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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dreams, the Holidays and Photo Albums



Since my shoulder surgery two weeks ago I’m sleeping better. I’m only waking up once or twice during the nights instead of seven or eight times like before the procedure. That’s a good thing for my all-over health but I don’t remember my dreams as easily as I did when I wasn’t reaching a deep sleep in between waking up so many times. This morning, though, I woke up with a dream hanging on and its one I wish I couldn’t remember.

In the dream Don was breaking up with me. He was going off to have fun with his new friends---a less than angelica looking bunch of ragtags, I must add. I guess you could say he broke up with me when he died but I didn’t need to hear the words to start out my day or to feel his tender last kiss still lingering on my lips. I don’t get guy logic! Why kiss someone like that if you’re going to say goodbye in the next breathe---or was it my own logic since it was my dream? “Adios, aloha, ciao, arrivedece, goodbye Jean, it’s been nice knowing you.” Nice knowing me? Nice! Get out your dictionary, buddy, and find a better word. (Did you know that Stephen King says if you have to use a thesaurus to replace a word, you shouldn’t be using that replacement word in the first place? Easy for him to say. He has a bigger vocabulary than I do.)

“Kiss off, Don!” I replied in my dream, “I don’t need you to tell me what I already know. You’re going away and you’re not coming back.” I was as mad as a soapy, wet cat in a bathtub and I stayed that way for an hour after I woke up…almost two if I need to be honest with myself.

No matter how well we widows have dealt with the death of our spouses, no matter how much we have moved forward in our new lives the holidays still bring with them a certain level of melancholy and apprehension, don’t they. The fact that Don died early in January doesn’t help. That timing just extends a long season of being alone while the rest of the world seems to be celebrating, and memories of past holidays interrupt my journey forward. I have no plans for Thanksgiving, did I mention that? Although I did turn down two offers. I didn’t feel like pretending I fit in with the first family that invited me. They are a large, close-knit family and I don’t know many of them well enough to call them by name. With the second offer I got, it would be too hard with my arm in a sling to help with clean up and the would-be hostess is in no condition to be cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner which she would have done if I had accepted her kind invitation. She loves to cook, but she shouldn’t be on her feet that much. She’s ten years my senior and has been known to pass out when she overdoes.

Someone suggested I could get the Salvation Army to deliver a Thanksgiving meal to me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 1) I give money to the Salvation Army to buy holiday meals for the poor. 2) I can very well afford to order a fully cooked holiday dinner from an upscale deli that you just warm up the next day. And 3), Thanksgiving---or any of the holidays---isn’t just about the food. It’s about the people you share it with. I’d say “bah humbug” here but I think that word is strictly reserved for December. I’d look it up to be sure but I feel the presence of Stephen King looking over my shoulder and he is one scary guy. Why do they print books of common phrases and dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms if we’re not supposed to use them? Answer me that, Stephen! Ohmygod, is this what senility feels like, you start talking to people who are dancing around in your head?

My niece and her husband came to town this week to take me out to dinner and to bring me some photos to scan for a book I’m working on. It’s a photo essay covering the life spans of my parents and I will give a copy to my brother, my nephew and my two nieces for Christmas. But mostly I wanted my all-time favorite photos of my folks all in one book that can travel with me to the assisted living place I hope I never have to move to, but I’m a realist so I’m covering my bases. I have eight boxes of photos, sixteen large photo albums and a huge box of slides and no one is going to let me keep them all if I’m forced to move one day. My Plan B is to spend the winter making 8” x 8“ topic essay books like the one I did for my brother’s birthday last year. After I finish the book of my parents, I’ll do one of Don and me, one of my nephew and nieces, one of the family cottage and all its reincarnations and one book of my favorite things. Then I will make it well known that if anyone tries to send me off to assisted-living without my six, compact photo essay books, I’ll disinherit them assuming I’ll be able to dial a phone and can remember who my lawyer is. Who says getting old isn’t a blood sport. You have to be strong to become as weak and helpless as a kitten if you age badly. In the meantime, I’m going to start eating spinach for breakfast. It worked for Popeye, why not me?  ©

16 comments:

  1. good morning honey!i am thankful that i don't remember dreams really. i do, however, know exactly what you mean about the holidays. our husbands died the same month. fortunately for me i can go to the fern house and eat with the families that visit their sons and my dear chuck is there too of course. it's a lovely place really. i send you hugs honey...

    smiles, bee
    xoxo

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    1. I'm glad you have a place you feel comfortable going to for the holidays, Bee. That's nice. It really doesn't bother me much to be alone this year as I don't want to be around so much tempting foods. One day of over eating will lead to two, then three and before you know it, I'll be right back to where I was.

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  2. OMG. A couple years into widowhood I had a similar dream where my hubby happily broke up with me! In my dream, he and I shared a deluxe room on an ocean liner, but he completely ditched me and had a grand time with a dearly departed neighbor. I was furious and told him in no uncertain terms!

    Then recently, about six years after my hissy fit dream, I had a dream where we met unexpectedly and shared a brief drink at a quiet resort. I had all his attention and he had mine. He was so handsome, so calm, so grateful and so proud to be with me. Then he went his way and I went mine. I awoke feeling happy and proud we'd been a couple in real life.

    About holidays -I have become such an unapologetic curmudgeon it's pretty funny. About all these suggestions and kind invitations -- I wonder if others aren't projecting their own fear of aloneness onto we widows and then scrambling to make their own fear go away. What do you think?

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    1. What a great dream! I will have to see if I can "program" myself to dream of taking a cruise with my husband---it works sometimes if it's the last thing you're thinking about when you drift off to sleep. It will probably be the only way I'll get to do a cruise and take it off my Bucket List. Dreams like yours and mine our just our subconscious tell us that we miss our spouses more than our daytime, I-can-do-this-self is willing to admit. A least that's my opinion.

      I agree that some people do project their fears of being alone on holidays and will invite widows for that reason. In the case of my first invitation, their mother is newly widowed. Others just have long-standing traditions of inviting people who have no where else to go---an open door for all holidays. The older woman who wants so badly to cook for Thanksgiving was like that in her younger days and she delighted in cooking huge meals for whoever showed up. Cooking was always her claim to fame and she wants to feel needed and admired again, I think. But her family doesn't want her doing it anymore---- she's just not up to it physically and she won't go to their houses for the same reason. One holiday last year I suggested that I bring over a deli prepared holiday meal that we could warm up but she wouldn't hear of it. "It's not going to be like homemade!" No, but it wouldn't put her in the hospital either like cooking has done on several holidays either.

      I'm buying myself a turkey leg, sweet potato and cranberries and will call it good enough. It the weather is not supposed to be bad, I may bring a pie over to my older in-law's house and have desert with her in the late afternoon.

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  3. I remember missing my grandparents for holiday and then my parents when they passed. I know this isn't the same thing as a life partner so I've not a clue how I would feel during the holidays. Devastated seems a good stab at how I'd feel. Hubby and I are soul mates. We don't find ways to be apart from each other. We cherish our time together. So all the things you're talking about I'm storing in my memory. You are a sage woman indeed.

    Have a blessed day. :)

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    1. I know a lot of widows who don't think there is any comparison between losing a parent or grandparent and losing a spouse, but I do see lots of comparisons. Family traditions die or change with the older generations go and if we were close with them, a part of us has to change. Every time I can't spell a word, for example, I was in the habit of calling my mom and she could tell me in a second. Now, it could take me 10 minutes to work it out on my own. My husband was my proof reader for years but when he lost his ability to read, I had to switch to letting things I write sit overnight so I can chance my mistakes easier the next day. It's the little things like that that stay with you after you have made peace with the big changes that came after a loss, be it a parent or a spouse. The holidays, especially, accent the changes so the melancholy can't help but color a day here or there.

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  4. I think I will continue to cook until I get tired of it I've already noticed a decrease in entertaining just because it is so much work ... and money. A neighbor here who is in her late 80's says she is done with cooking! She always finds someone to meet her for lunch and dinner!

    I want to be like her!!

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    1. Unfortunately, for some older people they don't realize that their cooking skills aren't up to what they used to be. Their taste buds are changed by medications, I don't know what, but I know of a couple of cases where their families throw away everything thing their mother sends home with them. It's great that we have so many options now to cooking that we all can do exactly as we wish.

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  5. Jean,
    The holidays are so tough. I think you're right about your interpretation of your dream. I don't know how one gets over such a loss. You are inspiring in your determination to keep life going forward.

    Your forethought about what you would want to take with you if you have to enter assisted living has made me think a little. If we don't do these things while we still have all our faculties, someone else will make those decisions for us, and you know we don't want that. :o

    My kids always go to my DIL's parents' house for Thanksgiving. Her family does not celebrate Christmas so we get them every Christmas. Great! My husband and I go to my brother's for Turkey Day, and that's fine. He's a helluva cook.

    Boy did you hit the nail on the head when you wrote, "Who says getting old isn’t a blood sport." Great description!

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    1. Sometimes I think I live so much in the future I forget to live in the presence. But that is nothing new for me. Once a long term planner, always a long term planner.

      I think people with kids often have an advantage when it comes to growing older because, if you're close, they know what is important to you, and what isn't if they have to help you downsize. I do want to make my own decisions as we all do....

      You lucked out when with your holiday arrangements, no sharing of grand-kids for Christmas.

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  6. People around here get all nervous about me wanting to be alone on "special days"--like Easter last spring and Memorial Day and...on and on. I really like it actually. Christmas Eve--I couldn't handle being alone, but any other day? Matters naught to me.

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    1. I don't think it's going to matter to me either to be alone, in fact I prefer it to being with strangers. Besides, Don and I had lost many holiday traditions starting way back in 1983 when my mom died. Then it took time to establish new traditions that had to change again after his stroke. The only thing that stays the same is life is constantly changing.

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  7. Holiday meals can be particularly tricky for those of us who are single and don't have family nearby. For many years, I had both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with (different) groups of single women friends. Then, after my father died, I started driving down to Massachusetts on Christmas eve with a car full of Christmas dinner fixings and would cook Christmas dinner at my mother's house. That way, she could host Christmas dinner without having to do all the work. Since my mother died 5 years ago, I've been a bit at loose ends for the holidays and am still trying to create new patterns. I'm wary of dinner invitations that are likely to leave me feeling some someone's act of Christian charity. -Jean

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    1. "Someone's act of charity" is exactly what it did/does feel like with several holiday invitations I've gotten since Don died. I know people don't mean it like that but....still. We will both create new patterns for ourselves.

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  8. Hi Jean,
    I've been away nursing writer's block….as in an aversion to sitting down to post to my blog! So….reading you is motivating me. Glad you are here!

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    1. Hope to see you posting again, soon. But we all go through writer's block. I find it helpful to just sit down and start ramble writing without having a preconceived idea of what I want to say. Something always comes out...that I can work with.

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