Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Not being a good father

SUNDAY, March 8  – The boys are standing in front of me. At this moment all I want to do is read the Sunday papers, undisturbed, and at my leisure. What are we going to do today? When children ask this question, it usually means they’re bored to death and don’t feel like doing anything. I counter with ‘Well, what do you feel like doing?’

The answer is predictable: Don’t know. Beach? Don’t feel like it. Walk in the forest? Not again!  Movie? There’s nothing interesting playing. Museum? Not really.  Okay, you come up with something. No ideas. We’re bored.

At that point I’ve had enough.  Into the car, the two of you!  No nonsense. It’s not until I’m sitting behind the wheel that I decide to head for the beach, with the dog.

Outside of Amsterdam we hit a traffic jam and in the back seat all hell breaks loose. I lose my temper and inform them that I’ve had just about enough of their griping and, further, that I’m sick and tired of having to dream up things for the two of them to do because they don’t have any ideas of their own.

My elder son then retorts that Mom would have had plenty of ideas and that she always came up with something. Besides that, I insisted on doing things on the weekend when they’d just as soon stay home. After digesting his words, I turn around and head back to the city. I apologize to them. I had to admit I haven’t been much of a father today. I just didn’t have it in me. I was really sorry, and I said so.

I drop the boys off at the park that’s close to home, together with the dog: ‘Take Elsa for a walk. I’ll expect you back in three quarters of an hour, and no sooner. Toodle-oo!  Papa’s going to go home and read his paper.’

When they got back, each of the boys told me separately that I wasn’t a failure as a father and also that they hadn’t been such good sons. With a hug and a kiss, everything was okay again. Oh, and would it be all right if they used my computer?

‘No’ was clearly not an option.

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The book costs $ 3.99 plus tax. All proceeds will go to my sons’ college fund.

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Writing the ‘Regret Person’

FRIDAY, March 5  –  I’m in the park with Eamonn and the dog and I’ve taken along a baseball glove. Spring practice has already started and I’m going to do my damndest to get my youngest son onto the field, but it’s a no-go. Nothing works and, for him, there’s no pleasure in the park. Too many memories of Mom.

Nothing works. He cries when I toss him the ball and he won’t go after it. He cries when I put the ball into his glove and ask him, plead with him, order him to throw it back. Then he comes over to me and says, ‘Could we write the regret person that I wish I was never born?’

I tell him that Mom considered the birth of her two boys her greatest gifts. You must never, never regret that you were born. He doesn’t get the message. We walk home again, the dog somewhat confused that the fun in the park is already over. I try to imagine what the regret person in Eamonn’s head looks like.

Stop thinking about sex!

THURSDAY, March 4  – Memo to self: stop thinking about sex!  Stop, stop, stop! I’m becoming obsessed by the thought of some heavy fucking – subject or object makes no difference – and now! Overdiek, turn off that switch in your head. Or go have sex – get someone into your or their bed, whatever. But stop thinking about it, please! Fuck it!

She would have known

WEDNESDAY, March 3  –  Parent-teacher conferences at school. I feel awkward and self-conscious sitting at the table, on a stool that’s much too small for an adult. My presence here alone, is painful; especially since during our talk, with my son at my side, I can no longer fall back on Jennifer.

She would have known exactly what to say. She would have been familiar with the method the teachers were using and where there was room for improvement. Now I’m responsible. The teacher’s looking at me and so is Eamonn.

I choose the path of least resistance and stammer: ‘And what do you think yourself, son?’ because I,  for one,  am totally blank.

Hell has many rooms

TUESDAY, March 2 – Wonderful responses to my email. (Except for the woman who said I could always call her if I was feeling lonely.)  That’s the whole fucking point, dumb ass.

Many friends and acquaintances had similar stories to tell. After the death of a close friend, parent or sibling, they were inundated with sympathy which soon disappeared – like snow from the sun.

One journalist friend was shocked.  He hadn’t heard. Understandably, as his wife is dying of cancer. He has other (or rather, similar) things on his mind. After a brief exchange via email, he wrote:

It’s hard to fathom. Hell has many rooms, and even suites. Sometimes we’re ordered to walk around for a while. The true art is to then set course for the light, hand in hand with your loved  ones, as close as you can get. Fantastic to know that you’re working on it. Just as it’s great that you’re walking alongside us. 

Dear friends, let me tell you

MONDAY, March 1 – The weather is gorgeous this morning. In response to the sun on my face, I decide to send my friends an update on our doings and to break the somewhat uncomfortable silence. I realize that that I occasionally take antisocial advantage with my answering machine, and without a qualm; but, presumably, my friends don’t know that.  So, here goes:

Dear Friends,

Let me tell you how we are doing.  In a nutshell: the sun is beginning to shine, at least from time to time. The rays are faint, but still. Little by little, Sander, Eamonn and I are starting to crawl out from under the enormous shadow that was so cruelly cast over us at the end of October and that movement feels good. We’re not there yet, not by a long shot and I can’t say that everything’s fine. That’s certainly not the case. We miss Jennifer terribly and we still cannot understand why this happened. We will probably never understand why.

Yet we know that we have to move on and that we can do it. The three of us are unbelievably close. In a sense, this is a very precious period in our lives, to which I automatically add that I’d give anything not to have to be going through it. I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my worst enemy. And that’s what it is – a bloody nightmare.

Now, four months later, we have picked up the thread of our lives. For us, at least, nothing will ever be the same. We keep busy with school, with work, and with the day-to-day concerns. As of three weeks ago, we have also had the help of E, an American au pair who we got to know while we were living in Washington D.C.

This means that we have both more stability and more flexibility in our lives during these hectic and emotional times. We also have a weekly appointment with a psychologist and there are people at school the boys can call on. I’m fortunate in having a number of friends whose support I can rely on and who know where to find me if I want to be found.

I know that many people think of us regularly and that gives me strength. I also realize that I haven’t always had the energy to pick up the phone or to respond to emails. When you’re deep in shit, you want to be alone and when everything’s going your way, you want to concentrate on the good things. Now, as we’re slowly but surely readying ourselves to reconnect with the world, we are aware that in the meantime many of you have gotten on with your own lives.

Thus, I wanted to send you this little note. We want to hear from you, even though we might not always respond immediately. We want to hear how things are with you and yours and all about those things that are part of everyday life.

On the other hand we would really rather avoid having to cross that awkward and painful barrier of: ‘I really want to know how things are with you and the boys, but I’m afraid to ask.’

Please talk to us about the ordinary things, what ‘s going on that makes your life pleasant or unbearable – that’s the way it goes, as I’ve discovered. Life does go on.

Our life does too. In fits and starts: now and then there’s a positive development and then you fall flat on your face, again.

Just wanted you to know.

Warm greetings,


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