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, November 12, 2014

A Widow's Bones and Winters Past



The sky was ash-gray and accumulating snow is predicted for overnight but the snow that was falling this morning was so light it rose up in tiny whirlwinds as the car in front of me went down the highway.  I was on my way to my orthopedic doctor’s office for my two week post shoulder surgery appointment. I’m doing well. He offered me a shot for pain. I refused it, don’t need it. He offered me another round of Prednisone for swelling. Oh, boy! I took it. I love that stuff. It makes my bones feel twenty years younger and like I could take up bench pressing in my spare time. He showed me before and after photos of my shoulder joint taken during surgery and I asked him if it’s like playing a video game when he’s moving a camera and two gadgets around inside a person installing a labrum tear patch. “Sort of,” he answered. I have to go back in a month and then he’ll order some physical therapy. Bummer. I don’t like having appointments in the winter.

The photo above is of me and Don and that was the smallest of three front-end loaders that he used to stack snow on the malls we plowed.  We called them Poppa, Momma and Baby. He did his best to get me to love operating Baby and I did try it a few times but I figured if I didn’t put my foot down I’d be running it all the time and it didn’t have “central heat” or a radio and back in those days I listened to books on tape every night we plowed. At one point in time he had four women (and three guys) working for him and a couple of the women really loved running Baby. I’m talking 20 years ago when it was more unusual for women to be driving heavy equipment than it is now. 

He liked having women snow plowers for several reasons, one of which was he claimed it was easier to teach women to plow because we followed instructions and didn’t try to re-invent the wheel. Another reason he loved having women plowers was for the shock value we brought to the table. It was pretty funny. From what we heard from the snowplow repair places Don was the first person in town to hire women to plow snow, and it put a dent in a few male egos of guys who didn’t believe a woman could or should do that kind of work. He was probably the only guy I ever knew who read Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique back in its day and he took it to heart. But before that, he watched how hard his mother worked feeding and washing clothes for four sons, a husband and two hired hands. She had a hard life. Her garden put food on the table. She raised chickens, sold eggs to the local grocer. She canned and did all the other things expected from a farm wife and with no daughters to help.

I think back to my snow plowing days and I wonder how I got to be such a chicken about driving in Michigan winters. Since Don died, I pick and choose the days I drive and it makes me nervous as all get out when I can’t avoid going out on unplowed roads. I was a good wintertime driver. I could do control skids and bank snow at the end of a runs without even stopping which is hard to master and I won more rat hockey matches than anyone else. Yes, real rats that would venture out on a parking lot in the middle of the night got escorted across the lots with two or three trucks chasing them, turning our plows back and forth to make the rat fly across the icy surface. We’d “steal” the rat from each other when it was sliding and we’d score if you were the one to run it into a snow bank. Rat hockey didn’t happen often but it sure was fun when it did and it’s a wonder none of us ever collided with our silly game. But I lost my wintertime driving confidence after Don died and I sold our four wheel drive Traverse. Cars feel so wimpy after decades of driving heavy, four wheel drive trucks and SUVs. Maybe having physical therapy appointments to force me out on winter days when I’d rather stay home is just what I need to get my confidence back, says the lady who always tries to find the up side of any given situation.

After the doctor’s appointment I went to the first of a series of classes on genealogy research that I signed up for at the senior center. I really don’t need a class but for only $3.00 a session I figured I can get something useful out of them. There were sixteen there today and we all shared funny stories about oddities we’d found while poking around the family bones so I got my money’s worth in laughter. ©

16 comments:

  1. you should see the drivers here in rain! they can barely stay on the roads. i learned to drive in maryland and i drove in snow there but didn't like it and now i know i wouldn't want to do it. but i would love to play rat hockey in baby!!!

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxoxoxo

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    1. Rain can be bad, too, because it's so hard to see where you're going.

      I learned one thing being on the roads in the middle of the night: I would never like to live near a grocery store or restaurant. Even in nice areas rats and other creators love heir dumpsters.

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  2. I would think that women would be more particular about how they plowed--nice and neat. I never knew about rat hockey--that was enlightening. I have always wanted to drive a snow plow. Winter driving has never bothered me. I took driver's training in January and that year, we had once heck of an ice storm, so we learned good.

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    1. That's really true about women plowers doing a neater job. We never left "spill off" behind on the lots or "snow beards" on the edges of the parking lots.

      I flunked driver's training the first time I took it. I broke out in hives every time I got behind the wheel, I was so nervous. LOL The reason Don taught me to plow in the first place is because he thought it would get me over my fear of winter driving. And it did when I drove around in the middle of the night when there was few cars on the road. I could handle myself but it's was and still is the other drivers who scare me.

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  3. I was born and raised in Oregon and we had lots and lots of rain and snow too. That's where I learned to drive. Driving in the snow is an art. Sounds like you mastered that art long ago.

    Your hubby reminds me of mine. Girls/women should be given the chance to do whatever they want. They can do just about anything as long as they receive the appropriate training. Yes indeed.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. We were both lucky to have enlighten husbands, weren't we. I think about some of the guys I dated years ago and I know they are probably still stuck in the 1950's attitudes of family structures. I would have hated that.

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  4. Rat Hockey! Ha!

    I do not like to drive in the snow, but I've certainly done it. A couple of years ago, on a particularly icy night, we were on the way home from Dad's. I was driving and H was sleeping. I ended up at the bottom of a hill on the side of an Interstate. H managed to get the car out. Fortunately, we had four wheel drive. Other than that, I've never had a problem, but I still don't like it.

    My mother-in-law also sold eggs, raised chickens and had a garden. The women did what they could to bring in money. It was a very hard life, I'm sure.

    I still can't get over that $3. Amazing.

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    1. I know. You can get a lot of a couple of bucks at the senior hall. I've never taken a class there that cost more than $15.00 and most are under $8.00.

      I am so glad I didn't live on a farm back in those days like your M-I-L and mine did. They worked hard.

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    2. I forgot to mention how much I like that photo. Great!

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    3. The photo brings back a lot of memories. That's a wall of snow behind us, that was stacked by one of the bigger loaders.

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  5. Yesterday, when I was doing my volunteer shift at the food bank, I watched one of the full-time staffers, a young woman in her twenties, get her first lesson in driving a forklift, and I felt such joy as she mastered skills and you could see her confidence developing. I was also struck by the fact that the guy giving her the lesson wasn't at all patronizing and didn't seem to see anything unusual about a woman doing this (although men do most of these jobs in the warehouse) -- an attitude I think we early feminists can take some credit for.
    I think it's normal to feel nervous about challenges that require skills that may be rusty. I'm always fearful about the first drive on snow each year. And during almost forty years of teaching, my hands always shook and my knees knocked together during the first day of classes. -Jean

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    1. I agree about us early feminists being able to take a lot of credit for the doors that are open to women now in nontraditional roles. I love seeing that, like your woman and the forklift. I hope I live long enough to see that glass ceiling at the White House get broken.

      That's interesting about yours first day nerves after nearly forty years of teaching! Stage actors always say the same thing.

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  6. Your concern about winter driving may be well founded, if you'll be driving using only one arm for the foreseeable future. Even after my arm was out of the sling, it was a month or so before I could raise it to even hold the wheel - weakness from muscle atrophy along with shoulder stiffness. When I drove with this handicap, I figured my reaction time was reduced to that of a drunkard's. Please... if the road conditions are too risky to safely drive, don't hesitate to hire a taxi, or ask a neighbor.

    I'll never look at plowed parking lots in quite the same way. Rat hockey?!? LOL

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    1. I paid close attention to how I was driving before the surgery---to see what I was doing---and because I'm left-handed and the surgery was in my right shoulder, I don't think my driving is or will be affected too much. I do most of the wheel turning, etc. with my left hand and just balance the wheel with my right. Getting the seat belt on and off is the biggest issue so far. But arm or no arm issue, I still won't drive on bad days. It's just not worth it.

      How long before you got full use of your arm again? My doctor is saying. eight months. It didn't take my knee replacements that long!.

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    2. My surgeon said 9 - 12 months. I was able to feel 90% normal and confident at nine months. I did this by supplementing the PT regimen with A.R.T. (active release technique) massage. I would never have recovered full range of motion without massage! Some numbness lingers to this day, 15 months later, but my reflexes are normal.

      You had a pretty straight forward repair. You'll probably feel normal well before 8 months, because you'll be an ideal patient and follow directions. Right now, they're probably suggesting only passive movement?

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    3. I've been hearing about A.R.T. massage and do want to try it later on. Right now and for two more weeks I'm not suppose to do any kind of motion. Then after that two week of passive movement but not above shoulder height or with weight. Then we talk about therapy when I go back in mid December. I can't believe how long it takes to get full range of motion for a shoulder!. It didn't take that long for total knee replacement.

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