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, March 26, 2016

From the Corner of Remembrance Lane and Keeping Busy Street



From where I sit at my computer I can see the plastered doorway to the laundry room and on one of the four corners was damage that was caused by my husband's wheelchair. Note the past tense used in that sentence. As of today, I finally fixed the plaster and repainted the damage area. It wasn’t the only damage his chair did to doors and doorways in the house---it was an on-going issue---but I fixed all the others fairly early into my widowhood. Why did I let this one go so long is anyone’s guess but I’m thinking a shrink would say that I didn’t want to let go of the past. Don would have told me that if you walk by something that is broken for more than two weeks it no longer registers in your mind. I’m going to split the difference and say the reason the damage didn’t get fixed is a combination of both. But here's how it came about: All the other damage was on wood and required a little sanding and stain and by the time I got them all fixed I was crying and bemoaning the fact that it was the last time I’d have to fix them. Then when I tried to tackle the plaster doorway, I discovered my spackling had dried up and it took me this long to buy another can.

I’ve been on a mission to fix all the broken things that have accumulated in the house. One of those projects involved the little green trunk pictured above. I’ve had it since before I started kindergarten. My mom bought it at the Salvation Army store and I kept doll clothes in it until my teen years when my dad made legs for it so I could use the trunk as chair-side table. Now it holds my oldest sentimental objects. Things like the straight-edge razor my dad’s dad brought over from Italy, brass bookends that my dad made, my childhood Disney characters cup, a pair of shell-pink silk panties with tiny buttons up the side that my mom saved in her cedar chest (I’m guessing from her honeymoon), the U.S. Nationalization & Citizenship paper that my grandfather always carried in his wallet and other treasures of no value unless you know the stories behind them and you share my gene pool. I wanted them all in one place so I could tell some hunky fireman, “Save that green trunk!” should the house ever catch on fire or it's handy to grab should I want to run away from home. Whichever comes first.

I always thought my dad could do anything. His formal education ended very early in his life but he was the wisest and most compassionate person I’ve ever known. He was good with his hands and he and my mom didn’t use gender as a guide when it came to teaching or encouraging my brother and me. My brother, for example, took an interest in cooking. To this day, I never did. Before I entered my teens Dad taught me how to draw blueprints and schematics and my mom bullied the high school principle into letting me be the first ever girl in the school to take mechanical drawing. And I was good at it, thanks to Dad. But when I repaired the legs on my little green trunk I realized that they wouldn’t have come apart if Dad had used longer screws. Don’t you hate it when the people you’ve put up on pedestals are rendered imperfect and human like the rest of us? After someone we deeply loved dies we tend to gloss over their flaws and foibles while we mourn. Then we go through a period where we remember them again and somehow even those flaws and foibles then become part of our warm, fuzzy memories. I still can't believe the length of those screws Dad used but on the other hand, they did the job for fifty-five years.

I need to get off Remembrance Lane and turn onto Keeping Busy Street. In the pursuit of keeping busy, recently I went to a Life Learning Lecture at the senior hall. The lecturer---Bruce Allen Kopyter---is an architect by trade with a passion for researching and writing books about the history of department stores. His first book was about Crowley’s in Detroit, his second one is about the Jacobson’s chain that had stores from mid-Michigan to Florida and he's currently working on a book about Macy’s. We had a Jacobson’s in town until the ‘80s but my family wasn’t wealthy enough to shop there. The lecture, however, was billed as a “fascinating history of the business climate in Michigan” so I thought what the heck, it's an afternoon out of the house. He told a lot of stories about the kind of service the old-time department stores gave. Sales clerks who would run their hands inside of silk stockings to show off their color. What woman my age doesn’t remember those days?  

After the lecture I took myself out to for lunch to a breakfast-all-day-long place. I don’t fry bacon---it scares me---so that’s something I often order when I go out. I have blood work coming up soon for my bi-annual appointment so I decided against bacon and eggs this time, opting instead for waffles. Then an evil waitress asked, “Would you like bacon with that?” God, I’m so darn weak! “I shouldn’t," I replied, “but I will.” If she hadn't asked, I would have gotten that gold star for a good decision. I'm dreading that appointment. I don’t have a prayer of losing the weight I gained since I saw my internist last fall and he’s going to give me the Bad-Girl Lecture! I’ve heard it before. About every other appointment. If nothing else, at least I’m predictable. ©

24 comments:

  1. That is a beautiful trunk! Your parents sound wonderful. No wonder you are so strong. I look forward to looking up Bruce Allen Kopyter. That sounds pretty fascinating. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you! My parents both didn't have mothers past the ages of 8 and 9. I think that explains part of the reasons why they gender roles weren't all that important when it came to learning stuff.

      Bruce has a website with lots of photos: thedepartmentstoremuseum.org

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  2. You have so many amazing antiques and stories to go with them. And I admire your travels on Keeping Busy Street. You manage the perfect blend of loving your alone time AND getting out with others. Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you. I'd like to photo-document more of my favorite things, then print them in a photo-book so I can "take them" with me to the nursing home. LOL

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  3. Gosh...I remember the sales woman making a fist and then sticking her hand down the stocking! And the paraphernalia that went along with those stockings!
    When I was a kid living in NYC and we needed a shopping trip for a new dress or special occasion, we would take a trip to Macy's on 34th Street. It was entertaining, not necessarily because of the stocking ladies, but I remember going to the music department on one of the top floors and there was usually someone playing the piano. There were usually cooking demonstrations in the kitchen departments and I'm sure that there were other sales people selling their wares all around the store. It was always a treat to go to one of the restaurants (although I didn't like to shop it was always an entertaining day).
    I know that department stores still exist but I no longer shop in them!
    You are very fortunate to have so much from your family. Growing up in a small apartment meant that not very much was kept. I am fortunate that I presently have two items that were in that apartment that I cherish both for the memories and their value: my mother's Singer sewing machine and our piano.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. It's interesting all the services like the music departments that taught lessons and the in-store restaurants that went by the wayside. According to the lecturer we can thank Walmart and Kmart for these old time stores not being able to make a go of it in the smaller markets. We have a Macy's in town but I've only been in it once....too high end for my life-style.

      You might not have much from your family but to be able to hold on to a big piece like a piano is amazing. And those old Singer machines are so cool! I have so many things because my family had a house in town and the cottage and when my folks retired they moved to the cottage and I bought the house I grew up with including its contents.

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  4. Love that trunk. How nice that you've had it so long. I know what you mean about realizing that our heroes are only human. It's always a rude awakening.

    Service with a smile is part of a bygone era. Remember when they washed your windows and checked your oil at "service" stations?

    I have two doctors' appointments coming up in a few weeks. I'll never lose the weight I've gained by then. I'm dreading it. Big time.

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    1. I always thought that retailers made a huge mistake when they renamed salesclerks and they became "associates" and customers became "guests." But after seeing that lecture I can see the correlation between that happening and a the deliberate pulling back of customer service in the big box stores. Thus it wasn't a mistake at all on their part, they were retaining the public not to expect service.

      I hate the gas station lack of service the most!

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  5. I'm going against the trend here - I'm decluttering, and not retaining things for sentimentality. I know the kids will chuck away my stuff, straight into a tip, so think why not save them the bother (and mutterings of 'rubbish' held on for too long), plus I really want a simple lifestyle and surroundings. Offered the kids their sentimental stuff but while they'd rather see it kept on the shelf in my house, they didn't want to take it to their homes, so I binned them (after keeping said items in storage for a few items in case of anyone changing their mind, which not one did).

    I've been on Busy Street for many weeks now, and think I need a break. I've been looking at airbnb options for something I like. I'd like to try a short holiday nearby, before travelling further afield. Till then, a visit to the library and borrowing novels for a readfest had to do as a mini break. ~ Libby

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    1. I did a major de-cluttering after Don's stroke that included two huge auctions and after his death I've spent a lot of time selling stuff on eBay, an antique booth and a local auction house. I will do a little more this summer but my sentimental things I'll hold on to as long as I can. They represent my life and I'm not through living it. But I do want to lighten my load in case I decide to move to something smaller.

      Read-fests are a great mini-break aren't they. Good luck finding travel opportunity.

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    2. Btw, we have our Trump too - Pauline Hanson (like Sarah Palin) and Clive Palmer (billionaire), both elected represenatives. In the secrecy of the ballot box, people will vote as per inclination, rather than what is PC. Nothing new under the sun. And history repeats itself ad nauseum. ~ Libby

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    3. Interesting! We don't get any coverage of politics from down under here.

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  6. I remember my mother drilling it into me at an early age that, while my father wasn't book-learning, go-to-school smart (like she was and like I was turning out to be), he was very smart in other important ways. If your father was like mine, he used the screws he did because they were the ones he had on hand. I still remember the year my little brother was getting a tricycle for Christmas. When my father went to put it together and put it under the tree in the wee hours after midnight mass (in the days when midnight mass really started at midnight), he discovered that the box was missing one of the rear wheels. Using his usual ingenuity, he realized that the rear wheels were the same size as the ones on my brother's little red wagon, so he took one off the wagon and put it on the tricycle. Problem solved -- except that my little brother spent weeks worrying about what it meant that Santa had taken away a wheel from his wagon. -Jean

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    1. You're likely right on target as to why my dad used the short screws. That never even crossed my mind. That was so resourceful of your dad with the wagon wheel. It saved Christmas morning for your brother.

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  7. I agree with Don about things not registering after two weeks. Until it's time for company to come over. Then I try not to sweat it, but I do. I figure it makes my company feel superior - me being messier and weirder than them. Are you looking at your home's boo-boos with a keener eye, say, an eye to sell your house?

    Yes! I remember when sales clerks ran their hands inside of stockings to show the color. NO nostalgia about wearing things with such a low survival rate, though.

    Macy's is a fantastic store. One of my first jobs in NYC was at the Macy's in Herald Square, mid 1970's. I worked on the first floor, in the arcade boutique - where all the up and coming designer clothes and nick knacks were. Fun group of sales people.

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    1. No, I got over the notion of moving last fall after a summer of looking and driving myself crazy over it. I'm here to stay for a few more years. I'm just trying to get my winter maintenance list completed before it's time to start the summer list.

      Remember how we had to carry around a bottle of clear nail polish to stop the runs in those stockings? No way would I like to go back to those days either.

      I will forever hold the NYC 34th Street Macy's close to my heart not because I've ever shopped there but because one of my favorite movies of all times was filmed there. Glad able to give you some good memories.

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    2. I sure do remember carrying around that bottle of clear nail polish LOL. BTW, I love this post's title. It would make a fantastic name for a blog.

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    3. LOL I use a lot of street names in my titles.

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  8. So much to love in this post. The trunk is so sweet and the idea of keeping all your most treasured mementos in one place is a great tip! Between my parents, both were pretty "handy" around the house, but it was my mom who had lots of ideas and skills and the desire to put them into practice. She'd tackle just about anything and particularly liked "carpentry". I didn't inherit that at all!

    The lecture you describe sounds fascinating. Again, I'm sure I'd be your outing buddy cuz we seem drawn to the same topics. I so miss the big full-service department stores with live music and fancy cafes -- it was a really outing! In my home town outside of Chicago our big store was Carson, Pirie, Scott but I rarely got to go there -- "too fancy and too pricey" my mom said. We were Sears catalog shoppers (or Montgomery Wards). Here in the Seattle area we used to have The Bon Marche (now Macy's), Frederick & Nelson (birthplace of the Frango Mints!) and Nordstrom. But somehow their current incarnations are not so luxe. Do you watch Mr. Selfrige on PBS? I've loved that show (this is the last season) about the founder and rise of Selfrige's in London. Now THAT was a department store!

    The carbs, fat, and sugar in pancakes are no better than the cholesterol in the bacon and eggs. LOL

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    1. Oh, but bacon and eggs just tastes so much more sinful.

      My next post over the weekend is kind of a continuation about about my parents. Are you sure I'm not your sister? I love carpentry. I took a lot of furniture repair class and can make dovetailed joints with best of them. I made Don a cherry wood box to hold four cartons of cigarettes one and he absolutely love it. He was a heavy smoker before he went cold turkey after he had a heart episode.

      We had a Montgomery Wards and Sears in town and a Robert Halls were we did most of our shopping as I was growing up. I've never seen the Selfrige series. Sounds very interesting.

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  9. I don't really see things as "signs", so I think you waited to do this repair job because: 1) it was going to be difficult and 2) the can of spackle was dried up. No gender difference in my childhood family either. My Mother could and did build closets, shelves, cupboards or whatever needed doing and I learned from her. My Dad taught me how to change the oil in the car, how to drive a tractor and milk cows. I love old trunks and wooden boxes, especially if they are one that have been in the family. The more beaten up and used, the better in my opinion. The summer before my Senior year in High School, Mother and I made the long trip to East Lansing and the Jacobson's store. Oh My!! She bought me a Pendleton Wool plaid skirt and a light blue cashmere sweater set to wear with it. I want to tell you--I was styling at my little school that year! YOWZA. I also took my girls there, years later.

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    1. Do you think all farm kids were taught without gender stereotypes or was your family different than the norm in your area?

      I'm the same way about boxes and trunks. I especially like the one you blogged about last year.

      My mom loved Pendleton wool, too, only we sewed our own clothes with their yard goods. I bet that outfit you had would be just as stylist today.

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  10. You are a hard worker my friend to complete all of the work by yourself. You sound like my wife. She a good worker. I'm so happy to have such a woman to help me around the house. ( Realistically saying, she does most of the work outside since I can't help her outside anymore. I try but It's difficult to work any physical outside like I sue to. I do all the cooking and she says that she loves that.
    As far as the bacon, enjoy yourself once in awhile and the weight, I'm fighting the weight problem myself. WE just have to go on as much as we can.
    Have a wonderful weekend Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Your wife is lucky that you cook, Paul. Before I was married I used to say I wanted a man who could cook or who loved to eat out and I got the latter. I hire my outside work now but that's only been in the last decade. I'm slowing down!


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