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, May 3, 2015

The Past, Present and Future



I’m sitting here at the computer like I’m in a penalty box, fingers not moving or rather I should say they aren’t writing anything I’ve planned out in my head. Ramble writing, see what comes, yup, that’s always fun. Jeez, how long will I sit in the penalty box waiting for inspiration strike? Until it does. That’s the way the big boys like Stephen King do it, they write even when it feels like punishment.

While I’m sitting here doing my time---two hours every morning---I’m dreading my afternoon project. I’m going to be unpacking some stuff of my husband’s in the garage, things that I moved out of an antique booth, last year. Hopefully I can sell it off wholesale to an antique dealer who is coming over for a private showing. I’m grouping stuff and pricing it so low I have high hopes that he’d open up his wallet and say, “Sold!” to everything on the table. I want so badly to finally see an ending to that chapter of my life. Not that I still won’t have to be in e-Bay hell again this summer, but with the gas station memorabilia finally gone, I can start in on one of my husband’s other collections. Next on the agenda will be little boy toys that big boys like to collect. In my husband’s case, he grew up poor and had a lot of toy envy when he was a kid which he more than made up for as an adult. I want to sell off the toys and their showcase in the library so I can move my computer in its place to make the room into a library/office combination. Call it staking a claim on the house as a single woman because that's what it will be. This summer I should also work on downsizing my books. I downsized books once before, when we moved here 12-13 years ago and I cried the whole time so I’m not looking forward to that project. 

Growing up poor sure molds your life, dreams, fears and attitudes doesn’t it. It turned my husband into a workaholic. His fear of being poor, of having bill collectors come to the door and getting utilities shut off like they did when he was a kid, drove him to always have more than one source of income going. He spent over thirty years working as tool and diemaker in the auto industry where forced overtime was the norm for many years. Yet that wasn’t enough, he had five rental properties and a parking lot maintenance business on the side that brought in more money than his full time job. And have I mentioned that we also had booths in three antique malls at one point in time? Life was busy and the apartments sure taught us a lot about painting, plastering and remodeling while the parking lot maintenance business taught us a lot about asphalt, line stripping, sweeping and snow plowing. As a kid I never dreamed of riding in a street sweeper much less owning one. Don did and that dream came true. Even so—and I know this is going to sound strange---but in some ways I think he was happier after his massive stroke when he was no longer in charge of keeping all those balls in the air, when I was solely responsible for keeping our lives together. God, I’m so glad I could give him that...along with building a house, which had been on our Bucket Lists. Now that I don’t have all those balls to juggle I think I need to learn how to relax and just be. I get antsy when I'm at home, thinking I should be some place. I get antsy when I’m off having fun, like I should be doing something at home. Hopefully, I still have a few years left to figure it out a balance.

The house next door has been in foreclosure since January. Have I mentioned that? They’ve finally set a date for an auction where people will be bidding on the place “as is” without getting to tour the inside and without any warranties. Cash on the barrow head, no mortgages. All week long a stream of people have been walking around it, peeking in the windows. It feels like I have a front row seat to an episode of HGTV’s Flip or Flop. If you watch that show you’ll know it’s a crap shoot. Sometimes the flipper lucks out and they find the houses have not been destroyed inside, other times they find electrical fixtures, copper pipes, toilets, etc., have been stripped out and the walls and flooring deliberately damaged. What surprises me is that none of the people walking around have come over to me or the other neighbors to ask a few questions. I was outside working in the yard one day, within speaking distance but no one asked, “Did you see your neighbors moving out?” “Do you know if they took the marble counter-tops with them?” “Were they the type of people to pour cement down the drains before they left?” That’s what I’d do---I’d ask questions, try to give myself an edge when the auction starts. But then I’d die of stress buying a house sight unseen. Flippers are short term investors. They want to get the rehabbing done as quickly as possible so they can put the house back on the market. With any luck I’ll get new neighbors by mid-summer and with even more luck they’ll be great assets to the cul-de-sac.  Life goes on…..  ©

Note: Photo above is of the farm where Don grew up taken after being struck by a tornado. It was struck twice by tornadoes, ten years apart. Just two of the unfortunate hardships his family went through.

12 comments:

  1. Yep, growing up sure molds our life, dreams, desires, fears and attitudes. Don worked so hard and saved money. God bless him for that now! Interesting that his stroke gave him permission to exhale and put himself in your able hands. He could really feel like a beloved kid. Aren't we all kids inside, wanting a fun childhood?

    For years, when I was whittling away at Ev's humongous collections, I was P. O.'d that this was something he didn't whittle away at, when he knew his life was end-date stamped. My heart goes out to you. All those goodbyes, drawn out. I remember breaking down and crying as the follow who bought our canoe off eBay, came to claim it. Poor man, hugged me.

    I really hope the antique dealer does take this off your hands.

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    1. I know a woman who nags her husband to sell off all his stuff because he's terminal. It causes a lot of stress for them. I want to bat some sense into her. He's dying but he's still here. She won't be able to get that time back with him! And if I was in his shoes I'd think she can't get rid of me fast enough. If it's hard for widow's to sell off a spouse's stuff, think how hard it must be to be dying and selling off your own stuff! But it's fear, I think, that makes people like her and you get P.O.'d. We're all just being human with emotions we can't always control. By the way, I cried when Don's vet went down the road, too.

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    2. Yeah, when he and I knew hey was terminal, we chose to enjoy our remaining moments to the fullest. No regrets. Before he left, he did take care to make sure I'd be secure financially. Handling his collections afterwards, though, separating the mere 2% of the gems from the cellarful of stuff, sure did rub salt into my wounds. Ouch! Sooo glad only the sweet memories remain now.

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    3. Not easy, no matter how we widows handle things. I'm glad you're at a point where only the sweet memories remain.

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  2. My favorite part of being retired is NOT multi-tasking. It takes a conscious effort though. And I always do something while watching TV because that is just too easy ... fold clothes, open mail, do dishes, make to do list.

    I am grateful that we downsized before we knew the end was near. No collections per se, but lots of inexpensive art from his world travels. It is all in Portland and I think Kate will rotate it around as it is so much a part of her childhood!

    Big step for me yesterday ... I turned off his Facebook account.

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  3. That was a big step and so close to your sadiversary of losing him. All these steps take us farther from the past and closer to our futures...sad and healthy at the same time.

    That's me when I watch TV, too.

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  4. Fred's kids came up from Florida, for his funeral. They came out after the funeral--I had laid out all his stuff and they took what they wanted. It may have been the easiest way to do it. Two weeks after he died, there was barely a thing in this house of his. Of course, we are talking 7 years--not a lifetime together. I still have his tennis shoes, that used to sit by my front door where he last stepped out of them. They are now on the high shelf in my bedroom closet. Why I can't get rid of those damn ratty things is beyond me, but I just cant.! I no longer watch any of the programs that Fred and I used to watch on TV--just can't do that either. It is so difficult for you that had a lifetime together. I don't know how you do it and remain sane...and seem pretty happy.

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    1. I donated all the clothing and shoes of Don's but his cowboy boots and a few shirts. At the time I saved them I had planned to fill the boot with plants and leave them by the front door. Haven't done it yet but I will. Maybe even this summer.

      42 years worth of stuff to dispose of plus Don was known for his collecting is a big task. The sensible thing to do would have been to have an auction but after he died I couldn't baring seeing everything of his stripped from the house at once. I've sold off enough, now, that the only way I could do an auction would be to go in with another person. We did that once and I didn't like it. I am pretty happy and I don't let "stuff" get me too down. After all, we've bought and sold this kind of stuff for over twenty years.

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  5. I didn't grow up poor, but we were definitely part of the frugal working class, where everything was budgeted, nothing was wasted, and it was always considered smart to have a second job "just in case." My father -- also a tool and die maker -- worked long hours on his primary job and a second job evenings and weekends. One of the effects of all this for me is that I have no appreciation of antiques; after a childhood of other people's hand-me-downs, I want new stuff now that I can afford it! ;-) -Jean

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    1. Interesting! I knew someone with a similar experience with hand-me-downs and she didn't like antiques either. Don's experience being the youngest of four boys who wore a lot of hand-me-downs was to turn him into a bit of a label snob. He liked good quality stuff that would last.

      For Don and me both, we grew up with the "waste nothing" attitude passed down by our parents and we both had a hard time getting rid of things that still had value. (I was in my late teens before I quit taking zippers and buttons out of old clothing to use again.) Eventually, the love of history and what obsolete things were used for intrigued Don and me to collect more of the same. I have, for example, a small collection (10) of primitive whale oil lamps and Don had a small collection (6) of slave locks. I used to collect obsolete kitchen gadgets but sold most when we moved here and the last piece I had---an eight gear apple peeler---was given to a museum that was setting up a turn of the century kitchen. He had some Gerald R. Ford memorabilia from his very early years that for Ford museum accepted. A very rare grease charts for circa 1900 touring cars now hangs in a huge car museum in our state---one that Disney borrows a lot of cars from for their movies. It felt really good to give these things to places where you know they will always be valued for their place in history. We always did consider ourselves to be the torch bearers that would protect something from destruction so it could be passed on when the time was right. Antique collectors come in many forms but most love the history.

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  6. It's amazing how much we accumulate in a lifetime. We kept too many things when H's parents died. We couldn't bring ourselves to get rid of it. This is our last big downsize and we are being merciless. There just isn't space for all of this stuff at the new house. I keep saying that we have to be careful not to do that to our son and his wife. Stuff becomes a burden.

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    1. I agree. Stuff does become a burden like with me, right now. And I don't want to leaveit for my family to deal with. Although I will say it's easier for people to dispose of things when it's not your stuff and you have no emotional attachments to it. You just have to call an auctioneer or estate sale person. I have a friend whose church conduct sales and members often donate entire estates to them to sell to raise money for the church. It must feel really good to downsize like you're doing. You won't be sorry living with the cream of the crop so to speak.

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