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 29, 2013

Elderly Cutie Pies and Other Silly Stereotypes


My long-time hairdresser had a melt-down that caused her to cancel several appointments which meant I had to find someone new to cut hair. Enter the new kid on the block who, in the time it took to cut my hair, called me ‘cute’ or ‘cutie pie’ five times. I’d be flattered except she was calling me ‘cute’ for no other reason than in her mind I’m too old to be computer and cell phone literate. For example, when it came out that I use my computer every day, she said, “That’s SO cute!” And I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her I’d been using a computer/word processor every day since before the internet was invented but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off with the right tone of voice. There’s a fine line between old-people chit-chat and old-people cranky talk if you’re not careful.

When it came out that I have a cell phone and know how to text…you guessed it. “Oh, that’s SO cute!” my new hairdresser gusted. I wanted to say that I’ve had a cell phone since she was watching Sesame Street in her Pampers but I wanted a ‘cute’ haircut, not the don’t-come-back style reserved for mouthy or crotchety old customers. What’s so hard about texting, anyway? We seniors just have to learn to use a different set of codes than younger people do. Things like: ATD for “at the doctor’s,” WAITT for “who am I talking to?”, and WTP for “where’s the prunes?” etc. I would have told her about the old bag cell phone I have in the basement, but she probably wouldn’t believe it has a battery so big that you had to carry it and the huge handset around like a purse---thus the term “bag phones.” Don and I were some of the very first people in town to use cell phones.

You have to develop sense of humor about the way others stereotype you but I will admit sometimes I’ll use their stereotypical view of me for my own amusement. I’ll say things that shock even me. Yesterday I had an appointment to get my elbow break x-rayed and to get a bone density test. In the waiting room a woman, upon seeing my arm in a sling says to me, “Poor dear, how did you hurt your arm?”

“I’m on a roller derby team,” I told her. “And I forgot to put on my elbow pads one day and wouldn’t you know it that would be the day I took a fall. It’s hell getting old and forgetful.” I no more got those words out of my mouth when the nurse called me back to a room so I didn’t have time to tell the woman the truth, assuming I would have been inclined to do so. This exchange took place the day after I’d been gusted all over with ‘cutes’ from the hairdresser and I’d reached my weekly quota for endearments people reserve for old people.

Accepting our age and the stereotypes that go with whatever age bracket we’re going through at the time can be ego deflating. Back when Don turned 50 he got on a kick where he’d tell waitresses that he’d just turned 60 and did he quality for a senior discount now?  These waitresses knew us as regular customers and they would reply something like, “Wow, you sure don’t look your age!” After joking back and forth Don would admit the truth and we’d all have a good laugh. This went on for several weeks after his birthday until one day we went to a state park where the girl taking the money at the entrance didn’t know us. After Don pulled this fishing-for-compliments routine, the girl looked Don squarely in the eye and gave him the senior discount rate. That was the very last time he pulled that joke.

Since old people are stereotyped as always talking about their medical conditions I don’t want to disappoint anyone who is still reading this blog entry. So here’s an update on my arm/wrist. The sling is gone, the elbow break is healed, but I can’t lift, push or pull on anything for a week while I take another round of Prednisone for my hand and wrist. The trauma of the fall may have caused carpal tunnel and I’ll have to get tested for that if the Prednisone and babying my wrist doesn’t cut down on the pain and throbbing I get in two fingers and my wrist. (I’m not the type to give anyone the finger, but right now I couldn’t if I wanted to.) The orthopedic doctor says that the carpal tunnel like symptoms could go away if I didn’t have a mild case of it before the fall, but if I did have mild CT before it won’t go away now without treatment. I spend a lot of time on my computer and have for many years---a common cause of CT---but from day one I’ve always had an ergonomic keyboard and I’m fairly sure CT was not present before my fall. That makes me hopeful that it will go away on its own and that some day, if I lose my impulse control as I age, I’ll be fully capable of giving the finger to an aid in a nursing home who is trying to force-feed me medication-laced applesauce for lunch. ©

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Something's Always Missing


Please tell me I’m not the only old lady who occasionally sees a nicely chiseled guy in the prime of his life and says to her self, “Wow, that guy is hot!” I don’t mean that in a cougar kind of stalking of male flesh way. I’m thinking more along the lines of admiring a marble statue of Michelangelo’s. Maybe it’s all those nude figure drawing classes I had back in college that has me looking when a guy is flexing his wares out in public or maybe I’m just enjoying the memories that go with seeing young people out having a carefree, good time. Whatever it is, I saw a “wow guy” today while walking the nature trail. He was standing next to his high tech bike drinking water and I thought, what’s not to like about a good looking guy with a hot body in spandex who has an onboard computer display in the handlebars of his bike? I’d lust after one of those high tech bikes but I don’t think they come with training wheels. I asked that exact question at the bike shop last summer and the salesman laughed. He thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

While driving home from the nature trail I heard George Strait on the radio singing, “There's a difference in living and living well. You can't have it all, all by yourself. Something's always missing ‘til you share it with someone else. There's a difference in living and living well.” Last summer those lyrics would have had me pulling off the road and crying my widowhood encrusted eyes out. Today, upon hearing that song, I found myself admiring how country western song writers can summarize so many common human thoughts into so few words. Like the guy in the song, I have my share of creature comforts and from the outside looking in my post-Don life might look full and even happy again. I’m sure that’s the way some family and friends view my transition since he died---especially the ones who think caregiving a disabled spouse is a hardship beyond their capability. But the freedom to come and go at will doesn’t make up for that “something’s always missing” feeling that walks hand-in-hand with widowhood.

I’ve taken up drinking in my old age. Not really but I do have my niece to thank for taking me to a micro brewery/restaurant that has over 100 different beers on their menu and five-six types of hard cider. They are generous with handing out samples and after trying the cider I ordered a glass. Then last night I shocked long time friends who in all our 45 years of going out to dinner together have rarely seen me order any kind alcohol. It felt perfectly natural to be sipping on my cider while they had their beer but, of course, they made a big to-do over the change. That made me feel slightly sad (and maybe a little annoyed) over how changes in my life are probably getting erroneously chalked up the “freedom” of widowhood. The real fact is Don’s death didn’t have a damn thing to do with my drink choice. I’ve never seen hard cider on a menu before this month and since I’ve always had a fascination with Colonial Times I was curious about the taste of hard cider. Oh, my God, it’s smooth! No wonder it was the favorite drink in the thirteen colonies.

The cider fiasco got me thinking. If I can get hypersensitive over a false perception of “cutting loose” is it any wonder that some widows experience guilty feelings when the fog of widowhood is lifting? People are judging us! We get patted on the head for drinking a fricking glass of cider, for crying out loud. Stick a toothpick in the widow and see if she’s done grieving yet. Sure, I’ve found the map to the healing path and I’m on it. But no matter what I might do or become in the future, no matter how many “wow guys” I might admire in passing the feeling that something’s always missing will stay with me forever. ©

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cooking-for-One Part Five and Other Healthy Endeavors

Exercise (like cooking) is one of those things I’ve always---and I do mean always---hated doing. But I recognize the fact that some of the health issues that my husband and I had/have could have been prevented if we had had the same mindset the younger generation has regarding keeping fit. I begrudgingly do a two and a half mile walk twice a week and I pat myself on the back like that’s comparable to running a marathon. I’m even more proud of myself if I let the dog nag me into additional, shorter walks…proud until I run into one of my peers who does an eight mile hike every single day before I even get out of bed. In the winter I do time---like a prison sentence---on my exercise bike and she’s out in the cold, snow and ice still doing her eight mile hike, 365 days a year. If they find her stiff body along side of the road some dark January morning, the victim of a hit-and-run driver I’ll say, “See, I knew exercise was bad for you!”

Food is another matter. I’m really starting to get into the mindset of cooking and eating healthier. Better late than never, as they say. I’m not aspiring to be a vegetarian but I am down to eating meat or fish every third or forth day and I’ve added fruits and vegetables to my weekly shopping list that until this year I’ve never even tasted. Heck, I’m even making kale chips. Can you believe that, the woman who used to think the kitchen was just a room you walk through to get to the garage is making kale chips! The cooking-for-one series of classes I’ve been taking has done a sneaky good job of selling the eat-for-good-health life style. But the biggest attraction, to me, is the simple fact that if you don’t have to learn to cook things with faces it cuts down on the stuff you have to know how to do in the kitchen.

This week’s cooking-for-one class was all about using herbs. I learned that in order to eat healthier all by myself I have to go down my basement and find some old fruit jars to turn into containers to keep fresh herbs in my refrigerator. Imagine that! I learned I have to buy a mortar and pestle to make herb pestos that I can use two dozen ways including as rubs for grilling vegetables, in scrambled eggs or as a dressing for pasta or to freeze in ice cube trays to add to those pots of beans and soups I’m suppose to make next winter. I also learned that I need to move next door to a sharing master gardener who has a huge herb garden because there’s no way I’m going to be tempted to buy herb plants at the farmer’s market this weekend. Well, maybe one or two to go along with that smelly little basil plant I bought a month ago at the grocery store.

In the year or two before Don died I started watching the Food Network and to amuse him I’d often mimic their stars when I’d fix and plate dinner. I was more Lucy Ball than an Iron Chef but it would make him laugh and maybe make him forget that I was “cooking” from boxes, cans and take-out menus. Now that my cooking classes are at an end and I actually do more cooking from scratch I ordered myself a present: a set of chef’s knives I’ve had on my wish list for almost a year. If I cut myself and bleed to death the first time I use them I hope my nieces will send them back for a refund. They cost a fricking fortune! Who would have guessed a woman my age could have so many new kitchen gadgets on her wish list? Next thing you know I’ll be lusting after a salad spinner to dry off all the fresh herbs my factious new neighbor will share with me across her white picket fence. I wonder if House Hunters on HGTV could actually find me a home with a neighbor like that. Oops, my imaginary, ideal neighbor is distracting me from my cooking classes.

Back on track. Do you want to know what the most important things I learned about cooking-for-one are? It really boils down to four basic concepts: 1) Learn to love your sauté pan; 2) learn to love cooking in foil or parchment packets; 3) rethink how you define a meal, and 4) cook less, eat closer to the earth. ©


Kale Chips

One bunch of kale
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt or seasoning salt
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake until the edges are brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4.  
Basil and Parsley Pesto

1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic cloves
1/8 cup pine nuts
Salt

Directions: Using a pestle and mortar, combine the basil and the parsley and crush until a paste starts to form. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to crush until a creamy paste has formed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

From Laughter to Tears


It was early Saturday morning when I grabbed a stool at the counter of the Breakfast Only Café. You’d have to be blind not to notice the older woman sitting next to me. She was dressed in what can only be described as an outfit you’d expect a rodeo queen to be wearing----red jeans and a white satin western cut shirt that was trimmed with long red fringe, a red collar and cuffs, and pearl covered snaps. The tailoring and fit was impeccable. As I tried to figure out a nice way to ask her about the ‘Dale Evans’ outfit she said to me, “I love your glasses. I’ve always thought glasses are like jewelry for your face.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “I let the guy at the eyeglass place pick them and I think he did a good job. I get a lot of compliments on them.”

From that simple beginning we babbled back and forth like a couple of cartoon strip magpies on a clothesline. We joked and laughed, we exchanged bits of old people philosophy and personal history until our food got too cold and we had to ask for doggie boxes. Turns out she was a costumer with the local civil theatre and she liked talking to me enough that she asked if we could exchange contact information. Wow, I made a friend! If I keep going to the café on regular basis I think this place is going to turn into my Cheers---you know Cheers, that Boston bar on the old TV sitcom where everyone knows your name. I left in a happy and upbeat mood.

The farmer’s market was next on my list and today it had to share billing in town with the Start of Summer parade. It seems like everyone I meet or read about lately in my peer group has a garden to tend---including the Dale Evan look-a-like---so on a whim I bought a six pack of lettuce plants. I’ve never grown lettuce in my life and I plan to put half in containers on my deck and the other half out in the yard for the rabbits.

The parade was an interesting place to people watch and probably the most interesting person was the mime the town hires to direct traffic. He was dressed in a red French beret, long vest and he was wearing classic mime face paint. When I crossed the street he mimicked my arm in the sling and pretended to wipe tears from his eyes. Once when no cars were waiting for his directions he pulled up a pretend chair in the middle of the intersection and sat down. It was also fun to watch the town photographer walk up and down street, taking pictures of all the kids and colorful characters. Oh, my god, speaking of colorful characters I saw a girl who carried her smart phone in her butt crack, half in and half out of her very low riding hip huggers. The germ-a-phobic in me wanted to haul out a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner and give her cell a bath. Another character was a huge man with a tiny toy breed dog balancing on his shoulder. As he proudly walked the crowed sidewalk every so often he’d say in a loud voice, “I’ve got a bird dog!” He made me laugh but another dog that watched the parade from near-by where I sat made me cry.

It was a golden retriever wearing a therapy dog vest, a Comfort Dog like those that went to Sandy Hook elementary after the massacre six months ago. I don’t know why the tears came flowing out of the blue when I first saw that dog but I had a hard time turning them off. Maybe it was because I was having such a good time at the parade and the dog reminded of all those little kids (and my husband) who will never get to go to another hometown parade? It’s hard sometimes to understand how a good mood can turn on a dime.

I talked to the dog’s handler and this particular dog had not been one from the area who went to Connecticut. This dog is still in training and was at the parade to get used to crowds and loud noises. I smiled when the handler said that and I told her I had wondered at one point who was comforting who. The dog nuzzled his face into side of my leg and let me pet him to my heart’s content, leaning into me the whole time. Obviously, the giving comfort part of his training was not something he still needed to work on. My tears had dried up by then but my upbeat mood had been replaced with the exhaustion that often comes with unexplained tears. But before going home I swung by the town cemetery to check on Don’s grave and to eat a ginger-molasses cookie I had bought at the Breakfast Only Café. I told Don about the Comfort Dog and he told me to go home and get some milk to go with that comfort cookie. And thus another misadventure in widowhood came to an end. ©

Friday, June 14, 2013

Are You a Thistle or a Rose?


 As I sat here in my frumpily bathrobe trying to decide what to blog about I got to thinking about how much we change through out our lives. My skin, for example, is as leathery and “full of character” as a pair of alligator shoes I bought back in the 1960s. God, those high heels had the power to turn on my sexy side and I felt great when ever I wore them! I don’t even remember the last time I wanted to look sexy and it amuses me that my favorite footwear, now, is a colorful pair of chunky Crocs. Today their little crocodile logo smiling up at me seems to say, Hey, old lady, you’re wearing rubber and that’s about as fashionable as wearing a paper sack. There were a couple of decades in my life when I cared about such things but that gave way to caring more about comfort and I’ve never looked back---and apparently not in a mirror either. I need a make-over.

Outward appearances aside, the internal changes we experience in our lifetime are much harder to critique. Taken as a whole, I am happy with the emotional, intellectual and spiritual grown and progression I’ve experienced from my toddler days to these toddling old-person days. I’ve had many ‘aha moments’---moments of comprehension, inspiration and realization of what life is all about. And as most of us do as we age, I’ve made a mental catalog of all the opportunities I’ve grabbed hold of and those I’ve let slip through my hands. I also know the points in my life when I could have done better, made better choices and I comfort myself by knowing that if I had known better at the time, I would have done better. Wouldn’t we all?

Where is all of this reflection leading to? Damned if I know. I guess I’m trying to decide if I’ve gotten to the point May Sarton was at when she wrote the following in her memoir titled, At Seventy.  “I love being old,” she wrote, “Because I am more myself than I’ve ever been. There is less conflict. I am happier, more balanced and more powerful.” If I take widowhood out of the equation and the temporary (I hope) sadness that comes with it I would agree with what May is saying here and I would chime in, "me too!" Old age comes with a lot of intrinsic advantages if you’re open to embracing them. In the same book she also wrote: “In the middle of the night, things well up from the past that are not always cause for rejoicing---the unsolved, the painful encounters, the mistakes, the reasons for shame or woe. But all, good or bad, give me food for thought, food to grow on.”  I guess I would reshape the idea by saying the more pain and lows we’ve experienced in life the more opportunities we have to evolve into an empathic, thought-provoking and wise person as we age. Of course, it could go the other way, too, and we could let life beat us down and become bitter, resentful and crotchety. Somewhere along the line we all have to make a decision on how we process our pasts and use them to drive the rest of our lives. What’s your choice? Do you want to be a thistle or a rose?  ©

“We have to dare to be ourselves,
however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
May Sarton

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Widow is Proud of Herself!


I woke up to find the dog’s nose a half inch from my mouth. I don’t know if he was enamored with my morning breath, if he was checking to see if I was still alive or if he was looking for a new place to park one of his treasures. He hides bits of bark from the landscaping in the strangest places but that’s a story for another day. I had taken a sleeping pill last night and overslept this morning so maybe the dog’s other tricks for waking me didn’t work. Whatever the case, I bounced out of bed knowing I had places to go and things to do that included a trip to the farmer’s market in a near-by tourist town where Don grew up.

This farmer’s market is one I hadn’t shopped since Don died and we used to go there every Saturday morning. Last summer I couldn’t bear the thought of all the vendors asking about Don’s absence so I switched to a different, less interesting market. My favorite market hadn’t changed since my last visit. Dogs, kids in strollers and people of all description milling over produce, flowers, baked goods and plants were every where. The dog bakery vendor was especially busy when I stopped by to buy Levi a treat. I’ve never taken him to the market and I never will because he’s been trail trained to sit whenever a walker, jogger or bike goes by which he now does automatically even when I don’t want him to. At the farmer’s market he’d probably park is little butt down at the entry way and never get an opportunity to advance forward. He’s a polite little bugger if nothing else. I can see me pleating with him, “Levi, the dog treat booth is down this row if you’d just move!”

While shopping the market I ran across a booth trying to drum up interest in a new museum that is opening soon in town. I have a bunch of Don’s old high school year books and I wanted to know if they’d be interested in having them, so I stopped. “Yes!” they told me and we made arrangements for me to drop them off. Then the man said, “Would you be interested in volunteering at the museum?” If you’ve been following this blog you know I’ve been feeling like the whole universe is nagging me to find a volunteer job. But for the first time, a volunteer situation actually peaks my interest. Since the museum is just now building shelving I can picture myself filling those shelves and setting up exhibits. With my background in art, my experience creating displays in the various antique booths Don and I rented over the years, and my interest in history I’d be a natural at that job. I took their application for volunteering and I just may drop it off with the year books. Ya, I know, if I do that I’m going to have to listen to a lot of people say, “I told you so! Volunteering will help you make friends.”

After the farmer’s market I decided to climb another widowhood mountain---going to a restaurant all by myself. In the past when Don and I would go to the farmer’s market we’d also go to a breakfast only café that seats 100 people and they are always so busy you usually have to wait at least a half hour to get seated. It’s a fun place to people watch so we looked forward to the wait as much as the food, and the people who worked there treated Don like gold even though his wheelchair made their jobs more difficult---they pack customers in like sardines. This time I took a stool at the counter with twelve other loners and I got a wonderful view of the four line cooks and ten waitresses as they raced around and shouted out orders. It’s a noisy place and as I sat there I decided I could and would do this again. What’s not to love? The food is delicious and entertainment value is right up there with watching Diners, Drive-in and Dives with Guy Fieri on the Food Network. And sitting at the counter instead of a table...well, it made me feel part of a group instead of someone whose other half was missing.

After my morning of proud widow-on-the-move accomplishments I went home to Levi who smelled every square inch of my pants before I gave him his farmer’s market treat. I could almost hear him say, “It’s about time you went back to the place with all the smelly dogs again!” ©

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Is It Going To Take To Make Me Happy Again?

 
“I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

When you wake up in the morning knowing the most exciting thing you have to do that day is unload the dish washer you know you’re in trouble. If not for the dog rattling the library door, I would have pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed until noon. But he has a schedule to keep that includes dog walkers to bark at as they pass by the house so their four-legged companions can leave early morning pee-mail at our box. There is something pathetic about being jealous of your dog’s schedule but, darn it, it must be nice to have a purpose in life like he does. If I start barking at the rabbits as they feed in the back yard in the late afternoon I hope the neighbors will call Social Services because that will mean I’ve gone over the edge and into the land of kooky old people who, like Lewis Carroll did when he wasn’t teaching and writing about mathematics, find our imaginations more fun to live in than the here and now. Just call me Spot, your faithful Springer Spaniel.

When ever I bellyache about not having a sense of purpose since Don died, volunteering gets suggested. I duly note and appreciate the fact that often times the obvious answer to a dilemma is the correct answer. I’m not dismissing that suggestion although it doesn’t excite me. Call me naïve but I want to be on fire with passion over the direction I go next in life the way I used to be in my younger days when a project or idea would consume me. But is that even possible after we’ve pushed the envelopes of pain and happiness that come with living a long life? What is it going to take to make me happy again? Is it finding other people to connect with, finding a cause to fight for or a project to prime my creative juices---a combination of all three? And how is my search for happiness in my age bracket any different than at other crossroads through out our lives? Is fear of failure more or less an issue as we age and are contemplating a major life-style change? As we age do we become so afraid of missteps that we forget that missteps sometimes lead us to our greatest joys?

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”
 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland 

One thing, of course, that will make me happy again is getting my dominant arm out of the sling at the end of the month. When I get the sling off, though, I will probably need some therapy. I can’t get my hand up close enough to my face to eat and my fingers wouldn’t stretch out fully yet. This has been a major setback in my pursuit of happiness in the post-Don era of my life. Breaking a bone at any age can bring a wave of depression into your life but I’m discovering that at my age it can also scare the crap out of you. Accidents happen so quickly and just as quickly they can cause you to end up in a nursing home when you have no one at home to help you. And this is where I need to remind myself about the Rule of Living in the Moment, and not to borrow trouble from the Department of What If This or That Happens. If I was inclined to get a tattoo it should read: DON’T BORROW TROUBLE. IT WILL GET HERE SOON ENOUGH!

Broken bone or not, I suspect that all widows eventually ask themselves the make-me-happy-again question. The pink elephant in the room is the fact that a lot of us would secretly say the one thing that would make us happy again is to rewind our lives back to a time when we could have done something to change the outcome we are now living with---the death of our spouse. But that possibility is in the realm of Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole and try as we might, we can’t turn our lives into a fairytale where anything is possible. We can imagine turn-back-the-clock scenarios, though, and in the end they have the power to help us heal, make peace with the past, and that’s a good thing. I thought I had moved past the worst of my grief…until I broke my arm and then the “poor me” feelings came rushing back, and now the stress of not knowing where the future will take me is nipping at my heels again. Or maybe---just maybe---it’s too early in the timeline of widowhood to expect my mojo back. ©

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


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 dessert 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