Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the category “Paper work”

The Deceased gets a refund

FRIDAY, July 30 – ‘We are of the opinion that the U.S. tax service is obliged to refund a sum of just under two thousand dollars,’ pronounced the accountant in Washington D.C.  I couldn’t help grinning. Haven’t a clue how he reached that conclusion, but it sounds good to me. This was number one on my list of administrative commitments, which I hadn’t exactly been looking forward to.

So, it’s a refund. We’ll have to wait and see if the IRS tax authorities are of the same opinion. The smile faded from my face when I had to sign the declaration and remembered the reason for my visit. Jenn was dead and I had to finalize her administrative existence. She was no longer the translator, the pastry chef, the mother of two children. She was The Deceased.  It was there in black and white, and as The Beneficiary, I was asked to confirm this.

My accountant gave me a discount of one hundred dollars and invited me to stay for lunch. I said no, since I had appointments with my tax adviser, the bank, and the agency that administers our pension. Jennifer has been closed down.

She was cremated, in English

THURSDAY, July 15 – I’ve spent at least an hour plowing through piles of documents, in search of the English Declaration of Westgaarde Crematorium. It’s as if the goddamned thing has disappeared from the face of the earth. I have turned everything upside down and inside out. I had gone through tax documents, business documents, medical papers, legal pamphlets, personal papers, etc. etc., until I finally found that one vital piece of paper I need in order to take her with me to America.

Declaration of Cremation. Hereby I declare that on 29-20-2009 has been cremated the late Jennifer Mary Overdiek-Nolan born at Brooklyn (US) on the 28-05-1968. The ashes of the deceased are placed in a closed urn inscribed with the cremation number W155323, the name of the deceased and the date of the cremation.

It is signed by the manager of the crematorium. Jennifer would have said  ‘Lousy text. Another cocky Dutchman who thinks his English is pretty good.’ She would have taken out a pen and re-written the text.

A highlight, or so they say

WEDNESDAY, June 9 – Election day in The Netherlands. A celebration of democracy, a point I do my best to impress on Sander and Eamonn whenever there’s an election. You have a right to vote, to actively participate in the political process, and you’d be a fool not to take advantage of the opportunity. I give Eamonn the red pencil and let him color in the circle I’ve selected, and then push the paper ballot through the slit.

It ought to be a journalistic highlight. The build-up, the excitement of the final days of the race, the vacuum on the big day, leading up to the evening broadcasts with the results and the hectic sequel. A journalist’s dream, and even more important for me, as deputy-head of the biggest and best news organization in the country?

The truth is: It doesn’t interest me one bit.

The fact that I’ve acknowledged that lack of interest is probably the worst sign of all. I can’t help it. I’m not on my toes and I can’t get excited about anything. There’s no rush of adrenalin, no energy and I’ve resigned myself to the situation.

Which is strange. These elections were always the sort of thing I truly enjoyed. I could have made a real contribution to all the new projects where journalistic crossmedia are put to the test. I just trail along, and although I feel a few pangs of guilt, the end of the story is that I can’t swing it.

My head is simply overflowing. With pictures of Jennifer’s memorial bench, the medical developments, the up-coming trial, the confrontation with the motorcycle cop, Sander who is overwhelmed by the thought of the trial, and telephone calls about his music lessons, Eamonn who cycled home on his own for the first time, arranging for care for the boys, thinking about accommodation for the summer, the unpaid bills, the tax returns that should already have gone out.

To be truthful, I feel as if I’m losing my way. So what else is new? 

My wife in a moving box

FRIDAY, May 7 – Had a rotten night. Woke up a few times, dreaming of Jennifer. Tossed and turned, wishing the move to our new house was over.  Delays due to a snag:  the oil used on the wooden floors was spoiled, leading to white spots. Now they have to sand, oil, varnish, polish and then varnish again. At least I think that’s the right order.

What do I care? By Sunday evening the floor will be perfect. Here’s hoping. The movers are coming early Monday morning and by the end of the day we’ll take possession of our new abode, two streets away. I’m dreading the whole operation, but trying desperately not to lose my cool.  I’m tired. So tired. Even too tired to worry.

Tonight I’ll pack a small box with personal things. In other words: Jenn in da box. Weird… I walk around with the box in my hand. (Do you want me to put you down here, sweetheart?)  Relax. Fucking urn.  Shoved into a cardboard moving box without a single token of respect. The movers better keep their hands off my sweetheart.

Beware of unstoppable widower

MONDAY, March 22 – And then I decided I’d had enough… and I really got going. The morning began with a quick trip to school to drop Eamonn off, followed by a short but intense session at the gym. I showered and then there was no stopping me.

Made an appointment with the accountant, called to order an extra kitchen cabinet, phoned the crematorium Westgaarde.  Next Tuesday at ten o’clock I’m going to pick up the urn with Jennifer’s ashes. After that a phone call to Route Mobiel and within a half-hour the yellow Mini Cooper was on the road and I could see myself in the rear-view mirror heading for Hilversum.

That glance hit me in the pit of my stomach. Before driving off, I’d had to adjust the mirrors and move the seat back. Another piece of Jennifer deleted from our life. The car – her car – adapted itself to my body and was now mine and not hers.

I pretended, somewhat naively, that she was there with me as I drove to work, taking back-roads through fields and woods. Especially, when I spotted lambs frolicking in the fields, I could hear her cooing with pleasure, the way she always did when she caught sight of them. She couldn’t help calling out to the animals and she was never happier than at this time of the year, the season of fresh, young, innocent animals.

But that didn’t alter the fact that at the end of the day I had a moment of panic. The Mini refused to start. Something with the battery. There were more than enough colleagues available to help jumpstart the car. Soon I was heading home, where Sander and Eamonn were sitting there together, waiting. It was a kind of test – which they passed with flying colors. Wonderful to see them accept responsibility.

It was a great day and they can’t take that away from me.

Where to start? The end

TUESDAY, March 16 – The alarm goes off at 6:15.  I’m tired but fulfilled, as they say. I don’t feel guilty.  At least, I don’t think so.

I walk around the house like a chicken without a head. Don’t know where to start, what to do, which direction to go, and haven’t a clue where it’s all going to end. Administration, taxes, car papers to transfer… there are documents lying around that I have to deal with, but I can’t find the right ones so I can cross them off my list. I focus on Jenn’s car.

Where the fuck is the registration certificate for the Mini Cooper? I decide to give the house a good going-over. Then, after spending an hour and a half vacuuming and giving the toilets a good going-over, I remember that the cleaners are due this afternoon. Bizarre. I’m in control, but not capable of exercising control and I still can’t help crying.  As I search for official paperwork, I come across photos, objects of hers, notes, and memos.

Each discovery is accompanied by memories. Each object, no matter how inconsequential, pierces my heart like a dagger. This is my life, but I’ve lost it. I want her back, but first I have to clear away the final remains of Jennifer’s life and, really, I don’t know how to cope with it all? How to replace her? How to come to terms with all this, and ease the excruciating pain?

Deleting her out of our lives

THURSDAY, February 4 – I texted E. I’d given her Jennifer’s cell phone. There was no reason not to have done so. Her contract was ongoing and no one else had ever used the phone. Why buy a new phone? Well, for the simple reason that E’s name would have to be added to my contacts. To do that I would first have to remove Jennifer’s name. Goddamnit all to hell, if only I’d realized that before.

It’s another one of those moments when I seem to be erasing Jennifer from our lives for good.  While of course that’s not the case, it’s just one of those strange tricks that your brain plays on you when your heart is demanding precedence.

When E sent a text message in reply, I saw on my iPhone the whole series of messages that Jennifer and I had exchanged during the previous months, right up to October 22nd.  I read through them with a precious sense of nostalgia. If discovering Eamonn’s drawing last week quite unexpectedly had been a punch in the stomach, then these unexpected messages from the past produced a broad smile to my face that I wanted to hold onto as long as possible.

Widower buys new house

soldsignMONDAY, January 4 – In the end, it was a joyful occasion: the actual closing on our new house. The boys were excited and enthusiastic and their mood rubbed off on me. I felt thankful for this since I had woken up this morning with a strange feeling, conscious of the bizarre day that lay ahead.

After a final inspection, we were off to the notary public by bike. The seller is, himself, a widower. His wife had owned several apartments in Amsterdam which he is now successively selling. The word closure has a double meaning. What I kept telling myself as I was getting  dressed was something that our American real estate agent had impressed on us after we’d sold our house there.

‘When all is said and done, the sale of a house is no more than a transaction.’

In other words: forget all the memories and emotions that lie hidden in your house. The new occupants will replace them. They’ll look at the rooms, closets, kitchen and bathrooms with different eyes. What takes place during the conveying of a house is that two parties sign their names on a pile of documents and that one party hands the other a check. It is a transaction, pure and simple.

But this morning such a down-to-earth approach proved to be a bit much for the boys. We had barely taken our seats at the large wooden table in the stately office of our notary public when they began to get itchy. I sent them out into the hall and suggested they occupy themselves with their iPhones. Luckily they quickly complied, since I had a premonition about what was to come.

On the first page of the contract, at the bottom, was a painful piece of text the notary was about to read aloud, and that was gonna hit me like a sledgehammer. Officially, this is who I am:

Mr. Thimotheus Henricus Maria Overdiek, residing at 1077 DN Amsterdam, Gerrit van der Veenstraat 37-11, born in Tilburg on the second of April, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, legitimating himself with his passport, number X, issued in Amsterdam on the ninth of June, two thousand and nine, unremarried widower of Mrs. Jennifer Mary Nolan and not presently or previously registered as partner, who intends to take possession of the above mentioned  house, henceforth known as ‘the buyer’.

‘The buyer’ had tears in his eyes when the notary came to the passage in question. He was handed a glass of water. The procedure was resumed. The boys came back just in time to witness the signing of all the papers pertaining to what was both a transaction and a joyous occasion.

Another death. Her car’s battery

miniSATURDAY, January 2 – After five minutes behind the wheel of the Mini Cooper, I concluded that the battery was well and truly dead. Her pride and joy, the kick-ass little car we brought with us from England.

Until the arrival of the yellow Mini, Jennifer had shown no interest in cars.  However, she did  have to confess that while careening along the winding, wind-blown roads of the English countryside, she had finally discovered just how much fun driving could be. We disposed of our British Volvo without so much as a backward glance while it was a foregone conclusion that when we moved to the Netherlands in 2008, the Mini would go with us.

I must admit that she looked quite enticing, almost sexy, when she was behind the wheel. For the past month and a half now, the car has been parked two streets over. Coincidentally, and thankfully, it’s not been in front of the house. That would have been too painful.

Just what I expected, indeed happened:  the car wouldn’t start. The battery was totally dead. I’d brought along a garbage bag, so I could empty out the car, but in the end I just left everything as it was. I’m going to have to make a decision. Keep it or sell it? She was so proud of that car and especially the fact that it was registered in her name.  It belonged to her.

A few weeks ago I received a letter, as is standard procedure these days, simply addressed to ‘The Estate of J.M. Nolan’.  It stated that an automobile may ‘not remain registered in the name of a deceased person for longer than five weeks’.

Fuck the bureaucrats, I thought to myself. They’ll damn well have to wait until the time is ripe.  In any case, it’s her car, and right now nothing can change that.

She would be okay. They said

TUESDAY, December 29 – We’re home. Sander is lounging on the couch. Eamonn is in his room, busy with his toys. Bodhi the cat has been fed and is looking for a warm spot. We’ll pick up our dog Elsa tomorrow. The central heating is on. I’ve had my coffee. The suitcases are unpacked, and the washer is going. The pile of mail, which is largely Christmas cards, I go through quickly and then discard.

I pay considerably more attention to the statement from my insurance company, addressed to The Heirs of J. M. Nolan. Transport by ambulance on October 22, 2009:  cost € 755.30.  The amount has been paid in full. I remember the ambulance driver, a woman with long blonde hair, who treated her on the spot and then took her to the hospital. She made a point of coming by at the Emergency Room waiting area where I was pacing nervously back and forth. Things were looking pretty good, she said. According to her, everything was going to be all right.

Looking at the bill, that moment came back to me, in all its intensity. The overwhelming relief – since everything was going to be fine.

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