How about that new girlfriend?
SUNDAY, August 29 – The slight hesitation betrayed that she was searching for a polite, but perhaps not entirely honest answer. On the way to the station, I had to ask – what had she thought of C? After a slight pause came the reply. ‘She’s a sweet person. Someone who’ll take good care of you.’
And that was that, an example of how mothers think. In any case, my mother. A daughter-in-law must meet the minimum requirement of what she considers a ‘caring person’. In her eyes, Jennifer met that requirement, and so did C, now, in a sense. In any case, during her visit she had seen this with her own eyes. A woman full of warmth who made her guests happy.
What I was hoping she would notice above all was the visible love between C and me as well as the affectionate relationship between C and my children. The happiness that has gradually become a bit mundane for the six of us, was quite overwhelming for my mother.
Hence her cautious reply, which was keyed to my happiness, as opposed to our happiness. Happiness for me. She added that, in all honesty, it was not possible to gain a good impression of someone on the basis of an afternoon and an evening and that, in the end, it was, above all, difficult to accept that Jennifer was no longer there. That was the undertone of her reply. That her daughter-in-law had been ‘replaced’.
That is also the first reaction within our own circle of acquaintances, as I’ve been noticing in the last few weeks. Friends and acquaintances still see you as the man without the woman: Tim without Jennifer, the single man with two children, the family without a mother. In our blind but loving haste, we have perhaps failed to take that into consideration.
Where Jennifer’s parents are concerned, I have been very cautious. While we were in the States, I mentioned the woman and her two children we had visited in France and last night seemed like a good opportunity to give Jenn’s mother some more information. So, I told her how the mother and her children arrived in Holland and how well the children get along with each other. Also, I explained that she and I are more than friends and that we have actually developed a relationship.
No names, no details, no rejoicing. What was important was the fact of it and that is what I wanted to share with Jenn’s mother. Happily, her response was favorable. She said immediately that that was what Jennifer would have wished and she stressed how important it was for me to have a partner again, someone I can talk to. That did me a world of good. At the same time, I was aware of the pain this new reality might cause, so I did not go into detail about the intensity of the new relationship.
Our friends and acquaintances would prefer the hour hand to move more slowly, while for us the minute hand can’t go fast enough. Time does not heal all wounds, as we’ve been taught, and that goes equally so for my mother, mother-in-law, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and others who knew Jennifer. C is not a band-aid that heals the pain and, above all, she is not a replacement. She is my new love. Get used to it, world around us. Take as long as you need.