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, January 25, 2014

The Never Ending Widows Work



One would think I’m obsessed with closet purging judging by the number of times it’s been written about it this blog. So why am here this morning writing yet another entry about closet purging? I don’t know. Maybe I have no other life going on here in the frozen tundra we call Michigan, says the woman living inside a snow globe being shaken by an over zealous entity. Actually this is just an update on my latest closet purging project and I decided it’s noteworthy in a widow’s blog because it involved a whole lot more ‘widows work’ than I expected.

Buried in deepest, darkest end of the closet I found a stash of Don’s dress clothing. I thought I had purged all of his clothing but 4-5 wool shirts from the master bedroom closet shortly after he died so image my surprise at finding 7 suits, 9 dress shirts, 18 ties, a dozen pair of blue jeans, 2 belts, 2 pair of suspenders and 7 pair of dress pants. They’d been there, untouched, since the day we moved in. Because of Don’s stroke damaged body---clinched fist, right side total paralysis---he couldn’t put a dress suit on without altering them with a lot of Velcro, so over time we morphed his dress-up look to something more causal and wheelchair friendly. I probably knew he’d never wear that stash of clothing again when it was moved from the old house to here, but I doubt I was ready to accept that fact so close on the heels of his stroke.

Slowly, I took all that clothing off their hangers and tried to remember where Don had worn what to. He looked so handsome in his forest green shirt that it was hard to part with it but it got folded carefully and with love, then I put in a box for donation. Most of the suits were hopeless out of style but someone into almost-vintage will enjoy them. It was emotional, mind work going through this stuff---the quintessential definition of 'widows work'. And it chocked me up, kept tension in the pit of my stomach the whole afternoon. But I didn’t cry. Pat me on the back, would you? There, there widow lady. You did a good job keeping your tears in check. Here's another gold star for your Widowhood Membership Card.

His ties were the hardest to pack up. I’ve always wanted to make a crazy-quilt with tie fabrics and here was my chance, my building blocks to that quilt. After a lot of hand wringing, I decided in the world of realistic expectations I’m too old to add yet another big craft project to my Bucket List and I wasn’t sure spending that much time handling fabric that Don had worn would be good for a recovering widow to do. Instead, I kept one tie---his all-time favorite Mickey Mouse tie. Mickey is hidden in one of the paisley swirls of the design and he's easy to over-look. Don got such a kick out of it when he’d be at a wedding or out to dinner and someone would finally spot the Mickey. How do you part with a memory reminder like that?

Another thing I kept was the most expensive dress shirt Don ever owned---not that he ever owned cheap dress clothing, he didn’t. He was a bit of a label worshiper/snob about some things, like his clean-up-and-go-to-town duds. I’m going to use the designer label shirt as an artist's painting shirt. Come spring I intent to rent some studio time at a new gallery near-by to see if I can get my mojo back in front of an easel. It will be like Don’s there encouraging me. He loved the artist in me and he would appreciate the humor in treating a fancy shirt in such a frivolous way. I also kept his red suspenders, thinking I could work them into one of my Red Hat Society outfits.

And how did I do purging my own clothing? Not quite as good as I would have liked but not bad either. I managed to fill two bags for donation and I packed up 10-15 items that are too small but I’m not ready to let go of yet. I’ve got more room in the closet, now, and everything in it fits me. But the down side is after taking stock I realize I don’t need anything new except for a black blazer, a pair of black dress pants and a summer dress for a wedding coming up in July. Not that the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ has stood in the way of me buying clothing in the past. You don’t end up with 210+ things hanging in a closet because you need all that stuff. I do wish, though, that I had been as much of a label worshiper as Don was. 90% of my clothing is cheap, caregiver friendly stuff and I am pledging to myself to buy less but buy better quality in the future.

Aside from closet mining this week I’ve been dealing with out relentless winter! There are three-to-four foot tall snow drifts outside on this sunny but windy day. I can’t get to the bird feeders. And I can’t open my back door to let the dog out or to shovel his area. Every time he has to go, I have to get my winter clothes on so I can open the overhead garage door and stand there with Levi on a leash as he does his duty in the driveway. Because it gets plowed every night, Levi can actually walk out there without getting lost in the snow. I’m so sick of snow and below zero wind chills! I don’t know how pioneer prairie women survived the winters without out going stir-crazy living in a one room sod house without internet and cell phone service not to mention indoor plumbing, central heat, electricity and pedicure parlors near-by. I am so spoiled...yet I find room to complain. ©


16 comments:

  1. Jean :

    you are such a organized person, no wonder you were great caregiver. My sister is similar to you in closet cleaning & other similar projects. I am so not into it, though I will do it for our son. I find closet cleaning most boring & never ending project of all. I had major meltdown when hubby got rid of most of my clothes which I could not wear right after my stroke. & to punish him I did not help him at all in that closet cleaning project

    I love that tie of Don.

    Asha

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    1. I can sure imagine how traumatic it was for you after your stroke to have your closet purged without your approval. Survivors want to believe they will progress back to "normal" again and we both know that isn't always the case. It was so much more than a closet cleaning in your case. I can well remember all the meltdowns at the "other site" over high heels that could no longer be be worn with AFO braces and other clothing issues. Accepting a disability (and the passing of a spouse) is very complicated, isn't it.

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  2. I wondered where that blog went! Many of my blogs are on the same train of thought. Diet and exercise and good health. I'm not doing very well at night while watching TV. I know I'd do better if I put myself on a regular schedule. Maybe that will be my goal for February! I have managed to eat breakfast every day. That was a BIG change for me!!

    I love your closet project. Keep purging and posting!

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    1. I may return that post in a couple of days. At the time I pulled it, it some how felt like an invasion of my own privacy which is laughable considering how much I post about my life and thought processes. I'[m just not used to posting pictures of my real-time life. LOL

      I seem to remember being on the same train of thought about food, diets and exercise when I was where you are now in the widowhood process. It's something to focus on. One step at a time, and you'll get there.

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  3. Jean :

    my hubby would not dare clean our closet without my approval, even though after saying yes to I was so traumatize over whole purging of old clothes felt was unbelievable to me, though I am sure today I can dump my old clothes without any attachment to it but back then I guess I was still not ready

    Asha

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    1. Acceptance has its own time table for each of us, doesn't it. I think that's why I ended up with Don's dress clothes in the back of the closet for so many years. To get rid of them only a year after his stroke was like admitting that whatever he had back at that point in time was all he'd ever get back.

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  4. Here's your pat on the back ; -) Your day sounds so exhausting! Well, you've done a magnificent job reclaiming space. I consider two new feet of floor space an amazing victory in my closets. Then wouldn't you know it, space abhors a vacuum.

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    1. The vacuuming comes today in my closet. I can't believe how many days this project is taking me and I skipped the wall washing step in closet cleaning manual. Then it will take another afternoon to drop the stuff off to Goodwill.

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  5. I liked the closet purging post and wondered why it had disappeared. Bring it back! I'm weird that way though.....while I love the posts that help me deal with the emotional fall-out of widowhood, I also love the very practical posts as well. Great job!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Carolyn. Okay, by popular demand I will bring it back. LOL If this snow keeps up you guys might see a whole lot more, practical closet purging posts. Next, I'm cleaning out the coat closet. There must be twenty-five coats hanging in there for one person still living in the house!

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  6. You must be exhausted physically and emotionally. What a Herculean job. I think it was a wise decision to keep the tie and shirt, and it would be neat if you could work the suspenders into an outfit.

    I have no idea how the pioneer women survived without Internet. I'd never make it. I guess they knitted a lot.

    I liked your previous closet post, but I get it. I've posted things before and had second thoughts later, for whatever reason. Sometimes because I thought it was silly and sometimes because I thought it was too much information.

    Hang in there. Spring has to put in an appearance sooner or later, or so I'm told. Poor Levi.

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    1. I am exhausted, Bella. But I finally got the project completely done. Now, I hope to get the stuff to Goodwill before I'm tempted to dig around in the bags again.

      Funny you should mention pioneer women surviving by knitting a lot. I have been doing that every night and have two scarf and hat sets and two baby car seat blankets to show for it.

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  7. Yes--it is shocking to find things way in the back of the closet, that we thought were gone. I still have one of Fred's old baseball caps and his sneakers. Why I can't get rid of those sneakers is beyond me, but I just can't. Pat on the back for sure!!! Ah--I hate to say it, but the Polar Vortex is coming back to hit us again this week. Going way down south too--so we all will be complaining on our various blogs.

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    1. We have so many things in common, Judy, that it's almost spooky. LOL I kept one of Don's baseball caps, too, and his cowboy boots. I know I'll never get rid of either of them although I finally put the boots in the closet. They had been sitting in our western themed living room since we moved in. Our high temperature tomorrow is supposed to be 3 degrees and the snow is still coming down. I'm actually starting to worry about running out of groceries before we get a break in the weather.

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  8. Jean, I'm glad you kept the mickey tie; it's priceless, and such a great reminder of Don's humor. Maybe you can work the tie into a red-hat society outfit, too. I love the idea of you wearing his fancy designer label dress shirt as a painting smock -- great inspiration! -Jean

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    1. Funny you should say that about using the tie in a Red Hat Society outfit. I had it tied around my waist at one point, trying to decide if I could turn it into a belt. Don did have a great sense of humor.

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