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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Widow Cams and Spirits in the House

 

Two or three times a day I check in on the panda twins at the Atlanta zoo. Yes, I’m hooked on the panda cam. If I’m lucky I’ll catch the seven month old babies at a time when they aren’t napping up at the top of a climbing structure in their day room. When they are wrestling and pawing at each other they are so adorable and sweet that it’s like eating a bowl full of my favorite flavor of ice cream. If I had an iPad and could take the panda cam wherever I go, I’d probably lose a few pounds. No more comfort food, I’d just watch the pandas instead. Of course along with the cute stuff we cam fans see the pandas do mundane things like pee, poop, eat and drink water and that got me to thinking about what it would be like if they had widow cams trained on we humans. And maybe “they” do….

In the widow’s memoir I’m reading now she tells about getting a complimentary tarot-card reading at a Mardi Gras party in her first year of her widowhood that made a believer out of her---that “they” are watching us. The tarot reader told her that her husband’s spirit was still around her every day and that her youngest child could see him. The widow hadn’t told a living soul that her toddler was still talking to her dad, as if he was in the room. She’d say things like, “Hi Daddy!” and “Daddy is on the ceiling!” and the widow was thinking there was something wrong with the child so she was afraid to talk to anyone about it. Most widows, including myself, will admit to feeling like there is a spirit around us in the early months following their spouse’s death but I’ve read nothing as dramatic as this widow’s experience. She went on to say she’d seen other mediums after that, but thought there were too many bad ones out there. So don’t go wasting your money trying to find the good, needle-in-the-haystack medium that might actually be in tune with the spirits, if there is such a thing.

As much as we might have loved our spouses---and of course not all widows can say that but for those of us who can, I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it a little unsettling that my life could be in full view of spirits I may or may not know…not unlike voyeurs who watch the panda and other animal cams around the earth. Do they see me poop and pee? Do they see me when I don’t get dressed until noon or skip taking a shower because I have no place to go that day? Or worse yet do they see me in the shower with all my flaws in full view? Are we widows like The Truman Show to the spirits? “Hey, come see what my wife is up today! Can you believe she’s doing that?”

A few days before I read the above mentioned tarot-card incident I had one of those mysterious things happen that made me wonder if there was a ghost in the house. I had been working on the computer, which is in a large wardrobe in my breakfast nook and I had been walking around the kitchen getting breakfast and pills, feeding the dog, making coffee etc., before settling down at the computer. The flooring is light colored and if there had been something on the floor I couldn’t have missed it. So imagine my surprise when I glanced across the room and right in the middle of the area where I’d been walking back and forth, was a dried oak leaf! If the dog had been outside I might have thought it came in on his long, schnauzer beard but he hadn’t been outside since the night before plus there is two foot of snow covering the landscape. My monthly cleaning lady vacuums and mops all the floors so it couldn’t have been hiding in a corner since fall. Nope, I could not solve the mystery of where it came from nor could I decide---if it was another ghost game---what the heck was my husband trying to tell me this time? Then I read the tarot-card incident and I wondered if it somehow tied into the oak leaf mystery, like my ghost of a husband was trying to tell me to pay attention to the signs and so-call coincidences all around me.

Because I google everything under the sun, I googled “oak tree+symbolism” and the first thing I came across was at Wikipedia: “To the Druids, the oak represented doorways to other realms — it was believed to provide protection and shelter when passing through to other realms. It was considered the giver of great powers and was most exalted of all trees by the Druids. Their most spiritual places were in oak groves.” My husband was of Irish descent, from an area known to have been inhabited by ancient Druids and Celtic people. Knowing my husband was proud of his Irish heritage and reading “doorways to other realms” gave me chills. Could the leaf's appearance be another sign?  And if that were true then we very well might be starring in live color on ‘widow cams for the dead' which is __________ <pick your own word to fill in this blank, I can't come up with one right now!> Creepy? Comforting? Unsettling? Pleasing? Scary? Not a surprise? Making me want to shower with my clothes on! ©

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blinders, Isolation and Needing Help

 
A friend of mine is in the hospital recuperating from back surgery. He’s dealt with pain for many years and finally he decided to bite the bullet and do something about it. His doctor told him he’d be up walking and back home the next day. At least that is what my friend heard the doctor say. Whether or not that’s what he actually said is anyone’s guess. There’s a reason why they tell you to bring someone along when you talk to a surgeon. I’m guessing my friend heard the best case scenario and let the rest go right over his head. It’s been a week now and my friend is in a rehab hospital, fighting mad and angry at the doctor for “lying to him.” When I asked him if his pain is any less than it was before the surgery he says it is, and they don’t have him on any pain medications to explain the change, but he still claims he wishes he hadn’t gone through with the whole thing. And this is coming from a guy who is usually pretty logical. He hates hospitals, having spent many, many months in one as a kid, and I’m afraid he’s letting his anger at having to stay in one now keep him from getting the most out of rehab. Why is it so easy to see what others are doing wrong but when it comes to ourselves, we have blinders on?

My friend’s situation made me wonder what parts of my own life I wear blinders in, where things aren’t really the way I think they are. There are probably others, but I’ve narrowed down the main issues in my life where that is happening to my feelings of isolation and worrying about not having back up in an emergency---both common widow and old people woes. But when I’m forced to be honest with myself I have to acknowledge that I have nieces and nephews on both sides of the family, and one very close friend, who would help me in a worst case scenario. I’m the problem. The classic, “it’s me, not them” because I’m the one who is too proud to ask for help should I need it. I’m so used to handling everything that life can throw at me that it feels like weakness or signs of aging that I might not be able to get myself out of any given situation. When my husband was alive we were each other's back up until his stroke. Even after that I didn’t feel weak or old when people helped us in the months after that catastrophic event. In my mind they were helping him, the social butterfly the favorite uncle. False impressions are hard to let go. They were helping us both---the bookends, the matched set.

As for feelings of isolation, on the rare occasions when I call a relative and suggest an outing they seem happy that I asked. And I’ll bet most people can say the same thing about their family. One of my favorite sayings when people complain that no one in their family ever calls them is, “The phone lines run in both directions.” (And, boy, that saying is getting dated fast with cellphones taking over the world.) So why do I sometimes get overwhelmed with feelings of isolation? I don’t blame other people for those feelings. I blame myself for not picking up the phone. With family, part of the issue is we know what is going on in their busy lives and we don’t want to bother them. At least that is true for me. Nieces and nephews are the filling in The Sandwich---the ones with kids and parents, and in some case even grandchildren and grandparents, all vying for their time. I never had kids or grand-kids but I sure know what it’s like to have parents that need help. Been there, done that. The Sandwich Generation have a lot on their plates.

So instead of curing my isolation with those I care the most about, I try to fill my time up with acquaintances at the senior hall and Red Hat Society ---places where you could fall off the face of the earth and no one would notice except for your name printed in the ‘send prayers’ column of the newsletters. The very first person who made me feel welcome at the senior hall's Movie and Lunch Club, shortly after Don passed away, died this winter from complications from a minor surgery. Life is short. The reminders of that are everywhere where old people gather. And maybe that explains why we all have a good time together but we don’t really make much of an effort to take it to the next level and form closer friendships? Nope, most of the people I’ve met at the senior hall and Red Hats seem content to just be widows and/or seniors looking for group fun and my new favorite word, “enrichment.”

I’ve been having trouble finding an ending for this post and before I knew it I had a chocolate pudding in my hand…not the kind that comes in little plastic tubs. No, this pudding was homemade and filled a footed, antique goblet which makes it harder to overlook the calories you just consumed. Why? Because you can’t put the goblets in the dish washer, so as you’re washing them by hand you have time to think about how the pudding became a comfort food in the first place. I love chocolate pudding and the memories that goes with eating it out of the same, sentimental dish my mom used for pudding. Most of the time those goblets sit in the cupboard waiting to be needed and that grounds me to a happier, carefree time in my life. And despite wearing blinders from time to time, I know my family will also be there if I need a different kind of comfort or help. I should get that tattooed on my arm so I don’t forget. Maybe just a discreet little, “They Care” would do the trick.  ©

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Birds, Dogs and a Widow's Book

 
I’ve started reading a book by a fellow widow blogger. Her husband died after spending three days in ICU following a stroke caused by a motorcycle accident. I thought I was far enough out from Don’s passing that this sort of reading---stroke and ICU details---wouldn’t bother me, but now I’m not so sure it was a good book choice for me. I ended up taking a sleeping pill last night because I couldn’t turn my thoughts off after reading just two chapters. She’s a good writer, though, so I’ll stick with the book. For now. If it gets too hard, I’ll move on. I had originally thought that because she was widowed young in life with three small children, we wouldn’t have a lot in common---I didn’t know about the stroke part when I bought the book. Research, woman! I should have done my research.

Friday I was supposed to meet my Movie and Lunch Club to see Monuments Men, a film I really want to see. So I was bummed out when the weather station was predicting blowing snow on top of icy roads. Chicken that I've become about winter driving, that morning I made the judgment call not to go and it was a good thing that I did. By afternoon they were warning people to stay off the roads and by night they were calling it the worst day of the entire winter season in terms of roll-over accidents, slide-offs, intersection accidents and pile-ups on the expressway. The roads were treacherous!

On the home front, Friday was just plain weird---what was going on with the neighborhood wildlife. The back 50 foot of the lots on my side of street are what the developer called a wildlife track. I own my 50 feet, as do my neighbors, but the 50 foot wide, block long track was left in its raw state with trees or meadow-like undergrowth and no landscaping. That gives the wildlife a place to travel back and forth to a small, virgin lake leading to a golf course, a couple of riverside parks, and eventually connecting to nature trails that go on for miles. Having a schnauzer in the house that, by ancestral instinct, thinks it’s his job to chase small ‘varmint’ he’s like an alarm bell whenever a squirrel, rabbit or other four-legged creature comes along. And Friday it was like Grand Central Station back there. I’d never seen anything like it. All day long, in the blowing snow the squirrels and rabbits went back and forth, dipping into yards to raid bird feeders. Since my feeders are the only ones without baffles my house was a popular pit stop and the competition was fierce. Even the birds were feeding in the blowing snow which is very rare around here for ANY wildlife to be out during a storm. I thought  maybe an even worst storm must have been on the way, or maybe the world was coming to an end. If there had been a pan of brownies in the house, I would have followed suit and eaten them all. Why die without chocolate coursing through your veins?

With all the activity going out back, I pulled a chair up to a back window and held the dog on my lap for a long time, thinking it was the perfect time to try to teach him the difference between squirrels and rabbits. Squirrels he’s allowed to bark at, but not the rabbits. So it was back to obedience 101 and lessons on ‘settling.’ The ‘settle’ command is a useful command to teach the Fido's of the world. It involves holding your barking dog on your lap and tightly wrapping your arms around him or her while giving the ‘settle’ command. When the barking stops, you lighten your hold, when the barking starts in again, you tighten the hold and give the command again. The goal is to eventually get your dog to be able to settle themselves with just the command. Settling is also useful for dogs that tremble during storms, etc. It teaches them that they can calm themselves when they get scared. Technically, Levi is too big at 27 pounds to be a lap dog, but when he needs to settle himself down he’ll come lean against my legs so I can give him a few reassuring pats. He’s supposed to be able to settle himself where ever he’s at but I obviously didn’t work on that part long enough. Maybe I should work on teaching myself the ‘settle’ command as I continue reading the above mentioned book? But then again it would be hard to wrap my arms around myself and read at the same time.

This winter I’ve had the strangest woodpecker coming to my feeders and he was also here during the snow storm. He’s got the body markings, coloring and black throat of a Northern Flicker but his head is almost a solid red like the Redheaded Woodpecker. (See photos above.) He’s as fat as a mourning dove, a big guy who likes the seed and suet cakes and he’s very camera shy. It sounds like I’m writing a profile for eHarmony Match, doesn’t it. Loves long afternoon flights, drumming on trees and sunflower seeds. This handsome bird is seeking a life partner to share sunsets, insects and migratory trips. If anyone knows what kind of woodpecker he is, please let me know. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t find him in the bird identification books. And it bothers me even more that I care so much about identifying his sub-species, given the fact that I used to make fun of old people and their birds. Feel free to laugh at me. What goes around, comes around. Oops! ©

That object in the center of the snow drift is the post of my 3 foot high fence.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Presidents, Red Hats and Apartments


On President’s Day the senior citizen hall sponsored a program described as: “A two-character play that brings history alive. This one-act play chronicles the true love story of the lives of John and Abigail Adams.” What a treat that was to watch this play and this is coming from a woman who has never been big on going to live theater productions. I guess I need to give them another try, broaden my horizons as they say. The actors---well-known in area Civic and Heritage theater groups---spoke in character for an entire hour, never once missing a line or stumbling on a word of the fast-paced dialogue. The acting was extraordinary and it didn’t hurt that they brought up one of my Revolutionary Era ancestors who had a well-documented connection with the Adams family and the revolution. I left the building uplifted and smiling just as a snowstorm was moving in that dumped another eight inches of drifting snow overnight, bringing our seasonal total up to 101.1 inches!

The cost of these life appreciation lectures are unwritten by area businesses and the President’s Day play was paid for by a senior living apartment complex. (You have to be 55 or older to live there.) Since I keep going back and forth about moving to a condo or senior complex or staying put I asked a lot of questions of the representative who was manning their table full of handouts. It’s a nice place with some bells and whistles I want but I was shocked to learn that the rent for one person in a 780 square feet apartment is $3,180 per month. It doesn’t cost me anywhere near that much to live in my 1,600 square feet house, not to mention I would hate going down the hall to do laundry, not having a garage for my car, and I would be exchanging snow shoveling for walking my dog in the winter, since here I can just turn him loose in his dog pen. Maybe I'm just out of touch with rental costs?  If I sold my house I'd end up spending all that money in five or six short years on rent! Then what? No wonder people end up living in their cars.

I did learn one important fact to tuck in back of my mind in case I ever reach bag lady status. These kinds of senior living places will let you try out their guest apartments for a weekend for free, if you’re interested in sampling their social life. I’ve never counted but I’ll bet there’s enough senior places like this around town that you could stay in a different one every weekend for a year, and then start all over again using a different name. Always have a backup plan, that’s my motto. Last year I toured another place like the one mentioned above only it was more upscale and downright spooky. Why spooky? Because you buy your apartment for upwards of $300,000 plus paid a high monthly fee but if you live there longer than one year, then died or move out, you or your heirs won’t get a penny of that money back when it’s resold. The money goes back to the complex. I wrote about this Stepfordville for old people HERE if you’re interested in how these places work. Apparently their business model is pretty common. There are at least three that I know of in town that are set up in a similar way.

Our bad weather last week caused my Red Hat Society chapter to cancel their Valentine’s Day party at the nursing home and it was reschedule for this week. Why did I have to join a do-gooder chapter who does these little cheer-up-the-inmates events from time-to-time? I did my thing with nursing homes twice a week for seven years when my husband’s mother was in one. I share-cared my dad for five years through his early Alzheimer’s and cancer. I was my disabled husband’s caregiver for twelve years. I don’t want any more reminders in my life that many of us get helpless and needy as we age, thank you very much. I’m perfectly content to bury my head in the sand on that score. But I’ve ran out of excuses for Red Hat nursing home duty and so Wednesday I played nice with a bunch of their residents---many of whom aren’t that much older than me. I came home determined to take better care of myself lest I be the next recipient of a do-gooder group handing out punch, sugary treats and holiday trinkets, and playing bingo in slow-motion with cards the size of Texas. It wasn’t such a bad experience---I made myself useful---but you know what a drama queen I can be.

Transitions in life are often scary and I’m finding this one---attempting to age with grace---the hardest of all. Yes, you caught that---I’m at a point where I’ve separated the transition caused by grief from the transition of aging which makes it easier. Divide and conquer. But it’s a little like having the horse that was pulling my cart run off leaving me to decide whether to push the cart or abandon it. I accept that my horse isn’t coming back but now what? Do I sell the house and move on or do I stay as long as I can still keep it up? If I move, where to? If I go to a senior complex will I be happy living so close with others my own age? Or will I hate the loss of real privacy? What will I gain, what will I lose if I move? Will I run out of money and end up roaming the streets? People in transition can drive themselves crazy with questions!  ©

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Break From Winter

 


This has been a good week here in the land of too much snow. Saturday the gods of goodness shined down on Michigan and made the 82 miles of roads I had to travel to my great, great niece’s baby shower easy to drive. My niece was putting a lot of pressure on me to come out to the boondocks and even offered to send her husband to pick me up and deliver me back home if the roads were bad. And if the roads were really, really bad, she wanted me to stay at her house for a few days, “We’ll have a slumber party of shower guests,” she said. But Levi, my schnauzer, nixed that idea since his kennel is out in the County of Unplowed Roads and who would feed his rabbits if I wasn’t home to do it? He torments my niece’s cat so he couldn't have gone with me. What can I say, it’s in his genes to chase small ‘varmint’ and that instinct is making me nervous these days because the snow is so deep---and the rabbits so plentiful in my yard---it wouldn’t take much effort for him to crawl right out of his dog pen. Only 14 inches of his 3 foot tall fence is showing above the snow pack. My only saving grace is that he’s an agility course drop-out. When the jump bar gets set over five inches high, he chickens out.

It was bright and sunny when I arrived at the golf course where the shower was being held and the minute I pulled into the overcrowded parking lot I got excited. There were easily 100 snowmobiles in various states---some parked, some coming and going from the state trail, some circling the parking lot and others taking part in a vintage snowmobile show. The annual winter-fest was on and its sounds and sunshine was like taking a tonic! I was quite early for the shower and even though I felt half-dressed walking about in the sea of helmeted people wearing one-piece, playtime snowsuits I looked over the vintage machines, enjoying all the great memories they conjured up. I’d been on that trail, to that course golf, on machines like those in the vintage parking area many times. I was almost sad when I got inside and realized the shower was booked in a private room, and we wouldn’t be mixing it up with all the exhilarated snowmobilers in the main dining room.

The shower was a big one—55 of us---and my great-great niece got a mountain of gifts but mine was the only one that included handmade items. I guess knitting has gone out of style. This winter I’ve knitted up a pile of stuff---mostly hats, scarfs, cowls and baby car seat blankets. Most winters I usually knit just one or two things. I blame that darn cable upgrade I got 5-6 weeks ago and the unending snow because I’m spending more time in front of the TV set than usual. Is this how it starts? Pretty soon will the table next to my chair in the living room have that “old person” look? You know, an unruly pile containing things like a magnifier glass, a box of tissues, toenail clippers, paper and pen, maybe a crossword puzzle book, a bottle of liniment, and a few back issues of the TV guide---all overflowing and tempting the dog to steal stray candy wrappers and used Kleen-x. Will my next addition to the room be a TV tray where I can eat or do small jigsaw puzzles?

Thursday I went to a lecture at the senior hall titled, Warm Winter Reads. The librarian who puts on the program is so energetic and enthusiastic about the books she recommends that it’s hard not to get intrigued by some of those she features. I used to belong to the book club at the hall before my husband died and I never really got back into reading with the same pleasure and intensity. But when I got home from the lecture I downloaded one of her recommendations to my Kindle and so far I’m enjoying The Humans by Matt Haig. It’s probably the lightest read on her handout but I couldn’t resist the premise of an extraterrestrial who comes to earth to assume a man’s identity in order to carry out an important mission but he ends up falling in love with the man’s family and their dog. The book has some intriguing passages like the one below where the extraterrestrial is describing love to those on his home planet: "Two mirrors, opposite and facing each other at perfectly parallel angles, viewing themselves through the other, the view as deep as infinity. Yes, that is what love was for. Love was a way to live forever in a single moment, and it was also a way to see yourself as you had never actually seen yourself, and made you realize---having done so---that this view was a more meaningful one than any of your previous self-perceptions and self-deceptions.”

After Monday's storm, we are supposed to have a week of thawing here and with it will come fog and flooding but it’s a necessary evil in order for us to get rid of some of our massive snow piles. I can’t wait! I just hope my sump pump can keep up!  Our hundred year flood, last year, found my basement and I don’t need another disaster like that again.  ©

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day on Widowhood Lane



There was a Ralph Lauren perfume commercial on TV during The Grammy Salute to the Beatles last Sunday night. It showed a couple on horseback with the guy’s arm curled around the girl’s neck as he stole a kiss. That arm/neck cradling brought back a memory of the first time Don applied that gesture of affection to me. We were riding pink elephants in the park early on in our relationship---the kind on giant springs made for children. It was a gesture he repeated a thousand times over our years together. Don wasn’t the hand-holding-in-public type but on occasion he did do the arm/neck cradling, heads touching thing for public consumption. If I was Barbara Streisand this is where I’d break out singing, “Memories, misty water-colored memories of the way we were….”

Before our big downsizing after Don’s stroke, I collected greeting cards. Fifty years’ worth of collecting went up for auction along with more than half of our possessions and I never started collecting cards again even though the inclination to do so pops its head up from time to time. Of my card collection, I only saved a few things including an 8” x 10” Valentine's Day card in its own, custom box and an old leather suitcase full of Valentines from the 1800’s that came down through Don’s family and had to be thrown out when my basement got flooded last year.

I found the card recently while cleaning closets. It was from Don and opening that card, made me smile warm and wide. I had forgotten his habit of rarely signing his name on the greeting cards he gave to me. Instead, he’d put a few words and his name on Post-it notes so he wouldn’t lower the collector value of the cards. That was Don. He could spend money with abandonment on silliness and flowery, over-sized cards but his practical side always showed up as well. It was very cool to re-discover that card so close to Valentine’s Day and it came with the Hallmark message of, “Loving you, sweetheart, the way that I do means finding contentment in being with you…finding such joy in just knowing that you care and real inspiration in the dreams we share.” Don never, ever calling me ‘sweetheart’ unless he was holding a pretend Groucho Marx cigar in his hand while making a smart-ass remark. His endearment for me was a made-up word and as much as I’d like to remember what it was, right now I can’t. The tiny details that made up our relationship are fading with time and leaving behind broad strokes we might label love, loyalty and friendship. Finding that forgotten card brought some of the details back and that was a good Valentine’s Day gift to get this year.

This will be my third February 14th living on Widowhood Lane and this week I went to the annual Valentine’s Day luncheon at the senior hall. The first year I went---less than a month after Don’s passing---I had to leave shortly after the entertainment started because I couldn’t keep my tears in check. Bands that are entertaining a bunch of mostly widows shouldn’t sing sad songs like Duke Ellington’s, “Missed the Saturday dance. Heard they crowded the floor. Couldn't bear it without you. Don't get around much anymore.”

In my second year of widowhood I stayed for the whole Valentine’s Day program at the senior hall and I didn’t cry when the entertainment played an assortment of longing-for-love songs but a recent widow sitting near-by did and I whispered understanding words in her ear. This year something astonishing happened. While the entertainer was singing Fats Domino’s, I Left My Heart on Blueberry Hill the lady sitting next to me burst out laughing. Then she explained that the song reminded her of a time when her sister was in high school and a guy came to pick her up for a date. Without asking for permission, he sat down at the family piano and started playing that song. The sister was so put off by his boldness that she made up an excuse not to go on the date. That piano was for Sunday morning hymns, after all, not for singing about ill-gotten thrills found on top of a hill.

“That was my husband’s favorite song,” I told her, “and”---I drew out my words so their full weight could sink in---“in the entire 42 years that I knew him he never passed by a piano without taking the opportunity to sit down and play Blueberry Hill.”

“It couldn’t have been your husband,” she said a couple of times. “This took place in---. “ Then she named a tiny town north of here. By then I was laughing so hard I could hardly tell her that Don grew up just a few miles from where she and her sister lived. Yup, it turned out it was my husband who got judged too bold and brazen to date.

“Tell your sister thanks for passing him by,” I told her. “I got him and he was a keeper.”

What are the odds in a city of over 600,000 people that two strangers would sit next to one another and find a bizarre, half-century old connection like that? Needless to say, I had a great time this year at the Valentine’s Day luncheon. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call progress here on Widowhood Lane. Or was this latest coincidence just another example of ‘ghost games’ at work?  I don’t know, doctor, but give me two chocolate covered caramels and I'll call you in the morning when I figure it out. ©

P.S. I remembered Don’s made-up endearment, but I can’t figure out how to spell it. It would start with 'sm' and end with 'ring'. LOL

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Winter of Disappointment


This week I got my first professional pedicure since last fall. You’d think that would have been a relaxing outing, given the fact they I was sitting in a massage chair while a nice lady played which-little-piggy-went-to-market with my toes, but there were groaning sounds coming from up above and that made me nervous. We’re at a point in our record setting winter where roofs are caving in from the weight of all that snow---nearly 90 inches of snow so far this season. That’s three feet more snow than our yearly average. Nine or ten cave-ins have made the news and any flat roofed building is in danger. Long story short my pink little piggies look perfect and the roof overhead stayed in place long enough for me to escape the impending danger. This senior citizen knows how to live on the edge.

Aside from it being a perfect winter for downhill skiers---if they want to brave the bitter cold---another good thing about having a hard winter is the fact that the ice sculpture contest contestants, this weekend, don’t have to worry about their huge blocks of ice disappearing any time soon. In past years I’ve seen their slightly melted creations as I pushed my husband’s wheelchair around a small tourist town near-by but this year I planned to bundle up in my warmest clothes and I go watch the carvers as they worked---twenty three sculptures created over two days. If you’ve ever seen the Food Network’s Ice Brigade with Randy Finch and his crew you’ll know exactly who is in town working their magic. These guys and gals are awesome!

On paper, the opening day looked perfect for me to get out of the house---no new snow predicted. I had my wool socks, long gaiters, heaviest sweats, snowmobile gloves and a hat laid out. I was looking forward to sipping free cocoa while watching people play miniature golf on a course made entirely out of ice. I planned on sampling the quirky mash potato bar at the olive oil store before wandering over to the chili cook off and the snowman building contest in the park. Then I saw the morning news. Cars crashes and spin offs all over the place. Icy roads between me and the contest. So I’ll be seeing the sculptures and snowmen next week, after the ice festival is over. I’m calling this the Winter of Disappointment. Not to worry. I’m getting used to it. I’m in no danger of hanging myself from the rafters in the attic.

Saturday I had tickets to a country western show put on by the fire department. I haven’t been to one of these twice-a-year firefighters fundraisers since Don passed away even though I continued buying tickets. In the back of my mind I kept thinking I’d connect with someone to invite to go with me, but that hasn’t happened. This year, I decided to go alone, to made it a widow’s work goal. But the temperatures never got high enough for the road salt to work and there is a huge hill in between me and the auditorium that is well known for its bumper car intersection at the bottom, so I opted not to chance it. Color me disappointed. Our fire department guys are the ones who come to the house when you call 911 and say, “X, Y or Z has fallen and can’t get back up.” They’d been here many times when Don was still alive and they never charge, so I will keep buying their tickets whether I go or not. However, if we still have icy roads in July when their next show is scheduled I’m moving to Fiji where I can tie myself to a tree during hurricane season. I’ve had enough of the devil’s dandruff and his polar breath for one season, thank you very much. 

Switching gears, at one of my favorite blogs, As Time Goes By, there is a recent post titled Coming Out as Old. Reading it I learned that to be politically correct I have to quit calling myself a senior citizen or elderly. Instead, I have to use the words ‘elder’ or ‘old’ person. The idea is that ‘elderly’ and ‘senior’ implies a fragile body and declining cognitive abilities. Since I’ve been admonished in my off-line life not to call myself ‘elderly’ I found this discussion of labels very interesting. For some reason that defies explanation I’d rather be elderly than old but I also like the title, ‘elder.’ I guess it's all in the perceptions the labels conjure up in our heads. Many if not most people my age are not frail or have declining abilities---I get that point, I really do---but what about those who are? Do we have to find a new label that covers them? Or do we just get out our bag of adjectives and say, “She’s a fragile old person" or "she's flaky old person”? Given a choice between ‘elderly’ and ‘a fragile' or 'flaky' old person I’d rather be elderly. Ohmygod, I need a pie chart to sort this all out! In the meantime, I am officially now the elder in my tribe of one here on Widowhood Lane. ©

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Widow's Lunch in Guy-Land



“When it rains, it pours” is an idiom meaning a whole lot of things are going wrong in your life all at the same time. I wonder if there is an idiom for a whole lot of good things happening at the same time. That’s the way I feel about the fact that after sitting “on the bench” for most of the winter there are six get-out-of-the-house outings penciled in my planner for this first week in February, a week without a major ice or snow storm in the weather forecast. (We've got a mini storm going on right now.)

Granted an appointment to take the dog to the groomers wasn’t very exciting but that was my Monday outing. Since he had to be dropped off at noon and picked back up at 4:00 I took the time in between to take my closet-purging bags to Goodwill. They’d been sitting in my garage long enough to give me second thoughts and more than once I was digging in those bags, wondering if I made good purging decisions. I did.

Among the things dropped off was a pair of brand new snowmobile boots in their original box with the tags still in place. I found them in a forgotten corner of the coat closet and I tried them on, thinking I could use them when I shovel snow. Guess what, I’ve gotten so old/weak since they were purchased that I couldn’t pick my feet up to walk with those heavy boots on. It felt like they were nailed to the floor---the boots, not my feet. And to think I used to traipse around in the middle of snowy nights, wearing heavy boots like that and holding a flashlight for Don while he repaired broken cutting edges and fluid lines on snowplows. He had so much equipment that something always needed fixing during blizzards. Sometimes when I look back on my life I wonder if all that stuff happened to someone else. Does that ever happened to you? Without a life-partner to ask, “Do you remember the time when….” I seem to have lost some validation.

After Goodwill I decided to go to the Breakfast Only Café where I knew I could strike up a conversation with others sitting at the counter. But I forgot it was Monday, the only day they are closed. So I went to a cafeteria style restaurant near-by. I picked a table near four thirty-something guys where I thought eavesdropping might be interesting. (Don’t judge me. Plenty of people had eavesdropped on Don and me over the years and if they inserted an appropriate comment with a “Sorry, I couldn’t help hearing” they often got invited into the conversation.) Can you believe it, these four guys spent 5-6 minutes talking about hairstyles they used to have, wish they had and hope they never get. One guy went so far as to pull a photo off the internet to show his companions! They sounded like a bunch of little girls. I cannot imagine my macho-man husband ever having a conversation like that. Times are changing.

After they left the restaurant, an old guy sat down at a table adjoining mine and over the half wall separating us he struck up a conversation. That’s when I realized that there were twelve tables with people dining alone and I was the only woman in old geezer-land! If I was in the market for a man, that place would be a prime hunting ground and I’d be eating there every morning, noon and night. I’m not in the market and I hate saying this because it makes me sound like a cougar but if I were in the market, old men have no sex appeal.

Don never lost his sex appeal as he aged but then again I’m not so sure that many/most widows don’t wear extra heavy, corrective rose colored glasses when we think about our spouses. When we no longer get annoyed by their petty guy things---burping on purpose to get a rise out of us or socks left next to the hamper---it’s easier to keep building that ‘dead husband pedestal’ higher and higher. Don wasn’t perfect but in my warped widow’s mind there are few guys, if any, in my peer age group who could compete with him in the Department of Homeland Sex Appeal, and it’s a little scary to have that train of thought traveling through my head. It makes me wonder if someday an old dude will be sit down at a near-by table, a train whistle will blow in my head and suddenly he’ll have sex appeal where before, he didn’t. Will this mighty tree in the forest fall and shout, “Oh, shit!” on the way down and the next thing you know I’d be on my way to Las Vegas for an Elvis-themed wedding with an old geezer who thinks I’ll make a good caregiver should he have a heart attack on our Viagra spiced honeymoon? Or worse yet, I’ll be on my way to Las Vegas with a young con-artist with a sexy smile who mistakenly marked this widow as a good cash cow. Good grief, with all that on the list of possibilities, I need to stay out of the Guy-Land Cafeteria!

The old guy at lunch was nice but the conversation was vanilla pudding. “Nice day isn’t it,” he said in his opening volley.  

“It sure is,” I replied. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen the sun.”

“Do you live around here?” he asked

No, I felt like saying to that ancient line, I just flew in from Dallas to have lunch in this fine establishment. Out loud I replied: “I live on the other side of the river.” Five minutes of chit-chat later, I put my coat on and as I walked off I lied and told the guy, “It was nice talking to you.” I wondered if he was disappointed that I didn’t get myself another cup of coffee to prolong the chance encounter. If the conversation had been chocolate or pistachio pudding I might have. Thank goodness he didn’t ask for my phone number. Years ago when a guy would ask that question I usually gave out the number to the weather station's recorded forecast. I don’t think they’ve had a forecast line in ages. Now, you just google it if you want to know what’s coming. Do you ever wish we could google our futures? If we could, I wonder if I’d really want to know. ©

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Who Reads Blogs?


Are personal blogs just a written form of reality TV? That question crossed my mind when someone on The View said he never watches the genre because he is philosophically against it being passed off as entertainment. At first I totally agreed with him until I looked up a list of popular reality TV shows and much to my surprise I found out that on occasion I actually watch five shows that fall into that classification: American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Hoarders, Antiques Roadshow, and Storage Wars. Who knew? When I thought about reality TV shows I was thinking of those programs that make me want to stick my fingers down my throat and vomit: Here Comes Honey BooBoo, The Kardashians, Real Housewives, Duck Dynasty, Jersey Shore, and The Apprentice. These shows are very popular which just goes to show that taste in entertainment is far from one-size-fits all. Why am I philosophically against make-me-vomit television?  I don’t think it’s good for society to lower the bar so much by depicting the daily drama that occurs in these so-called average or affluent families. I don’t want to go back to the days of Father Knows Best but if we’re going to elevate and encourage voyeurism then what we watch should have some redeeming or teachable factors to justify having cameras capture so much bad behavior. Garbage spoon-fed into society, garbage out.

Having said that, I also have to say that reading personal blogs is not much different than televised voyeurism. We not only get a window into the daily lives of the blog writers with all their flaws and foibles but we also get the main attraction; we get a window into the blog writer’s stream of consciousness. A stream of consciousness according to about.com is defined as: “A narrative technique that gives the impression of a mind at work, jumping from one observation, sensation, or reflection to the next….” And aren’t we all interested in knowing how our own stream of consciousness stacks up against the next guy’s? We want to know, for example, how often our neighbors think about their past and future, their families and society at large, even the lint in their belly buttons. We want to know if they worry about the same things we do. We want to know irrelevant stuff like how it feels when someone goes to the ‘days calculator’ online and finds out they are 26,227 days old. By the way, the answer to that last question is that being 26,227 days old makes me feel much older than the run-of-the-mill septuagenarian that I am---like I’ve crossed over into Buddha-land. Say something insightful and wise, old woman.

This long winter has been hard on us blog writers who live in the Snowbelt because many of us have to live inside our heads more than usual. To write, we need outside stimulation and we're not getting any. There are just so many ways I can describe the impassable roads, the birds at my feeders and the tin fold hat I’m thinking about making to keep the crazy, snowbound thoughts from coming in. There are just so many ways a widow can say how lonely she is or how much she misses being relevant in the world. Oh, here we go again! says the Mary Poppins-like voice in my head It really is time to say something insightful and wise, old woman.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot. “This, too, shall pass. Spring will come, I’ll get back out into the world and once again the box of Reynolds Wrap will be safe from the would-be hat couturier who lives on Widowhood Lane."

Who reads blogs? According to Social Media Today, blogs get 46 million unique page views per month and 71% of internet users read blogs. They also report that the majority of blog writers are women. There are 6.7 million bloggers on blog sites and another 12 million on social networks. Clearly, a lot of people are interested what others have to say about things that touch their lives in some way, be it a personal musings blog like this one or a blog written by a hobbyist beer maker or the highest earning blog of all, the Huffington Post.

The unique page views on this blog number over 64,000. Yet only 1,033 comments have been made. I’ve often wondered about my statistics. Who are these people who come and read my thoughts but never share their own? Who are you? Won't you give me a clue? Did you land here by mistake, a Google search screw-up? Are you a recovering widow like me? Are you a fellow blogger? And the most important question of all: Do you also have a roll of Reynolds Wrap that hides from you on long, snowy days? ©