Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Love is that fleeting second…

TUESDAY,  April 20 – So tired, dead-tired. This is all I was planning to write today.  Things turned out differently.

I was in the Mini on the way to an appointment in the city…  good-looking  women on bicycles sped by. It was a lovely sight and in the back of my mind I saw Jenn on her bike going over the bridges, saw how people looked at her in her denim mini-skirt and purple leggings, her black leather jacket and pale blue scarf. And the black-brown locks with those incredible curls.

Then I began to cry – and I’m still crying as I write it all down.

Why was all that taken away from her? It’s that question – to which there is no answer – that makes me so sad.  Sad for her. Not so much for myself.  She’s dead and I’m not. I’m alive.

I couldn’t shake off that feeling and during the business lunch I felt my mind drifting. Two colleagues were trying to provoke each other. I was the chair and I should have intervened, taken over, and gotten the meeting back on the rails.  But I couldn’t care less.  At that instant I was painfully conscious of the futility of it all. What the fuck am I doing here?  I excused myself, walked out of the room, put on my coat, got into the car and went home.

Home to my children. Love, that’s what I needed right then and that’s what I told Eamonn later in the car, on the way to baseball practice. That’s why I was waiting for him in the schoolyard at 3:30 which was a surprise, since he had expected his brother to pick him up. ‘You know why I enjoy picking you up, Eamonn?’

No, he didn’t know.

‘Love is that fleeting second when our eyes meet.  When I see the little rush of surprise.  Hey, it’s Papa!  You’re standing there. The quick smile of recognition, of affection, of closeness.  This afternoon, Eamonn, I needed that moment.’

Oh, okay. And he accepted my words for what they were worth.  We were both still for a moment. ‘Or do you think I’m a jerk, Eamonn?’  He laughed out loud. ‘That sounded funny, Papa.’

Playing Mom. And hating it

MONDAY, April 19  –  I start the day by emailing my brother.

‘Hi Brother,

These phone calls don’t really seem to work, for either of us. Why don’t you just come by this weekend?  I’d like that. With the whole family, with your son, or alone.  Whatever’s convenient. These perfunctory phone calls at regular intervals aren’t getting us anywhere. Take care!’

8:00 – It’s cold this morning. I remind the boys:  make sure you put on a coat. Eamonn says okay. Sander bargains. A sweat shirt without a jacket or a T-shirt with a jacket.  I say:  ‘a sweat shirt with a jacket’. He says no. I say:  ‘I hate having to play Mom.’  He says, ‘Then stop giving me a hard time.’  I laugh. At him and myself.

Stupid question, stupid answer

SUNDAY, April 18 – My brother calls. The usual listless conversation… the same questions, answered by rote. I don’t feel like explaining exactly ‘how things are’, which is what it’s all about. The conversation invariably ends with the assurance that we’re welcome to come by sometime or that they could come and see us.  Meantime, I simply expect them to do something … anything. Use your imagination, surprise us, do something unexpected, but,  please, no more perfunctory how-are-you-doings.  I’m okay, no more and no less. Goodbye, brother.

Colossal love for nature’s force

SATURDAY, April 17 – The volcano in Iceland has been spewing ash and paralyzing European  airspace.  No end of irritation and inconvenience and yet I find it fascinating. Jenn and I would have shared the experience, in secret admiration for the colossal forces of nature. Not man, but nature rules. Eyjafjallajökull, we love you!

My deranged but sexy knee

FRIDAY, April 16 – Sports massage at home. G is a fantastic – and  merciless – masseur. This time he tackles not only my back and arms, but also my calves. You can’t put anything over on G: my body speaks the truth. He can tell that I once injured my left knee.

Overstretched, I say.  The diagnosis was a ‘deranged knee’.

We have a good laugh.  He wants to know how it happened and I grin at the thought. My wife once sat down on my knee.  I think back to the day she put a torn-out magazine article on the nightstand:  ‘Ten positions that will spice up your sex life … with illustrations’.  It proved more complicated than we expected, but still fun until my knee ‘gave way’. I cherish the injury, which still rears its head from time to time. The body never lies.

Crying in the workplace

THURSDAY, April 15 – The NOS foreign correspondents are back visiting at headquarters and I will have to address them at some Amsterdam hotel. This is the first time they’ve seen me since last year, and their support from a distance has been heartwarming. The plan is that I’ll start off the morning with a few brief remarks related to Jennifer’s death before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the meeting.

Unfortunately, I’m overcome by my emotions and this despite my rehearsed talk, despite just the few short sentences I had intended to utter. I thank them and tell them how we’re doing at the moment and I tell them I’m looking forward to a challenging program – a day full of debate, but then I choke up.  A colleague takes over for me and I sit down.

Why the tears? Because at that moment I realized that a foreign correspondent is only able to do his or her work when the home front is covered one hundred percent. When you can be available twenty-four seven because your partner takes complete care of the children. For years, that was the way I had worked:  it was single-mindedness bordering on monomania, because Jennifer had allowed me to. The same is true of the many colleagues who work abroad.

Without Jennifer, I would not be standing there.  I knew that and so did they.

Taking a peek at the ashes

WEDNESDAY, April 14 – This afternoon I sent the boys to the park to give Elsa a run. Taking advantage of their absence, I took a quick look inside the mini urn next to Jenn’s photo. Just curious. It’s still a bizarre sensation having Jennifer’s remains here in the house. I shook it, but the ash, a kind of dingy grey grit, didn’t mean much to me. The imprint from my wedding ring is still visible.

Shitting on the wrong spot

TUESDAY, April 13 – Elsa usually poops in the same places.  On the bridge, on a stretch of grass near the boat, and always on entering the park. This time she opted for the zebra crossing where Jenn had been knocked down. It was a huge sausage of a turd and she took her time. I had no choice but to watch and wait until she was finished.  The adept movement of my hand, encased in blue plastic, revealed my experience with chores like this, but behind the routine procedure there was a paralyzing nervousness on a spot where thirteen seconds seemed like an eternity. Calm didn’t return until we reached the other side.

No new love yet. Too soon

MONDAY, April 12 – Had a long talk with K.  She was worried because of my uncommunicativeness, the vacuum I’ve created around myself, my mourning for Jennifer even though she understands my need to do so.  The grief, the profound need to cherish her memory… neither enough time nor enough space for a new relationship. Not yet. It’s too soon. I feel like a bastard and an egotist, but I need to think about Jennifer, only Jennifer. So, I opt for my own needs and we stop seeing each other.

I am the lousiest father

SUNDAY, April 11 – I’m sitting on the couch.  Just sitting there. I feel like a lousy father and yet…  Earlier today there was a resounding reality check with Sander who stubbornly resisted the ‘fun things’ I’d planned for today.  I had tickets for a performance at a children’s theater downtown, but he wanted to stay home and fool around with the computer instead. That was too much for me and I lost my cool. Okay then. No computer for the rest of the day:  for him, for Eamonn or for me.

The play was a disaster. It was about the death of an autistic girl, the Holocaust, a  biker who had an accident and was beheaded, and machines in hospitals. Given the circumstances, it couldn’t have been any worse and at Eamonn’s request we left early, which was somewhat complicated in such a small theater. His well-being took precedence. Fuck the audience.

Eamonn and Sander fixed dinner and it looked like we’d rescued the day, but somehow things went wrong. Well and truly wrong. Sander kept going on about the computer and the fact that he was bored out of his mind. Eamonn and I were sitting happily on the couch reading.  He’d pulled a blanket over our legs, slid his feet under mine and said that he used to do the same with Mom. The height of intimacy.

Sander went on and on. Until I lost my patience and sent him to his room.  He stomped up the stairs.  When I walked into his room, he came towards me and demanded that I leave.  He grabbed my wrists and tried to push me away. I asked him to let go. Sander tightened his grip and glared at me. I asked him again.  He refused. I pulled my hands away and slapped him across the face.

He was in a daze. Crying with rage, he threw himself on his bed. I bade  him goodnight, after indicating  that he’d gone too far and there was no way I was going to tolerate such lack of respect. Later he threatened to call the police if I ever hit him again. I told him to consider his own behavior  – to look at himself.

I was, of course, out of line. You should never hit your children, but this time it seemed unavoidable.  In some ways fathers and sons are equals while in some matters the roles are clearly delineated from one another.  Jenn would have been appalled by this run-in, even if it might have been understandable:  Sander and I are so much alike that we’re almost bound to clash. This time I had to take a stand.

Ten minutes later he came downstairs and threw himself sobbing into my arms. We both apologized. I repeated my promise, this time in a spirit of reconciliation:  ‘Whatever happens, whether we’re mad at each other, or you don’t understand me, or you live somewhere else, I’ll always be there for you. I’ll always love you and you can always rely on me.’

‘Papa,’ said Sander, ‘I love you so much.  And Mom, of course, and Eamonn.’

We were still clinging to each other when he continued, ‘I want you to know that Mom and I talked a lot.  Especially when you and I had had yet another fight, I could always go to her. We talked about things you don’t know anything about, things I’m not going to tell you. It was between her and me. I want her back, Papa,’ Sander said. ‘I want her back’.

We clung to each other. We stood there like that for ten minutes. Never mind words, actions, and all the rest:  feelings are far more important. And ours were more intense than ever.

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