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.
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.