Mother's memories of her son, Jos Claerbout Father writes:

Memories of my son, Jos

by Mumsie

Jos loved women -- all of them

Jos loved women. All ages, all types. When he was a little boy he would go around the neighborhood on his big wheel and come home to tell me about all his "new friends" It turned out that most of these friends were women my age or older. He enjoyed talking with them and learning their stories. When he was a little older I had to race him to the telephone because he could and would have a long, active conversation with my friends. Even at an early age, he developed nicknames for my friends. He also enjoyed special little things like speaking in accents with Ruth who was an actress. By the time he was in high school and I was working, friends would call when I wasn't there just to talk with Jos. He was hysterically funny.

In high school, as Matt says, he became a "girl magnet" partly because of his looks and intelligence and partly because he genuinely was a friend as well as a boyfriend.

The female sex fascinated Jos. Someone attributed this to the fact that he didn't have a sister. He would ask me rather personal questions from time to time and I would answer or not depending on the question. He continued this practice while he was working at WebTV surrounded by intelligent, attractive young women. He really wanted to get a woman's perspective on subjects he was discussing with his male friends. He also would ask frivolous questions such as how much time do women spend on doing their eyebrows?

We were delighted with the women he brought to the house. We knew he was not ready to settle down yet but sometimes wondered about the woman he would marry. He would have been a wonderful husband and father.

Jos at Halloween

Halloween was always one of Jos's favorite holidays. When he was a little boy, I would make him a costume (Robin Hood, Stars Wars Hero, monster, etc.) and he would go trick or treating in the neighborhood, either with friends or with his brothers. As he entered his teens, of course, he put that behind him and stayed at home helping Mums hand out candy. He always had something funny to say to the little trick or treaters.

However, when he was either 15 or 16, he was invited to a Halloween party and needed a costume. Immediately! Vetoing the idea of a sheet, he asked Mums to borrow her wig and a dress. It was the time he discovered that a man dressed in women's clothes is always entertaining. When Jos was an intern in Washington, he participated in the annual Halloween drag race there. This required him to dress in women's clothes, wear high heels (size 13) and actually run in a race. He was heavily made-up (nobody will own up to helping him with this). He was an awesomely ugly woman.

Two years ago at WebTV he dressed as the office couch.

Last year, he showed up at the house with his friend Paul who was visiting from Seattle.

"Hey, Mums, we are going as Buffy the Vampire slayer and Angel. So, can I borrow your wig and dye it blonde and do you have a dress I can borrow?"

"No, I need the wig for my presentations and most frontier women were not peroxide blondes, you have to go to the costume store." None of Mum's dresses exactly worked either (1 foot difference in height and many pounds) So, Jos goes out and comes back a few hours later with a blonde fright wig, a skimpy sun dress and a obscenely large blue bra. It was impossible to let out the dress so the straps were lengthened and the buttons moved. He and Paul made quite a striking couple. They went up to the Castro district in San Francisco where everyone is dressed outrageously but he was in great demand. People wanted their photos taken with the 6 foot four inch Buffy.   [Here are two Buffy scripts (1, 2) written by Jos.]

We wonder what he would have dressed as this year?

Climbing Mount Marathon

We visited Jos while he was in Alaska. Jos had told us in advance that we might be doing some climbing so I had bought new boots in preparation. When we arrived in Seward, Jos said that we would be climbing Mt. Marathon. He assured us that a race was run there every year and we would have no problems in making the climb. When we arrived at the site both Jon and I looked dubiously at what Jos indicated would be our ascent. There really didn't seem to be a clearly marked path. "Don't worry," Jos assured us with the confidence he always displayed. "I'm sure that this is the only way up." Jon surveyed the situation and announced that he would stay at the bottom and wait.

"Come on, Mumsie," Jos urged me, "It will be fun." Any time spent with Jos was always wonderful and besides, people raced up the hill, didn't they? We started climbing. After a while I started to develop a new respect for the hardy souls who ran up this mountain. I couldn't help noticing that the way kept getting steeper and it was starting to scare me. Jos assured me again that we were doing fine. At one point we were scrambling for toe and handholds. "Wait a minute, Jos, isn't this rockclimbing?" At the point when I felt as though I couldn't keep going up, it became obvious that retracing my steps was not an option. Jos started helping me by pulling or pushing. Somehow we made it to the top. Short of a helicopter rescue I couldn't imagine how we were going to make it back down again.

While catching my breath and trying not to panic I looked around and ... there was a path (I seem to remember it being paved but that could have been a figment of my fevered imagination) "Jos, look, a path!" He looked and said dismissively, "How about that, but hey, we had more fun, Mumsie, and look what you accomplished!" Jos was right. We had had a grand adventure, something to talk about and share for years to come. The day we climbed Mt. Marathon would pass into family history. Had we merely gone up the path, it would have been soon forgotten. It is a memory that I treasure. My son helped me do something which I would have thought was impossible. With Jos, everything in life was a possibility. My heart aches with the loss of all the future possibilities.

See this in 1.5 Mbytes of streaming video.


It was Jos, of course, who introduced me to eBay and helped me find a new addiction. When I registered, it was necessary to choose a "name" I could have chosen "Ironlady" or something similar (I collect irons) but I thought about my identity and naturally it was Josmom. After all, he was Johannes Dianovich. I became Josmom and always will be.


Many of the posted memories of Jos allude to his enthusiasms and exuberance. We were frequently on the receiving end of his "latest discovery" We were open-minded and always listened to, watched or read whatever he brought to our attention. He accepted with good grace that perhaps his parents were not the target audience for "Sucking Chest Wound" or "Seven Year Bitch" and we stopped watching "La Femme Nikita" after the acid scene.

However, he and I were both delighted when I discovered that "ska" was something I liked (as long as I didn't listen to closely to the lyrics. It was Buffy the Vampire Slayer that we were really able to share. Jos had written at least one episode for the show (which was never used) After watching the show a couple of times, I was hooked! Every Tuesday night at nine o'clock one of us would call the other to discuss the show. If it were really great, we called during the 8:30 commercial. I still watch the show and share the plot lines with him.

Ahead of the trends

Jos was always ahead of the trends. He knew about eBay before most people. In July Mia Hamm led the US women's team to the soccer World Cup. She was featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek as the sports idol of all America's young women. Five years ahead of the crowd, on his fishing boat in Alaska, Jos had a pinup of Mia Hamm.

We miss him coming into the house all excited, "Hey, wait until I tell (show) you guys this". Our lives are so diminished in so many ways.

I have lost my son

"I've lost my son, he is five years old, blonde and wearing blue pants and a plaid shirt. He doesn't speak French." We were at the Pompidou Center in Paris and somehow Jos got off the escalator while the rest of the family stayed on. Luckily, he was quickly found and reunited with big hugs all around.

"I've lost my son, he is ten years old, blonde, wearing a blue swimming suit and was in an inner tube." It was our first day on the beach in Waikiki and Jos went out in an inner tube. Suddenly, he was gone. Frantically we spoke with a lifeguard who told us that hopefully Jos hadn't been swept into any concrete pilings under the pier. After, a horrible half hour, and many walkie-talkie conversations, Jos was found, many blocks down the beach. We started walking towards each other and came together with big hugs.

"I've lost my son, he is twenty-five years old, dark hair (balding), 6' 4" and in perfect health; he can't be dead." They bring me to my son. He looks so good, why won't he wake up? I hug him for the last time. Never again will we look for him.

Seeing Jos at the cemetery

10/27/99   I go to the cemetery every day to spend time with Jos. First, I try bring him up to date on what has happened in the past 24 hours. Who, called, who visited, what is going on in politics. Sometimes, I even try and share a scandal sheet headline which I might remember from glancing at it in the checkout line. After the news, I might read a poem or reflection which seems appropriate. Then it is time for another chapter in Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. There are 900 pages or so and we have covered 200 to date. Jos's friend Joel said that Jos would have wanted to read it. So far, it is pretty exciting. After that, I arrange the plants and flowers. If Jon is there with me, he will water the site. If not, I will do that. Sometimes, I cry enough that water almost seems unnecessary. I tell Jos how much I love him and miss him and what a big hole there is in my life now. I have been walking that 100 feet from the parked car to his grave for over two months now. Each time is as wrenching as the last. There is no more terrible walk for a mother to make.

03/03/2000   I still go to the cemetery every day. Little has changed. I am almost up to page 700 in Cryptonomicon and wonder what I will read next. I also have a book which gives daily readings and mediatations for a year of kaddish. Some of the readings bring a small comfort. Sometimes, I bring letters to share or political news and sometimes I just close my eyes and think about Jos hugging me.

We have a community there -- the other mourners and me. We share stories and hugs. I know all the graves near Jos. People reached the ages of 75, 80, 90, very, very few were 25 and under. How can my wonderful, healthy young son be here?

07/04/2000   I still go to the cemetery everyday to be with my son. We finished Cryponomicon quite awhile ago and now have been reading Genome by Matt Ridley and reading the Onion (selected articles). I try to keep the flowers and plants looking nice. Even though I have sat at the grave almost everyday for 10 months, I still find it difficult to accept the fact that Jos is there. I cry just as much and still wonder how this could have happened. People say that the grief will get "softer" but I don't know when. I try to remind myself that my son had a wonderful life but all that I can think of is that it was too short by 60 years.

[9/2006 She still goes often. The flowers are always fresh in bloom.]
[3/2018 She still goes often. Flowers are fresh. The stone is clean; its wording re-inked. For years she has been baking cookies and cakes for the cemetery yard men.]

to mother's early memories of Jos

to Mother, how are you now?

to mother's message to her lost son

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos