Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Raging in traffic at myself

WEDNESDAY, June 30 – On Beethoven Street a magnificent sports car comes to a halt in front of me. Behind the wheel is a good-looking man with dark, wavy hair, wearing sun glasses. The colleague next to him, clearly his subordinate, looks in admiration at the driver, who is talking a hundred miles an hour and gesticulating wildly.

Apparently he’s putting the new convertible through its paces. When the light turns green, it shoots off, immediately at top speed, only to come to a standstill 300 yards further up. I pull up alongside him and open my window.

‘Good-looking car,’ I say, loud and clear. The driver gives me a broad smile.

‘I have a good-looking car, too,’ I continue, fixing him with a penetrating gaze.  From behind the wheel of Jenn’s Mini Cooper. He smiles uncertainly.

‘It belonged to my wife.’  I raise my voice. ‘Last October she was run over and killed. Right there, just up ahead. By someone who was speeding, and for a split-second not paying attention. You’re not supposed to travel at such an idiotic speed with that beautiful car of yours. Wait until you get on the highway.’

For a moment, there is silence. I roll my window up, but I see that the driver is pointing to himself and smiling sheepishly. His passenger is smiling, too.

Again I open my window, and in an angry voice I say ‘You can laugh if you like, but apparently you don’t know what I mean.’

‘I wasn’t the one who caused the accident,’ he says.  And he’s right.

I retort, ‘That’s what the other guy thought, too.’

He nodded. The light turns green and we both accelerate. Further up we’re again standing next to each other at a red light. We ignore each other. What needed to be said was said. Was this my civic duty or a call for victim support? I ask myself this as he blasts onto the highway and disappears into traffic. I notice that, unconsciously, I’m speeding and I slow down.

Oops! Forgot all about it

TUESDAY, June 29  – What a day.  All morning you’re busy with work, colleagues, meetings, news, and everything else that has to do with what I’m being paid for, and suddenly, around noon, you realize that not once have you thought about Jenn and the children.  Not a single second. The same thing happens during the afternoon, and you head home with a jubilant feeling. This is what we call shameless energy.

All’s back to normal. Shit

MONDAY, June 28 – It hit Eamonn in class, Sander on his bike, and me when I opened the door of the fridge: everything is back to normal. And we know damned well what’s normal. Eamonn cried, Sander sighed and I swore. Yet, over dinner I explained that all this was normal. The boys agreed. Normality stinks.

‘Smiling’ at the moon

SUNDAY, June 27 – On our way from Nice to Amsterdam, one day later than originally planned.  Saturday had turned into one long, exhausting ‘smile day’ waking up in the morning, enjoying the afternoon siesta, and gathered around the pool, by the light of a full moon.

Saying ‘hi’ to a dead girl

SATURDAY, June 26 – Facebook puts you in touch with long-lost friends. And once you have friends in your virtual social network, an automatic FB setting lets you know that there are ‘friends’ who haven’t been in touch for quite some time. This morning Facebook suggested that I ‘reconnect’ with Jennifer Nolan:  via a simple click on the correct link I could say hello. That’s how easy it is in internet heaven. Hello, Jennifer!

New kinda family dinner

FRIDAY, June 25 – Family dinner. Two boys, two girls and two parents. It’s a bit crowded, at the table and in the bedrooms, but it works out all right. 

Sharing shit with a friend

THURSDAY, June 24 – It’s close to midnight and Sander is dead tired, but he insists on coming with me when I take Elsa out. He wants to tell me something and there’s no need for his little brother to hear it.

In fact there’s nothing to tell, but he wants me to know that he had a really good talk with C’s older daughter P. They’re the same age and they’ll be going to the same school back in Amsterdam. They found each other within the exchange of their own personal shit.  Big differences, but even bigger similarities: the death or departure of a parent. Loss, that’s what they talked about.

‘And it really helped a lot to finally be able to talk to somebody about it,’ he said suddenly. He doesn’t want me ‘to be offended or anything’, since he knows he can always come to me. But he also wants me to know that there’s something that he’s able to share, something recognizable, with a friend. I give him a hug and say that friendship, true friendship, may well be the most important thing in life.

Grieving = ‘feeling funny’

WEDNESDAY, June 23 –  ‘I feel funny,’ Eamonn says, and he is visibly upset. He can’t explain exactly what it is. No, he’s not tired, despite spending the whole day in the pool and walking around Monaco, so that it’s way past his bedtime. No, it’s not about Mom, and not about C, and not about the accident, not about school, not about me or Sander, he just feels strange.  Okay, then climb onto my lap. That helps. A little.

Kids make a loving u-turn

TUESDAY, June 22 – Another winding road down a French mountain, this time during the day. I ask Sander if things now seem a bit more logical and less overwhelming. I’m pleasantly surprised when the answer is a wholehearted yes.

‘Well, you mustn’t forget that it was all so sudden and unexpected. But I can understand what you want, and how you feel. So it’s only understandable that some day you’ll want to get married,’ says Sander.

I laugh and tell him that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

But then Eamonn goes one further. ‘And even if you do remarry, then I won’t call her ‘Mom’. I’ll just call her by her first name.’


‘Boys, boys, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. She’s my girlfriend. That’s all for now.’

I hear myself saying the words. My girlfriend. And there’s a grin on my face.

Writing to my late wife

SUNDAY, June 20 – Father’s Day. No breakfast in bed, no card, no present. But this is even better. Closeness. All three of us woke up at the same time, at the campgrounds. We lounged around on the porch of our cabin. All three of us with a laptop. Together. Every once in a while one of us says something:  about a post on Facebook, or laughs at a funny film on YouTube, or fixes something to eat, while Eamonn snacks on his popcorn, and it begins to rain, I write her a letter about my fatherhood.

Dearest Jenn,

I wish you could see us now. You’d almost certainly object to all the time the boys spend on the computer. Believe me, they don’t really sit there all day staring at a screen. I can be strict with them, too. But sometimes – and you may recognize this in me – I’m inclined to give them a bit more leeway. What’s difficult – at least I find it difficult! – is constantly having to correct and guide them, and to step in when there’s a disagreement. Since I can’t ask my beloved wife to take over for a while.

How I’d love to put my arms around you this very minute, as the father of your – our – children, and show you how much I admired you as a mother, what a great job you did, often on your own because I was off on an assignment. That’s what makes me a bit sad today, but it also gives me strength. For many years I failed to pull my weight when it came to bringing up the boys – as you justly pointed out – blithely counting on you to fill in the gaps. In this respect, I have failed in my duties as a husband and a father.

I’ve come back stronger than ever, but it’s awful that the circumstances forced me to do so. I am there for the boys, unconditionally; but for you that was self-evident from the day that you knew that you were going to be a mother. For me, as well, but in my case it was more words than deeds. You regularly pointed that out to me, and last year in particular we discussed the matter at length.  It was time for me to put my money where my mouth was, and to make it clear what was really important in my life and in our family life, and how that affected our marriage.

I wish you could see us now. You’d find a threesome, invincible in spite of the devastation your death has caused. I’m not afraid to say that I’m a good father, that I can make up for your absence (even though I still have trouble dealing with all the everyday stuff), that I slog away but that at least I’m going forward and not backwards, and that I struggle and – most of the time – emerge victoriously.

I make mistakes, and so did you. We made them together, in order to learn from them. I’m afraid of the future, which is so uncertain.  But at the same time I’m confident. You helped them on their way, and I’ll hold them by the hand until they leave the nest. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past eight months, it’s this: ‘Being there’.

Unconditionally – both physically and mentally – providing them with the security and safety they will need now more than ever. This is my gift to them. What I promise them, as a father. I wish fervently that you could see that today.

I love  you.

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