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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Writing My Own Obituary


Most of us want to be understood and maybe that’s why blogging is so popular. We put our thoughts out in cyberspace hoping others will connect with that we have to say about the world around us. Some of us bloggers edit and hone our thoughts until they are just right, others shoot from the hip and let the chips fall where they may. I’m in the first camp of editors and honers. And I often wish I could do the same with my words when interacting with the people I come in physical contact with. (Yes, I know I shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition but it’s a writing tic I can’t seem to break.) Not that I say things in public I wish I could take back. It’s quite the opposite. I wish I could bring in the color and detail, expand my thoughts on the fly and maybe change a word here and there to its synonym to make a sentence roll off the tongue smoother. But spoken words are like ringing bells, once the sound is out there you can’t take it back.

I was thinking about this recently when I was at a lecture and sitting next to a woman who had just gone into an assisted living place the week before. She wanted to communicate with me and as she talked I could tell she wasn’t making the points she wanted to make. At first I was annoyed because I came there to hear the speaker, not the life story of an anonymous elderly woman in the audience. Then it hit me that I probably don’t sound much different when I get on a roll vocalizing my disconnected, unedited thoughts. I’ve had conversations with younger people and afterward I’d think: Man, I sounded old!  It bothers me when that happens. It worries me sometimes that I can write more coherently than I can talk. Then other times I’ll remember that it’s always been that way. I’m a writer, not a talker. My husband (before his stroke) was a talker, not a writer. I wrote the letters. He made the phone calls. A match made in heaven. What’s different now is at 70-something I’m always on the lookout for changes that could have others thinking I’m obsolete, that I should be turned out to pasture in a field of old nags who are holding on to their last cud of grass until we’re all found lying on our backs with our stiff limbs pointing skyward. Oh, yes, I understand why an elderly woman, newly installed in an assisted living facility, felt the need to let the world know that her life had value in her “good old days.”

There is a common self-actualization exercise given to people trying to---what---finds themselves, define their life-goals? It involves writing your own obituary. What do you want your life to represent? How would you like to be remembered? Sounds a bit macabre to write but it does give you a long-term perspective of your past and future life. Others writing my obituary would probably say my crowning achievement was how I handled the twelve year aftermath of my husband’s stroke. How many times have I heard “you are so strong” “you’re such a good caregiver” “he’s lucky to have you?” Blah, blah, blah. I’ll tell you how strong/weak I really am. Yesterday when a woman in my presence had a full-blown seizure I wasn’t the one holding her down and saying soothing things in her ear. Nope. I was one of two of us grabbing napkins to hand off to another who was wiping the woman’s mouth. I was moving chairs out of the way for when the EMTs arrived, busy work so I didn't have to think about what was going on. And I was the one---the only one of the 16 present---who reached for the box full of donuts after the woman was on the way to the hospital because I’m a stress eater and my hands were shaking. Strong? Bull crap! Some stroke survivors have frequent seizures. I was lucky that Don only had one like I'd just witnessed and I’ve always been grateful his doctor didn’t put him on an anti-seizure medication based on that one episode because the side-effects, I’m told, can be nasty. But I’m getting side-tracked here.

Back to poor little misunderstood me. Yes, I’m proud of how I took care of my husband but when I’m died and gone I’d rather be remembered for that painting I haven’t created yet. I’d rather be remembered for that book I haven’t written yet and that gives me an idea. I wonder if anyone has ever written a 350 page obituary. Chapter one, opening paragraphs:

Rumor has it that the dearly departed was a slow learner. That may have been true. After all, how many times did she find a pair of crotch-less panties on the living room couch before she put two and two together? “Oh, my god,” you’re saying under your breath, “the world doesn’t need another kinky Fifty Shades of Gray kind of book!” Nothing to worry about here. This isn’t a raunchy novel or a story about a woman who comes home unexpectedly to find her husband having a fling with the neighbor’s wife and she doesn't remember anything after that until she wakes up one morning to find herself serving hard time for a double homicide.  Nope. This is an obituary you’re reading for a woman who was a dog lover and all dog lovers know---well, most of them know---what happens to underwear that is accidentally left where it becomes fodder for our furry friends. Bras become pull toys for puppies. Panties become pacifiers for poodles that are lonely and left to their own devices. 

Few people knew who the real Jean was but an outgoing voicemail message on her cell phone gave a clue: “I can’t take your call at this time because I’m in a meeting down at the Seven-Eleven with a Russian spy.” ©

8 comments:

  1. Oh--I am right with you in moving chairs and not getting to involved with the ailing person--I am such a coward!!! I have written my obituary--mine is not too exciting and brief--they charge by the word you know!!!!! I use that as an excuse for my not so fascinating life. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!

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  2. You are a braver woman than me. I haven't for real written my own obituary. And I don't plan to, but I might write a spoof book/obituary for the November write-a-book-in-month write-a-thon.

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  3. I, for one, enjoy reading your insight into things that others may take for run of the mill. Maybe as we get older we have more time to think and to talk or write? Lately, I've run into too many people who are always on TRANSMIT and never on receive.

    Remind me not to be that way!

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  4. I'm glad I connect with you, Awkward Widow. Sometimes I think it's time to end this blog and go on to other things. Other times I think I get so much insight into myself by writing that it would be hard to stop writing here.

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  5. Jean. Don't die. Your tenth dog would miss you! You know, I went to a concert this afternoon; the average attendee's age was 70, but of course, I zeroed in on the forty year old crocodile biologist. His invitation was to tour central South America, and of course I'm considering it :-)

    Our obituaries might read "We didn't die until we were good and ready, and even then we were too ornery to smell sweet." But really, I've been thinking about what I'd like my obit to say. "She left anonymous imprints of kindness and joy". Let there be imprints, and not just the ones I had with my loved ones. Maybe the imprints left in our blogs? Maybe in the assisted living place?

    Jean, you're not over the hill by a long shot. Please don't think a 70 something year old is any one to overlook, for I look forward to your posts, and enjoy myself reading them. I learn something new with each one.

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  6. Oh, wow! A crocodile biologist! The lectures you attend have more interesting people than the ones I've been going to.

    I like what your obit would say. That's a worthy goal and accomplishment---I have no doubt your blog has been doing that for some time now.

    I've been writing half the day on my spoof obituary and having a lot of fun doing it. I didn't know, for example, that I was a spy for the CIA until it came pouring out through the keyboard. LOL I'm up to twenty pages and the current year. Now the hard part comes when I have to create what happens to me over the next twenty or twenty-five years before I die in my 90s.I'm hoping some real and hidden (even from me) aspirations come out.

    One a serious note, I do know 70 is the new 50. I just hope 90 turns out to be the new 70.

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  7. Before she died, my aunt told me that she had written her obit. I forgot to ask my cousins if they used her words when she died, or if they even knew she had written it. Dad loved a good obit better than just about anything. I made sure it was long enough and had a good pic. I think he would have approved.

    I've always dreamed of being a second story man... um... woman. What is that about? I'm a rule-following straight arrow, but the idea of exploring someone's house when they aren't home is intriguing. The wardrobe is great, too. All black and tight. Of course, I'm fit and fantastic in this fantasy.



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  8. Bella, I actually think writing your own obituary makes sense. Who knows the important highlights better than you? My husband was like your dad, the obituary section was the first part of the paper he opened. I'm sure your dad would like what you wrote, you were such a loving daughter.

    I'm a straight arrow, too, so maybe we both use our imaginations when we want to do something dangerous. LOL

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