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, May 7, 2016

Good Friends and Orderly Lives



I like my life orderly. I like knowing that the senior hall lectures, day trips and luncheons always fall on Tuesdays or Thursdays, that my Movie and Lunch Club is the third Friday of the month and that the my house cleaner is scheduled on the second Fridays. I like that Levi (The Mighty Schnauzer) and I both get our haircuts on Mondays. Likewise with doctors, dentists and The Gatherings I’ve recently added to my day planner. I like that my second Wednesdays of the month is when I go to travelogues and the first and third Wednesdays are Red Hat Society teas. I used to like the fact that the Red Hat summer walk-abouts---until now---fell on the third Saturdays but this week they voted to move them to the second Fridays. Bummer! Now, I either have to miss the walk-abouts or go through the hassle of finding another day on the calendar that works for my house cleaning service and me. This month’s walk-about is to an up-cycling mall and next month’s walk-about is to a farm at lambing time. Then there is the Celtic Fair this summer that no fun-loving person in their right mind would miss. I may be old but presumably I’m still in my right mind. Question of the day: If I wasn’t would I even know it?

In the prime of my work life I could juggle schedules with the precision of a drill sergeant. Now, I daydream about winning the lotto so I could hire a personal assistance to handle those pesky details. Just tell me where to go and what to wear. Ohmygod! At my age it’s kind of creepy to wish for a personal assistant because, basically, that’s what they do in nursing homes---tell you where to go and what to wear. Breakfast at 8:00, lunch at noon, dinner at 4:30 and fish sticks every Friday. “Sweetie, no you can’t have a shower today. You’re on tomorrow's schedule, but this is the first Monday of the month and that means the choir from the senior hall is coming in this afternoon to entertain.” Oh, goodie! I'll think. They can't sing their way out of a paper bag. Don't make me wear those hearing aids! Oh course, I wouldn’t say that to a nurse’s aide helping me get dressed, but I can’t promise I wouldn’t bite her just because it would be one of the last free-will choices I’d have left in my life. 

I had lunch with a man this week. He’s an old friend that came as a package deal with my husband. Don, Gary and another close friend went to high school together and they stayed close their entire lives. Anyone who has been a family caregiver knows that friendships often fade away when a disability enters the picture, but Gary never changed how he interacted with Don. Even though Don could no longer talk, Gary kept up their tradition of calling once a week and they'd have one-sided 'conversations.' Another friend and neighbor who used to talk to Don daily for years disappeared completely from our lives after the stroke and it hurt my husband deeply. I tried to keep them connected with invitations, etc., but it was like Don had died to them. Their loss. Language or not, he could still make us laugh.

After Don died, Gary started calling me once or twice a month. He’s a dear friend but don’t read anything romantic in the friendship. In truth we’d kill each other if we ever lived in the same house. We’re both set in our ways. He stayed with us for two weeks after I had knee replacement so I didn’t have to put Don in a nursing home while I recuperated. After that, he came by twice a week until I could drive again to help Don with his showers and take us where we needed to go. That’s the kind of friends those two guys were. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for each other.

Our other friend---the third point in their triangle of life-long friendships---has recently been given an expiration date on his life and that cast a dark cloud over Gary’s and my lunch. He lives out of state so there's no way we can be there with hands-on help for him and his wife. We may never even see him again. Life is so fragile…or maybe it really isn’t. Maybe we just take too damn many years to fully appreciate what a gift it is to have good friends, to have good health and to have the time to enjoy them both. ©

31 comments:

  1. I have one good friend all the way back to first grade, he stuck with me even though I married the wrong women and our wives never clicked. We now go the the Winnipeg Folk Festival every year. He's still married, I'm not.

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    1. When you think about how many changes we go through in our lives it's really something special, isn't it, when we can keep one or two really close friends through out our lives. I have a friend I've known since kindergarten and we still email back and forth. She moved out of state back in college and when her folks were still alive, we'd see each other a couple of times a year. We could always pick up right where we left off. Good friends are like that.

      The Winnipeg Folk Festival sounds like fun. What a great tradition for friends! We used to go to a lot of Blue Grass Festivals in the '70s.

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  2. My oldest friend is from 1970. We met at college, and kept contact via mail, then e-mail, lately Skype. We haven't met since 1975, but exchange birthday, and Xmas e-mails every year. The one friend who knew me in and out.

    You can't make friends like that (well, its rare). Today its very much whats-in-it-for-me philosophy. ~ Libby

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    1. Maintaining a 41 year friendship says a lot about you both, I think. Those old connections are important. No one knows you better than someone who's seen and understands all the changes we've been through in our lives.

      I know young people (in their 30s) who still have their childhood friends. But in general I worry about the generation of kids who spend all their time on computers.

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    2. Just calculated: friendship now 46yrs old (thats almost half a century!!), but not met face-to-face for 41yrs. We live on different continents.
      ~ Libby

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  3. Beautiful post! Made me tear up a bit...

    Bee

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  4. My, you are a busy lady. I don't think I could hold up to your schedule. I do live by the clock and a calendar even though I'm retired, mine just isn't as full as yours. Our son the introvert has two friends from his youth. Isn't that amazing? I don't have friends like that.

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    1. When my husband was alive and I was in caregiver mode like you are now, I was just as busy as I am now but, of course, much of it was therapy or medical related. It still often feels like I'm just filling up time until something important comes along.

      Old friends are still the best. I'm glad your son has them.

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  5. A lovely well thought out post Jean.

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad it looks well thought out but I actually had no idea when I started writing it where it would end up. LOL A lot of my posts are like that.

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  6. What a beautiful post. I am so sorry to hear of your friend. My husband lost friends when his mobility was impacted, as well. I know that feeling well. He tried not to let it bother him but how can you not when you are already dealing with so much? The isolation is already heavy, when people disappear it adds to it so much.

    There are a couple of Steven's friends who are in my life in the same way. Sometimes they are a painful reminder but I am so grateful for them. They never abandoned him when others did. Life really is fragile and can break in so many different ways. <3

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    1. I was a mentor in the stroke community for a long time and the losing friends thing is so hard on both the survivors and their caregivers. The feelings of desertion when you've already lost so much really hurts as you well know. When we try to look through the friends' eyes it's easier to accept and forgive. (Though I'll admit it took me several years to achieve both with the neighbors mentioned in this blog post.) A disability does change the dynamics of a relationship and some people can't handle that. Others just aren't emotionally up to the challenge of retooling a relationship. With others, they were shallower friendships than we originally thought they were, based on work place, hobbies, etc.

      I'm really glad you have some of Steven's friends still in your life. I love being around people who knew my husband and all we went through. I love the 'shorthand' that comes from swapping memories and stories. It's so sad when our pool of old friends gets smaller and smaller.



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  7. That is a great saying. Friends we make today may become OLD friends during our next 20 years. Two high school buddies and I email each other every Sunday. Sometimes in between, sometimes a text and rarely a phone call (six hours difference) and the two of them have been friends since preschool! I try to go back to Columbus every five years (class reunion) and they came to Hawaii for a visit while Ralph was still healthy and ornery.

    With both my parents gone, I don't feel the tug to visit Ohio. I see my sister at least once a year but the brothers are ... well, just not as nurturing or tuned in to relationships.

    So far, I've only video chatted with the grandsons. No one else needs to see me ... my old voice will have to do.

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    1. Video chat screens seem to distort people and I'm distorted enough. LOL I can think of only of a couple of people I'd learn how to do that for. But it's great for grandparents. Keeping high school buddies for so long is truly amazing, isn't it.

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    2. Columbus holds a lot of memories for me, too. Still have friends there, but haven't been back for a number of years. I really enjoy Facetime, Skype but others seem not as enthusiastic.

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  8. I had the occasion some years ago to be in touch with my childhood friend. We emailed for about a year and a half and then we stopped. It didn't seem that either of us wanted to continue chatting about the past and because we were emailing, we didn't have any present together. Oddly, I have a feeling that if we were together, we would have been comfortable but across the miles it evaporated.
    And then there are new friends which at this stage of life seem a lot harder to reach a comfortable stage. At this point in life we have so much to be cautious and hesitant about and as one of the above commenters mentioned, someone very pleasant
    might turn out to have an agenda that is not so pleasant.
    Your Gathering does sound pleasant though and as most of us do have antenna up, alarm bells sound soon enough!
    The second Monday of the month we play music in the nursing home (tomorrow). And they are not shy if they don't like something! But for the most part we have an enthusiastic audience and they sing along to the familiar tunes!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. My childhood friend and I never email back and forth about the past. It doesn't come up very often. It's the same sort of things we'd talk about in person, I suspect. Our daily lives. And trust me, our lives couldn't be more different.

      That's a funny coincidence about you playing for the nursing home on the first Mondays and my senior hall choir singing at a nursing home on the first Mondays. That's one in 30 chance. They really aren't very good but the songs they sing would all make great sing-alongs.

      That hidden agenda you mentioned...You hear about cases where old people trusted the wrong person and were taken advantage of and I don't want that to be me someday.

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  9. There truly are no friends like old friends. One friend on east coast I haven't seen for over fifty years and I on west coast have known each other all our lives -- a relationship we both treasure.
    My husband had buddies from his Ohio State days, a couple of whom I came to know before he and I became a couple. They stayed close across the miles all through the years and had a Memorial Service in Columbus with musicians and other friends for our family after my husband's death. We've continued staying in touch though his best friend in Toledo died last year. These have been special relationships.

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    1. It truly a treasure to be able to say we've had friends for over 50 years. I wonder if kids growing up will stay connected even better or will they not make deep friendships in the first place because they spend so much time buried in their phones. For decades, my grade school friend and I wrote letters by hand.

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  10. You've nailed the description of the 'assisted' living home my father resides in, right down to his relishing those last free-will choices - like taking a shower in the middle of the night, even if it means falling and not being found right away.

    Woo is me. I tried unsuccessfully to rekindle high school and college friendships over the years. Nice folks, though. So the best friends I've made were the gals I was in the caregiver trenches with. And that number keeps dwindling, as we all know. I'm so sorry your friend is headed to the great beyond. That is a dark cloud.

    Well, Jean, we couldn't rest on our laurels if we wanted to. Nope, gotta stay fresh and on these toes, until the money or the mind runs out.

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    1. I dread that shower schedule in assisted living or nursing home situations. I'm impressed that your dad can pull that off, doing one in the middle of the night. I will file that one away for someday maybe. LOL

      It's funny but as close as some of us caregivers were during our speech classes days, none of stayed in touch as one-by-one we became widows.

      Gotta keep on our toes is right and I use that as an excuse for playing on the computer.

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  11. So, what am I doing up at 2:30 a.m.? Well, there's a new computer in my life, and I'm trying to get the thing organized enough that it's functional. In the process of trying to restore some things -- like my RSS feeds -- I noticed the "subscribe by email" link up there in your sidebar. I tried to subscribe that way, but feedburner told me I already was subscribed to receive emails.

    The thing is -- I never have received one. I have to remember to check the RSS feed to see if you've put up a new entry. It's no big deal, since the feed works, but it occurred to me other people might have subscribed and think you're not publishing anything.

    OK. Now I'm going to try to go back to sleep. :)

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    1. Thanks! I think I shall try subscribing to myself and if it doesn't work for me, then I will delete the link.

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  12. I have friends--casual kind of friends. My very best friend in this whole world, my soul mate since first day of Kindergarten, passed 4 years ago. You can't ever replace an old, life long friend--and I really wouldn't want to. Sorry about the friend of Gary and Don's. We all will come to the end of this life someday, so--we keep going onward and upward and ever forward--making the best of what is left--and it can be pretty darn good!! I will never bite a care giver in the nursing home, but I may slap her! Especially if she calls me Honey or Dearie! HAH!

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    1. 'Honey' and 'Dearie' brings out the worse many of us doesn't it. LOL

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  13. I totally relate to the calendaring of life. I like to be organized too. I'm holding a lot more "open space" than I used to....I look back at old calendars (yes, paper ones that I keep as a sort of diary) and I am amazed and not surprised at how stressed I was a lot of the time at certain points in my adult life. Your activities sound like fun and so interesting, though. But I found I had to even cut out some of the "fun" stuff; the introvert in me craves quiet alone time. A lot of it. But there are certain long time friends who I never have to take a vacation from. I loved hearing about your lunch with an old friend. He sounds like a treasure and such a good person to be in your lives during Don's hard years.

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    1. Gary and I don't live in the same town so getting together for lunch requires us both meeting in the middle. So it doesn't happen often. Don was there for him during his hard times, too. They both knew how to be good friends and accepted their differences.

      I do the same thing with old calendars and last years came in handy recently when I got billed for a doctor appoint that took place 8 months ago! I didn't even remember going and thought it was a mistake.

      If I'm on the go too much, even with fun stuff, it feels too much like living in a hotel without room service. Getting the right balance is tricky.

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  14. You just keep writing posts that I love, that I relate to. I laughed all the way through that second paragraph. The aids at the nursing home won't only tell us what to wear, they will be helping us dress. Oh, my! Now that you wrote that thing about biting them, it's stuck in my mind forever, and I'll probably do it one day. I will tell them whose fault it is... but they won't believe me.

    We do lose friends when caregiving days enter our lives. I'm still sorry about that. I think people are afraid. My sister kept telling me that she just couldn't "do" it. One of the many lessons I learned when I was caring for Dad was that we truly cannot make others do what we want them to do. I knew it before, but I really got the message when I was with Dad. Anyway, great post, and I'm so glad I found your blog.

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    1. The relatives who tell you they want to remember their dad/mother/sister whatever like they were before they got sick really drive me crazy. THEY might think of their relative as gone already but they are still there and still need to see friendly faces. But you are right, you can't make people step up to the plate if they are weak and lack the compassion required.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog today. We have so much in common and I enjoy your comments.

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