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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ageism, the Widow and Robin Williams



 
This week I got the second annual ‘shine and buff’ on my car as part of the “free” package the dealership gives you when you buy a new car. I say “free” but you gotta know the cost of that five year program is built into the initial cost of the vehicle. I tried to get them to take if off the car price, but they wouldn’t do it. So I dutifully got my annual shine and buff, otherwise I’d feel like I was throwing money away. The Malibu looked great when they got done…everywhere but on one wheel. I called it a hub cap but evidently cars don’t have hub caps anymore. It’s a whole tire mount and costs a royal fortune to replace. It was gouged deeply the entire way around the hub cap that isn’t a hub cap. On the way home I remembered hearing a terrible grinding metal sound when I went to a car wash recently, but as I was inspecting the car at the detail shop, I thought they had done the gouging. I was upset. They were upset. My word against theirs and I was out numbered. And in hindsight I was apparently on the worry side of the truth.

When I left the detail shop I drove straight to the dealership where they have a body shop. No matter how the wheel mount got damaged, there was no point in putting off getting a new hub cap that isn’t a hub cap. (Out of sight, out of mind.) And that’s where I discovered I can be prejudice against elderly people working in service departments. The guy was my age---maybe older---and working alone, trying to do ten things at one time, writing himself notes, having trouble file papers, typed with two fingers and to top it off, he sounded like Mr. Magoo. He was so slow and foggy acting I was afraid I'd have to do CPR at some point. I was there an entire hour but eventually he got a price on a new wheel mount---$495 new plus labor or $250 installed for a reconditioned model. I went for door number two and vowed not to go back to the same car wash where I think the damage occurred. You have to make a shape turn before getting your tires lined up in the track that takes you through the car wash and that’s not easy to do. The day I heard the grinding sounds my back tire was on top of the track before it dropped down in it.

The next day I found out I’m prejudice against people who seem to be too young to be doing certain jobs. I had my first ever appointment with an investment broker. I swear I have slips older than the kid who sat across from me in his expensive suit, in a building with polished marble floors and frosted glass walls. His teeth were so white and perfect I couldn’t quit looking at them. Saturday Night Live once did a skit where they used a black light in the dark and all that showed up were sets of teeth talking to one another and gloved hands gesturing. That’s what his teeth reminded me of. He’d obviously put a ton of money into dental work, probably a graduation gift for completing his degree. He told me he majored in the psychology of investors which I’m sure impresses young ladies during Happy Hour but happy hour for me is an afternoon nap.

Anyway, I went in there wanting to open up a brokerage account to dump the required disbursements that the government makes you take out of your 401K when you reach a certain age and he, of course, wanted me to roll over the entire 401K into a brokerage account instead. Makes sense on paper to do that and it's what most people do, he said, but I wasn’t going to take Mr. Bright Smile’s advice without doing my own research because once you roll over a 401K like that, you can’t undo it. At one point in his "pitch" he stood in front of a white board with his colored markers, drawing pie charts and graphs until my head was spinning but in the end we did it my way. My 401K is with the same investment company. I can still go to one website to see my old and new account and I am comfortable with that. At the end he said, they are so geared to try to simplify a client’s finances that he wasn’t listening to me. I wondered if his psychology of investors class forgot to cover old ladies who get bull-headed.

And last but not least, I am heartbroken over Robin Williams' death. It’s so hard to accept that someone who brought so much joy to so many people couldn’t find a way to keep some of that joy for himself. Over the years he was open about his struggles with depression and with drug and alcohol abuse, which all goes to prove that money and fame can’t save a person from mental illness or the demons that come with addiction. From all accounts, he was a caring individual in his personal life, a good friend, and a genuinely nice and compassion human being. His work with Relief Comic, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the Live Strong Foundation, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is proof of the latter. The many testimonials on TV and social media the past few days are proof of the former.

I have loved Robin since his Mork and Mindy days, so did my husband. Five of Robin’s movies are in my top twenty all-time favorite films: The Dead Poet Society, Good Morning Vietnam, What Dreams May Come, The Bird Cage, and Good Will Hunting. He shared his enormous talent with the world and he will always be remembered for being a gifted comedian and talented actor. I hope he finds the kind of heaven his character in Dreams May Come found. (See it the video below. It's my favorite after-death scene from any movie.) ©


P.S. I was the recipient of a random act of kindness this week. A woman in the car in front of me at Starbucks paid for my drink. When I got up to the window they handed me the paid receipt and said she does it quite often when she comes through. It sure put a smile on my face!

16 comments:

  1. Jean:

    I am so glad you wrote blog & mentioned about robin williams, I have been thinking about him for so long, his death showed me every mental illness is different & so will be the tretment plan. I thought having friends, family & spiritual backing you can get over depression, but I guess I was wrong mental illness is difficult & what worked for me not necessairily will work for every one.

    Asha

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  2. I'm certainly not very knowledge about depression but I do know there's a big difference between the kind of depression that is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and depression brought on by having to go through a rough patch in life...widowhood, for example or dealing with a sudden disability. People going through rough patches generally have the tools within them to eventually help themselves back out of the depression, with family support and as the source of their stress abates, they find acceptance, etc. Those with chemical imbalances that's not generally true. They can be depressed for reasons they can't always identify and when on the surface everything is going well. One of the widows I follow lost her husband to suicide. That is SO hard on the families left behind!

    I've read a few articles in the last few days that said Robin was bi-polar. If true, you can really see how he used those manic periods (that all bi-polar people go into) in his stand-up. I keep thinking that it must have been terribly hard to live up to his "make me laugh" reputation when he was on the opposite end of manic. It's all so sad. When the court jester can't be happy, it shakes us all, our perceptions of what goes on inside of others.

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  3. Jean :

    you are so right & nailed it, I also feel how every one handles adversity in life is also so different, some people like to blame others for their adversity my mom is prime example of it, whereas some people like me who likes to discuss it in form of blogging. after my stroke her treatment plan for me was just watch TV to drain out any negative thoughts ofcourse I had no interest in watching TV for me blogging and chatting with other survivors made me feel better. So I am learning how every one deals adversity in their life differently. no method is wrong as long as you come out of your funk mood

    Asha

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    1. I agree, "no method is wrong as long as you come out of your funk mood." Support groups are important...in person or online. But they don't work for everyone. Not everyone likes to spill their guts in public like you and I did in the old days. LOL Though I believe lurkers still benefited from the those of us who did spill our guts.

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  4. I'm a spill my guts kind of gal and, it really does help. To write all that junk in my head or what is going on in my life and than, perhaps get an affirmation from someone--my "unknown" friends, can and is really helpful--at least to me. Chronic depression is like any other disease. You can know in your heart that life is pretty good, and your family loves you, but you can wake up with depression--just like knowing all those lovely things, you can wake up with an arthritis attack. No reason--no way of knowing when it going to jump up and bite you!

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    1. I think it's so much easier to "spill our guts" online than with people in our real-time lives. At least it is for me. I think it's because when you write you can get everything your are thinking out at once without getting interrupted or sidetracked.

      Depression has taken so many creative people it's scary!

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  5. good morning sweetie! great post today as usual. i have a young(ish) financial guy, he is in his 30's but my charlie found him for me before he died and he is fabulous. he promised charlie if he ever switched companies he would take my account with him. he comes to my condo four times a year and we go over line by line and discuss and we have either lunch or dinner and have become great friends and confidents over the years. he knows more about me than my kids do! ha ha

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxooxxo

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    1. Thanks for sharing that, Bee! I will try very hard to remember your experience with your young financial guy when I find myself wondering if mine is old enough to have a clue what he is doing. It would help if I understood stuff like that but I really don't. One of the reasons why I dragged my feet about doing anything until now is because Don set up his 401k criteria before his stroke and we never lost a penny during the Wall Street collapse. The idea of rolling that whole account into something new had me fighting tears while I was sitting there. I'm too sentimental, I guess.

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  6. Great topics, every single one!

    I have depression that seemed to creep in after menopause. I tried all natural remedies suggested by my Dr but when mixed with my daughter's addiction, I accepted pharmaceutical assistance. Through the years and the ups and downs of normal (?) life, I have gone off. This time I think I will just stay on and enjoy the equilibrium this medicine provides for me.

    I, too, am meeting with two financial advisors when I get back from vacation. SCARY! Just looking at their fees (min of $300/month), I might be better off investing a little of my time and doing it myself. I'm such a conservative no risk old lady (even when I was 30).

    I miss Robin Williams also. So sad they could not get his imbalances stabilized with talk therapy and medicine and love of family and friends. Society induces so much shame with mental and emotional illnesses ... and treatments. Not many suggest getting off insulin if you have diabetes yet so many well meaning people ALWAYS tell me to not stay on too long. Phooey!

    Now ... back to vacation!

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    1. One of the issues I had with my appointment with the broker yesterday is he couldn't tell me how they get paid for their services, says it's cost free to ME. Someone is paying somewhere. I'm a conservative no risk person, too...I picked level 2 or 10 on the risk choice. It really is a SCARY area in the life of widow to deal with!

      Mental illness and addiction coverage on insurance is a big factor, too or rather lack of coverage. And the astigmatism is there because so many who don't suffer from depression don't believe it's real or that you can't just pull yourself up by your boot straps.

      If I remember correctly you're on Celexia which I understand is the safest one to be on long term. That's what my husband was on after his stroke...for 12 years and never had a problem with it. He had so much to be depressed about with his paralyze and lack of language that I have no doubt the drug kept him from lots of emotional pain, anxiety and low moments.

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  7. We loved Robin's work, and many of your favorites were ours as well. It's ironic that he spread so much joy and couldn't keep enough of it to fill himself. I think he was a gentle man, introverted and very empathetic. Probably too much for his own good. So sad.

    We will have to start moving our 401K soon. It's scary.

    Everyone is too young! :)

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    1. You nailed Robin's personality from all accounts. Now, it's come out that he was in the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease which would be so hard for someone doing so much physical comedian to accept. So very sad for someone only 62 and at the top of his game.



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  8. Forgive me - take my advice with its grain of salt, but....If Don's investment approach worked well through this last downturn, couldn't you invest the 401K's disbursements similarly? In a new account at some quiet little place that doesn't have a fancy logo and management (hidden) brokerage fees and slippery salesmen? I wonder if the psychology these salespeople use is to first break the confidence of an investor, in order to insert their own agenda. Kudos for holding your own! You have a sound mind, a sensible (low) risk tolerance, and financial track record - you should be sitting in HIS seat, Jean. Trust your gut. Perhaps, if a soundboard is needed, hire an independent semi retired financial advisor on an hourly basis. Someone who has walked in your shoes, and doesn't see 'old lady' when they look at you.

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  9. I actually did pick the same investment company that Don's 401K is in and I picked an after tax broker account that is set up at the same risk level and mix of investments as his 401k. The bone of contention for me (and with the agenda yesterday) is whether or not to roll over the entire 401k into the new account now or roll over the minimum required by law each year and pay the taxes as I go. I have talked to other financial advisers and they all make my eyes cross over and all they really want to do is sell you on their services. I'm not going to roll over the entire account until I'm comfortable with the decision.

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  10. I think you should leave the 401K just as it is and put the disbursements into another account. You need the stability and as the 401K didn't take a hit, it must be invested with the right companies/mutual funds. Slow and steady wins the race.

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