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 29, 2014

My Widow's World: From Donuts to Japanese Gardens





It was spring the last time I went to a retirees union meeting, so off I went Thursday to the land of old men and giant sized donuts that are so fresh-out-of-the-oven I wish I could write in smell-o-type. Close your eyes and remember the last time you walked by a bakery in the early morning and imagine a hundred bear claws, Boston creams, sour creams, jelly rolls, fritters and chocolate éclairs all lined up and trying to lure you in. Oh, man, I’m getting a sugar fix just remembering that sight and the aroma that came with it.

After I collected my chocolate covered Boston cream and coffee and found a seat, one of Don’s old co-workers came by. He’d noticed I hadn’t been there all summer and wanted to know if everything was going okay. Just busy, I told him, “But I like coming here and being around people who remember Don.”

“No one could forget him,” he said and then he spent the next ten minutes telling me stories about things that happened during their work days together. I’d heard them all before but I didn’t care. It makes me happy to see people smile and laugh when they tell “Don stories.”

It was a beautiful day, perfect for reflection and after the meeting I took that reflection over to the near-by Sculpture Park and Gardens. I was having trouble registering online for a one-day pastel class being held at the park in October, so I took care of that in person. Then I got spontaneous for the second time this week. I jumped on the tram for a 45 minute tour of the grounds and outdoor sculptures. When I looked at the others on the tram I realized I was surrounded by plain dress Mennonites! I’ve always been fascinated with the Amish and Mennonites communities and have fantasized more than a couple of times about being placed on an Amish farm by the Federal Witness Protection Program. Not that I’d enjoy having to witness a high profile crime to qualify for that program but when I was a stressed-out caregiver, living simple called my name.

There was an empty seat between me and a Mennonite woman in her early 50s and she greeted me with a comment about the weather. Three plain dressed girls in their early 20s sat in front of me. I could see others including two plain dressed men who sat close enough for me to touch. I was excited to be that close to others whose life style is so different than mine and even more intrigued after the tour started. The tour guide had quite a sense of humor and threw out many funny observations and trivia about the sculptures we went by. Much to my surprise and delight the Mennonites also had good sense of humors and laughed right along with the rest of us. One of the guys (mid 50s) has such a sweetly shy way of burying his face in his knees and hands when he laughed, his cheeks red, but the woman next to me made no effort to cover her amusement. At one point the tour guide was talking about a larger-than-life abstract bronze sculpture and he told about all the different guesses people have made about what it was supposed to be ending with he thought it looked like a collection of, “what women use to feed their babies.” 

“That’s just what I thought when I first looked at it,” I softly blurted out and without missing a beat the Mennonite woman next to me tapped my shoulder with the palm of her hand and said, “Me too!” I must be easily impressed because I thought that was quite a neat moment to share with someone who is so different from master-consumer-me. She had an unjaded presence about her that I wish I could describe. She was warm---unguarded---made eye contact easily and I’d love it if there more people like her in the world.

The Sculpture Park is building an eight and a half acre, authentic Japanese garden that will have Zen, moss and Bonsai sections, five bridges, four waterfalls, three islands, two gazebos and a tea house. On the tour we got to see the construction zone and the bones to the project. It’s going to cost 22 million dollars (privately donated) and will be the biggest tea garden outside of the Orient. Because I’m a member of the park I’ll get to go to the members-only opening next June. I wish I still had my kimono, a gift from a serviceman stationed in Japan during the early sixties. It got down-sized out of my life after Don’s stroke but I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to wear it anyway. It was a beautiful white silk garment with tiny flowers embroidered all over it and it was lined in red silk. I can imagine a simple woman like my Mennonite seatmate spending weeks zen-like sewing those cherry blossoms on a kimono for someone else to wear on her wedding day. Cherry blossoms: the fragility of its petal and briefness of its bloom time symbolize in Japanese culture the transience nature of life.

Like I said, it was a good day for reflection on the little things we often overlook and under appreciate---sharing memories with old friends, the late summer sun, the time to do spontaneous things, the soft touch from a stranger's hand, the allure of something new to look forward to, and the smell of fresh pastries that can take us back to that childhood bakery on the corner.  ©



Note: The photo far above is of the Japanese Garden's construction zone and the one just above is of the sculpture I mentioned in my post.

12 comments:

  1. You are keeping busy doing the most fun things! So glad you are taking advantage of the good weather while it is here. Me too! I live vicariously through you!!

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    1. That's kind of funny that you live vicariously through me because I do the same with you. Is that a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the street or the fact if we put our two lives together in one person that person would be 100% happy and whole?

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  2. oh my, donuts, memories, and mennonites! what a day you had dear!

    hugs, bee
    xoxoxoxo

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  3. What a special day. Gently serendipitous. I am so attracted to the Mennonites you describe, though walking in their women's shoes might be culture shock. This new garden is one I want to see - 8 and a half acres. Oh! Be still my heart. At some point could you post a link to it? Thanks.

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    1. http://www.meijergardens.org/ will get you to the main park which is around 170 acres (?). I think they have a link to the Japanese garden being built within the sculpture park and gardens. It's a great place!

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  4. I've tried five times to leave a comment, but my computer keeps leaving the page and losing the comment. I'll try again later. Wonderful post and I had a lot to say.

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  5. Jean, I'm using the iPad now.

    You sent me to Mr. Google as your posts often do. You spurred me to do a little research on Mennonites. I grew up near a Mennonite colony. Of course, we did not interact with them, but we saw them occasionally. I can see why it was refreshing to interact with the woman on the bus. We are living in a world where connections with people who live so differently than we do often result in devastating violence.

    How nice that you got to see an old friend of Don's. It must feel good to talk with someone who knew and cared about him. So often people are afraid to talk to someone about a lost loved one. I guess they're afraid they will say the wrong thing, but I imagine it's comforting.

    Okay, I'm going to hit publish and hope for the best.

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    1. I've been in computer hell today. Again. I'm on my laptop but need my desktop back to normal!

      Being around people who knew Don feels like a kind of shorthand...knowing him is knowing a lot about me and what I went through. No way to explain that to new acquaintances. So it feels good being with his friends. I know other widows who crave talking about their spouses and their families shut them down from doing so. I'm lucky mine doesn't. If you're not there yet, I'll bet you'll get to the point where you enjoy stories about your dad.

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  6. I got to attend the opening of the Japanese Gardens in Saginaw. Their sister-city from Japan came over. There I was--nearly six feet tall in their midst. I felt sort of like Gulliver, but they were so sweet. They smile all the time! The Mennonite are a bit more worldly than the Amish--quite a bit actually, with their electricity and driving cars and all. I spent a week in Bird-In-Hand, PA, being around the Amish and their farms and shops everyday. I love it. So serene, quiet and always pleasant. They are normally very reticent with the English, as they call us, but I found the women craft makers very easy to talk to. Good on you for getting out!!!!!!

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    1. I may have figured out why the Mennonites were in town, probably passing through to that 500 vendor Amish flea market not too far north of here that started today through the holiday weekend. They probably sell crafts there. Nice back story even if it might not be true.

      When our Japanese gardens open there will be a lot of famous Japanese artists here but the opening will probably be private and/or big money per plate. Private as in 200 guests.

      I would love to go to PA Amish country some day. There are guided bus trips to there from here.

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