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First holiday without dad: ‘Unfortunately, our sadness did not stay at home’

Image: Little Detail Photography

Tabitha (44) lives with her sons Teun (7) and Willem (3) in Haarlem. Her husband was diagnosed a year ago: an untreatable brain tumor. A month later he passed away. How do you move on as a family after such a sudden loss? In these columns you get an insight into moments they experience. The first year without dad.

We had to get out… get out of the house where we had been standing on survival for the past four months. I long for sun, sea and good food to recharge. My eye falls on a beautiful 5-star hotel in Lanzarote. Half board, within walking distance of the beach and relatively short flight; it seems like a great plan for the first holiday with the three of us.

The hotel is indeed beautiful with a lovely heated swimming pool. Willem is a kamikaze when it comes to water and knows no fear with his swimming rings. He wants everything his brother can do, but he has a swimming certificate. In short, I sit like a hawk next to the pool, it’s not really relaxing. The hotel pool towels can be collected from the booth next to the other pool. I ask the lifeguard to keep an eye on the boys while I run back and forth between the pools. Looking back, these are the only two minutes of this entire vacation that I’ve been without kids.

I thought beforehand that a buffet would be ideal: I don’t have to cook myself and there is plenty of choice for everyone. But in the restaurant I have to keep things together every day: ‘Stay at the table!’, ‘No, don’t sit with your hands on!’ I constantly hear myself calling. I ask Teun to wait next to Willem, who is sitting in the high chair, so that I can get food. While I hurriedly scoop up the buffet, Teun suddenly stands next to me and I see the youngest in the corner of my eye climb out of his chair and dart away. When I look for Willem, I see him trying out all the desserts with his fingers. I feel the eyes of the other guests piercing my back. Leave me alone, I think, I would have preferred this otherwise.

Unfortunately, our grief has not stayed home and that means that all three of us are not in a hallelujah mood, resulting in grumbling and stress. During an angry shower, even a plant is pulled out of the beautifully landscaped lawn. Sorry folks! Yet there are those magical moments that I so needed at home. Then we enjoy the sun, swimming and I drink a bubble on the beach. And then I don’t feel like Ma Flodder anymore. But charged? I’m already looking for the next vacation. It will not be a 5-star hotel this time.


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