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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Police Officer’s Widow

A cousin of my husband’s died, a super nice guy who’d been with the police department for thirty-two years. He was eighty-two. At the time of his retirement he was running the pistol range and teaching newbie cops how to shoot. The funeral service was in a church and I’ve never seen so many awards and recognition plaques in my life. They were everywhere---on the altar, a side table and every window ledge. He was a true, community service kind of guy who loved working with young people. When one of his daughters got up to read a list of qualities she admired about her dad I thought, wow, I could have written the exact, same list about my dad! Never raised his voice, wise, taught ethics by example, loyal, patient, could fix anything---right down to them both having a sweet tooth. When his grandson described how his grandpa taught him how to fish and row a boat it was exactly what one of my nieces said at my dad’s memorial. No wonder I always liked this guy!

His widow greeted everyone coming in and when I said I was sorry to hear about his passing, she replied, “Don’t be! He lived a full and happy life.” She was so ‘together’ I was actually shocked. They’d been together fifty-nine years and had a best-friends-and-soulmates kind of marriage that was obvious to anyone in their presence. I was also shocked to learn that they were founding members of their church and very active in it. It was one of those churches that believes if you haven’t accepted Jesus as your savior, there’s no way in hell you’re getting into heaven but in all the years I’ve known this couple they kept their faith close to their vests. You have to admire people who live their faith but don’t try to push it on others. I couldn’t say the same for their minister---duh, that’s his job to push and preach---who’s theme for the day was “only Jesus can complete you.” I didn’t enjoy that part of the service and I wish he had explained why it ended with five gunshots and an equal number of bells ringing out. There were uniformed police officers there, so I do get the gun salute part, just not the significance of the bells or the number five.

At the luncheon that followed I sat at a table with five rabid Trump supporters---nephews and nieces of Don’s---who’d been posting anti-Hillary, pro-Trump stuff on Facebook throughout the primary and general elections. Even the morning of the funeral one of gals posted a meme about how Trump was going to "heal our nation and bring us all together" and I cynically thought, what kind of a fairy tale do you live in? Wouldn’t you know it, she wanted me to sit next to her at the luncheon. It helps, sometimes, to be an old person wearing hearing aids because you can get away with ignoring directions you don’t want to follow. No one brought up politics, thank goodness, although there is one person in the Gang of Five who is notorious for doing so at family gatherings…while his wife kicks him under the table. I must be a bad person because I can’t wait until these people figure out that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are one and the same. Several of them were able to get insurance for the first time in years through the ACA resulting in them getting some much need medical care and surgeries. Ya, I know someone reading this is thinking that the Republicans will pass a replacement bill that will be better and I’m thinking that I get to use the words “fairy tale” twice in the same paragraph. 

Back to the police officer’s widow: She asked me what I do to keep busy and I told her about being embedded in the activities of our senior hall---she lives nearby---and she said she’ll call me later to talk about her getting involved because she wants to stay busy. If she doesn’t call by the time the April/May newsletter comes out, I’ve already penciled a note in my day planner to drop over to her house with a copy. ©

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Forgiveness in Fiction and Real Life

Weather wise, we’re having the weirdest January in years, and the forecast for the foreseeable future is a rollercoaster of rain by day and ice by night. Boohoo, nothing keeps me at home more than weather. I thought I’d get out of the house today for my book club but it got canceled due to ice and here I was looking forward to a lively discussion of The Sandpiper by Susan Lovell. She actually lives nearby and set her book in places along Lake Michigan where I’ve been. That was fun. She even leads a book club through the local OLLIE program but, geez, each meeting costs $17.00. I can’t imagine paying that when free book clubs are all over the city. But then again there are people who’ll do anything to rub shoulders with published authors. Been there, done myself a few decades ago.

The themes in The Sandpiper---alcohol addiction, infertility, a dysfunctional sister’s relationship and forgiveness---were well written but not all that interesting to me. The plot of this story hinged on a misunderstanding and withheld information where one little conversation could have prevented ten years’ worth of pain. Do people really do that---not speak up for themselves when one sister wrongfully assumes the other sister was having an affair with an older man when she was actually raped by the guy? I suppose they do. Don’t you feel sorry for authors? We pick apart their plots, settings and characters and every detail in between. On the other hand, authors have the power to make us think. In the case of this book, think about anyone we’ve forgiven or need to forgive.

In my own life, finding forgiveness for someone who’d done me wrong took five years. He was a former friend and employee of my husband’s parking lot maintenance business who, after Don’s massive stroke, wanted to buy the business. I had the equipment appraised, we made an agreement and he promised to pay in 45 days when he could withdraw some investment money without penalty. Without a nickel down gave him all of Don’s bidding and contracts information, helped him write bids and assured the mall owners the guy would have the needed equipment. (You can’t bid big places like that without a verifiable list of equipment.) With my help, he got contracts with all the places where Don had done work for years. But when it came time to pay for the equipment, he strung me out for another two months, making up one story after another on why the money was held up. Two days before the storage yard needed our frontend loaders, etc., moved off their property, he finally admitted he’d been buying equipment piecemeal and he was reneging on our deal. 

I’d never felt so used in my life and mad at myself for helping him procedure thousands of dollar's worth of contracts. Had the guy been up front and honest about what he was doing, at the very least I could have sold the equipment months earlier saving me a summer’s worth of liability insurance and storage, not to mention having to pay big bucks to have the equipment moved to a heavy equipment auction site because I no longer had the option of selling it where it sat. It hurt to have a so-called friend do that to us, especially at a time when Don was still in a rehab facility fighting to get some quality of his life back and I was having major cash flow problems.

The forgiveness finally came when I was planning Don’s ‘Thank God, I’m Alive’ party on the 5th anniversary out from the stroke. Don was not aware of the fiasco outlined above---he’d lost several years of comprehension---and he wanted to invite the so-called friend to the party. I invited 50 people, 67 showed up including this guy who I had hoped would have the decency not to accept the invitation. As I watched how happy it made Don to see the guy, I decided it wasn’t worth holding a grudge against a guy who was too stupid to be ashamed of what he did.

The last chapter with this guy came a few years later when he stopped by because a faith healer was coming to his church and he tried to talk Don into going. Don had a working vocabulary of twenty-five words, a forth of them swear words and he used them all that day. Nearly a year of therapies---physical, occupational and aquatic---plus 6-7 years of speech therapy couldn’t take away the repercussions of the stroke, but a faith healer praying over an agnostic was going to make him walk and talk again? Every time Don swore the guy “joked” about fining him for a “swear jar” which only served to make Don even madder. It would have been a funny scene in a movie but I was seriously worried that Don would have another stroke. The guy had recently found religion and had a come-to-Jesus spiel that rivaled any street corner preacher yet he never did understand the concept of doing onto others as you would have them do onto you. Hint: You don’t torment a stroke survivor with words when he doesn’t have the vocabulary to fight back.

Forgiveness. Sometimes it comes easy and other times you just have to shake your head and keep chanting, “Stupid is what stupid does.”  ©

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

If it’s Not One Thing, It’s Three Things

#1: Poor Levi almost got a ride to Animal ER and any dog person knows that’s a stressful decision, not to mention it costs mega bucks just to walk in the door. No Checks, thank you very much. They take and hold your credit card before you even get into an exam room in case you’re tempted to run out on the bill. I hate animal emergency. There are more crying people and kids in their waiting room than I’ve ever seen in a regular ER. 

Anyway, Friday night Levi was acting squirrely, racing around the house like he was on fire. Every few minutes he’d want to go outside where he’d roll in the snow. The wind chill was 7 below zero, and it so cold I was having trouble just waiting at the door for him to come inside! He alternated racing around and going out to roll for well over an hour. Finally, I started gathering up everything I’d need for a trip to the doggie hospital when I remembered that I’d given Levi a flea and tick treatment Friday afternoon---a different brand than I usually use. So I got out the Dawn liquid dishwashing soap---if it’s safe for ducks it should be safe for dogs---and I washed the area where the medication was applied. And I gave Levi a baby Benadryl which I know is safe because the vet prescribes them to Levi before and after he gets vaccinations. That did the trick and within a half hour he settled down. Saturday morning I had to pick up an order for Levi’s heart worm pills so I took the box of flea and tick medication with me. The technician said that’s Levi's behavior was a common reaction to the over-the-counter meds and that I did all the right things. “Keep him on the Benadryl the rest of the weekend,” I was told, “and bring him in on Monday if he doesn’t seem himself.” Frontline Plus is the only OTC my vet recommends. So the brand I bought for $10 less than Frontline Plus turned out to be more expensive because I’ve got two dosages left over I can’t use. 

#2: Between the holidays we had a day when the temperatures were above freezing and I took some Christmas stuff down to the basement only to find some water on the floor. Long story short I found a crack under my daylight window were the water was trickling in. I called a basement water proofing company, got the estimate and the crew was out on Monday. $480 to drill holes along two cracks (one not leaking but could down the road) then fill the holes with epoxy and cover the cracks with a membrane. It could have been far worse if it had been determined the fix had to be done on the outside of the wall. I was also advised to get longer downspout for one of my rain gutters. There’s always something that comes with home ownership. Still, I am not ready for group living in a condo or apartment. They don’t come with red roses and dark chocolate every day, either. 

#3: I was able to get a new Fitbit at the grocery store. I love that place! For decades they called themselves ‘Thrifty Acres’ because of its size and the good deals they offered, then they changed their name but not their business ethics and policies. It’s such a busy place you never have to worry about expiration dates and when you live alone, that’s important. Online the Fitbit cost $149.00, at my grocery store I paid the same $149.00 but I got a coupon for $15.00 off on my next shopping trip. It’s a typical ploy they use to keep you coming back. Well, heck, I don’t know which direction to take this paragraph now. Do I go on singing the praises of a store I’ve been loyal to for my entire adult life or do I go on to express how happy I am to be able to track my sleep pattern and my calories burned again? Five hours and ten minutes last night and 801 calories so far this morning, in case you’re remotely interested. It took me about an hour to get my new Fitbit up and working and most of that time involved reading posts in the Fitbit community boards. It’s always a comfort when you find others having the same issues setting up or syncing a device. That old-but-simple-and-often-overlooked trick about restarting your computer was all it took. Bingo, I’m a happy camper! 

The Charge 2 Fitbit has features I didn’t have on the Charge HR, like guided breathing. The first time I did it, I thought I’d pass out from all the oxygen going to my brain. Ten minutes to the hour, it also vibrates and flashes messages like, “Get up and move!” "35 steps to goal" “Want to stroll?” but only if you haven’t done at least 250 steps in the past fifty minutes. Levi was greatly entertained by seeing me jump up from my knitting and speed-walk around the house. He took a break from his rabbit patrolling to follow at my heels. As gadgets go, I never lost interest my Fitbit and I had the old one for a year and a half before I broke it. With the new features---including aftermarket interchangeable, fashion bands---I’m glad I was forced to buy a newer model. And I’m guessing Levi feels the same way. ©