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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tax Time and the Dog



One of the pitfalls of tuning out the world, not knowing was is going on beyond my quiet, snow covered yard is I get in a rut where the show the squirrels and the dog put on becomes the highlight of my days. Here’s what happens: The squirrels come to my bird feeding station that’s a foot off my deck, the dog barks and I wait until a squirrel gets greedy enough to no longer be satisfied eating what’s in the ground feeder and he climbs up the pole. That’s when I let the dog out on the deck to chase the furry tailed rodent. Levi comes back in tongue-hanging happy and it takes a few days for the squirrel to get brave enough to try pole dancing again. And while I’m plotting against my squirrels, the rest of the world is doing God knows what to each other. Yup, I’ve joined the geriatric, tuned out set for sure. 

Or have I? A few days ago I tuned back into having media on in the house. The storm out East drew me in and before I knew it I was watching the San Francisco auditions of American Idol. Then I discovered that while I was away the gods of programing have decided to pull Morning Joe off the air. Oh, crap. Apparently, too many of his viewers, like me, had put themselves on a media blackout so now I feel obligated to watch his prolonged death on the air. I hope it’s not as long as Letterman’s exit plan. I can’t wait for him to leave so we can see what Steven Colbert will do with that time slot. 

In the meantime, like many Americans I’m getting ready for tax day---sorting and purging the filing cabinets. I have never minded paying taxes, never grumble about it, or looked for ways to hide income or cheat the system the way a few people do. It would have been easy to do, being self-employed most of my work life. But in my experience, those who do those things eventually get caught and life is too short to spend it arguing with the IRS. Spending your life looking over your shoulder wondering when someone is going to report you for your ill-gotten gains is not my idea of fun either. I knew two people who did that and both paid heavily in the end. One lost a farm that had been in the family for generations and spent time in prison. He was one of those people who believed that all local, state and federal laws and taxes are bad. All guns and resistance to authority is good. I can’t image living that way.

I go to a CPA for my taxes and I don’t have much to gather this year---it all comes to me in the mail from banks, Social Security, the pension administration, etc., but old habits are hard to break so I still designate late January as purge-the-filing-cabinet time.  It hasn’t be as bad this year as the last two when I was still dealing with issues related to my husband dying. This year will be the first tax filing entirely on my own, with his name and details not appearing on anything. The death and dying bills have been paid. Insurance, pension and financial issues are all straighten out. Everything of Don’s that could be donated, was donated and the tax write-off taken. Yadda, yadda yadda. At least the receipts and records I’m sorting, now, aren’t like re-living a sadness too deep to explain. I did find Don’s last billfold, still loaded with his ID, cards, money, etc. and I did my widow's work---I unloaded it. Then I decided Don is going to buy me one last gift with the unexpected windfall. Or maybe it should be from Levi since I found the money on his birthday.

Levi just turned seven. That’s like 21 in people years if you go by that old wives tale. We are having a fight. He’s schnauzer stubborn. I’m old lady stubborn. We’re fighting over how he eats and it’s all my own fault. Back when he was a puppy I read something in a “flaky” (?) training book about how dogs and cats need the mental stimulus of finding their food instead of having it given to them in dishes. For cats, that meant hiding kibble around the house so they’d have to hunt for it. For dogs like schnauzers that like to chase small vermin that meant rolling kibble across the floor so they can chase the food, crawling under and behind stuff when necessary. It’s a fun game, but recently I decided that he might out live me and Levi should learn how to eat the normal dog way. He’s not liking that idea one little bit. He’ll stand next to the bowl, bark and take off running then he'll look back at me like I'm dumber than a plastic mannequin. He’s probably thinking his human is getting senile and needs to be retrained. If I don’t give in (to stop the barking next to the dish) he’ll wait until after the lights go off at night before he gives in and eats from the dish. If it wasn’t so cold and icy outside he’d probably run away from home and it if wasn’t so cold and icy outside, I’d probably go with him. I’m really bored right now! ©

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Guy Land Cafeteria and Pie Charts



There was a time in my life when I didn’t understand why old people didn’t at least try to keep up with the news. Now that I’m “old” I’m starting to get it. Sometimes our heads get so filled up with issues that seemingly have no solutions that it wears on you. It’s the same old, same old day in and day out. And no matter how many of us bear witness to the ills of society, nothing changes. Crime goes on. World tensions go on. Fear mongering goes on. People get killed. Strange danger is still dangerous to little kids---no, wait! Often times it’s people they know who are the abusers. At seventy something I’m no longer young and altruistic enough to believe we can save the world by taking part in a march, mailing a check or joining a group. Why fill up my head with images that just give my subconscious mind fodder for my night time dreams? How’s that for justifying the news blackout I’ve put in place these past few weeks? 

Earlier this week I saw a convoy of power company trucks on the expressway and I wondered where they were going. So I tuned back in to the world, just in time to hear the preamble to the monster storm the East Coast was expecting. God, I’m glad I’m not in the eye of that storm! Already, I can’t seem to stay warm, I can’t image not having any power in the winter. I wear knit gloves without fingertips just to type and knit gaiters that go up to my knees, and knit shirts under my sweat suits…all in the house. When I go out I swap the fingerless gloves for heavy mittens, add a knit scarf and hat, boots and my heavy winter coat. What I won’t do it turn up the thermostat in the house. It’s set at 72 and by the gods of vanity, I won’t become one of those old people who blast any visitor out because the thermostat is set high enough to raise tropical plants on the windowsills. 

Monday was errand day and one of those errands included dropping Levi off and picking him back up again at the doggie foo-foo beauty spa. A bath, haircut and pedicure costs $48! Thankfully, the owner takes care of Levi and the other schnauzers so I don’t have to tip. That place must make a lot of money. They have five full time groomers going every day but Sunday. They also have a receptionist and a shampooer and if you don’t book appointments six weeks ahead of time, you might have to go on the waiting list. But I trust the place not to drown, drug, abuse or lose Levi and I’m willing to pay for that sense of security.

After dropping Levi off I went to the pet store to buy food, to the bank and post office, to the grocery store to buy the sugar-free pudding I forgot on grocery day—I use a lot of it in the protein shakes I make---then I stopped for lunch at the Guy Land Cafeteria. I haven’t been there in a very long time. I call it that because there are usually twelve to twenty lone, old geezers in the place for every woman over sixty. Monday, there were sixteen. Apparently, the cheap food and good coffee draws them in and they never leave. One old guy was with this wife, a newspaper held up high between them. He’d better watch out. Another old geezer was eyeing her up. My husband liked going there, too, and I never did understand its attraction but if I ever want to find another man I’d get a job at that cafeteria. One of my widow acquaintances works there and the regular customers are always bringing her little gifts. When/if she starts putting out signals that she’s ready to date, she’ll snag plenty of offers at the Guy Land Cafeteria. She’s my age and has to work to make ends meet. I’m so glad I don’t have to do that. There is no way I’d enjoy getting up at 3:30 in the morning to serve coffee by five. She’s like a postal worker. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays” the cashier/coffee server from her appointed duties.  

Yesterday I went to a lecture I thought was going to be about lady lighthouse keepers, but I had the schedule mixed up and I won’t be hearing that one until February. This lecture turned out to be the most boring waste of time I’ve ever at a lecture. It was about the history of the region’s economic development organization. Stick a finger down my throat. I saw enough pie charts in that hour to last me until earth has a shuttle service to Mars and back. So the rest of the week I’m going back to my black and white, 1958-like life in Pleasantville where I don’t watch the news and the power company convoys are leaving Michigan instead of coming here to help us out after a storm. ©

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's Confession Time!



Today’s confessions will be public. Out in the open. No hiding behind a screen hoping the priest fell asleep and didn’t hear a word I said. No confessing to a loved one who’d forgive me no matter what secrets I reveal. But confess I will do.

When I was young I had very little of value to confess. I followed (and still follow) the rules of life but what I did do wrong---like smoke my first and only cigarette on a senior high trip to the beach---I told it to my diary. That was back in an era when we practically wrote with ink pots and quills. Don’t I wish! That would make me born before 1822, before mass produced metal pens were invented, and if I was that old I’d be famous. I’d also have lousy penmanship because writing left-handed was not tolerated in pot and quill days. By the way the secret is out of the bag, it’s just an urban myth that right-handed people used quills made from the right wings of birds, and left-handed people bought quills made from the left wings. Quills were sold by barrel length only with no consideration given to their curvature. Someday I’ll still remember that trivia but I’ll forget who our current president is, a fatal no-no on the senility quiz.

Okay, confession number one---or is this two? Are we counting the smoking thing? Anyway my next confession is I’ve always wanted to be famous. Not so much in this life time, but I wanted my name in the history books and short of falling on my head and getting back up with a savant-like transformation into the likes of Albert Einstein, me getting into the history books is not likely to happen between now and the grave. One of my colonial ancestors had that happen in reverse. He was smart enough that he shoulda, coulda, woulda been one of the signers of the Declarations of Independence but he got beaten up for his “radical politics” against the British and was severely brain damaged. Why couldn’t his diaries have been passed down to me? I’ll bet he confessed to significantly more important things than smoking a cigarette. Actually, I have read some of his words in a history book. I often wonder if guys like him knew their personal journals would get quoted as footnotes in the Chronicles of History. Sometimes we need the distance of time to recognize our defining moments. That’s true for people and nations alike. One man’s act of courage is another man’s act of rebellion and only the outcome and time can be the final judge. In our lifetime, think Martin Luther King. 

Confession number whatever: The only thing I ever shoplifted I did when I was ten or eleven and it was a cross make out of mother-of-pearl shell. My elder self finds it quite odd that I stole a cross, the symbol of Christ dying for our sins. What on earth was I thinking when I walked into Woolworth’s Dime Store and walked out with that cross tucked in my pocket? I can still visualize that basket of tiny, iridescent crosses piled high, a 10¢ each sign attached. I still have the fruits of my criminal behavior. And it still reminds me that small wrongs can turn into big regrets. Where is a priest when you need one? I want to know if stealing a cross is a worse sin than stealing a loaf of Wonder Bread to feed your family or stealing a pack of Black Jack just because you’re a kid with no impulse control who likes that licorice and aniseed flavored chewing gum? One time not too long before Don had his stroke, we went into a confectionery store and found that Black Jack had returned to the market with a limited edition. You would have thought he found the Hope Diamond. He bought every pack of gum the guy had---three boxes of however many came in a case, I’m guessing 50---and Don had a wonderful time handing them out to anyone and everyone who was old enough to have chewed it as a kid. He was quirky that way about anything nostalgic.  

Side note here: I couldn’t spell nostalgia and the closest I got was ‘nastalia’ which I let Spell Check have a crack at and it came up with five choices, not a single one close. I put ‘nastalia’ into my Franklin Language Master 3000 and out popped the word I wanted. I guess if this side note has a point it would be that I don’t need to confess that I’m a terrible speller. I struggle with and bellyache about spelling often enough, but it was a secret I hid until recent decades---and I guess I still should hide it. Recently, I was at a shower and they handed out slips of paper, asking everyone to write down some advice to the bride. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t write a simple note without my Franklin! The relative sitting next to me was aghast when a torn the slip of paper up and refused another. “But you write all the time!” she said and I replied, “I do but I can’t spell without a dictionary.” The look on her face and the words that spilled out of her mouth next made me feel two inches high, like I’d just confessed to a sin worth seeking out the nearest confessional. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I’ve never been to confession before but I just found out that I’ve been a naughty fraud, flimflamming people into thinking I could write. Oh my! 

Back on topic: Do you believe in death bed confessions?  I have a few things in my history that I haven’t told to a single soul, not even to Don. Not even to a diary. I didn’t break any of the Ten Commandments with my untold secrets, I’m not worried about my soul burning in hell. But the older we get the more I imagine everyone would like to clear the secrets out of our heads as we’re bowing out of life, give them to someone else who’d probably say, "What the hell am I supposed to do with that?” and we’d reply---if we’re still breathing---“What I should have done, take it to the grave.” ©