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 2, 2014

The One-Handed Widow on Halloween



This will be my forth time living with my arm in a sling, the second time as a widow. It’s doable, especially after living for twelve years with a spouse who had zero use of his right arm and me helping him adjust to living disabled. I had a how-to book on doing things one-handed and I would practice learning a one-handed task before teaching Don the technique. My reasoning was twofold: 1) I knew if he saw me do something he’d try harder to learn the task himself, and 2) I’m a pretty determined and patient person when it comes to problem solving and I figured if learning a one-handed task was hard enough to frustrate me then I’d cut him some slack if he found it be too complicated or too time consuming to be practical, especially when he had a spouse standing near-by. Putting socks on when Levi was a puppy and he was trying to take them off at the same time Don was trying to put them on was one of those times. 

Eventually I was able to teach the dog to take Don’s socks off when he wanted them off and not to do it at other times which was helpful to a right-side paralyzed man. There’s a secret to teaching a dog tricks. You start out by giving a name to something a dog does naturally and you say it whenever he does it---sock off,  in this case---then after he’s learned the word you teach him not to do the action if you haven’t said the command. Easier than it sounds, at least it was with Levi. He learned several “service dog” functions and I think dogs can sense when they are truly needed for that.    

The memories of those years are coming back strong with my arm in a sling and Halloween was my first big challenge. I thought about not handing out candy to the 100+ kids I usually get but I had an ulterior motive for wanted to do it. I wanted to give the neighbors on my street a chance to see the sling and maybe that would score me some help-the-old-widow acts of random kindness this coming winter. I might not be a diva expecting the world to jump to service my needs but I sure am learning how to advertise my vulnerabilities, aren’t I. Am I the only old person with devious thoughts like this?

Since his stroke my husband was in charge of handing out Halloween candy and he loved it. I’d bundle him up in warm clothing, put him and his wheelchair out on the front patio with a table and a basket of goodies and he was radiantly happy, his eyes dancing with joy. I had attached a wireless doorbell to his chair and if he needed anything he could push the button and I’d come running. Sure, a few times little kids would be fearful of his wheelchair but what better time for their parents to start teaching them not to be afraid of people with disabilities? With me just coming out of surgery and still needing to keep my bandaged area packed with ice I couldn’t see me sitting outside in the cold. But opening the door over and over, then picking up a heavy basket and telling kids to take a bag of candy proved harder than I thought. Half the kids struggled with opening their bags and didn’t have a third hand to grab from my basket. I had to set the basket down on the sidewalk and get one out for them. It was very cold and I got 72 trick-or-treaters and one, “If you need any help give us a shout," before I had to quit. I was tired and I only lasted an hour!

When I was growing up a childless couple around the corner always gave out boxes of Cracker Jack on Halloween and it just occurred to me that they started me on collecting Cracker Jack toys which I took to a serious level when Don and I started dating. We went antiquing every chance we got and he had expensive tastes. As a joke I decided to add to my childhood C.J. toys and wooden nickel collections which at the time I could pick up for well under a buck a piece.  As my knowledge grew and the years went by, of course, so did my willingness to pay more. In the meantime I had a lot fun teasing Don that I could spend two hours at a flea market, spend $1.00-$2.00 and have as much fun as his $100-$200 hunt.

Remember those six or seven baby showers I went to this past year? All those new parents are posting Facebook with their baby’s first Halloween costumes now. Clearly they are having fun and the digital/social media age is aiding and abetting the process. The circle of life goes on, doesn’t it, and most noticeably through our holiday traditions when toddlers are dressed up in costumes or are wide-eyed on Christmas morning or are getting to know their cousins at summer picnics. Wouldn’t it be fun to do it all again, be those children just learning about the world? And in a way that’s what grandparents get to do with their ringside seats as they watch their adult children pass on what they were taught. ©      

19 comments:

  1. Goodness, I think you could have two arms tied to your side and you wouldn't complain. Your life has really given you a perspective I admire. Bad shoulder that can be fixed? Why not go for it? You'll be as good as new in a year, and probably less. As your neighbors see you struggling with garbage cans, shoveling, etc., they might be more helpful. They have kids and sugar on their minds Halloween night!

    Your last paragraph made me gasp. The last thing I'd want to do is relive my childhood, or watch my family pass on what we were taught. Perish the thought! Better to start anew. We have such power to be proactive! You're such a helpful role model, just like Don was.

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    1. I knew when I wrote that last paragraph that people like you who had unhappy childhoods would not relate to what I wrote and maybe not even most people. It just seems kind of wasteful to this childless woman to have the life experiences we accommodated not be able to pass them on or to reuse them with another re-incarnation. Thinking about my mortality always makes me sentimental and filled with longing.

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  2. Hi Jean,
    Your positive outlook is so up- lifting. I have had a broken wrist, broken upper arm, and a broken/ dislocated right collar bone since 2011. No, I don't drink...just a klutz! But it is amazing how much I learned to do with my left hand. Women just seem to take a deep breath, figure it out and go forward.
    Thinking of you and wishing you a very speedy recovery,
    Alice

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    1. Thank you Alice! Falls happen so quickly, don't they. The older we get the easier those falls end up doing damage. We think my current problem with my right shoulder started back when I fell and broke my left elbow in 2013. A little just kept growing over time. Take care of yourself!

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  3. Hey Jean :

    I so wish to be at ringside when our grandchildren comes along. Its joy even now seeing how our son plays so beautifully with kids just like his dad. with both of them kids will be always laughing & giggling & following them around unlike mom who does not know what to do with them after feeding lol. I love your positive outlook on every thing in life.

    feel better soon.
    Asha


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    1. You will one day, got to get your son through college first.

      I have been really tired and sleepy today. I think it all finally caught up with me.

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  4. 72 trick or treaters? YIKES! Only in Maui do we get that ... flat neighborhood with homes close together. Everyone sits outside on their driveway (or at a neighbors) to share an adult beverage until our candy runs out! Ralph took a photo of EVERY one. So when some of the uncostumed teens returned for a second round ... I could say "nope, you've already been here" and when the rebuttal "no I haven't" I'd ask him for his camera!

    We had a blast with our orange and black party at the Fireside Room. Two of the small children new to the condos were brought over by their Moms ... who joined the party while we played with the kids! Two year olds and a 6 month old.

    Just learned Charlie came down with strepp throat today ,,.

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    1. Yikes! strepp throat is nasty. Hope you don't get it.

      My biggest year at this house was 154 kids. But our weather hasn't been great since that year. I think some of those kids do get mixed up on which streets they've been. When the trick-or-treaters get as tall as me I turn my lights off.

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  5. You should definitely use that sling and any resulting sympathy to get help from your neighbors! A friend and I were reminiscing the other day about how our cancer diagnoses were great "get-out-of-work-you-don't-want-to-do" cards. Usually when I was asked to take on yet another committee chairmanship or administrative task at work, if I tried to decline, people would say things like, "But no one else can do this as well as you" or "If you don't do it, who will?" -- and I was a sucker for these "you're indispensable" messages. But if I said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to take on anything this stressful until I've been cancer-free for several years," people simply said, "Oh, of course" and asked someone else! I called it "milking the cancer excuse," and my doctor encouraged it.Of course, there came a point when I had survived long enough that it became pretty difficult to imply that I was at death's door -- but it was good while it lasted. You're a trooper and you deserve a little help; go for it! -Jean

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    1. I never thought having cancer could have a perk, but I'm glad you found one that served you well. Isn't it funny how resourceful people can get when you turn them down for something like chairing a committee? I have practiced saying no without giving a followup reason---harder for others to talk you out of something that way.

      If help is offered, I won't turn it down.

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  6. I too am devious. If I can play the "old" card or the "disabled" card or the "widow" card I will--or I did for about 2 years after Fred died and my hip surgery. I bought Halloween candy, knowing full well I would have no Trick or Treaters--I got it for me because it was a "buy one get one free" deal. Snickers and Mounds fun size. YUM!!

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    1. Good to know I'm not the only one! So glad to see you on line. I was getting concerned.

      You are skinny and can afford a little sugar in your system. Nothing to feel guilty about buying. I stuck to my diet and didn't eat any at all. I also didn't buy a kind of candy that would tempt me.

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  7. You are indeed one positive person. I think I'd have passed on the Halloween candy thing. You just had surgery. My hat is off to you.

    Yes, it's wonderful to see ones traditions being handed down to the next generation. It makes us smile.

    Have a fabulous day. :)

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    1. Thank you. I am a happy camper today. I scored a Wed. house call on my computer repair.

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  8. Look at you, out there treating the trick-or-treaters with only one working arm. You have a lot of perseverance. I'm glad that at least one person offered to give you a helping hand I'd you need it. Wish I lived closer. H is a great helper when it comes to shoveling snow, yard work, etc. I'm good at running errands and bringing casseroles over.

    I can picture Levi helping with the socks. Dogs can be so helpful and I do believe they know they are helping.

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  9. Jean, I like your attitude toward life. Life is hard during the first 2 years of my widowhood. Things start to change when I decide to move forward bravely. This Halloween I had a wonderful time with someone I meet on www.DatingAWidower.us. I would like to recommend it to widowed friends here. It might help. Sometimes you just need to make the step: )

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    1. Bravery is definitely a quality we widows need, I even bought myself a cowardly lion charm to wear and remind me of that when I first ventured out into new situations. I've never heard of that website but it makes sense that dating a widower would be easier than a divorced or never married person. Good for you, Rebecca, and thanks for commenting!

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  10. I know I commented on the post the other day, but it must not have gone well. I remember commenting on Levi helping with the sox.

    Perseverance is definitely one of your character traits. My father's friend, Mrs. Andrews, at 96 used to say, "You have to keep going no matter what."

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    1. We do learn to persevere by a certain age, don't we. It's been interesting watching the Facebook postings of my young relative to had the same surgery as me on the same day.

      Levi is a sweetheart in my ways/most but the stubborn Schnauzer sure shows up, too.

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