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, December 12, 2012

Sitting in the Back of the Room

When I was in grammar and high school we were seated alphabetically and since my last name was near the end of the alphabet I sat near the back of all classrooms through my entire childhood and teens. That is except for one semester in the 3rd or 4th grade when a teacher put all the left-handed kids up front where she could smack us with a ruler every time we broke one of her penmanship rules. The lines on your paper need to go from left to right, not up and down. Keep your wrist straight, not curled around the pen. She even went so far as to tape our papers to our desks in her mission to rid the world of the sin of writing in a vertical direction. To this day whenever I see one of those “Golden Rule” rulers I think about that old bat. She always wore widow’s black and would send religious tracts home with me and the other so-called heathens in her class. She also gave me an E in penmanship causing my mother to go to the principal’s office and raise holy hell. I had beautiful penmanship when I could write on lines pointing straight out in front of me and I still write that way thanks to a principal who took one look at my writing and made the teacher move all us lefties to our rightful places in the alphabetical seating order.

I was reminded of all this recently when I went to the senior hall for a lecture and as I walked in I said to a woman I had met on several bus trips: “Why you’re easy to find. You’re always sitting in the front row.” She laughed and told me her maiden name began with an A “so I always figure that’s where I belong.” It’s funny how childhood routines can stick with you for so many decades. I realized that subconsciously I’d been doing the same thing, picking the back of rooms to sit in my entire adult life. That day I was tempted to sit next to the woman but the impulse to flee to the back was even stronger. I guess I still associate front rows with getting smacked with rulers…or with college co-eds accidentally showing off their panties. It’s too bad those two actions never got paired together---probably because no one was ever sure whether the co-eds should be smacking the professors for looking or if the professors should be smacking the girls showing. I see London, I see France. I see someone’s underpants. Oh, my!

Alphabetical seating aside, I don’t have a sense of belonging anymore. I’m like a fish out of water in the couple’s orientated world, the Caregiver Club is closed and so far the senior citizen hall---where most conversations center on grandchildren and church---is leaving childless and churchless me with few things to add to the discussions. And sometimes I feel like I might get stoned when I voice an opinion at a widow’s support site. Like a few days ago when 7-8 women in the chat room were complaining that their friends and family members weren’t calling them. They felt abandoned. Feelings were hurt. Anger was building up. Vows to break up friendships were made without the other parties even knowing the widows were mad. I was the lone voice of dissension when I said the phone lines run both directions, meaning we need to learn how to reach out when we need support. Others can’t read our minds like our spouses usually could. Sure, I’d like to get more calls and social invitations, too, but how can I blame my friends and family because I have a giant void to fill? They didn’t cause it and it’s not their responsibility to fill it.

I’ll admit I do believe most widows will lose a few friendships but it won’t be anyone’s fault or failing. Why do I say that? Because let’s face it, there is a difference between knowing Don-and-Jean the couple and knowing Jean the individual---or any other couple-turned-individual. I am different without Don at my side. The topics of conversation are different; the give-and-take of our dialoguing is different. Entertainment and restaurants choices change. And who plans parties with an odd number of guests? China sets come in sets of six or eight for a reason. Why would anyone think the world isn’t going to notice things like that? But then again, I went my entire adult life without connecting the dots on why I always sit in the back at movies, lectures and meetings. Jeez, I sure can be clueless! I need to remember that the next time I’m tempted to be the odd man out in a group of grieving widows. Tonight I will take out a sheet of paper, turn it so the lines point straight out in front of me and write one hundred times: From now keep your opinions to yourself. ©

2 comments:

  1. Please, please crumble up that piece of paper. I appreciate your opinions, and I love your writing. Thank you for sharing your stories and your craft with the rest of us.

    And you're right that the phone lines run both ways. There's something so shocking about the retreat of friends and family, though, that widow(er)s just need to work through it, along with everything else. A poet friend of mine described this pretty well--our lives are unravelling, but we are reweaving with new threads. In the throes of grief, I saw the unravelling (of support, of relationships) and not so much the quiet rebuilding. It's good to be reminded.

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  2. Thank you for saying that and for taking the time to comment. I'm not sure I could keep my opinions to myself if I wrote that out 200 times. But I did try....and it worked for a little while. LOL

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