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 19, 2016

Taxes, Movies, Baby Showers, Strokes and God, Oh My!



I didn’t go to the Movie and Lunch Club this week. Normally I’ll go even if the chosen movie isn’t one that particularly excited me, but this time they picked Miracles from Heaven, a faith-based film that from all accounts is preaching to a choir of true believers. The trailer alone was enough for me to know I would hate the ‘lunch talk’ that would come after. Having grown up in The City of Churches that over the decades turned into The City of Parochial Colleges I can go along to get along with the best of them but I draw a line at paying to see a movie that, as one reviewer put it, has only one objective---to reiterate “that God exist, heaven is real and miracles happen.” Yes, I know the film is supposed to be based on a true story of a little girl with a mysterious disease who falls out of a tree and gets cured and in true Heaven is Real fashion she gets to sit in the lap of the Lord along the way. Call me cynical but I have a real aversion with the personification of God especially coming out of the mouths of children and along with that aversion comes a huge fear of voicing that in public. The little girl inside me who was rejected on the playground because my parents didn’t “have a church” is still there worrying that all threads of friendship will get cut if I let my non-Christian leanings show. I did find a bit of cuteness in one of the movie reviews, though, that made me smile: “The part of God was played by a fluffy cloud.”  

Thursday was a lead-gray day. The sky was working itself up to a good cry that never materialized except for just enough sprinkles to make it annoying and necessary to have the intermitting wipers on as I drove the expressway down to see my CPA. Income tax season is so much fun. I got behind an old foggy maybe a year or two younger than me who was driving 52 miles an hour. It’s dangerous to be so pokey! At the first opportunity I sped around him vowing I’ll never drive slower than my age on that highway. I could find someone closer to home to do my taxes but I have a history with my guy. Years ago, before Don and I started going to the man, Don got audited by the IRS resulting in him getting an unexpected tax refund of $7,000. Getting a big refund after an audit was a neon clue that it was time to change tax preparers.  

I sat down across from the CPA and the conversation got around to politics, Don and how much he would been engaged in the circus going on. “I miss that guy,” he said. “He used to stop sometimes when he was finished plowing snow and we’d give him a cup a cocoa.” Besides that nugget from the past the large jar of Tootsie Roll Pops sitting on the desk also churned up memories. Don would open the jar and search for a two chocolates before he'd sit down and in my silly mind that meant I couldn’t have a Tootsie Roll Pop. One per customer and he ate mine! Yes, I’m the kind of person who always buys something when I stop at a gas station to pee. Fair is fair. But I digress… When my taxes were done, the CPA made a remark about life changing and only God knows what comes next and I blurted out, “And sometimes even He doesn’t know.” Crap! Not only did I personify the God Power I gave my CPA the impression that this widow was having a crisis of faith. 

The crème-de-crème of my week was Saturday when I went to a baby shower where all of the women in my family and our five new babies---my great-great nieces and nephews---were in attendance. I’d say I was in seventh heaven but after what I wrote above I probably should come up with another platitude. Let’s just say I had a good time. There’s no one else in my or Don’s family left to have their first baby so this was likely the last baby shower I’ll ever attend, a bittersweet acknowledgement if there ever was one. 

The mother of the last baby born, who was the guest of honor, had a difficult birth and emergency surgery all in the same day. What little miracles babies are! Love plants the seed and a baby grows in mommy’s tummy; I read that in a where-did-I-come-from book. The guest of honor is also the most religious person in the family. She and her husband met at a Christian college and both work in a Christian conference center.  She’s a lovely young woman but every time I see her I’m reminded that Don had his massive stroke the day she got baptized. That week prior to the ceremony Don was trying every which way to get out of going so when we got to the church and he didn’t want to go inside---complaining of a headache---I really didn’t believe him. Still, I left him in the truck and went inside while he was out in the parking lot getting pulled into a ‘black hole’ that would change the trajectory of our lives. There's a lot of what-ifs attached to that day and even an on-going joke (?) made about the stroke being a punishment from God for not going inside the church. But the only what-if that counts now is the what-if we’d never met in the first place…what a dull life I would have led without Don. ©

29 comments:

  1. Jean :

    I am gld you had great time at baby shower & amazed you got your taxes done this time ith move hubby is thinking of getting extention. I hate those whatifs scenarion we all go through after adversity strikes. It took me long time to accept good & bad things happen to every one, and as a human being none of us exempt from pain in life. If you keep cool head & learn to stay above water things will change. nothing lasts forever good time or bad times. Sometime you learn great lessons in those bad times. If lesson learnt then no experience gone wasted.

    Asha

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    1. I did have a good time. I held one little girl (who will turn one soon) for nearly 45 minutes while she played with things on the table. It's been 40 years since I've spent that much time with a baby.

      The what-ifs can get you, that's for sure, and even when you think you're past them there are reminders from time to time. The shower was at the same church where the baptism and Don's stroke took place.

      I've never missed a tax date. In January I make a March 15th appointment and that keeps me rolling on getting them ready.

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  2. I'm not much for religious movies, either. A blogger that I enjoyed recently turned very religious. Well, I'm not sure if it was recent for her, but she suddenly started injecting it into her blog - a decorating blog. It's not a smooth combination. A tutorial on how to decorate your mantel, and how about a little religion on the side? I don't read her blog as often now.

    I know Don had AFib and that it's a risk factor for strokes. You may or may not remember that I have AFib, too. Did you mention once that he had a bad headache for a couple of days before the stroke or did it start suddenly? I know you feel lucky to have had a guy like Don in your life. I also know he was lucky to have you. It was some journey for the two of you.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the baby shower. I knew you would. After being around all those babies, I bet you were exhausted at the end of the day. When my grands leave, I'm as limp as a wet wash cloth.

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    1. I don't remember now---I just woke up---exactly when his headache started but he had taken a muscle relaxer the night before because he wasn't feeling well---his arm and leg at that point. They didn't have that treatment back then, that reverses the bad effects of strokes if you get to ER within the four hour window of when a stroke starts. If they had by the time we knew that's what was happening it would have been too late to give it to him. We even went to the baptism party for an hour or so before someone there recognized something was terribly wrong. Even after I got him to ER they did nothing but wait because they thought he could have overdosed on muscle relaxers. By then he'd lost his speech but or course THEY didn't know he usually talked all the time. Since then, or course, I'd know enough to remember to look for this: F.A.S.T. -- F for face droops, A for arm weakness, S for speech slurs and T for time to call 911 and write down the time of the first symptom started. Make sure you write that F.A.S.T acronym out for H!!!! Put in on the refrigerator. It could save one of you from what Don went through. I saw a movie of that drug given to someone who had all the same disabilities Don had---the one side paralysis and no speech---and within an hour it was all gone. They are working on a drug with a longer window but they don't have it yet so you MUST get to ER quickly with symptoms!

      It wasn't just the babies in my family that was there. The other side of the family had also brought 4 or 5 babies too! It was fun to watch them all but holding little Miss Abigail so long was wonderful. She's so dainty and girly-girl. In Don's family they dress all the babies including the girls in sports gear! There isn't a single Facebook photo of the baby girls looking like little girls. That doesn't seem to be happening with the three girls in mine, thankfully!

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    2. Thank you for replying to this so completely. I appreciate it. I've always told H to get me to the hospital fast (we only live 3 miles from our hospital), but I can see how we could let things go too long or mistake it for something other than what it is. Putting the acronym on the fridge is a good idea and I will do that today. Sometimes people (including me) are reluctant to go to the hospital. No one wants to waste hours in an ER, but I've become more cautious. You won't believe it, but I did not know about the medication that can reverse the effects of stroke if you get help within four hours. I'd heard there were ways to help, but I didn't know about the 4-hour window.

      I love the name Abigail, always have. Though I'm sure they did not name her after Abigail Adams, she was a strong woman. I'm sure Abigail will be, too. I think it's nice to dress little girls in all the frills. That time doesn't last long before they're shaving half their head and coloring the other half psychedelic orange and lime green. :) But never Abigail.

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    3. I love that name, too. She'll be a year next month. Our month old baby in the family is named Delaney and I love that too. Delaney's mom is a hairdresser who loves hair dye so that baby will probably surprise us all by wanting to be natural. LOL

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  3. Miracles I believe are for real. When I had my stroke at 27, the neurosurgeon informed my wife and parents that I would die & to get the family together because there wasn't much more we could do for him. The next day the priest of our church came and prayed over me and the people of my parish prayed asking God to allow me to continue to live. The rest is me allowing to write to you today. I thank God for every day after getting up and thanking Him for another beautiful day even if the day was raining or not. Am I going to see that movie? Probably not but I know that I was given a miracle allowing me to live, still being with my wife ( 42 years ), seeing my children being born, seeing them married and seeing the birth of my grandchildren. That's what I call a miracle. Do I believe everything that the church says? Not really but I do believe in God. The problems that we have in our world are not God's problems. It's mankinds.
    Jean, I really enjoy your blog and I'm glad that I can call you my friend even though I've never met you. Believing in a another person is also another miracle. I can call you a miracle. Enjoy the day my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I hadn't realized that your had your stroke so young! Wow, it truly is a miracle that you were able to pull through and go on to enjoy a normal life.

      I should write about miracles someday. I believe in them, I just don't believe we can make them happen and that they only happen to true believers. To me, miracles are beating the odds. You and my husband both beat the odds and went on to find happiness again after having a stroke. Both miracles! Your family prayed, mine didn't. I think that doctors perform miracles all the time, too. The fact that we have brains to figure out how to help each other is a miracle. Tadpoles turning into frogs is a miracle, too. I have to quit writing or I'll have another blog post in these comments. LOL

      I'm glad we found each other's blogs, Paul. I enjoy reading yours, too, even if sometimes they make me blush. As bloggers we all learn so much about each others lives it would be hard not to become fast friends!

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    2. Sorry that some of my blogs make you blush Jean. Maybe I should tone down some of the things that I put in my blog. I wonder if some of my friends feel the same, like maybe blushing. Maybe I'll ask them on my next blog. Oh well, I'm a true Italian. Ha,ha,ha.

      Continue being just who you are Jean. That's who I like. See ya.

      Cruisin Paul

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    3. You continue being you, too, Paul. I was mostly kidding about the blushing while giving anyone who might click over to your blog from here a heads up on your sense of humor.

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  4. "But the only what-if that counts now is the what-if we’d never met in the first place…what a dull life I would have led without Don."

    Thank you. I needed a thought like this today. I just lost my husband in February and had I known that his "flu" was really sepsis, I might have been able to save him so the what ifs are killing me right now and waking me up in the middle of the night. Especially because I thought he was being dramatic because he tended to be dramatic when he got sick. It kills me and the fact that he might have been saved makes me feel like it's somehow right out of my grasp to bring him back and if I just reach far enough I can reach whatever it is that will take me back in time and save him. It's torturous, so thoughts like what if I had never met him and never had him and that amount of love in my life is a very good thought to hold onto in the midst of tormenting myself.

    Your blog is one of my favorite widow blogs and so incredibly helpful. Thank you so much.

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  5. Thank you for commenting! I helps me to keep on writing when I know that something I might say still has the power to help someone when I'm this far out from Don's passing.

    I think most widows have to deal with a lot of what-ifs before making peace with ourselves and that takes time. You're so early in the process it's normal for them to wake you up in the night. But I can promise the pain of the what-ifs will fade.

    I'm sorry for your loss but glad we could connect.

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    1. Thank you, Jean. And yes, every post you post is helpful to me and I'm sure many others. Thank you so much for this blog.

      I'm sorry for your loss too and glad we connected!

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  6. I'm glad you created new memories in that particular church yesterday with sweet baby Abigail. How could it have been so long since Don's stroke, so long that this baby baptized the day Don had his stroke, is now celebrating her first baby? It baffles me that this second generations is now underway.

    Sometimes it seems like time loops right back around kind of impersonally. The same smiles, but on different faces. So who remembers? And what's the point of making our mark, like leaving behind buildings named after us? I like that your CPA remembered Don. He wasn't just another guy who plowed snow, part of the receding past. He must have made people feel very special when he met them. Do you think this is the gift Don gave people?

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    1. Time does seem to have sped by very fast when we look behind us. We wish we had lingered and appreciated the good times more, at least I do.

      Do you thing if you had had children you'd feel differently about the "time loops" and "what's the point of making your mark"?

      I don't know if Don had a 'gift' to give people but he knew how to engage people, draw them out in conversation and how to tell a story. People remember him for that, I'm sure.

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    2. Personally, had I had children, I would have made quite a stain on their psyches. I knew I had unhealed anger inside me, so I deliberately did not have children. Only now, as I'm healing, can I imagine loving any offspring selflessly with my whole heart, and soul.

      That's the only sort of mark worth making, wouldn't you agree - be it through offspring, hubbies, friends, or our 'impersonal' offspring, like this blog. Leave the world a better place :-)

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    3. It was wise of you to recognize what was in your heart and not give in to social pressures to have children when you knew in your heart you couldn't do it the right way.

      I don't think having children is the ONLY way to make a mark on the world. (Though I don't think that's what you were saying now that I read it a second time.) Artist, teachers, writers and do-good types can make worthy marks on the world as well if not more than parenthood.

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  7. I love the image of Don and the tootsie rolls. I'm a rule-follower, too, and I also probably would have assumed that I couldn't have one if he had taken two.
    Congratulations on having your taxes done! Most years, I have done mine at the absolute last minute -- some years even filing an extension and then finding myself sweating to get the tax return in the mail before that deadline! I'm amazed to find myself in the third week of March with my taxes all done and my refunds already in hand. -Jean

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    1. I'm glad someone else understands the tootsie roll thing. LOL

      Now that you're retired I'll bet you'll never file your taxes close to the wire again.

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  8. A lot of people blame God for everything bad that happens. God gave us Free-Will and we sometimes make stupid choices and God lets us just go ahead and make them, hoping we will learn, I suppose. I have witnessed REAL miracles and I have had surprising things happen in my life that shouldn't have--or seemed like coincidences at the time that later, I chose to deem were God Whispers or God Interventions. My feelings not based on any certain religion, but what I have learned--especially the last four "alone" years.

    God didn't cause Don's stroke and God didn't cause my Fred to die. I remember when a young friend of family friends, drove through a Stop sign and was T-boned and killed. His family truly believed it was God's Will. PULEEZE! The kid chose not to stop at the sign. Free will. Free choice. That would not give me ANY comfort to think God killed my child! The God I know isn't out taking innocent young people.

    I was trying to make a point, but I have no clue what it was. LOL I wish you had gone to my school. None of us worried who went to what church or no church. We liked each other and all that didn't matter.

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    1. I believe in the Free-Will theory as well. I'd ever hear the expression "God Whispers" before reading your blog and I love that term.

      We would have great "God" conversations in person, I'm sure. I wish I had been in your grade school, too.

      And I never did like the church dogma that pushes/believes in a punishing God. Even if joking I think it's terrible to tell someone something terrible happened because you didn't believe or pray hard enough.

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  9. I didn't read all the comments, so I may be repeating what others have said, so I'll keep it simple. Yes, me too. On the Christian/God thing. I am dismayed how some use their religion to bludgeon the rest of us for being non-believers. I believe. I believe deeply; just not in the way they want me to, so suddenly I'm the enemy. (I'm not talking about radical Muslims here -- I'm talking about Christians who think they are being persecuted because of the "Merry Christmas" controversy or the like.

    I'm glad you had a lovely time at the "baby-fest". I find Creation to be the real miracle -- how it all unfolds and we have enough faith in a future to want to further the human race into the great unknown that lies before us in this earthly life.

    Interesting that Don's stroke and a church event are wrapped up in your life together.... I'm sitting with tenderness about that in this moment. I love how much you loved him.

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    1. You're the first to tackle the Christian/God thing. And I appreciate that. I know you're UU and I've been following the website of our local Unitarian Universalist Church, trying to understand why a few people I come in contact with call it a cult. That's ridiculous, of course, but like you said, some like to "use their religion to bludgeon the rest of us for being non-believers."

      Don had an interesting history regarding churches being judgemental. Maybe I'll write about it some day.

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    2. Unitarian Universalists were accorded "cult" status a long time ago. I think it's because of being non-Christian, although some of my friends and best UUs ARE Christian....just not of the fundamentalist variety. I cannot for the life of me think why anyone who has read the UU Principles and Purposes and the Sources from which we draw our faith to be a "cult" or an in any way "evil". Again, I think it's just a matter of some not respecting differing ways to practice spirituality and be alive in the world. We draw from all faith traditions to inform our search for truth and meaning and to live a life of ethical integrity. UU as a faith tradition has strong Judeo-Christian roots -- just disagreements about dogma. Some of the most compassionate and social justice-active people are know are UUs.

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    3. Does the main UU Church pick a social justice-activity for all their churches for a certain time frame? Or do they decide locally? Our local one does a thing every Wednesday of going to a downtown corner with Black Lives Matter signs. They only have one black member in the 350 (?) member congregation. Once in a while they make the news if it's a bad storm, etc.

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    4. The UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) may choose some social justice issues to highlight, but every congregation is self-governing and self-directed. They can do whatever they want.

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  10. +1 to all the complimentary comments re this blog.
    I also believe in free will, and God's whispers. I like reading the comments, makes it a conversation. ~ Libby

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    1. Conversations are good in blogs but it doesn't always happen.

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