Cutting my hair has always been one of my jobs. Four unruly boys meant I had to divide and rule: I would take two at a time to the barber and have them clipped. My wife stayed at home and enjoyed the relative silence.
After that, I sent her photos of freshly shaved, happy heads back on WhatsApp. She responded with things like, “Too short! Nooo!”, “Perfect, you can see his eyes again” or “My God, he looks so grown up.”
The last comment was the most common. After a certain age, boys haircuts do something weird. They drag the child into the future and make them a little unfamiliar. This gives you a glimpse of who they will be and shows you the version of them that is here right now – not their younger self that you may be holding on to. It’s a shock to the system: your baby isn’t a baby anymore.
Covid has changed the ritual of the haircut. Well, it really just changed the frequency. The boys all became Wookie-like creatures. They were home schooled, hairy and a bit wild looking. I have photos of them all looking like these dogs with fur covering their eyes.
Post lockdowns, when things opened up a bit, Kate was diagnosed with cancer. So maintenance wasn’t our top priority. They might have had a haircut or two, but they all stayed a little on the shaggy side. About a month after Kate’s death, I realized it was time for a haircut. But this time there was no divide and conquer. I dragged them down to the barbers – dog in tow – where they shaved one by one.
It was mayhem. They fought and resisted – leaving the house was a challenge for the first few months. The line was endless and they were bored frolicking outside. One of them was drinking in the street. The dog, huge but still a puppy, chewed on the wooden benches in front of the barbers and tried to pounce on other customers. I was hurt and nervous. Eventually the young were shorn and renewed, looking older and different. I pulled out my phone to take pictures of them but stopped.
It had no sense. There was no one to send the photos to. No one to share these new versions of my kids with. I felt unfulfilled. cheated. The emotional rewards of the haircut ritual were gone.
It’s an odd realization, but what I miss most about Kate is the version of her I interacted with on WhatsApp. It was the glue of our relationship. We usually have separated parents – like tag team wrestlers, if one was on, the other was off.
So WhatsApp was where we shared photos and anecdotes. Haircuts, trips to playgrounds, beaches, the botanical gardens, Malahide Castle, Wicklow. Wherever I went with the boys, I sent her back photos of our adventures, the cuts and bruises, the cheeky grin from the branches of a tree. The faces covered with ice.
WhatsApp was also the place where the daily chores, jokes and life cries were exchanged: “Get milk”, “Where did you hide the damn toolbox?”, “I’ll be home late”, “No!”, “We need Wine.” It was a dialogue about the everyday things you share with someone when you share everything important: a home, children, a life.
I am blessed with great friends, many of whom I share all sorts of nonsense with on WhatsApp and in person. But I don’t have a WhatsApp wingman to burden me with life’s boring details. There is no one to write to if I can’t find anything about the house. No one to send a message of victory to when I’m thinking of putting out the bins. There is no one who sends photos of hospital visits – or haircuts – and there is no one who will be as shocked as I am when the children grow a year older after just 15 minutes in the barber chair.
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https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/a-widowers-diary-what-i-miss-most-frequently-about-kate-is-the-version-of-her-i-interacted-with-on-whatsapp-41894182.html Diary of a Widower: What I miss most about Kate is the version of her I interacted with on WhatsApp