. One of them remarks that in the United States it was different for me because I was married to an American. Time suddenly stands still, but then he chatters on and I let the moment pass. The other shuffles his feet uncomfortably. He lost a family member last year. We don’t dare to look at each other, but we are gripped by the same emotions.

I stop briefly to greet a colleague whose wife recently gave birth to a stillborn child. The funeral has just taken place. It’s a case of ‘a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved’, and we talk briefly. As a widower, I’m permitted to inquire, but I catch myself asking well-meaning questions which I myself might consider inappropriate. Or am I seeing ghosts?

Later that afternoon there’s a meeting, devoted to cross-media journalism, which had been repeatedly postponed and now even has a new chairman. His question was logical: ‘What exactly is the purpose of this meeting?’ I immediately explain that the death of my wife Jennifer is the reason that we are only now able to get together and that was that. Sometimes it’s better not to beat around the bush.

A normal meeting, but with death sitting in. Over four months later.

Lost in my own shit

MONDAY, March 9 – The au pair is starting to annoy me.  Should I blame it on myself, the children, the circumstances, or the apartment? No, I blame it on her. She’s blatantly incompetent. Is she really to blame though? I’m lost in my shit, and can’t handle hers. Shit, shit!!

Post Navigation