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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Day Trips and the Search for Friendship



As a card carrying member of the Worrywart Club I thought yesterday would be the day I’d end up in an emergency room. Again. Why? Because I managed to put my bra on inside out and with my arm in sling it was too much trouble to start over again. People in emergency rooms, I decided, see all sorts of things so I took a chance they wouldn’t laugh out loud or put another punch in my Old Person’s card should I end up there. Besides, I didn’t have the time to start over. I had to get myself to the senior center to catch a bus for a day trip. Destination: a tourist village on Lake Michigan to do a restaurant crawl with time for shopping in between courses---four courses, four restaurants. Don and I had been going to that town since our teens, long before we even knew each other, so I was looking forward to this mini trip. At one of the restaurants I’d also be able to look across the channel to a series of sand dunes where some of Don’s ashes were thrown in the wind.

It was a dark and cloud day with severe thunderstorms predicted which resulted in keeping the hordes of people away that usually fill up the art galleries, marinas, up-scale shops and food venders of all descriptions. After the bus let us off and all fifty of us scurried off in different directions I was amazed that at times it was like I had the whole town to myself. I loved it because I was free to remember past times spent on those quaint streets.

All four of the restaurants on our crawl were ones I’d never been to before and I enjoyed them all. When ever Don and I went to this town, we usually took the dog so we ate at the outdoor vendors and if we went with another couple instead of the dog, we’d let them pick where we’d eat. One time four of us went into a cozy bar and grill and everyone in the place started singing, “You’re in the wrong place, at the wrong time…” but it didn’t dawn on us right way that we’d walked into a gay bar. Not until a guy asked our male friend to dance and that’s when we all took a good look around at the other patrons. What happened after that became a funny tale that lived in Don’s bank of entertaining stories for the next thirty years.

I like our senior center. It offers a wide variety of activities to do and I sign up for many things. At first I thought by being active there I’d network my way into some friendships. But it’s not working out that way. Take these day trips, almost everyone shows up with a ‘travel buddy’ they’ve invited from who-knows-where and they do the tourist thing in tantrum. Our meals are shared at group tables but you never sit next to same person twice so building up a kinship over time doesn’t work. I swear if it gets any lonelier here on Widowhood Lane I’m going to sign up for OldPeopleMatch.com if there is such a thing. Wanted: a friend to pal around---not interested in romance or playing kissy-face. Either sex may apply. I really wouldn’t want to pal around with a guy, though. That would be too weird after spending 42 years with Don. I sat next to a guy during the desert course of the crawl and after he got through quizzing the three women at our table I felt like we’d been interviewed for a position as his future nurse. Having twelve years of experience as Don’s caregiver, I was nervous I’d win the contest. Oh. Lord, save me from needy men!

Recently I found a dead tree in my back yard, big enough to hit the house if it goes over in a storm. The neighbor lost the top of a giant pine tree last week. The top 40 feet impaled into the ground and is standing straight up in the air. What a strange sight that is and all I can think of is how easy the top of my tree could end up impaling my bathroom. With the string of bad luck I’ve been having lately I’m holding my breath between now and Monday when a tree cutter is coming to give me a price on cutting the tree down. On the good side, if it wasn’t for home ownership my “social life” would be cut in half. Tuesday, my new front-loading washer and dryer gets delivered, Wednesday the lawn care guy shows up like clock work, and Thursday is a senior center lecture on great summer reads presented by the library. The rhythm of my life goes on…so why does it seem so empty and full at the same time? ©

painting above by James Brandess

6 comments:

  1. This is unfortunate that folks are "coupling up" on the field trips. Who knows--maybe each of them went on a trip, found themselves alone, and subsequently found a partner, any partner would do.

    Your senior center still sounds inspiring, but what other options are there, in addition? Regular volunteering gigs can put you in the company of the same people, each week, and working together can breed real connection. I'm thinking meals at a shelter, shelving library books, or even joining a civic group (Rotary, Friends of the Library) with a commitment to voluntarism. (I must admit, I would get a kick out of you cooking for others, now that you've learned a thing or two.)

    I'm sorry about this stage of the game for you, Jean. Glad you've got those guys cycling in regularly. Good for you, good for the house.

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  2. Our local newspaper has a Sunday column where they list organizations that are looking for volunteers. I need to start reading it. But I'm not really sure I want others to depend on me for anything. I know that sounds selfish but after 12 years of my husband's total dependence and the five years of sharing care for my dad before that I'm kind of burned out on worrying about others and knowing the quality of their lives would suffer if I don't show up. On the other hand life has to have meaning and purpose; I just have to find mine again. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  3. Done with caretaking--that makes total sense, and it's good you're setting boundaries to protect yourself.

    When I picture you volunteering, I picture the volunteers with Friends of The Library, who collect used books for periodic book sale fundraisers, or a group of people making a dinner. Whatever it is, I picture group work, in which the individual work is not too tasking or unexpendable, but the contribution of the group is really good for the community. That seems like a good way to engage with others, and doing it regularly could breed new friendships.

    My husband's great aunt visits animals at the no-kill shelter. She "socializes" them by sitting with them and playing with them. That's it. She gets more out of it than the cats and dogs do, I think.

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  4. Group work probably is the way to go when volunteering as a means to build friendships. Years ago I volunteered for a women's organization---can't even remember which one---and they had me stuffing envelopes in a room all by myself. Now, at least I'd know enough to ask questions before committing time.

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  5. P.S. I'm even tossing around the idea of starting a Red Hat Society chapter. I helped co-found one 10 years ago but I had to drop out when it evolved into a group that would take over-night trips once a month and have one other meeting a month to plan their outings. That didn't work with my care giving role. Sadly, I haven't been able to find a chapter near by that is still taking new members, so starting one is the only option. The organization does have a lot to offer older women.

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