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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Treatments and Plans


 “Women my age don’t have babies because we’d put them down
and forget where we left them.”
author unknown 

Breaking a bone in my elbow last spring was probably a blessing in disguise because it caused my orthopedic doctor to set a fire under my internist to start osteoporosis treatment again. A year ago I ended a five year round of Flomax---the maximum length of time you can stay on that drug---but a recent bone density test proved it didn’t do much good. I’ve lost 27% of my bone mass, three and a half inches in height and have had broken three bones since menopause. I’m a hip or back fracture waiting to happen.

It took an entire month for the insurance company to look for a reason to disapprove the new treatment plan but they couldn’t find one. So this week I had to take a class at the hospital to learn the ends and out of injecting my self on a daily basis with Forteo. Let me tell you, I was nervous about doing my first shot. I’ve had allergic reactions to drugs in the past so I was worried this drug would kick start my chronic hives again. The last time I had them they lasted nineteen months without a break but that’s a story for the People Who Scratch Themselves to Death Gazette.  I left the injection class hive free so now I’m looking forward to making a pin cushion out of my stomach. Forteo is supposed to be the best drug on the market for building bone mass and strength and the nurse teaching the class says many people actually feel better in four short months. Wouldn’t that be nice. Give me a year and I’ll be leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. Forteo is just another name for Kryptonite, so says the rumor I’m starting here and now.

I’ve got a long, boring and lonely holiday weekend lined up but after that my September calendar has twenty scheduled social events mixed in with hum-drum appointments starting next week with my first Red Hat Society meeting in ten years. It’s going to feel like going back to school. I’ve unpacked my box of red and purple hats, scarves and other bling. I’ve purchased a new red notebook, pen and shoes. And I’ve got enough red and purple clothing already in my closet that I won’t have trouble pulling some outfits together. All I need to buy is a fancy, garden party dress come next spring. If you remember what it was like to play dress-up when you were a little kid you’ll understand the thrill of wearing the Red Hat Society garb. Ya, you might feel silly when you go out in public the first few times you do it. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it, to be reminded that we can grow older without losing our playful spirit. As their website says, “Red Hatters refuse to passively sit back and allow life to slowly lose its fizz. We prop open the doors to our minds, determined to explore, learn, and find ways to infuse play into our lives.” Wearing the Red Hat ‘garb’ is the only hard and fast rule that all chapters have to follow. It's like putting on your play clothes knowing you're going to the park to play on the swing set and monkey bars. 

To balance out the Red Hat silliness I’ll spend plenty of time working at the new museum in September. I’m a fish out of water with all the retired teachers and city fathers volunteering there but so far they are very accepting of me, the new kid on the block. But donating stuff to their auction isn't going so well. Two of the three pieces I donated to the fundraiser are going in the museum for display instead. Nothing makes you feel old like knowing your prize possessions belong in a museum. I'm just kidding about that. Don would be tickled pink to know these things will be forever preserved in his hometown museum. I was actually hoping for the reaction they received. 

I’ve never had to work so hard at finding a new place for myself in this big, lonely world. Well, that’s not entirely true. I remember back in the late sixties I wrote a letter to Ann Lander’s advice column on this very topic and I actually got a reply. She told me to get out in the world doing things that I enjoy and the rest will follow naturally. “You can’t meet people sitting at home every night.” So I immersed myself in leisure time classes, sports, a service sorority and assorted activities in an effort to meet people. It worked. I met Don and the rest is history. Widowhood has brought me full circle; here I am again forty-four years later doing the same things for the same reasons. Well, not quite the same. I’m not looking for a soul mate this time. I’m just looking for a gaggle of gal pals I can call my own. ©.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lonely Widow and the Exterminator


If you came here today hoping to find something to laugh about, you’re plum out of luck. The dog took my funny bone, buried in the back yard and by now the ground moles have devoured it. I hate ground moles! I have so many ground mole mounds marked with flags for the exterminator my yard looks like an 18 hole golf course. The neighbors probably think the mole exterminator and I are having a hot, torrid affair he’s been here so often this summer. They (the moles not the neighbors) must smell really bad when they die---duh, Jean, they’re decomposing---because the dog follows their tunnel runs until he finds a good sniffing spot and if I’d let him, he’d start digging. He actually got one before I got smart.

I guess I should feel lucky that the biggest problem in my life right now could theoretically be solved by keeping the exterminator on my speed dial. Wow, it just dawned on me that the term “speed dial” will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future, what with smart phones taking over the planet. Ten years from now I’ll be telling a caregiver to “call my niece, she’s on my speed dial” and the caregiver will look at me like “what’s a speed dial you crazy old woman?” This reminds me, if I should die tonight, no one should think they aren’t loved because they aren’t on my speed dial list. My landline phone plan doesn’t include long distance so if I want to call family in another area code I have to use my cell phone. I know, I know, I need to join the 21st century by getting rid of my landline and my old lady Jitterbug cell and invest in one very smart phone that can turn lights on or off, unlock the back door for repairmen and fry bacon on Sunday mornings.  In truth, I’m afraid to get a phone smarter than me. I’m afraid they’ll come a day when I’ll forget how to use it. With “dumb phones” I’ve had decade’s worth of practice embedded in my brain so I’m less likely to forget how they function.

I was feeling sorry for myself last weekend. That happens a lot on Sundays when there is nothing to do, no place to go and the phone doesn’t ring. Not that it rings much the other six days of the week but once in a while I’ll hear a human voice telling me about a sale at Salvation Army or that the FBI reports home burglaries are up and I need an alarm system or that I could fall and having a medical alert pendant could save my life. The worst telemarketing call comes from a credit card company warning me that this is the last call I’ll get from them about lowing my interest rate. I wish! I’d add my name to the national ‘do not call’ register but how will I know if the phone is still working if I do?

Seriously, though, why do we---me to be more precise---have to make life so hard when in fact it’s pretty easy? For example, I don’t live in a country that is war torn or where its citizens can’t trust those in power not to use chemicals of mass destruction against them. I don’t live in a place where food or water is scarce. I don’t live on the edge of poverty and my health is better than many people in my age bracket. I could go on forever listing the things I don’t have to worry about including some that are clearly age related like I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant out of wedlock or getting head lice from sharing a comb with a classmate. We get smarter as we age. We seniors know stuff and not just history book facts and figures. We know important, life-lessons like how to find inner strength and give comfort to those who need it. We know that people die and those left behind must go on. We know that loneliness can be cured if we keep putting ourselves out there in the big, scary world so we can eventually connect with others in the same boat. And we know how to laugh when the mole exterminator finally arrives and the sprinkler system turns on while he happens to be standing directly over one of its heads. Oops!

“Do you have a set of dry clothes with you?” I asked while twisting the end of an imaginary villain’s mustache. “You could come inside this widow’s house and change if you like.”  

“No, no ma’am. I’m fine,” he replied while backing away. “Occupational hazard. It happens all the time.” ©

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Project


In recent weeks I’ve become obsessed with my skin. My face is full of lines and wrinkles and suffers from years of neglect. So what’s the problem, you’re thinking, two out of three of those things are age appropriate, aren’t it? Well, yes, they are however my mom had skin like a porcelain doll when she was my age and I’m bemoaning the fact that mine isn’t. Apparently flawless and fair English skin skips haphazardly through the generations. My famous Colonial era ancestor---whose portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.---plus several great-aunts, my mother and one of my nieces are all skin twins. Why not me? I share the same gene pool. It isn’t fair.

One day I was in the facial products isle of the store when I spotted what is essentially a power sander for your face and after seeing a second brand of the same type of tool I decided it must be the latest and greatest gadget designed to take dollars away from wrinkly old people like me. What the heck, I thought, it’s never too late to start caring about your skin. So I bought a face sander. The second time I used it I got too much water on the disposal pad and some of the micro-derma abrasion in the pad dripped into my eye. Let me tell you, it hurt almost as much as the time I Crazy-Glued my eye shut. But I was undeterred. The next time I used the mini power tool on my forehead I got smart and held a washcloth along my eyebrows to catch any drips.

I am in week two of my of skincare project and I can see a difference but not enough difference to make some old dude at the senior hall want to eye-hump me from across a room. That’s a joke. Old dudes can’t see that far for one thing, and for another I just heard that term for the first time a few days ago and I’ve been wanting to use ‘eye-humping’ in a sentence every since. It makes me laugh---maybe because ‘hump’ was my late husband’s favorite euphemism for sex. Besides, at the senior center there are ten plus women for every guy so if I actually did want to get eye-humped I’d have to stand in line. There are some beautiful, slim trim and well-put-together women in my peer group. Although I must say some of their conversations are lacking. For example the last time I was there some of the women at my table were talking about jewelry brands until my eyes crossed and I wanted to scream, “Who really gives a flying fig!” Apparently the answer to that question is at least four out of  the 109 women who were in the hall that day.

The box my power sander came in---it’s actually called a micodermabrasion system---makes many claims about reducing pores and age spots leading to smoother, firmer skin with less wrinkles and a luminous glow. All that for twenty-one bucks. What’s not to love about that prospect coming true in six to eight weeks? But with my luck and enthusiasm for the product I’ll probably end up sanding all my facial features off and no one will recognize me without my nose and high cheek bones. I’ll keep you posted.

Fall is approaching. I hate that. Do I want to see my first gaggle of geese heading south? No! Do I want to see frost on the pumpkins or radiant colors in the trees or any of the other sights that inspire poets to form pretty sentences on paper? Hell, No! I want time to stand still, to stop its march across my life. I want. I want. I want. Do people ever quit wanting what we can’t have? I suppose, though, if we were predisposed to never want change mankind never would have invented hand tools or the wheel and I’d be in a cave right now drawing on the walls while waiting for the mud mask on my face to dry. What? Even cave women must have wanted to look good. Why else do you think they invented the comb and leather thongs? ©

“You don't stop laughing when you grow old,
you grow old when you stop laughing.”
George Bernard Shaw

Painting above:  Old Woman at the Mirror by Bernado Strozzi

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Times Change and Husbands Die

 

Yesterday morning I watched my new 15 foot white pine tree get planted back in the area where earlier this summer I had to have three trees removed.  It wasn’t an easy planting because of all the tree roots underground that had to be cut out with an axes and the wooded space the Bob Cat had to work in was like a Chinese puzzle for the driver to solve. My new green friend is beautiful, though. It gives me back my sense of privacy and the tree was well worth the $600 I had to pay.

After the tree crew left I decided I need a new garden sculpture to use in front of a white decorative fence near-by and where some of my husband’s ashes reside. The two metal chickens I’ve been using by the fence are looking tacky so off I went on a mission to check out a country garden center, hoping to find a good sale. No such luck but I did manage to take a wrong turn coming home and ended up on a designated Nature Beauty road that wound around and up and down and finally brought me to a bridge where I could connect with a road I knew would take me home. I’d been lost in that ‘Bermuda Triangle’ before so I wasn’t too worried but it’s at times like that when I start missing my husband all over again. He was my GPS. He grew up in this end of town and knew all its secrets.

If I had a smart phone I could get an app to replace my husband’s knowledge of back roads and highways but sometimes it's a good thing to get lost. Life can get too hum-drum and predictable when we just go through the motions of living. We drift from place to place, from season to season without taking in the scenery that passes by. Then we get lost and we’re forced to take note of things like the ladder-like pattern of shadows on the road ahead cast by WPA trees planted in the 1930s, the sun-dabbled creek off in the distance, the sound of gravel crunching under car tires and an early sign of fall when you see a truck loaded apple crates leaving an orchard. Times change and husbands die and maybe using a GPS would be a constant reminder of those irrefutable facts? Maybe it’s better to get lost once in a while on a beautiful afternoon.

A couple of young guys came this week to clean my carpeting. I’m running behind. This is something I usually have done in the spring but back then I was a tad busy with my flooded basement followed closely on its heels by my broken arm. Life rolling along; there’s always something we can use for excuses for why we don’t do what should be done. The house looks and smells great again and the two cleaning techs had a real appreciation for art so it was fun seeing my house through their eyes. One of them was a college student, an aspiring artist, who stood in front a cowboy print for the longest time as fascinated by its detail as my husband and I were the day we bought the scratchboard.

It must be nice to be a college professor or someone in a career that brings them in contact with young people like these two guys. I fed off their enthusiasm and joy of seeing stuff they’d never seen before and I felt like they enjoyed hearing what I had to say. How cool is that! Old people are okay for me to hang around with---I am one, what else am I going to say? But septuagenarians don’t get excited over much anymore. Times change and husbands die and maybe I do really need to become a cougar after all? That is a JOKE, people. Don’t call the paddy wagon to haul me off to get my values tuned up at the local mental health hospital. What I’m trying to say is it’s been a long time since I’ve been around people who love to learn for learning’s sake. I was like that in my not too distant past and it was one of the things that bonded my husband and me. When kids come along like my carpet cleaners, I see myself and that makes me long to be young again.

On a different note May Sarton wrote something in a book I'm reading that speaks to me: “A life extended in a thousand directions risks dispersion and madness. A kite can fly only when it is held taut by a string in a hand and then catches the wind. Today I am a kite entangled in a tree and there is no one to free me for flight.”

Don held my string.
He helped me fly.
But times change
and husbands die.
I untangle myself
from tree after tree
but whether or not
I find wind again
remains to be seen. ©


* The frog up above is a garden statue I'm lusting after. The only reason I don't get it is because the place I need a statue is a little memorial corner of the yard and my husband wasn't into frogs, yoga or Zen.  Neither am I either but I love the silly expression on that frog's face.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Old Women and The Butler

  

The movie and lunch club I belong to through the senior hall picked the movie I was hoping we’d see this month---The Butler with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey in the leading roles of a large ensemble cast with many celebrity cameos. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I feel safe speaking for the whole group when I say we were all emotionally affected by the film and we all loved it. At lunch the movie and our own personal experiences observing racism dominated the conversation. With other movies we’ve seen we'd usually make a few comments about the film and then go on to other topics. Not this time.

For those who haven’t read the reviews or seen the promo trailer of The Butler, the storyline is based on the real-life accounts of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who serviced through eight presidential administrations. From 1952 through 1986 he had a unique view of notable events in the Civil Rights Movement---the Freedom Riders, sit-ins and voter registrations drives in the South and the tear gassings, attack dogs and fire bombings designed to try to stop them. But as the New York Times movie reviewer so aptly put it, “The genius of ‘The Butler’ lies in the sly and self-assured way it connects public affairs to private experience. Early on, Cecil Gaines, the character loosely based on Mr. Allen, is taught that he, like every other African-American who wants to survive in a white-dominated world, must have two faces.”

I am white. I think you all know that from the photo in the right hand column. But what you don’t know is I am a white woman who was raised in a white neighborhood, went to an all white grade school, high school and college. In all my years in the work place I never had an African American co-worker. I do, however, have vivid memories of watching the news with my father that came out of places like Birmingham, Alabama, of the non-violent Civil Rights sit-ins that were met by high pressured fire hoses and attack dogs. It affected my dad to his core and we had a lot of talks about race after that. He was raised in southern Illinois and had witnessed the “handiwork” of the Ku Klux Klan---hangings and cross burnings---and his father had experienced racism as an Italian immigrant working in the coal mines where Italians were paid less than the whites but more than the blacks all doing the same job. Dad had even been to a funeral where he was shocked to see their neighbor reposed in his coffin all dressed up in a white sheet and hood. Dad said it was the only time a Klansman would reveal his identity to the public. One sign-of-the-times he grew up in always stuck in my mind. He said even as a boy of 8-10 years old he could never understand why grown black men always stepped off the sidewalk to let him pass by.

Fast forward to a time when Dad was dying of cancer and Tiger Woods had broken the color barrier in professional golf to go on to win the 1999 PGA Championship. Dad was so proud that he had lived long enough to see America’s race relationships change that much. I wish he could have lived long enough to see Obama get elected. Eugene Allen, the butler, did and he was invited to be an honorary guest at the Obama’s presidential inauguration.

We often think the times we grew up and live in are nothing special or noteworthy. We think what happens in the news is just part of the daily stress or white noise of living in a complex society. History before we were born always seems more important, more interesting and more dramatic, then a movie comes along showing news clip after news clip that proves otherwise. I lived through the booming post WWII 40s, the idyllic (if you’re white) 50s, the turbulent 60s and 70s and so on. I didn’t have a part in helping to change the world regarding race relationships in this country. It was only through my association with my dad and his hope-for-the-world-to-change that I had the table set for me to look beyond race when people like Barbara Jordan, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama and countless others living ordinary lives came along. Thanks, Dad, for that. America is growing up---still has a long way to go but we’ll get there eventually. That’s what The Butler gives to those who see the movie…a gut wrenching emotional experience at first, then pride that meaningful changes can be documented over just one man’s lifetime. At least that was the consensus at my all white movie and lunch club. Black movie goers might not agree. They might wonder why it took so long. One thing I do know for sure is the movie isn’t just about black history---quote, unquote---it’s about everyone’s collective history.  ©

Movie Trailer



Friday, August 16, 2013

The Widow's Story


I started physical therapy on my hand and wrist this week for the residual pain and stiffness left over from the fall I took in May when I broke my arm. My therapist is a young guy who reminds me of a peppy puppy---cute, friendly, full of energy and playful. The receptionist at the place nicknamed him ‘Fabio’ after the romance cover model and I can see why. Tom has long hair and he does the same kind of ‘head toss’ Fabio does that’s designed to make his hair fall free when it catches on his shoulders. It’s a very model-like character tic that makes Tom look endearing while Fabio just looks vain when he does it. Fabio doesn’t pair it with a killer smile. Did I mention I actually met Fabio? He was at a Romance Writers of America convention that I attended back in the days when I devoured historicals like popcorn at the movies.

At one point I was on my back while Tom was kneading the muscles in my arm when he asked, “So what’s your story?” My first thought was the question sounds like a corny pickup line you’d use at a bar but, thankfully, the filter in my brains kept me from blurting that out. Instead, I launched into a monologue that covered the last 50 years of my life. Jeez, where did that come from? I usually don't talk that much. Then I asked him what his story was and as he talked I decided it might be a corny line to use on a stranger you’re trying to get to know but it cuts to the chase in a big hurry. Score one for the new puppy in my life; he taught this old dog a new trick that I will use the next time I’m stuck for an ice breaker. It works!

Also this week I attended my 3rd meeting of the historical society. We’re in the process of organizing a fund raiser auction to support the new museum opening up this fall. The excitement and energy in the room was palatable and it’s starting to get interesting. Some of these people are real go-getters and seem to know how to wrangle all the components together it takes to pull off an event like this. I signed up for another committee, the ‘where ever’ committee, to work the day of the auction where ever they need extra help. I’ve been on the bidding side of auctions hundreds of times in my life so this should be fun working at one. Little by little I’m learning everyone’s names and, no, I didn’t ask anyone “what’s your story?” but after the museum opens and I’m being trained to be a docent or a researcher, I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to do so.

My future in the social networking department seems to be coming into sharper focus. The Red Hat Society will add three events to my monthly calendar---one gad-about town field trip, one afternoon tea and one planning/work meeting plus they go on two long weekend trips a year. The senior hall takes up two to five afternoons a month depending on the combination of luncheons, lectures, day trips and classes I want to attend. And the historical society will add one evening lecture to my monthly schedule, two work-at-the museum afternoons and whatever short term committees I want to wade into. I need a new day planner! My old one is too small to keep track of all this stuff.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night thinking about all of this. Am I really ready to take on so much interaction with the outside world after so many years of it just being Don, me and the dog? When Don was alive I was happy being a somewhat spoiled woman/wife. I could read, write and study to my heart's content and I prided myself on being a great caregiver to my disabled husband. I had a purpose and a self worth that I never questioned. That all changed, of course, and now I’m starting all over again to find myself. When I was young and looking for the real Jean it seemed easier, fun. I had a life time ahead of me to search. Now, the pressure of being in my 70s overwhelms me at times. Don’s death made me face own mortality in a way I’d never done before and the fact is I have to say goodbye to dreams that are no long attainable. Deep down, I’m a realist so I will do what I have to do to forge this new chapter in my life. It’s just hard when you no longer feel relevant and all your goals have to be short term. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus and I’m too damned old to be aerospace engineer for NASA or what ever other crazy notion pops into my head.

A recent widow who was on the bus trip I took said her dying husband had told her to enjoy the rest of her life, to go out and have fun. “That’s just what I’m going to do!” she declared with a confident and upbeat voice. She’s on a mission. She has a mandate. I envy her. I’ve come to view my future as pigging out on pleasant time wasters, marking time before I die. And that’s an unhealthy attitude I have to lose. People like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who both started foundations that keep them working around the world----it’s easier for me, now, to understand why they do it. We like to think of retirement as earned leisure and it is, but to still feel relevant as we age is a whole different can of worms. Relevance isn’t a gift you've earned by doing well when you were younger, it comes to you from a different place…through the people who love you and/or the contributions you continue to make to society. Thank goodness the dog still thinks I’m relevant to his life and right now he’s asking, “What’s your story widow lady? Are you going to feed me today or what?” Oops! ©

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mini Trip: Part Two

 

Serendipity is a great word. It means ‘happy accident’ or an accidental finding of something good that you weren’t really looking for when it came across your path. That’s want happened to me on the trip I took that was organized by my local senior citizen hall. Here’s the details: After the fish boil and before the sand dunes ride I was shopping in a gift shop attached to the herb garden labyrinth (pictured above) when a woman walked up to me and asked if I remembered her from the Red Hat Society chapter I belonged to a decade ago. Sure I did! In fact, couple of months ago I even tried to find out if the group was taking new members but the national website said that particular chapter had a full roster and was closed. Then the woman called over three other Red Hatters and come to find out, they do have an opening in their chapter. I was ecstatic when they asked for my contact information. It was a fun loving group and I was sad when I had to drop out due to my husband’s failing health.

One of these women had gone all the way through grade and high school with my husband and she got to telling the others about Don’s funeral, and how “it was the best funeral she’d ever been to in her entire life.” That made me beam with pride. I love being around people who knew Don before his stroke because having known him explains a lot about me and how I spent most of my adult life. Anyway, what are the odds of a car load of women from my past and me crossing paths so far away from home and right on the heels of when I was trying to reconnect with them---a million to one? The fact that it happened is serendipity.

Since the main reason I signed up for this trip and other activities at the senior hall is in a quest to find friendships, I was ready to call this trip a success after this chance meeting but serendipity wasn’t going to let me go of me that quickly. When our two buses pulled into the rest stop for a coffee and donut break a woman from the other bus and I struck up a conversation and in ten minutes we learned that we both love art, both quilt and craft, both have no children, grandchildren or husbands, and that we are both looking for someone to pal around with. We exchanged contact information and made plans to be seatmates on the next senior hall trip in September.

On the bus ride home I was thinking about how hard it is for some of us widows to form new friendships in our newly acquired single-hood world. My best friend and confidant was my husband. For 42 years I really didn’t need anyone else to fill that role and it’s been lonely without a sounding board in my life. Sure, I have my blog for sharing my thoughts but it’s too often a one way conversation and blogs can’t hug you hello and goodbye. Blah, blah, blah you’ve heard it all before.

When I’m in the mood to be fair to the universe I have to knowledge the fact that when Don first passed away other people did make overtures of friendship---the phone numbers written in condolence cards, the whispers of “call me if you want to talk” and the invitations to lunch or movies I passed up, etc., etc. Back then I was still living in that mollusk-like shell we widows draw over ourselves when mourning our losses takes over our lives and we play act otherwise. Yes, some of us play act. We walk around like we’re okay. We even carry on superficial conversations all the while wishing they would end so we could get back to our ‘poor me’ thoughts. By the time we get our heads unscrambled and we can drop the play acting, the overtures of friendship had flown off on the wings of time. It’s the way of the world. But it’s also the way of the world that serendipity brings them back again like a summer breezes brings delightful spicy aromas when we’re standing in the middle of a gorgeous herb garden labyrinth. ©

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Mini Trip


Go to the bank. That was the first errand on my To-Do list to get ready for my mini trip to the shores of Lake Michigan with two bus loads of senior citizens. When I go to the bank, I usually pick a branch that doesn’t have a good escape route for would-be robbers---and with good reason. A few years ago a pair of bank robbers was hitting banks in the area and they were all located next to highway entrance ramps. After seven or eight successful banks jobs and a high speed chase involving state, county and local police, the robbers were both killed in a nasty shoot-out. But I still pick-and-choose my bank branches carefully. God forbid I should be inside one when a robbery is in progress because I’m too old and out of shape to get down on the floor and do a spread eagle in a timely manner. I’d be the first one to get shot for not cooperating. Seriously, do you think the elderly old lady card would work on guys hell-bent on stealing the rings off your fingers and the cash that’s neatly piled up inside a bank’s vault? I vote 'no.'

Second on my list was packing the dog’s stuff up for his adventure at the boarding kennel. I’ll bet the one I use requires more paper work than the average daycare does for kids---five pages worth of temperament and schedule questions along with contact information and copies of Levi’s medical and vaccination records, etc., etc. On the dog’s packing list: Don’t forget to take his security blanket, food, his bed, bedtime treats, the paper work and his favorite toy. Don’t forget to brush him before he goes and walk him before loading him in the car. Am I forgetting anything?

Third on my To-Do list: Decide what to take with me. What’s the weather going to be like? Do I really have to take an umbrella to a fish boil on the beach? Do I really need four layers of clothing for the sand dune ride? What am I, a dang boy scout? I don’t need to be prepared for chilling rain, a blazing hot sun, hurricane force winds, mosquitoes and building a campfire should I get lost along the way. Do I?  The wine tasting part of the trip is easy. Just show up thirsty and bring plenty of Wipes for all those cherry stains we’ll acquire after stopping at the cherry market next door to the winery. It’s all about cherries in that part of Michigan---cherry jam, tarts, wine, salsa, pies, dried, fresh and my personal favorite, chocolate covered cherries.

I liked traveling with my husband much better than with a bunch of women in my peer group but as a widow, I take what comes along. Don and I had a motor home and I could pack for any scenario without worrying about limited space. One thing I never left behind was my copy of Travels with Charley: in Search of America by John Steinbeck. It’s a travelogue of sorts that he wrote in 1960 and Charley was his French poodle. Re-reading the book was always a vacation ritual. For years I wanted to be John Steinbeck but the closest I ever came was John and I both loved to travel the back roads with our poodles along for the ride. On the senior citizen bus trips, now, its rest stop and coffee break at 10:00 and be back to the bus by 10:30 or it leaves without you. No time to find colorful characters and places off the beaten tourist track. Don and I once took six days to travel to the same place as our friends did in 13 hours of straight-through driving. "What the heck took you guys so long?” they wanted to know.

I could have told them that exit and entrance ramps on expressways might be good for bank robbers but if you’re trying to be John Steinbeck, then you have to boycott them in your travels. Instead I smiled and told him about the mama poppa restaurant we found that served cinnamon buns the size of Texas and Don told them about a lady we met who took a shine to us and shared her secret for living on the streets. “Never, buy food,” she told us. “Once you start you can’t stop!” Now you’ve got to admit, you can’t learn things like that walking your dog at an expressway rest stop.  ©

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cougars and Widows

 


Walking on the nature trail it’s not usual to share the place with literally dozens of bikers and joggers. Local clubs use it for meet-ups and training and one bike club alone travels in packs of 30-40 cyclists. These clubs seem to be dominated by men in the prime of their lives, nice eye candy. Yesterday I was on the trail with my niece-in-law and Levi, my dog, when she asked, “Are you sure you don’t want another man in your life?”  No, I assured her, dating and romance are behind me. “Too bad,” she said, “Levi is a man magnet!” After thinking about it for a few seconds, I realized it’s true. I can’t take him any where that I don’t get comments like, “Nice looking dog,”  “beautiful schnauzer,” and “I like your dog.” One slow poke elderly gentleman we meet often on the trail even brings Bonz treats along to give to Levi. Jeez, do you think he’s trying to woo me?

It’s a good thing I look my age. I carry around my share of extra pounds---someone has to do it---and I have enough wrinkles that I’m amazed, at times, that I can still recognize myself in the mirror. Have you ever been startled when you see yourself in a mirror unexpectedly? I have. Who is that old person? I suspect most of us have an image stuck in our brains of what we look like and I doubt many of those images match our true ages. Soul mates can do that, too---look at each other and only see one another looking as fresh-faced, fit and bright-eyed as the day they fell in love. My self image shaves at least three decades off my age and when I look at members of the oppose sex---you guessed it---I am attracted to guys 35 to 40 years old. The guys in my peer group are too elderly to have any sex appeal what so ever. I’ve always thought it was kind of pathetic to watch an old woman pawing all over a guy half her age so as I age I’ve started working on seeing myself as I really am and not what I wish I still was. God forbid I should start man shopping some day and find myself browsing on the top floor when I should be shopping in the bargain basement.

Today I had an appointment with a young doctor who made me think of old lady cougars. Lord help me, he could have made me cross over that forbidden line and, trust me, there are no aspiring cougars living in my brain. He was quite full of himself, a bit of a looker with a jock’s body and we had the same quirky sense of humor. It was one of those chance encounters that leaves you feeling good, the kind where you know exactly where the other person’s sentences are going and you can finish them for each other. We were laughing so hard it’s a wonder no one came in the exam room to see what was so darn funny. I was getting tested for carpal tunnel syndrome---turns out I have it in both hands---plus the fall I took in May when I broke my arm aggravated it enough in my dominant hand to give me “trigger finger.” Two or three appointments with a physical therapist to teach me some exercises will, hopefully, buy me a year or two before the carpal tunnel has to be addressed. Until then, I have no reason to return to Dr. Hot Stuff, thanks goodness! Another appointment with him too soon might have me offering to buy him a drink after he gets off work. And I don’t have enough money in the bank to become a cougar to a doctor! Isn't that what's in it for the boy toys?---the older woman pays for elaborate vacations, a sports car and Bentley Limited Edition Platinum sunshades to match that bikini she buys him for their first trip together?

When I was a teenager I was quite boy-crazy so it doesn’t surprise me that in my widowhood I’ve started checking out the men I across paths with. (And I didn’t take all those nude figure drawing classes just to forget how to appreciate the human form. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But in all seriousness if I was a young widow this would the time in the process of adjusting to single living that I’d be fantasizing about getting laid. I’ve read it often enough in young widow’s blogs to know this is a normal frustration/vow/perplexing revelation for them. So if you’re a young widow thinking along these lines, I have a man magnet of a dog I could rent out. He’s guaranteed to start more than a few conversations with members of the opposite sex and who knows where that can lead. ©

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Quest For Friendship Continues

Saturday I woke to a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The sun was streaming through the venetian blinds, the birds were chipping and the dog had spotted a rabbit outside the window which made him enormously happy. When he’s happy, no one sleeps in. It only took me one cup a coffee to decide it was time to go back to the Breakfast Only Café and after a quick shower I was out the door. I love that noisy, busy place.

I took a seat at the counter with all the other diners eating alone and soon a conversation started between three others about a book one of the women was reading. Unfortunately, I’d never read the author so I couldn’t add to the discussion but I made an important notation in my manual on How To Make Friends After Seventy: bring props along as conversation starters. Exhibit B: Another man at the counter had a fancy-ass Apple smart phone that he laid down with his car keys and that drew a question from another guy two stools down. I thought about whipping out my “granny phone” to give them a good laugh since I was sitting in between them but I suddenly got hungry for an apple pancakes and I was trying to find it on the menu before the waitress came back. These two guys were obsessed with their Apples apps!

The monthly senior hall luncheon was last week and I sat next to a woman who had also broken her arm within days of me breaking mine. So naturally we compared progress reports and I learned she’s ready to throw in the towel, doesn’t see the point of living much longer if all she’s got to look forward to is more of the same. I don’t think she was serious. God, I hope not but as I sat there surrounded by a sea elderly ladies it occurred to me there should be way to grade and tag all of us so the Debbie Downers could all sit at one table and the Cathy Crazies---who like to moon strangers on our bus trips---could all sit at another table at the opposite end of the room. All the “normal” ladies could sit in the middle of these two groups. Why? I’m a little afraid it would be Westside Story all over again if the two groups ever got fed up with listening to the one other. Grab your butter knives, ladies! There’s going to be a rumble! There must be a pharmaceutical solution to this potential problem. Perhaps the program director needs to start spiking the applesauce like I’m told they do in nursing homes?

As part of my quest to find friends I went to my second meeting of the museum committee to help raise funds for their new building and as promised, this meeting was better attended than the first. It was clear, however, that most of these people had known each other since high school a half century ago, so I was questioning my judgment in joining the historical society. But after the meeting was over 3-4 ladies introduced themselves to me and welcomed me to the group. Two even thanked me for wanting to get involved, so I’m still hopeful it could lead to some friendships. I volunteered for an auction committee called the “basket ladies” and the museum director told me that committee has the most fun of all the committees. It involves shrink wrapping smaller donated items into groupings that makes them worth the time to auction them off.

They say to have a friend you need to be a friend. I thought of that when I was talking to my broken arm twin. She’s got a good friend from her working days who comes with her to all the luncheons and the bus trips and who’s been driving her around since May because her wrist is still too messed up to get behind the wheel. Now, that is a good friend. Plus she has kids and grand-kids in the area so, unlike me, she’s got back up for emergencies. Translation: I lust after what she’s got. Did I mention that she’s chatty which is one of the reasons why I like her; she reminds me of Don before his stroke---she talks, I listen. But when she asks bold questions like, “Don’t you wish you could just throw in the towel and end it all right now?” I, in a not so tactful and shocked way, reply, “No way! I still have goals to achieve one of which is to get up every morning and see if it’s still a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” ©