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 9, 2016

Book Talk and Funerals



Monday: One of my Red Hat Society sisters lost her husband and a bunch of us went to a visitation wearing what the queen instructed should be “understated Red Hat attire.” I don’t know the newly christen widow well and the funeral home was the same one where my husband’s memorial service was held, so I had two good reasons not to go. Still, having been in her shoes four years and two months ago I can still remember how comforting it felt to have so many people come by to express whatever they had to share. And although all those people become a blur at times like that, the numbers do count. They flood your mine with their stories of how the deceased touched their lives and express how they share your sorrow or they just give you moral support with their wordless presence. It all helps you to get through the difficult hours and days ahead.

My biggest problem with going to the visitation was what to wear. My wardrobe is getting tired, especially my supply of purple tops and none of my red hats were suitable. I’ve been living in sweats all winter so I pulled out a pair black dress slack and dress shoes and I felt naked without the warmth of my bulky knee-high knit socks and my bling boots. I need a shopping trip to the Dress Barn and I have penciled one in like a dentist appointment, both unpleasant but necessary. I went hat-less but with a small, red rose bud in my white hair. I rushed the season with a long sleeved, purple cotton blouse that is fairly new and my only real tip to the Red Hat Society was a black scarf with small red and purple hats in the design. I was properly understated and very cold.  

When I hugged the widow and whispered that I was sorry for her loss, she replied, "Well, you know what it's like" to which I said, "I do" and she continued, "I'm holding it together now but I'm scared for when the funeral is over and I'm all alone." I didn't know what to say---I was actually surprised that she remembered my back story---but I told not to be afraid to call someone if she needs to talk it out.

Tuesday was the Book Talk presentation at the senior hall where a librarian---who can recite whole passages of books---told us about twelve Great Reads. Even non-readers would enjoy listening to her reveal the plots of books like, The Zig Zag Girl, All The Light We Cannot See and A Town Like Alice. The latter of which I put on my wish list at Amazon. It’s based on the true story of a ‘death march’ that took place in Malaysia during WWII of all woman prisoners. She summed up the book as being about history, survival, romance and cultures. I keep books on the wish list until I either have enough rewards points on my Visa card to make my book purchase practically free or I have enough books that I want to buy to get free shipping.

Being a week about books and funerals reminded me of a quote I’ve been saving from The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough:

“And gradually his memory slipped a little, as memories do, even those with so much love attached to them; as if there is an unconscious healing process within the mind which mends up in spite of our desperate determination never to forget.”

Maybe it is healing for widows that our memories start to fad, but that thought isn’t comforting to me at all. I hate that so many of the experiences Don and I shared are getting hazy and harder to recall. Is it part of the natural healing process or is it old people loss of memory? Whatever it is it's not welcome. I’ve never had a great memory to begin with while Don had a photographic-like memory. He never forgot anything and I relied on him to fill in details when my memory of something was too fragmented. He used to tease me about it, too, saying he could take me to the same places over and over again and each time I'd react like a kid seeing my first carnival midway. Having our memories slip away after a spouse dies probably explains why it's so hard to downsize. Without the memory triggers, objects and souvenirs to keep our memories cemented in our heads, what will happened to them?

Being at the funeral home on Monday reminded me of many things including the memory of the time we crashed a funeral of a stranger, in part, because of Don’s language disorder after his stroke. If you want to read what I wrote about it in my caregiver blog click here, Funeral Crashing Aphasia Style. It's a funny memory that I hope I never lose. ©

10 comments:

  1. Sad for your Red Hat sister's loss. You are remarkable to talk yourself into going for all the right reasons. And WHY do we rarely update our wardrobes? I hate going shopping and despise trying on. Maui "sweats" for me. Matching vneck tops with capris .. 100% light cotton by Fresh Produce. Today I was looking through photos today and promptly ordered some new versions ... some of mine are 20 years old!!! I keep thinking I will dress up a bit .... after I lose that weight ...

    IF I leave the house, I add a scarf. When I do have to "dress up" I use the same capris, add a tank top and a gauzy overshirt and a bit of jewelry. I'm hopeless ...

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    1. My weight goes up and down so much that I never feel good about buying clothes. I would love Maui "sweats" and I'm a scarf addicted buyer as well.

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  2. I've read "A Town Called Alice" by Nevil Shute and its excellent, as are his other works. I still like picking up his books and re-reading them and am instantly transported to the world he is writing about, whether it be a hot Malaya jungle or war torn Britain. (Pearl S. Buck and her "Good Earth" also excellent). Just googled the other two books - I've now reached the aged that I'm generally happy to read the synopsis. Its rare that I actually want to make an effort (i.e. go to the library!) to get the book itself. I've also visited Alice (full name 'Alice Springs') and even now its still a small town easily navigatable - its like a grid of straight lines. The Aboriginal people there still have a tough life - few jobs and opportunities despite Government efforts.

    I used to remember books before but now find my memory fading - often started reading something and realised mid-way that I had read it before!

    I've yet to experience what you've been through - meeting a 'new' widow. I imagine they look at us with new understanding (at least I did), while we can very well understand their feelings. ~ Libby

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    1. I was hoping someone would come by who has read 'A Town called Alice' and I'm glad to have the town's named explained. I used to live in a place with grids of straight line, so EASY! I loved 'The Good Earth'. I read decades ago and then again recently. On purpose. LOL

      Visting a new widow actually made me feel stronger in a weird way.

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  3. We do tend to depend on our partners for shared memories. Sometimes I'll remember, and sometimes he'll fill in the memory. He has a very poor memory of his childhood, but I sat down to write about the first house he lived in, and it was amazing how my questions spurred his memory, and he remembered things he thought he'd forgotten forever.

    I saw "A Town Like Alice" on audible.com. The other two books are probably on there, too. Once upon a time I was an avid reader, but my eyes just won't cooperate anymore. Audible has saved my 'reading' life. I love it, and I hate to think how reading would be lost to me if it didn't exist. I know how isolating and frustrating technology can be at times, but I would never go back. I do love the benefits of it.

    I hate trying to figure out what to wear to a funeral or wedding. I never have the appropriate clothing. I live in very casual clothes, and when I do have the appropriate clothing for an occasion, it's the wrong size. Sheesh!

    I'm sure your words were comforting to your friend.

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    1. That's me exactly with dressing for funerals!

      My husband tried books on tape after his stroke. He lost his ability to read for several years and had to learn all over again. But he was so stubborn he did it. I used to use them when I plowed snow---wonderful things, books on tape.

      I love the H wrote out memories from his childhood. Having grandkids, I think things like that are important to pass down.

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  4. The perfect funeral/visitation words. "I'm sorry for your loss." No other words needed, as the widow has so many people pressing in around to add their, sometimes long messages. I think we live a "3-piece sectional" life and keep moving toward the end of that couch. We have the "before," "during" and "after". Sometimes, it's hard to look back at the last cushion we sat on and remember?

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    1. That's my go-to phrase for funerals. I'll put more personal condolences in cards where they have more time to absorb what is written.

      I like your 3-piece sectional metaphor. I want to go back and sit in the middle with an equal amount of life before me as behind me.

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    2. Great metaphor! Best I can tell, there's parts of me in each sectional, by design or not. It would be terrible to lose that time travel ability, and terrible to be stuck in any portion of time, prisoner in a feedback loop. I love the Thorn Birds quote. After 11 years now, I find the fabric of my memories is softer, but it still shelters my heart.

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    3. I love that quote, too. It's the only one I saved from that book. I'm glad to hear that your memories are still there after 11 years. I find that comforting.

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