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, November 29, 2014

Aging Like Fine Wine or Stale Crackers



I’ve told this story before so I’ll give you the abbreviated version today. When my husband turned fifty he told everyone he’d just turned sixty. I think that birthday bothered him more than he let on but that didn’t stop him from enjoying the comments people would make about him looking so much younger than his (fake) age. This went on for several weeks until he tried it on a girl taking money at state park and she looked him square in the face then gave him the senior discount. That was the end of his telling anyone he was sixty until he had actually achieved that distinction. I re-tell this story not because I’m old and people my age have been known to repeat themselves but because I find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes I present myself as being eighty when I’m far closer to seventy. And I use the “I’m old” line all the time. Why do I do that? I must get a kick out of being told, “No, you’re not!” Or maybe I need the affirmation that follows when they tell me words to the effect that I’m too sharp "to be old." Note: no one ever tells me I don’t look my (fake) age which probably is a silent condemnation of my choice of going full-out gray on top. I tried doing the low lights during my Pamper Myself Period after Don passed away and people actually did think it made me look younger. So did I, but I got sick of the ever present process of keeping it up. I’m old, why can’t I be proud of that fact? Old people get gray hair and wrinkles and need hearing aids. So what.

One of my favorite bloggers (also named Jean) is a recently retired sociologist with a thirty year history of teaching college courses. She’s responsible for me thinking about this topic today. She had commented on her blog, Step into the Future, that: “It seems to me that if organizers of events like this one worry that ‘only the old’ are attending, they have fallen victim to the widespread denigration of aging and elders in our society.” Oh, my gosh, I thought when I read that, am I adding to the denigration of the elderly when I play games with my own age? After thinking about it awhile I wondered if it isn’t more of defense mechanism for me---joke about being old before someone else dismisses me because of my age. Growing old and irrelevant is my biggest fear in life. There, I said it out loud. Darn it, I think I've written that before in my blog! I really am starting to repeat myself.

My determination to stay home alone this Thanksgiving was part of an experiment. (On aging, on widowhood? Does it really matter which?) The point was: 1) I didn’t want to be someone’s charity case, an old person/widow only invited because others felt sorry for me being all alone on a holiday; 2) I actually wanted to see what it felt like to be alone on a holiday. And you know what, it turned out fine. I didn’t wallow in loneliness, self-pity or memories of happier times. I didn’t go hungry as an elderly relative predicted I would, forced to eat stale crackers for dinner and I didn’t treat Thanksgiving like any other day on the calendar. I planned a big meal with a few comfort foods from holidays past. I cooked, cleaned up and froze my leftovers for Christmas dinner. I also realized that I do have a post-Don Thanksgiving tradition---watching the annual National Dog Show with Levi. We saw it last year and this and that dog actually watches the TV, barking and whining at his favorite canines on the screen. He is my core family now that my husband is gone.  

Even though my experiment turned out fine, that’s not to say I will stop accepting invitations for future holiday dinners. There are nieces and nephews on both sides of my family where I can go and not feel like a fifth wheel. But what I won’t do in the future is go to a place on a holiday just because I dread being alone. Been there, done that since Don died. There’s a reason why the phrase, “lonely in a crowd” sticks around. What my experiment reminded me of is that 'alone' does not translate to being lonely. I also realized for an old lady with no kids or grand-kids I fared pretty well in the invitation department. I got two formal invitations, and I got three you’re-always-welcome invitations that I would have gladly accepted if not for the unpredictability of winter roads.

Oh, cripe, I got side-tracked from the topic I intended to write about—aging like fine wine or stale crackers. Although I guess facing our vulnerabilities as we grow older could be a sub-topic under a stale crackers umbrella. I wanted to write about is how the older I get the more I value myself in terms of how my brain works. I know stuff. Good stuff. Jeez, for a would-be writer you’d think I could express myself better than that. What I meant to say is the older I get the better my world view gets, the better I get at being a well-rounded human being, and I don’t waste time cluttering up my brain with stupid stuff. Stupid stuff like wondering why big butts have gone from women loathing having them to desiring big butts so much that people are willing to enhance theirs surgically. Okay, maybe I’m not the age-induced “intellect” I'm painting myself out to be because I really do want to know how that astounding butt evolution happened and seemingly overnight when measured in old people time. Light bulb moment here: If that transformation in attitude about big butts can happen maybe we can apply the same formula to making old people a cool commodity. Are you with me? Can we start a movement? ©

20 comments:

  1. Old people are cool. I'm 63 and love being a senior. I'm healthy and I'm happy about that. I'm retired and financially sound. It doesn't get any better than that. I do hear you about being dismissed though. Some folks do just that. Shame on them.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. My mom always said that her 60s was the best time of her life...the kids were raised, her caregiver days with her family were behind her, they didn't struggle financially and she was retired. Her grandchildren brought her such joy and my mom and dad where able to travel.

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  2. Jean

    reading your writing always makes me think about things I would have never thought on my own. As a person from east we respect our elders, though never thought elders will be wise as you. I love my mom dearly but sometimes I feel she is very rigid on her view points. Nothing you say or tell her can change her mind. Which I find annoying ofcourse we keep quiet & do as we are told around her lol. If old person is like you then I will look forward to getting old.

    Asha

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    1. Thanks Asha. You are always so generous with your compliments.

      Most of us are all governed by two things: Self-will and circumstances. Self-will can overcome a lot of circumstances (as you well know having taken the stroke journey that you did) but just as many people are beaten down by the circumstances of their birth and what comes after. Knowing you, I predict you'll take your ques on how to grow older with grace from your wise husband and not the rigidness that you see modeled by your mother.

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  3. i'm still in my "fighting old age" period, colored hair and all. it's time consuming and expensive with all the creams and lotions and all but i'll do it until i decide to stop and then i won't. liking your own company is a great thing. sometimes i do but lately i haven't so much and that's when i get lonely. i'll have to work on that!

    smiles, bee
    xoxo

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    1. I go through periods where I pamper the heck out of myself with the creams and lotions but for some reason it never lasts long. I've kind of been that way all of my life. Have a good Sunday!

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  4. So nice when an experiment works! It was a fun (and delicious) holiday. I'm glad I'm cooking a turkey dinner tomorrow since I didn't get any leftovers.

    I know what you mean about keeping up with the grey. I don't mind investing the time, but sheesh! The money!!! I'm 62 1/2 so I'm going to keep doing it. Maybe just ten more years. Maybe I'll start coloring my own and my hair stylist will take pity and just do it!! Even at her family and friend discount, it's a big number every 8 weeks.

    Since there are so many more people over age 65, we have strength in numbers. We are becoming more "cool" since so many more of us are physically strong as well as emotionally and mentally younger than 65-year-olds were 20 years ago.

    Another reason why I am looking forward to intergenerational social events. In my community, my village, my family as well as Maui. My three neighbor children are also so much fun. The ten year old asked her Mom if she could come over and talk! Which we did ... for two hours. Children are not afraid of so called taboo topics!

    I hope I don't become rigid as I age. And let me know if I start keeping my room temperature at 80 .....

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    1. I do think in ten years when you hit your 70s the attitude towards older people is going to change...the baby boomers will see to it.

      I don't have much contact with young people in my life. The little kids on my street are mostly under five. I can see how that would keep you young.

      Have a good turkey dinner tomorrow!

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  5. I still color my hair but it grows so slowly that it only has to be done every three months. Not too bad, but if I had to do it more often, I'm not sure I'd keep it up. There's already too much maintenance in other areas of my life.

    This was a thought provoking post, as your posts often are. I'm always wondering if I'm repeating myself in my blog. Sometimes I search the blog to make sure. I'm glad you had a good Thanksgiving and got leftovers out of the deal. That's always a plus.

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    1. My hair is short and had to be done every eight weeks. But the thing that bothered me more than the cost or the time involved is the fact that the color faded over those eight weeks so it always looked different to me as it grew out.

      Other than defroze the remaining turkey legs and cook them I won't have to do anything else for Christmas dinner...got all the side dishes and pie in the freezer. If I end up going some place,I'll use them for New Year's day.

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  6. Ah--the reason big butts are the "in" thing now is because men like them! Used to be big boobs, now it's butts. I could tell you why, but it appears this is a "G" rated blog. I always love to watch the dog show--the bloodhound was cute, but not my choice. I have a thing for Westies! I also have a thing for men with square heads too. Hm-mm, I see a trend here. I too talk about being old just so I can hear, "Well you sure don't look your age," or "Oh, you can't be that old! You are far to young in your thinking." People probably lie to us all the time, but we do like to hear it. I let my hair go grey about 18 months ago and I absolutely love it!! So much better than the blond, that tended to go a bit brassy and too yellow and light. I have been told, as we age, our skin gets thinner and paler and we need to let our hair go grey or we look "funny", and I have seen old(er) blond women and they DO look funny sometimes. I like the natural look--and that includes no make-up, and grey hair and I think I look better than when I did all that other junk. Sometimes, all that make-up just shows up the wrinkles and sagging neck even more. BTW--haven't I been telling you that spending time alone with just yourself and the fur child is a good thing?

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    1. Ah, but the question is did men like big butts before some of the pop stars who will remain nameless started shaking their big butts all over the place in provocative ways? I don't think so.

      You broke my bubble, Judy! People would lie to us? It never crossed my mind. LOL

      I agree with you on our skin getting thinner and paler as we age. I see a lot of women our age who are still using colors they used when they were younger and it doesn't look good.

      The fur child has been very happy and you were right.

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  7. I think I tend to tell people my age, not because of any comments I might receive, but because I think that the more I say it, the more I might finally believe it! So many people older than me have told me that they do not feel aged until they look in the mirror and I understand that. The person inside my body has history and memory but I don't usually attach age to my thinking until, whoops, I walk in front of a shop window or mirror and notice an older person with grey hair. I am trying to convince myself of the reality! And unlike many others, for the same reason, I do look in the mirror, and sometimes I even sketch my face or hands, all to convince myself of life's great process in which I am a participant!
    From when I was young, my mother dyed her hair, but always told me that it was better not to start. So, as a great follower of my mother's advice (well, in this matter anyway!) I have never dyed my hair but continue to watch it become more and more white!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. What a great comment and attitude on aging, Leze. I know what you mean about not always believing that we've obtained the age we have. I don't feel old but I look it and society would say I am.

      I had to draw a portrait of myself in an art class once and was shocked at how many wrinkles I found. LOL

      My mom didn't dye her hair so I guess I'm following her example.

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  8. So glad you had Thanksgiving YOUR way, without the pity party attending - no small feat! I don't know about pale skin, big butts, and lying about our age. To me, being old is really cool if one feels safe and secure. And really scary if one is at the mercy of unkind people or institutions.

    At what age does one cross the great divide and become old? I do believe that number is trending upward. I'm tickled to be alive as long as I am tickling someone's fancy, be it child, pet, landscape, or man. And, in my heart, I get extra points for tickling a man's fancy : -)

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    1. The Great Divide in my book is when you die and cross over to where ever one believes we go....so that can be at any age. If you define it as when one becomes old, well, I belief getting old is two part: the body gets old and no matter what we do, that's going to happen. the other part is the mind gets old (as in stale thinking). That we can do something to prevent.

      You should start a new blog titled, Tickling a Man's Fancy. I'd like to know how you do that and more importantly why you do that. (I'm just playing with you now, I hope you know. LOL

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  9. In one of my favorite May Sarton novels, Mrs. Stevens Hears a Mermaid Singing, Mrs. Stevens is a famous writer, now old, who is being interviewed for an article about her in a very high-brow literary magazine. At one point, the interviewer asks her about living alone and loneliness, and she says that being alone is much more about solitude for her than about loneliness. Then she utters the line that I sometimes think May Sarton wrote the whole book just to get to say: "Loneliness is poverty of self; solitude is richness of self." This very much resonated for me. -Jean

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    1. What a great quote! Thanks for sharing it. I love it when I can find one quote like that in a book that I feel is worth copying down and keeping to savor over time.

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  10. I LOVE YOU! I facilitate a group at my UU Fellowship for women over 60 and at the first three gatherings 5 years ago, we did exercises on listing all the positive attributes we hear from our culture on aging. They came up with 18. Then we listed all the negative characteristics: 42. WOW! Over the years we've been able to shift that ratio significantly as we've embraced our own power and identity. I'm an "age naturally" advocate for being as healthy as we can be through healthful eating, moving around a lot (I don't like the word "exercise"), having friends to talk to once in a while, and staying curious about the world (Those butts! What's up with that???) No plastic surgery or crazy deprivation diets. I don't dye my hair either and it's going grayer every day (I'm a couple weeks shy of 64). Being "old" and irrelevant is my fear too. And by "old" I mean the negative connotations that come with the word. I've taken to try to reclaim the honorific of "Elder" used so often in indigenous cultures. It connotes a place of honor and reverence. I am an elder-woman and learning to embrace that role with a positive attitude. Also, that thing people do when they say…"Wow you don't look 75 (or whatever age…) as if it's a compliment. Well, by gosh, what 75 are you thinking of? Cuz if this is how that person looks at 75, that is what 75 looks like! Oh, I could go on and on.

    Thanks for this post. And for all the comments from others. I love being in a community of positively aging, elder-women figuring out a new way to do this Third Act of our lives. We rock!

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    1. When I heard someone say, "You don't look your age" or similar words I always picture Dana Carvey doing his Church Lady skit and that's what I think "old" acts and looks like. It's as much about attitude as it is about hair color, wrinkles and thinning eyebrows.

      42 negative characteristics on aging???? Who knew!

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