WEDNESDAY, July 7 – At the stroke of seven, as agreed, he’s sitting there with the gift-wrapped present on his lap. Next to him a sleepy older brother and opposite him a worn-out father, who has decorated the living room with paper chains, balloons, cards and that one big present. The one the birthday boy isn’t sure he’s going to like. ‘Eamonn, don’t worry. Just open it.’
He looks a bit doubtful as he tears off the gift paper and he sees what’s underneath. He looks at me, then at the present, and then back at me.
‘Papa, this is against the rules.’
‘Yep,’ I say, with a touch of triumph in my voice.
‘Mom would be furious with you.’
‘Yep,’ I say again, with that same triumph.
Sander laughs out loud. ‘Mom would be sending you ‘post-death’ divorce papers.’
‘Yep,’ I say. That’s the morbid humor I share with my older son, which we’re gradually perfecting.
2:00 p.m. – I awake with a start in the movie theater. The film is nearing the end, so I must have dozed off for three-quarters of an hour. On my left are the birthday boy and his brother and on my right three boys from his class. Toy Story 3 is about Andy, who at the age of seventeen, takes leave of his puppets Woody and Buzz.
In one of the scenes Andy is about to leave for college. His mother, who’s standing in his bedroom, is suddenly overcome by her emotions. Behind the dark 3-D glasses I feel the tears welling up. Damn it. Here I am sniveling while the five boys are laughing, chatting and devouring popcorn.
That film fragment went straight to my heart: the mother sees her grown son leave home. Something not reserved for Jennifer and her boys. Boom. I let the tears flow. In the dark no one notices.
7:00 p.m. – Eamonn had made his announcement that morning. Now the moment has come, and as soon as everyone has a glass, Sander broaches the subject. ‘Eamonn, it’s time for a toast.’
He doesn’t mince his words. He’s knows what he wants to say, he’s rehearsed it, and he means it. ‘To Mom. Cheers.’
Cheers! That’s all. What had to be said has been said.
10.30 p.m. – When asked what the best part of the day was, he said, ‘That I’m in double digits now.’ He’s turned ten. A job well done, I say, but it’s also an inevitable and painful step. What makes it so damned hard is the realization that he is no longer nine years old, the age at which he lost his mother. This birthday increases the gap.
Towards midnight I get out the speech that Eamonn had written himself (including the sole misspelled word) and had also been planning to read during the cremation service. He couldn’t manage it, but that wasn’t a problem. On his behalf, I spoke the following words:
“The amazing person, my Mom
Mom, I only knew you for only 9 years, and I have decided that that is too short. I hope that you can understand that, because you were way too young to die. You didn’t deserve to get hit by that motorcyclist. I remember that you always liked music and Buddhism, and I hope that you always will. We are all very upset about this incident, and we hope that you will have a peaceful life from now on. You were the strongest and bravest Mom that I have ever known. Please be strong and kind forever, and we will always belive in your cheerful spirit. RIP Mom.”