Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Monuments Men and When Words Fail Me



On Tuesday I had something interesting penciled into the day planner. I went to lecture followed by a special screening of the Monuments Men movie. You may remember hearing about this George Clooney film when it hit the movie theaters last year. It’s about an actual event in history where men from around the world were charged with finding art works stolen and hidden by the Nazis during World War II. The daughter of one of the actual members of the Monuments Men was the guest lecturer---she was born and raised in a near-by town---and she shared her father’s personal stories, letters and photographs of the recoveries of the stolen art in which he took part. He helped catalog the thousands of pieces of art found in two salt mines and with trying to local their rightful owners.

It was a fascinating story and one the daughter didn’t fully appreciate until a friend called her one day to tell her that her father’s photo was in the latest Smithsonian Magazine. She went online, left a comment on the article and the next day she got an email from a man writing a book about the Monuments Men. He wanted to interview her and her mother and within a week, the author flew in from Texas with a camera crew and he left with some of the memorabilia that her father had kept in a box labeled, “Army Stuff. Do NOT throw out.” Fast forward: The book got optioned for the movie, she was an invited guest at the Michigan premier of the film, the local newspaper picked up the story and she began getting asked to speak to groups around the state.

Once a month I talk politics with a life-long friend of my husbands, or rather I should say we vent to one another. We’re both liberal democrats and as the next presidential election winds up we’ll talk more often. It’s been that way since Don lost his speech and before that it was my husband and his friend who’d have these political conversations. He’s my political ‘pigeonhole’ friend. If I want to talk dogs I call a certain pigeonhole friend and if I want to hear some family gossip, I call a sister-in-law who knows it all. If I want to talk books I’m up a creek without a paddle because no one I know reads for pleasure anymore. Online reviews are a good substitute for real conversations but after seeing what I did on Tuesday I would have loved having a pigeonhole art friend to talk Monuments Men and art with. I still can’t get over the fact that Hitler had left orders---should he die---to destroy all the art that he had his military steal and hide, and they did start that process. It boggles my mind that a person, even Hitler, could be that selfish and vindictive. So many of Europe’s finest treasures---pieces by the likes of Michelangelo, Monet, Rembrandt, Raphael, Vermeer, Leonardo de Vinci and so on---would have been lost forever if not for the quick actions of the 350 men who served in Monuments Men units. 

When my political friend calls we’re usually on the phone a good hour which is a long conversation in Jean’s World where, these days, I can easily go a week or two without talking to anyone except the cashier at the grocery store and the Starbucks speaker. During our most recent political call I realized (not for the first time) that my conversational skills are slipping. I’m not as quick with getting out my thoughts and words. I’m not forming easy comments to his statements like I used to be able to do. Part of that is because since last winter I’m not following the news as closely as I used to do but the other part has me worried. Why? Because I’ve noticed the same, not-as-quick-thing when I’m having shorter, more casual conversations with strangers and acquaintances. What’s going on in my brain? Am I getting rusty because I live alone? Is this just something that happens as we age? Because it’s embarrassing when the words don’t flow like they used to, do we start pulling back from even attempting casual conversations? Ohmygod, I hate thinking about all this!

If nothing more, I think I need to start talking out loud around the house. I don’t even talk to the dog as often as I used because I swear he reads my mind and I know I can read his. He only has a few thoughts inside there. “Give me a treat.” “Play with me.” “Let me outside.” “Let me inside.” “Did you see that rabbit?” “You’ve been in the chair long enough. Put on my song and let’s dance.” With the latter, I go to YouTube and when the music come out of my computer speakers, we take off doing obedience training and tricks as we ‘dance’ through the house. “No matter who you are, no matter where you go in life, you’re going to need someone to stand by you,” the street performer sings. Five and a half minutes later Levi the Mighty Schnauzer in my life is happy. And I’ve done my dog-mother bonding duty but lately I’m left wondering who will read my mind when I’m old and as wordless as my dog. Who will stand by me? ©

A footnote on Tuesday’s lecture: The woman who gave us such a wonderful view of her father didn’t take the speaker’s fee the senior hall pays out to the people we book. She asked that we donate it to the Monuments Men Foundation. How cool is that!

14 comments:

  1. I think we all get rusty as you call it when we age. I find it hard to remember what something is called from time to time. Just happens. Hubby and I just laugh at ourselves. We do talk to our Little Bit a lot though. It's pretty entertaining too.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your lecture and I'm impress she donated her speaker fee. That really was a nice thing to do.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. It was nice of her! It took up two hours of her time plus any prep time she had at home. She was down to earth yet kept us spell-bound at the same time.

      Levi says 'Hi' to your Little Bit. If only they could talk, what stories they would tell.

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  2. If you are having trouble remembering and talking to your political buddy, it is probably because there is so much bulls***, on both sides, that it is way too much to comprehend. LOL

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    1. The bull is why I'm not as tuned into the media as I used to be. LOL

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  3. What an interesting movie! I'll need to find that one. So special to have her as a guest speaker ... and for her to be so generous. WOW!

    I try to talk to someone every day. So my vocal cords get exercised. I'm thinking of playing music so I can sing along while tidying up or cooking. I try to have a "pigeonhole" friend in every category. People love to talk!

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    1. A pigeonhole person for every category is a great idea. I'm going to have to work on that.

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  4. My rationale here is that I am thinking and I am thinking carefully and not simply saying what comes into my mind at first. I consider it careful deliberating and it does slow me down but there is a lot to consider! On the other hand, having just returned from my first of four discussions on Socrates, I spend a lot of time thinking that most people around me seem to know a whole lot more than I do about most things! I don't seem to make the connections that others do, but I don't think its a result of age...I think I have always felt this way (well maybe not so much in the arrogant teen years when I thought I knew everything!).
    And having just been listening to conversations about justice in that Socrates class, I think you give Hitler too much of a pass as a human being...he was evil. Evil people do not have levels of selfishness and cruelty. Evil is their essence and trying to rationalize their actions will not work.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I loved the class on Socrates I took way back in college. I admire that you are taking one now. Lots of food for thought and stimulation and I doubt I could keep up either..

      You are so right about Hitler and me giving him a pass as being human. Silly me, momentarily I thought anyone who loved art as much as he claimed wouldn't want to destroy the best of the best. He was pure evil.

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  5. You have definitely made me want to see this movie; I'll have to watch for it. It might be something they'll show at the local college for $1 on a Sunday afternoon. (That's where I saw Selma.)
    I heard one explanation of the "lost words" problem as basically a "disk full" problem. Basically, we have so much information crammed in our brains by this point in our lives, that it takes a lot longer to search through all the files and come up with what we want. In my teaching career, I noticed that it got more and more difficult as the years progressed to retain the names of my students. I'd learn them all within the first couple of weeks of class, but forget them as soon as I turned in the final grades. It was as though the information was stored in a temporary buffer, and especially embarrassing when I ran into a student a few weeks after the end of the course and couldn't come up with the name. At the same time, I could run into a student from 30 years ago and remember in excruciating detail not only her name, but where she sat in the classroom and who she sat next to, and what she did her paper on. I never could figure out a way to archive all that old, no-longer-needed detail to make space for some more current stuff. -Jean

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    1. I've heard the "disk full" theory and I do think that may be part or all of what is going on. That's one of the main reasons why I've cut down on the background noises in my life---the TV on from the moment I get up until I go to bed even when I wasn't watching it. I'm resting my brain. LOL

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  6. I haven't seen the movie, but now you've piqued my interest. I did know about Hitler hiding the art, and that there were people who were charged with finding it, but I didn't know they were called Monuments Men. Maybe I new and forgot. My disk is probably getting full. :) The memory thing is something we all think about as we age. I've become more introverted over the past eight years, much more than I once was, and conversation does not come as easily as it once did.

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    1. One of the things I found interesting about that period of history was that our Monuments Men were part of the military and ours had the mission to return the art to its rightful owners, but Monuments Men from other countries like Russia kept it as spoils of war so there was a great race in the beginning to locate what they could as fast as they could.

      That is reassuring, Bella, that your conversation doesn't come as easily as it once did. I am not alone!

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  7. I was mid-sentence with a friend the other day, making two points and forgot the second one. So frustrating! I've been told what an articulate speaker I am and have prided myself on that so "losing" my words and thoughts has been frustrating to say the least. And forget about remembering names! Sheesh. I do think practice helps and isolation hinders these skills. So I just keep talking even when I know I'm not as articulate as I used to be.

    I saw the movie Monuments Men. I was fascinated by the story, but felt the movie was not very well done. Overlooking that critique however, I was happy to learn more abut this historical event.

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    1. I thought the movie could have been better, too. They sure left out a LOT. I'm going to read the book next because it really is a fascinating historical event that all art lovers should know more about.

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