Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the double-ass ugly. Comments welcome! Jean

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Halloween Luncheon and Quirky Confessions

Working in groups and on committees is not my foray. Oh, I get along fine with nearly everyone. I just put on my go-along-to-get-along persona and try not to get involved in the politics and power trips that always seem to be involved. My latest chance to practice that persona was this week while working on the set-up committee for the monthly luncheon at the senior hall and it got me in trouble. Who would have guessed that a simple task like putting spoons on tables—one of my jobs---could do that? Here’s what happened: Another person had the knives and yet another had the forks. I followed them down the tables, laying spoons down on the right, next to the knives but I didn’t get very far when I was told that I was doing it wrong, that the spoons belonged on the left side next to the forks. OKaaaay. I was pretty sure I was doing it correctly but I did what I was told. I wasn’t about to start a fight over something that didn’t involve a serious task like defusing a bomb. Plus I’m dyslexic so why would I trust myself when it comes to rights and lefts?

We had five tables done when another woman came along and was very snippy, telling me I had to do the spoons all over again. The first lady who told me to put them that way and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Ms. Snippy, not knowing why we were laughing, puffed up her feathers and added that the director of the center “would not approve of the way the spoons were set!” I, of course, wasted no time changing them to the correct location but we were still giggling as Ms. Snippy left the room and I envisioned she was on her way to tattle on the ‘spoon lady.’ I thought about this on the way home and wondered why---when my partner in crime first told me to change the spoon placements---why didn’t I say something like, “You say left, I say right. Let’s ask someone else to break the tie.” Nope, I just went-along-to-get-along. I hope no one ever asks me to help them rob a bank. “Sure,” I’d say, “do you want me to carry the Beretta or the Glock?”

At least I wasn’t on the sub-committee that picked out the decorations for the tables. They bought miniature coffins. Egads! Coffins for an old peoples’ luncheon? I probably would have had a temper tantrum right in the aisle of the Dollar Store, trying to get the others to go with funny faced-pumpkins and black cats. I pick my fights in the peculiar places, don’t I? Spoons in the wrong place? Whatever floats your boat. Table coffins? World War III. When I was in the working world I decorated banquet tables that numbered literally in the thousands and sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from rearranging the table décor at these luncheons. In restaurants, I’ve be known to tweak their fake flower arrangements---a little tuck here, a little curve to a stem there, pull one flower out and pop it in another place. In fact, when my husband was alive we used to go to a little place around the corner a couple of times a week and I tried to sit at a different table each time until I’d rearranged all twenty of their bouquets on the sly. They’d do seasonal swaps and I’d have to start all over again.

Since I’m confessing to embarrassing quirks, about ten years ago whenever I’d go to a big grocery store near-by that has general merchandise departments I’d bring home two or three paint chip sample cards until I had the entire set of 140 colors. Hey, they’re free so is what I did so wrong? It’s the closest I ever came to shop lifting and I had entirely too much fun doing it. I still love playing with those paint chip cards.

The next day after the spoon caper, when the luncheon took place, I was on duty again as part of my volunteer commitment. I dished out mash potatoes with an ice cream scoop and at one point I joked that I was going to start putting mash potatoes in my bra to keep our assembly line going. Everyone burst out laughing and the lady on butter patty duty called me Lucy. It was crazy and it was fun dishing up 134 plates. The clean-up after the luncheon and the entertainment went fast with the ten of us on the committee all pitching in.

Would I sign up to help with a luncheon again? Sure, in the spring I will. I spend a lot of time around the place and even though there are over 600 members, they’re always begging for volunteers. It doesn’t kill me to play nice on a committee from time to time. But the next time I do a luncheon again I want to be the fork lady which begs the question: Why are they placed on the left when most people are right-handed? Google knows the answer and it’s quite interesting how that custom evolved. Hint: It has to do with a period in history when people ate with only one utensil…a knife. ©

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Judge, the Vet and the Widows

My poor little dog went into the veterinary clinic at 8:00 AM for a routine teeth cleaning and came back out at 4:00 PM with nine teeth missing. Several times during that time frame I was on my cell with the vet, going over options and making decisions while Levi was out cold, his tongue pulled over to the side. I know this because the vet sent me pictures of him in that condition and at least twelve x-rays pictures of his teeth and their roots. One time, I was sitting in the waiting of my orthopedic doctor saying things into the phone like, “Gosh, that one is gross, yes, pull it.” “How many teeth will he if left if we pull all nine?” It’s the only time I’ve ever had taken a cell call in public and it left little doubt that I was racking up a big denial bill---I never did explain it was for a dog.  

How on earth his teeth got that bad in one year since his last cleaning is beyond me. He’s only six. They tell me it’s common with schnauzers and nine extractions was bad enough but there is one tooth the vet says may need a root canal in six months. Can you believe that, a root canal for a dog! It’s a tooth dogs really need for chewing and if the treatment they did on it this week doesn’t clear up the puss pocket at the bottom of the root, he’ll be off to a doggie dental specialist forty-five miles away. One thing for sure, he’s not getting his allowance anymore. It can go towards fighting his gingivitis which includes---get this---brushing his teeth with peanut butter! Regular dog tooth paste, I guess, breaks down the cement-like stuff the vet put on his gum line to help with gingivitis. I am not looking forward to learning how to brush Levi’s teeth, which will happen at his two-weeks-out-from-his-dental-surgery appointment.

The next day I went to see The Judge with my Movie and Lunch Club, trying to ignore the guilt that came with leaving Levi alone with his pain pill and pillow. Here’s how IMDb sums up the storyline: “Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.” Robert Downey Jr plays the lawyer and the small town, Indiana judge is played by Robert Duval. They both brought their A-games to the film as did the rest of the cast. Reviews I’ve read after seeing the film were mixed and used phrases like “muddled melodrama” and “steadfastly old-fashioned” and more than one reviewer compared it to Kramer vs. Kramer for reasons I’ve yet to figure out. The seventeen of us in my group, though, all gave it a thumbs up. I felt there was never a moment when I wasn’t engaged in the many sub-plots. Of course, it was all those under currents that caused some reviewers to think the film was too "complicated" and glut with too many scenes---Hank’s marriage falling apart, his high school sweetheart’s daughter who he thinks could be his, his relationships with his two brothers, and the car accident that caused the family estrangement. There was even a tornado thrown in for good measure. How is all that “complicated?” Complicated to who, people under thirty who don’t understand that life gets messy?

What I didn’t like was the place my Movie and Lunch Club went for lunch. The movie was long and we didn’t get out until late afternoon and the restaurant they picked was on the other end of town, making it necessary for all of us to drive home during rush hour. Several times on the drive down I was sorely tempted to skip lunch, find a place to turn around and head back home. I hate rush hour driving! But I didn’t want anyone to worry if I didn’t show up, thinking maybe I’d been in an accident. Oh, well, you can’t win them all and next time when I get the email announcing the movie and lunch locations, I’ll pay closer attention to the route and travel times.

Speaking of rush hour, I’ll have to do it again at the end of the month when my orthopedic doctor has my labrum tear surgery scheduled on my shoulder. It’s only a one hour, out-patient surgery but I’ll be out like a light and will be wearing a sling afterward to remind me to keep my elbow close to my waist at all times---for up to four weeks depending on how much work he has to inside. But, he says, I won’t be able to shovel snow all winter even after the sling is no longer needed. That sure complicates my life! I have a little electric snow blower that I’ve never liked using but I’m going to have to make sure it’s still working and if not, buy a new one before I get cut open and can’t lift a blower down from the car if I need to buy a new one. I like to think I can totally take care of my own needs, but this winter might prove otherwise. ©

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Widowhood Evaluation Time

Recently I was reading a blog of a woman whose husband died within a few months of mine. I don’t read her much anymore because her plight usually brings me down and that’s sad because we go way back to when we both blogged at a stroke support site. Back in those days our caregiver stories tracked almost the same in terms of the heavy load each we carried and length of time we carried it. Now, she says she misses her husband more, not less than in the beginning of her widowhood journey. She says that everything reminds her of her husband and that makes her feel even lonelier. She’s stuck in grief, she says, and is wondering if she needs counseling.

A person commenting on the post said she is a widow in her seventh year out and she feels the same way, she still cries every day and she’s lost friends because she can’t move on. I have to wonder, though, if after so many years can you still call it grief? Perhaps a different label at that stage of the game would define the problem better and if it were me, I'd start with a lot of blood work to make sure a seven year-long depression doesn't stem from a chemical imbalance. These two widows’ stories make me wish there was a magic pill we could take to make everything okay again. Some would call that an anti-depressant and that may be a necessary tool for some but, in my opinion, after a while most widows need to pull that Band-Aid off and let the healing process happen on its own. Pills and alcohol just postpones the emotions one needs to move through to reach acceptance. At least that’s my layman’s theory.

One thing my friend wrote about I can truly relate to. She said she went from being a caregiver without a moment during the days to waste to being a widow who drifts from day to day wasting a lot of time. It’s a restless feeling to have so much time on your hands and it’s a feeling that still plagues me more often than I’d like. Guilt comes with the idleness. I have chosen to fill much of that time with whatever activities catches my eye in the senior community. Not that my way of coping is any better than anyone else's but we all have needs and I need to talk with someone other than the dog from time to time. Even if it’s mostly the 'shallow acquaintance' talk I find in my travels, there are times when the banner goes to a deeper level and the mystery of when and where that can happen is all I need to keep me going. Sure, I still miss my husband and think of him often. Sure, there are things every single day that remind me of him. But those memory triggers, now, are strangely comforting. They remind me that I was once loved deeply and I was important to the happiness of another person. Not everyone near the end of their life can say that. One thing we can all say, though, and say with conviction is the past is past and we can’t bring it back.

Just suppose we could bring the past back. Would any of us do it if we truly could? If we knew in doing so we couldn’t change a thing that happened back then? Not the outcome. Not the words we said or didn’t say. Not the painful parts as time marched us to the same ending as before. I wouldn’t. I would not want to see my husband go through his stroke again just so I wouldn’t feel lonely or restless now. Nope, once was enough. As I move forward in widowhood I am able to filter out the bad or painful memories of my husband’s and my struggles in his post-stroke world and, for me, that’s a miracle brought to us through gratitude and grace. I may stumble and fall in my pursuit to put meaning back in my life again, but without that goal would any of us get back up again? Some widows apparently can’t. So I raise my glass to toast all of us widow ladies who keep on moving forward! I see you everywhere---on the internet and in my activities here on the home front. We are women and we are strong which reminds me of a conversation I had with my audiologist last week.

She wanted to know if I was dating yet. I laughed and said, “No, way!” Then I got serious and told her that I would never put myself in a position where I might have to be a caregiver again, that I loved Don and didn’t mind doing it for him because we had a long history together of supporting each other through difficult times. I also told her that in my circle of friends from the senior hall there is a running joke that guys in our age bracket are only looking for cooks, house keepers and/or nursemaids. It was her turn to laugh. Then she said if your mom died her father would find another woman right away, that he was so helpless he can’t do anything for himself. Her mother, she said, was tired from doing it all for so many years and the audiologist predicts her mom would be like me and never get remarried. We chatted on for fifteen minutes covering topics like raising boys in her generations versus mine. Just think, that concept of marrying for a cook, house keeper or nursemaid will die out---and good riddance---with the 30-something generation. Young guys, today, can do it all and in my book that’s a good by-product of the Feminism Movement of my generation. Yup, my conversation with the audiologist was one of those light banner things that turned deep and philosophical and I left the place feeling good inside. ©