Diary of a Widower

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

Archive for the category “Paper work”

Four people live. Thanks, Jenn

THURSDAY, December 17 – Snow! Recuperating after a bad night. Have to keep an eye on Sander, who spent most of the night on the toilet. I decide to bite the bullet and tackle some paperwork. If you’re sick anyway, you might as well deal with those damned  documents.

First the matter of succession laws:  I have to sign in a couple of places, scan the documents, and send them back. Then a phone call to the notary about the upcoming transfer of ownership of the new house.  Then two more tax documents:  one Dutch, one British. I email Jenn’s American accountant and talk to our investment advisor in Washington D.C.

Then the rest of the mail. I’m tempted to chuck it all out without even reading it. They’ve all done their best to find the right words, but all they do is confront me with reality. I don’t need this. Like the Christmas card from English friends who haven’t heard. ‘Best wishes to all four – have a great 2010!’ I toss it. They’ll find out somehow.

It’s almost four o’clock when I get the phone call. This is what I post on my Facebook wall:

The news is accompanied by tears of love. One woman (25) received her lungs. Another woman (64) her liver. Two men (55 and 63) each received one of her kidneys. All are doing well. Some had been on the waiting list for a long time. Thank you, Jenn. We love you.

Heartwarming responses. Several people immediately sign up as organ donors. Cautiously I inform the boys. They immediately want to know all the details.  They’re both enthusiastic and, separately from one another, they reach the same conclusion.

‘Thanks to Mom, four people will have a better and a healthier life.’

I am overcome by happiness. Tears of love, tears of joy.

Facts of the unbearable truth

SUNDAY, December 6 – It’s a miserable Sunday afternoon.  Sander’s away playing jazz at ‘The Bathtub’. I’ve picked up some potato chips for Eamonn which he is now devouring on the couch, absorbed in his new Garfield book. The dog seems happy enough.  The cat’s been mad at the dog for once again pinching his dinner, with just one sweep of her tongue. But, now, he’s comfortably ensconced on Eamonn’s lap. Maybe this is a good moment to go over that medical dossier.

Her last moments of consciousness:  ‘Friday 23 October 02:00.  Severe headache persists, T 36.7.  Procedure:  repeat paracetamol 1000 mg. plus tramal 50 mg.  After 3 hours,severe occipital headache persists. EMV max, lucid and oriented (in English). B / subcutaneous 5 mg morphine.  04.00 call in connection with sudden drop in EMV and immeasurable output: pulse 180, RR immeasurable, no exhalations: reanimation and intubation (initially without sedation):  during EIMIVI, anisocory, no response to light.’

All of this according to the doctor in attendance.  The surgery was to no avail…  It’s a  big pile of paper.  Shuffled in amidst all the medical terms, we – her husband and children – also make the occasional appearance.

Questions begin to arise. A great many questions. But the answer remains mercilessly  the same. She is dead.

Signing ‘our’ mortgage papers

WEDNESDAY, November 25 – Feeling terrified by the howling wind. It’s stormy this morning and even the dog is edgy. Dry leaves blow up all around her and invisible gusts of wind attack her from all sides. It gets to me, too. Weird thoughts enter my head. What if a huge branch were to fall from that tree? What if an entire tree gets blown down? My own vulnerability is palpable. The boys aren’t the only ones to feel it. In a matter of seconds, it could become reality and I fear an early death that’s just around the corner.

15:20 – I am writing this entry with a brand-new pen that I snitched from the bank where I signed the new mortgage papers.  A dozen or so initials and one full signature. I don’t know whether I was even in the neighborhood of the lines, since I was blinded by tears.

I couldn’t see the last few pages. It’s possible that the document was ultimately sealed with tears of love.  Two months before, Jennifer and I sat in here together, in that same bank building in Amsterdam, joking about the number of papers we had to sign in connection with the life insurance clause.

Fucking bizarre – pardon my French – to be sitting there again, the same two chairs positioned in front of the desk, one of them occupied by my briefcase. Conflicting emotions.  On the one hand relief, since our American Dream – a house of our own – was going to come true after all, but it was also excruciating painful because that dream had been blown to smithereens, making way for a nightmare.

Changing residences without Jennifer. Each stroke of the pen on the revised mortgage papers felt like a shovelful of sand falling on a coffin.  Each time I formed those two small initials, I was deleting Jennifer from her own life. She was getting closer to becoming an administrative procedure, in settlements of something that once was. She’s dead and that fact is brought home to me with every breath I take.

Tears of sorrow, of relief, of love?  Who knows?  Tears, buckets of tears.

The woman at the bank, who had gone to a great deal of trouble to make it all possible after the whole deal had almost fallen through, asked me if I’d like to be alone for a moment. I’ve already been alone for a month, I thought, but she meant well, so I just shook my head. When the tears had dried, I broke the silence by taking over her role:  ‘Well, Mr. Overdiek,’ I purred, ‘congratulations on the purchase of your house.’

Even a gruesome joke can do wonders.

Do not hurt our ‘baby’!

THURSDAY, November 19 – Number 22 has got to go. One of Sander’s incisors is in the way – a legacy from his mother. The dentist frowns.  ‘We’ll have to get rid of this one.’ Sander looks up and asks me to stay. Why? Because Mom always did. His adolescent body moans in pain as the anesthetic shoots into his jaw.

Suddenly I’m reminded of the summer of 1997, when baby Sander was due for his first injections.  In his buttock or his upper leg, I can’t remember which.  He screamed louder than any baby I’d ever heard. The sound was heart-rending.  And at that point tears came to my eyes.

I remembered how Jennifer gazed in bewilderment at the injustice to which her child was being subjected.  I was angry and blamed the doctor, who just stood there, half smiling.  It was a primeval reaction… the sense of parental responsibility during those first months as young parents.  Now, over twelve years later, that sensation returns in all its intensity.

Leaving the dentist’s office, I put my arm around my tall son, who has long towered over his mother. Then and now… the protective hug. The loving, comforting words:  ‘Don’t be afraid, little guy, you’re safe with Mom and Papa.’

The emotions are the same, twelve years and one dead mother later.

11:30 – Ah, a letter from the crematory, about the destination of the ashes. A tasteful folder with creative suggestions, accompanied by the price list.  I feel like writing something really cynical, just to get it out of my system, but then I think better it.  I’m tired.  Dead tired.

Clinging to me like a 3 year-old

TUESDAY, November 17 – On the radio I hear an account of the controversial political decision not to screen American women for breast cancer until the age of fifty.  Up to now the eligible age was forty.  Jenn would have been furious.  On her behalf, I am incensed over this ridiculous decision. I sense her outrage and that brings some relief.

17:00 – Eamonn has a guitar lesson today, the first in a long time. He’s cheerful, chatters a mile a minute, and is happy to be doing something different.  This morning was awful. In the schoolyard he was overcome by his emotions and wouldn’t let me go. He clung to me like a three-year-old on his first day at the day care center. Read more…

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