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, July 8, 2015

Finding the Past, Seeing the Future



Family is so important---past, present and future. This fact was driven home on Monday when I spent a beautiful summer day with my niece roaming a couple of cemeteries looking for ancestors. We found my great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran, within two minutes of entering the veteran’s cemetery. The lots, plots and rows were well marked and easy to find without even getting out of the car. As my niece said, “That’s the government.” Given the fact that he died in 1917, his stone was in remarkable condition (see photo above). He was only in my mother’s life for six years before he died but his life and military service took up three pages in the family history book I wrote last winter. It still amazes me that I was able to find details about the type of bullet he took in the head and the various hospitals where he recuperated but I don’t know how he took his morning coffee. Note to future family historians: I like mine with Italian sweet cream.

In another cemetery it took us quite a while and an iPad with a screen shot of the cemetery map plus counting plots, rows and tombstones to determine that my grandparents never got markers placed on their graves. Nothing that says, “I was here, don’t forget me.” Guessing the reasons why makes sense when we thought about what was going on in the family in 1922 and 1945, when they died, but it was a bit of a let-down for our “stones and lunch quest" and it made me sad that they ended up in unmarked graves. I never knew my grandparents. Still, the stories told over the years made them “real” to me. Growing up, I was so jealous of my best friend because her grandparents lived within walking distance and I’d go there with her after school sometimes. I credit them for teaching me to love antiques. Her grandfather’s face lit up when he’d tell stories about his treasures. Now I’m the one with stories about the obsolete things I have collected over years. Hopefully, what goes around comes around and I’ll spark a love of old things in someone born in this century.

I asked my niece if she thought her descendants will be walking around a cemetery in a 100 years looking for her granite marker. She didn’t know but afterward I thought about it and I realized that in the not so distant future it won’t be necessary. With the popularity of “living headstones” aka QV codes growing rapidly, GPS will take people right to a grave and when they get there they’ll be able to use their smartphones to view pictures, movies and the eulogy of the deceased. I keep thinking I want to get the QV code for Don’s stone---they only cost $50, the last time I checked---but that task keeps hanging down at the bottom of my ‘to do someday’ list.  Maybe I’ll put a clause in my will requiring my heirs to create QV files for both Don and me before they get any money. “That sneaky Aunt Jean,” they’d say, “reaching out from the grave like that to blackmail us into doing her bidding!” 

My niece and I had lunch at a quirky restaurant, a former railway station that only has two booths and thirteen counter seats for customers. They make the best malts and hamburgers in town---not just my opinion. They’ve been voted as such a few times. The place has been “in the family” since, well, forever it seems. Owned by my cousin then passed down to his daughter and son-in-law, it’s a city landmark that’s fun to visit. It’s too bad restaurants with L-shaped lunch counters lined with stools went out of fashion. No one stays a stranger long in a place like that. It’s the kind of place where the customers introduce themselves when you sit down. Cooking in that fishbowl on the other side of the counter, though, would be my nightmare job. You’d not only have to know what you’re doing on the grill but you’d also have to be able to kibitz and kid with the customers, tell jokes and keep the politician debates from getting out of hand. I don’t multi-task well when cooking is involved and I’d probably want to burn the burgers of a few people whose outrageous political views seem to come straight out of the twilight zone. 

When I got back home I got a call from my nephew’s very excited wife. She had good news. Both of her kids have been married awhile and both of them just found out they are having their first babies within weeks of each other. Her son’s baby---my future great-great nephew or niece---gives the family a 50-50 chance of having someone to carry on the family surname. That’s something I’d very much like to see before I die. Whether my nephew and his wife become the grandparents of two boys or two girls or one of each, I will need to get my knitting needles back out. Life is good when you can see family far back in the past and far into the future at the same time---that’s the pure joy of continuity that bridges the centuries. ©

15 comments:

  1. Most political views come out of the twilight zone. Both sides of the aisle.

    New babies. That's great news.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. I was referring to the political "opinions" that include conspiracy theories like one I see from time to time in the gun control debates that claims the Sandy Hook massacre was staged. Now, to me that doesn't come from the right or the left but rather from the twilight zone.There are a lot of crazy conspiracy theories out there.

      Babies are great additions to the family!

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  2. I am a second generation American and my grandparents died many years ago and unfortunately my generation knows very little of where they are from. So you are very fortunate to know your ancestors.
    Five years ago my cousin took me to visit our grandmothers grave (until then I didn't know where she was buried). I was very excited to find that although we all knew her as Rose, her real name on the grave was Rachel which was the name we had given to our daughter. So, without realizing it, we had connected the generations (or I like to think so as I was named for my grandmothers mother!)
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. What a great story about your daughter's and grandmother's name. I bet you'd be surprised at how much information about ordinary people can be found in public records if you ever did want to learn more about your ancestors. A person has to love research, though, and if you're lucky you'd run into a relative who has done it already and will share. It happens more often than you think.

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  3. OH YES!!! WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY. A WOMAN AFTER MY OWN HEART!!! That's what I love about genealogy--the connection, even through the names. I am soooooo very fortunate that family members still own the land my ancestor's settled on 150+ years ago. Hey--when my sister and I found our great grandfather's unmarked grave, although we had never met him, we petitioned our other cousins and we all chipped in to get him a headstone. You could easily get two small or one large one for your grandparents graves! That would be your contribution to the continuity of the family--in case anyone goes looking again. :-) C'mon--think about it?

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    1. I have already been thinking about doing that. I go by the monument company every so often and next time I stop in I'm going to find out the cost of the cheapest stone. I have a couple of cousins who might chip in, I think.

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    2. YES!! At least check it out! Let me know if you do get a marker.

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  4. What a lovely experience, and I do hope someone carries on the family name. Only 8 months before we find out. Maybe sooner!

    If you were to write everything the exact opposite way, you would have my feelings exactly on my own ancestors. I am embarrassed by mine, and my husband felt this way about his. For ample reasons. If anything, I would want to heal the pain my family caused, much like someone would want to make amends for slavery. I've never visited my mother's grave. I'm eternally grateful all four children survived her. My husband was scarred by his family as well. I would be appalled to put a marker for him near his ancestors in Texas. Nope. He 'sits' in a jar in my cabinet, where he is appreciated. So I practice forgiveness where you practice gratitude. We both end up in the same place - with peace and love in our hearts : -)

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    1. I love your last two sentences! That is so true.

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    2. I can understand Flo's feelings! So funny, my step-mother had her grave marker already in place with her first name, 1st married last name and my Dad's last name. After her funeral, her two daughters had that marker taken up and a large one for her and her first husband and my Dad's last name is no where on the stone--even though they were married far longer than either one were to their first spouses. HAH. I'm so glad that his/my last name is no longer on her marker. Awful, hateful, spiteful woman that she was to my sister and me.

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    3. That's a funny story. Like funeral directors, I'll bet the monument people can tell some great tales of family conflict and spite.

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  5. Although my mom used to take us kids to the cemetery every Memorial Day to put flowers on her mother's grave, we all moved away from our "home town" and I have never visited my own mom's grave since I live far, far away from the town where she and my dad lived out the last years of their lives.

    The comments on your post certainly reflect a wide spread of opinion, but it is refreshing that we can nod our heads, accept the differences and yet not take umbrage at the honesty of feelings. Today we have so many things that upset us, but when we reflect upon the feelings some of us feel about family members, we can be thankful for the relatives that we liked and who liked us and try to forget the ones who we didn't like and who may have even harmed us. I don't mention forgiveness, because there are some things that just can't be forgiven...

    I don't know what a QV is, but I intend to find out... and isn't it great that you can knit up some stuff now for the expected babies!

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    1. The QV code is something you see all the time but just didn't know they are called that. They are little square things on produces, in magazines---all over the place. You hold up your cell phone up to it to get information from websites. "Living Headstones" is one company that maintains whatever information various people up load to QV code that is placed on graves. But the monuments company in my town supplies them from a different company whose name escapes me. I think they've only been around for two years and probably any funeral director could help you locate them, if your monuments company can't. The ones I know about will be replaced free of charge if ever damaged or comes off the stone.

      http://www.monuments.com/living-headstones

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  6. LOL about blackmailing your heirs into to creating QV files for you and Don. I went on a cemetery trip with my aunt when I was living with Dad. It was interesting and she knew everything. She's the last one standing from that generation of our family.

    I could never cook behind a counter either. I have to pay strict attention when I'm cooking or nothing would be edible. My friend managed/cooked in her and her daughter's restaurant for a few years. It was a counter & booths kind of place. Running a restaurant is a very hard job.

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    1. Running a restaurant is not something I could ever do but I have two cousins who own them.

      You either like roaming in cemeteries or you don't. Don and I liked doing it, mostly out West and I visited a lot of old cemeteries out East with my parents. The QV codes really are going to change them and what a great thing to put on the stones of famous people and soldiers.

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