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, October 6, 2013

The Widow's Nightgown


It occurred to me this week that every other night I’m wearing my nightgown inside out. I take it off in a manner my mom used to call “skinning the kitty” but somewhere along the line I quit turning the nightgown right side out before hanging it on its hook. Then at night I’ll grab the wrong side out garment, put it on and when it comes off in the morning, skin-the-kitty style again, it turns right side out. This is another old people thing or I’m I just getting lazy or are they one in the same? My nightgown is actually an old, v-neck t-shirt of my husband’s. It’s extra-long and reaches my knees and it’s getting so worn and holey I really should throw it out. Boohoo, I don’t want to do that except I feel the breath of an anonymous social worker on the back of my neck, making judgments and deeming me ready for a nursing home. Someone has to save old people from the dangers of appearing sloppy and as poor as a church mouse, she'd be thinking. Note to self: Don’t start getting the mail in your nightgown because one of the neighbors could have social services on their speed dial.

My husband wasn’t much taller than me but because he was in a wheelchair and in charge of dressing himself he could never get his pants pulled up high enough on one side thus the extra-long t-shirts did a good job of hiding his fanny. This is a common problem with people in wheelchairs and it’s always bugged me that others don’t understand they can’t help it. It’s just the way it is. Disabled people usually do the best they can to dress themselves and the rest of us need to do our best to ignore an exposed fanny from time to time. That’s hard for one particular acquaintance of mine to do. She’s so judgmental on this topic that it makes me crazy, but that’s a rant I should probably turn off and go on to other things. Sometimes I forget I’m no longer an advocate for stroke survivors. I have widow and old people issues to fry now that my husband is gone.

A few days ago I took an older cousin-in-law on a little road trip to have lunch with another cousin of ours. The cousin I picked up has gotten so frail since I saw her last at my husband’s funeral but she's still as sharp and as much fun to be around as she's always been. I hope people can say the same about me when I'm her age. Back when the three of us were young I spent a fair amount of time with each of them and at lunch we had a good time talking about our families past and present. It’s a shame we lost that closeness over the years. But the miles separate us physically and our lives all went in different directions separating us in other ways. It’s the way of the world when kids grow up and leave their core families behind.

Have you ever played the what-if game where you daydream about how you would have been different if so-and-so had remained in your life? Usually we do it regarding someone negative---an x-spouse, a nasty parent or even someone we loved who didn’t love us back. Rarely do we wonder what influences a do-gooder type would have had on our life trajectory, but I did just that after our cousin’s lunch. I suspect I would have turned out to be a better person if the influence of my younger cousin had reminded in my life all these years. Let’s just say she got all the Mother Theresa genes in the family. She’s probably the most charitable, do-good person I know---genuinely sweet and giving where I’m pickier about my do-good causes and more protective of my free time. She’s touched so many lives that when she dies they'll have to hold the service in the local high school auditorium. When I die my service could take place inside a Volkswagen. In other words, she threw rocks in the pool of life, I threw tiny pebbles.

One of the most interesting things about growing older is we get to see how the choices we made early on in life panned out over the years, we get to see how the people who came in and out of our lives have enriched us or torn us down, and we get decide if we’d take a do-over if do-overs were humanly possible. I’m putting on some rose colored glasses here but I like to think that most of us by the time we enter our “Golden Years” are happy with the way we turned out---or at least we’ve made peace with our personal histories---and we wouldn’t change much in our pasts. Our collective good, bad and the ugly experiences all had a hand in building the kind of people we’ve become. Take something ugly out of the mix and more than likely we wouldn’t have the same level of appreciation for the good stuff that came along later. Bottom line: I like myself and how I turned out but I sure admire my younger cousin. She’s so much like my dad in character and personality you’d think we were switched at birth if not for the two years that separate us. Get out the fiddles, there might be a country western song in there somewhere.

My house cleaning service comes in a few days and the girl assigned to my house is in college part-time, working towards a degree in social services. She’s a sweet, compassionate young woman but I’m starting to think I should buy myself a new nightgown so I don’t end up as Exhibit B in a term paper she has to write. When to Get Involved: Signs to Look For In Our Aging Population. One of these days she’s going to hit the chapter on protecting senior citizens from themselves and she’s going to start pushing numbers on her cell phone if I don’t shape up and get rid of my shabby, widow’s nightgown beforehand. ©

P.S. This is the 200th blog I've written since my husband passed away. I don't know what that means but I thought I'd mention it.

21 comments:

  1. Ah ha ha ha! I just love reading your blog. Always on a topic near and dear to my heart. I was feeling all fashionista for trading in my 13 year old t-shirt type nighties to a new one featuring a Maui artist! But I need to go get two more and rotate them. My old ones were just as you described!

    When I first retired, I drove the van for our Adult Center. So many Seniors couldn't see that they had a spot(s) on the front of their shirt. And many bragged about how many wearings they got from their outfits before cleaning. It was kinda sad. I'm in the habit of not wearing things twice now.

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  2. I have other nightgowns---real ones---in the closet but I keep coming back to the old t-shirt. I even looked online to see if they still sell the same style and they do. Not the same as wearing the shirt my husband actually wore but I still think I'll order one. They are so comfortable!

    When my mother-in-law was in a nursing home, sending your clothes to the laundry meant you'd never see them again...one of the reason we had to go so often. Even with clear labels they'd get delivered to the wrong rooms or sit in lost and found. I can see why some of them wear an outfit two or three days in a row. It might be the last time they see it. Same thing happened when my dad was in a Hospice home.

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  3. I notice this very thing when I put my nightie on, usually in the dark at night, and wake up the next morning to realize it is on inside-out. I don't think it's that we are senile or worse, I just think, we may be past the time of caring about that sort of thing. I was embarrassed though, when I went to my orthopedic surgeon for a check up and when he went to check my ankles, I realized I had on one blue sock and one black one. Not senility, just bad eye sight, LOL. I have beautiful nylon nighties in the dresser drawer--might as well get rid of them. Fred loved the silky feel of them--I prefer the soft, worn cotton ones (2) that I seem to wear, night after night.

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  4. I agree, Judy. When you live alone does it really matter if the seams on nightgowns are on the inside or out? I solved the issue of not being able to tell blue from black socks. I only buy black, now, and some bright colors...no navy. I've got some long silky nighties going back to the 60s when I could afford really nice quality that I never wear. I could sell them for vintage clothing now and probably will if I buy a condo. LOL

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  5. Jean :

    I can so identify with your blogs. you write my thoughts so well :). I am firm believer in choices I made good,bad which created my destiny. I feel all those choices I made some ofcourse I am not proud of but I am proud of the person I have become due to it. I believe in taking responsibility for my actions in life

    Asha

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  6. Exactly, Asha! If we take responsibility for our actions then it's easier to make peace with the results of those actions. To paraphrase an old saying, it's not what happens to you in life that we should judge one another, it's how we each handle the lemons and apples we've been given that is the important factor. We can't grow our spirit if we are always blaming outside forces.

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  7. I would like to buy some knee length cotton shirt nighties. Jean? Do you remember where you got the extra long ones? I've looked on Amazon for cotton sleep shirts and never find anything worth ordering ....

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  8. My husband's v-necks t-shirts that I use for nightgowns are just regular T''s not made for sleeping. I just ordered them in the 'tall length' instead of normal and they are 34 inches long which is a good length for me.

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  9. And I forgot to mention ... CONGRATS on 200 posts on this blog! What an accomplishment because of all that you are going through at the same time! Have you started looking at condos? Be sure to ask to see at least one year's worth of HOA meeting minutes and newsletters (if any). It provides peace of mind that the complex isn't working on any MAJOR problems.

    P.S. I'm not sure 34 inches is long enough for me ... I better find that tape measure!

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  10. Thanks!

    That's a great tip on the newsletters and condo meeting minutes. I knew about the newsletter idea but it never dawned on my you could ask to see condo meetings. I've actually stopped looking for the time being. Very few condos come up for sale around here so I'm kind of waiting for the market to improve.

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  11. If you're making peace with your life, may I ask what signposts you're using? The older I get the less sure I am that I've read the signposts of life correctly. Is it O.K. to have an existential crisis in one's 60's? I hope so! Widowhood does begat a new search for meaning and belonging. In the meantime, I concur. Update the comfy nightgown. And please do keep yourself away from anonymous social workers.

    Congratulations on your 200th post.

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  12. Oh, my gosh! I'm going to give a cop-out answer here and say that the signposts for each of us are going to be different. LOL As for it being okay to have an existential crisis in one's 60s, I vote YES, of course it's okay at any age. To me, what's important is that we don't allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity. If we do, we're going to miss those signposts when they come along.

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    1. I laughed out loud on your warning about going to the mailbox in your nightgown. I do. I often sleep in the cotton tee shirt I have worn all day, just disposing of the pants and bra. So many things have "slipped" in the past 8 years. Yes, eight and I have tears in my eyes
      200 blogs = how many years?
      I am brand new to your blog and grateful to have found it

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  13. Welcome Ann! I'm glad I'm not the only one sleeping in t-shirts.

    My husband passed away less than two years ago---21 months coming up next weeks to be exact. Oh, yes, I've done a lot of bellyaching and ranting since I started this blog.

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    1. I am so happy to be "connected." A friend and I have written a book,
      "Dear Ann, Dear Mary," which is a correspondence over the two years following my husband's death. It's available on Amazon but I would be very pleased to send you a copy---if we can figure out how to mail it.

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  14. That's very sweet of you to offer, Ann! But I found the book and its preview on Amazon and I can order the Kindle edition cheaper than you could mail it. I did a grief book, too, of my first year of blog posts. (It's no longer available, though, by my choice.) If you are like me, I'm sure writing the book helped you a great deal. It's looks very well done!

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  15. The part about the nightgown made me guffaw. You should see what I wear. When I say my prayers, I always pray that the house will not catch fire and that this will not be the night the neighbors finally get to see me in my PJs. Priorities change with age. All I can say is that no one would ever accuse me of being a slave to fashion. Comfort is my priority.

    I sometimes think of the people who've come in and out of my life and the lessons I've learned from them. Many of them are no longer around. I've lost some to death but most due to life circumstances. We live in a mobile world. Few of us live in the cities where we were born. My brother does and he has so many friends. I'm sure it made a huge difference in his life.

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  16. Bella Rum, you just gave me something else to worry about ...that fire department that comes to check out your house when the smoke detectors go off and you can't get them to quit. Not that it's ever happened to me but there is always a first time. Heaven forbid they should see my nightwear. LOL

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  17. Catching up on past blogs I see we have a new "boogeman" to watch out for! I've never been one to fear authority---teachers, doctors, policemen, etc. And of course with age and the courage that comes with being a widow, my feistiness has only grown. But now there is a new bete noir:
    "The Anonymous Social Worker!"
    But now there is a

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  18. Oh, yes, the anonymous social worker is my nemesis. LOL

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