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 ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Holiday Random Act of Kindness



Friday morning, the 3rd of July, I went to the blood lab to get my thyroid re-checked but they were closed. Then I went to the township offices to pay my summer taxes. Closed. Third stop: a new real estate office, opened by the guy who walked us through the building process when we moved here in 2001. Closed. At the bank I tried to see the investment guy but he took the day off. I was batting zero. My bad. No scratch that phrase. I hate it. I should have known all the natives would be leaving town the day before Independence Day. Then I went to Lowe’s knowing nothing short of a hurricane, forest fire or flood would close their doors so close to a holiday known for backyard warrior projects among those of us left behind in the city. I scored some patio stones and half price geraniums. 

Then I took myself out to an early lunch at an actual sit-down and eat restaurant. No drive-through this time. I was in the mood to be a lady of leisure. I sat with my back to the wall doing my best imitation of Hemingway as I jotted notes about my fellow diners. Straight in front of me in my section was a table of four teens showing off the tiny charms in their Origami Owl necklaces. What a great way to lure guys to within kissing distance. I made a mental note to wear mine more often. To my right side was a sad looking guy with a big belly and a vacant stare, and next to him was an older couple who didn’t speak much. When the guy in the couple finally did I figured out why they weren’t conversing in public. He had one of those voice boxes that makes you sound like R2D2, the astromech droid from Star Wars. It was loud and caught everyone’s attention. On my left side was a young, dejected looking mother with two children under three who sat alone while her husband was outside talking on the phone. To his credit, just after they placed their order and before he left to use the phone he kissed her on the lips. A sweet, I-love-you-babe kind of kiss. Still, I felt sorry for her.

It’s the kind of restaurant that leaves the check on the table when they bring the food---my kind of service because waiting for bills churns up childhood feelings of being made to stay at the table until bedtime if I hadn’t cleaned my plate which happened on Thursday liver nights and when ever my mother cooked orange vegetables. When I finished eating at the restaurant I moved my plate to the side, on top of the check, and when I went to get it the dishes and the check were gone. I flagged down a waitress and I told her that whoever took my dishes away also took the check with them. Off she went to look for my bill. She couldn’t find it and by then another waitress got in the act to help her look. Finally, a third waitress came over and told the rest of us that my bill was paid by another customer. I was so shocked that all I could say was, “What? Why would anyone do that? Wow!” I might be articulate in print but in real-life situations, not so much. 

“Because,” the waitress replied, “There are some really nice people in the world.” And with that my lips puckered up and tears rolled down my cheeks. Jeez! The waitresses all took off like roaches under a light, fearing, I’m sure, that I'd start sobbing out loud. 

As I drove home I kicked myself for not telling the waitress to thank my benefactor if she sees him or her again. I hadn’t spoken to any of the other customers or even so much as exchanged eye contact or smiles. It was a mystery. I figured it wasn’t the table of teens who paid for my breakfast or the mother with the babies. R2S2 had his back to me so I eliminated him and his wife. That left the sad guy with the pot belly who caused me to cry. Or maybe it was someone from another section all together.

Those tears came completely by surprise and made me wonder if I wasn’t more lonely and alone than I would have guessed, had I thought about my state of mind earlier in the day. Long holiday weekends, after all, are hard on most widows. Regardless of what brought the tears on it was the second time this year I’ve been the recipient of a random act of kindness. That means one of two things: 1) I do, indeed live in a good neighborhood or 2) I look so pathetic out in public that others think I need cheering up. My money is on choice number one…though there is a third possibility that just occurred to me. Maybe one of my fellow diners actually thought I could be a budding Hemingway and he/she just wanted to give me something colorful to write about. ©

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Report From Pain City, USA



A Recent Dream: I was sitting in a classroom with just a small towel wrapped around me and I kept pulling on it, hoping it would cover my ‘ya-ya’ but it wasn’t doing a very good job. My dearly departed husband was sitting in the front row talking to another woman but before the class was over she left, he followed. I watched them through the window in the door and try as I might, I couldn’t chase after them. He had the car keys and I was stranded, left behind without a second glance! That’s when I woke up and discovered my knee seemed to be frozen in place and any attempt to straighten my leg shot a terrible pain through my thigh. I keep a cane near my bed because I often wake up with foot cramps that need to be walked off to make the cramp go away. I used it to hop to the bathroom, each hop causing unbearable pain. I fully intended to get dressed and find someone to take me to emergency afterward. But first I sat on the toilet and when I got back up a miracle happened. I could straighten my leg and the pain was completely gone! The episode scared the starch out of my illusions of being self-sufficient because without that cane I would have been stuck in bed and you know what would have happened next. Yup, I’d have peed my pants and have to use the I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up button around my neck. 

A few days later I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon to get the results of my bone density test and I described the above episode to him---minus the parts about dream, my naked ‘ya-ya’ and the fear of wetting the bed. He guessed the pain didn’t come from my replacement knee---my guess---but rather from a pinched nerve between one of the bad vertebrates in my back and if it happens again, I need to come back in for more x-rays. Oh goodie, I just had a full set taken from my neck to my knees. They proved, by the way, that the once-a-day shots I’ve been doing to build my bones from the inside out actually did some good. They brought my numbers up to one point over dreaded line where you can expect fractions by just doing ordinary things like getting out of a chair which, of course, ended my aspirations of being roller derby queen when I first found out about my bad bones. 

I asked the doctor if being over ‘the line’ means I have to go back to getting bone density scans every two years instead of every year. And he said, “Good question” and explained that most insurance companies won’t pay for it yearly when you’re over ‘the line.’ “But,” he added, “I’ll cover the cost of a yearly scan if your insurance company won’t. Just let me make a note in your records about what I just said.” I love that guy. When the local hospital decided that all orthopedic surgeons had to use the same brand-name and size joint replacement parts regardless of  a patient's body type, weight or sex he and a few other bone doctors in town built their own surgical center.

Today I made a second trip out to the online auction house in the country. This time I took twenty items. They start everything out at a dollar regardless of estimated value so it will be scary watching the first batch go live. I’m making good progress in my garage. I’ve also called the recycling center to find out how to recycle old computers, printers and telephones and I have some of those things to drop off next week. While purging out there I discovered several large and totally empty boxes, who knew! It was a gift from the land of creating space. I’m feeling very good about my summer goal in the garage---to completely strip it of things I don’t want, don’t need and won’t move when I sell. 

Levi my Mighty Schnauzer had to get some dental work done today. He had nine teeth pulled in addition to the nine they pulled last summer. Poor guy, he’s only got 24 left. In two and a half years my “doggie care account” will be drained and he’ll be toothless. He’s such a baby about pain; he’s walking around whining and looking at me as if to say, “Can’t you help me?” I'm not a very good mother when it comes to brushing his teeth so I have to suck it up regarding the cost, but this year we’ll be trying a daily spray to keep his gum disease in check. I need to remember weeks like this when I get it into my head that I want a second dog. 

I need a nap. I got up too early every day this week and I’ve had a hard time falling asleep a few times at night. I’m worried I’ll wake up in pain again and my ‘ya-ya’ will be naked when the ambulance guys come to haul me away. ©

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Birthday Parties and Online Auctions


The woman in the photo above was married to my cousin. What does that make her, an in-law cousin? The twins were her babies and that’s me holding one of them. My parents were surrogate grandparents to this set of twins and another set that came into their family a few years later. Growing up, the two sets of twins spent a lot of time at our house and I did a lot of babysitting at their house. I should probably blame them and a family of nine kids I also babysat during my high school years for a phrase I’ve used tongue-in-cheek through-out my entire adult life: “I don’t babysit anyone who can’t say, ‘My stomach hurts. I need to go to the hospital.’” Not that anything bad ever happened while baby-sitting but babies are such a scary responsibility and by the time I was thirty the gods of infertility whispered in my ear, “Go forth and raise poodles, they’re easier” and I obeyed. I must have been a good baby-sitter, though, because the twins in this photo claim I was their role model and was responsible for them setting their sights on going to college. If that’s true, I’m flattered because they grew up to be wonderful women.

On Saturday the two sets of twins threw a party for their mom's 85th birthday and I was excited to see this branch of the family again. Life and distance got in the way of staying close in recent decades except for weddings and funerals. But family is still family and when you have so many shared memories it’s easy to fill an afternoon with laughter. We were all asked to bring a photo and the one above it the only one I had. Next winter I really need to do something about transferring all my slides to a computer file. I have a huge box of slides in the basement, twenty-twenty years of my life documented in a format I can’t access. The librarian who taught a genealogy class I took last fall said there is a raging debate in library circles involving transferring microfiche files to computers. One side says in a 100 years people may not be able to access computer files in the formats we use now and they shouldn’t destroy the microfiche as their documents are put online. Apparently, the microfiche reader machines are simple to maintain and repair. Others say it’s nonsense to let them continue to take up space. I get that debate, says the women with a box of floppy disks I don’t know what to do with. They’re sitting next to my slides.

Friday I met the son-I-with-I-had at a humongous auction house in a small town near-by. All their auctions are online and my friend swears by this method of getting rid of stuff so I thought I’d give it a try. When I pulled up to the loading dock there were 10-15 others doing the same thing and after getting a tour inside I told my friend, “I think I’ve just found my new best friend.” He laughed and replied, “I said exactly the same thing the first time I came here.” While I was waiting to sign in I talked to several others doing the same. They told me they are very happy with the ease and results of selling there compared to listing on e-Bay. This place take the photos, creates the listings and does the shipping all for a lower percentage than e-Bay takes and e-Bay doesn’t do anything but host your listings and process your money for an added fee. I took nine antiques Friday including three that would difficult to pack. Only one thing had a good memory attached, 42” oak and iron wagon neck yoke in case you have few a horses to hook up. 

What was the memory attached to the antique neck yoke? One time the neighborhood was having its annual garage sale weekend and my wheelchair bound husband came home---down the middle of the street---with a car following him at two miles an hour. It seems he tried to straddle the wagon yoke across his electric wheelchair but didn’t get very far before it fell off, so someone took pity on him and carted it home for him. I hated that yoke on sight, but he was being his pre-stroke self so it made me happy to see him happy with his “prize.”

I’ve sold most of Don’s big “prizes” and “guy stuff” off since he passed but I still have more purging to go. If I can get into a rhythm of taking a load out to the auction house every week until the snow flies again I’d be in great shape to move next spring. That IF is a big word, though, because in my world I’m easily distracted by a widow’s bittersweet memories. I do have a Plan B; don't I always? If I lose my common-sense and buy a condo on impulse---like I did my car---before I’ve finished purging my new "best friend" has my back. They'll come to the house and buy whatever I don't move out when I left. How easy is that?  ©