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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day in Widow Land



I have mentioned the term 'Memorial Day' in twenty-four blog entries. I know this because the ‘search this blog’ feature mysterious started working again and since I’m a statistics kind of person, I’m happy about that. Though, honestly, sometimes I wonder why I still bother to reread past posts in an effort to take my widowhood temperature, comparing earlier versions of myself to how I feel in the present. My first Memorial Day without Don, for example, was all about the disgraceful way his newly set tombstone looked. The ground hadn’t been leveled out or reseeded and dirt was all over the stone which was (and still is) set too low in the ground in my opinion. I went home that first Memorial Day and got some tools and water, went back and did what I could to clean it up. Over my second Memorial Day I had a broken bone in my arm and couldn’t drive to the cemetery so I made a memorial corner in my yard. Don loved dogwood trees so I had one planted, then I put his life-sized tin chickens near-by and buried some of his ashes in what I now call Don's Corner. (I was a regular Johnny Appleseed spreading his ashes across state.) Last winter one of his chickens made its get-away during a wind storm and I was about to put ‘lost chicken’ posters up around the neighborhood when I found him down the block.

With my third Memorial Day weekend without Don I was still searching for a new tradition I’d adopt for the first long weekend of the summer. I couldn’t do what we did as a couple for many years which was to either take off on a mini trip along Lake Michigan or gather with his family at a cottage they no longer own. I still miss seeing all of my in-laws. It’s not that they don’t include me in holiday parties anymore like some widows experience but rather they don’t have them as often now that the oldest members in a family are dying off. Last year one of my sister-in-law’s was beside herself when she learned her kids had planned a family reunion but they neglected to ask the oldest member of the family. If you’re not on Facebook apparently in this century you don’t get invitations. The moral of that story is that if you don’t keep up with technology you’re headed to the Valley of Dinosaur Bones and one day all our paper invitations and greeting cards kept in scrapbooks will end up in a museum, relics of a time when everyone could still read cursive.

This year, my fifth Memorial Day since Don’s passing, I could write exactly what I wrote last year: “I went to the cemetery on Saturday and had a talk with Don. I told him that I think of him often and that I’m doing okay even though he took a piece of me with him when he left.” Again, I took tools and water and cleaned up the stone. I can’t believe how fast sod takes it over. After I’m dead or can’t do it anymore all traces of us will get reclaimed by nature. I thought of that as I dug a deep ditch all the way around the stone, deep enough to swallow up a lawn mower wheel. I hope the cemetery sexton swears every time he comes near the grave. Nothing passive aggressive about me and the fact that I hate their flower policy. The only “legal” place you can put flowers is in an urn placed on top of the tombstone which I refuse to do. Instead I will glue a fresh Snoopy trinket on the corner of the stone each year. That and cleaning the stone has become my tradition by default. 

This year Don has a new neighbor in the cemetery, a veteran of the Korean War whose grave-site looks deplorable except for the American flag that was dutifully placed by the Boy Scouts. The gentlemen died in February and they still haven’t removed the casket spray of dead flowers and sand covers more than half the stone. As I stood looking at it, I thought about cleaning off the stone myself and hauling the dead flowers to the trash container. Then I remembered reading a widow’s blog about how mad she was when she went to the cemetery to clean up her husband’s stone and discovered someone else had already done it. She suspected it was his first wife’s doing and she was ready to start WWIII over it.

The cemetery that holds my husband's granite is just a few blocks from the Main Street of a small tourist town and I headed there after my widow's duties were done. Ice cream cures everything so I grabbed a rocky road filled waffle cone and sat in the park overlooking the damn. Little girls where doing cartwheels in the bandstand. Bikers, joggers and dog walkers were passing by on the nature trail. Fishermen in waist-high waders were doing their thing in the water and canoers were being picked up by the bus that takes them and the canoes back up the river. Life goes on and while Memorial Day Year Five had an air of sad acceptance, no tears fell. And as Martha Stewart would say, "That's a good thing." ©

NOTE: The photo at the top is of part of the park near the cemetery. There is a memorial red brick with Don's name on it visible in the distance, left side, bought with money that came in sympathy cards. I was on the other side of the river up by the dam but these two halves of the park are connected by a wonderful area for walking and sitting that spans across the top of the dam. Click to enlarge photo.

18 comments:

  1. Interesting to watch the widow grief process through your eyes as I have yet to experience that kind of grief.

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  2. I don't know if I'm "normal" or not, but I think so. Though there's an often repeated line in widows circles that expresses the sentiment that no two widows grieve the same way.

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  3. This was a touching, true, honest, beautiful post. My parents and grandparents are buried in an old country cemetery in northern Illinois. No one tends their graves that I know of. My cousin used to go, but he has his own health issues, and I don't think he makes the trip anymore. Memorial Day is the day I think of those childhood trips to that cemetery when my mom would tend her parents graves. I wish I could do the same now, but I moved 2000 miles away to make my life. Memorial Day is tinged with sadness and nostalgia for me.

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    1. I think most of us have a ting of sadness with Memorial Day because we've all have lost someone. My brother keeps up the stone for my mom and dad plus his second wife's and her son. For years Don and I used to do them for three generations of his family. I used to go with my dad to pay respects at his dad's grave.

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  4. So far, I have no traditions. I don't remember visiting cemeteries when I was young either. My parents have no gravesite (lack of burial is going to hinder future generations when they try to do their genealogy!) nor does Ralph.

    I did watch part of the Honolulu Lantern Memorial ... I could never be in a crowd like that! My Maui widow friends are looking into have a little private lantern memorial next year.

    I didn't even grill outdoors or celebrate in any way! What's up with me???

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    1. I've always wondered why those lantern ceremonies don't star fires when they land. Any clue why they don't? They did one here on the river but with 20,000 lanterns surely some must have strayed off from over the water.

      Future genealogists might not have Grave Finder but they'll have better assess to obituaries than in the past and public records. Plus a lot of people still have memorial stones even if they aren't actually buried in the cemetery.

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    2. I've not heard of any fires. They do have volunteers who gather them up to refurbish for the next year.

      Sad to say ... I did not do an obituary for Mr. Ralph nor have I yet had a bit of his ashes stored at a cemetery ... Oregon? Indiana? Maui? All three? None? YIKES

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    3. Maybe you could do a "In Memory" notice on an upcoming sadiversary of Ralph's pass in the newspaper. It would serve the same purpose as an obituary for future genealogists.

      In my 'Johnny Appleseed' days I decided to put ashes every place that Don loved---at Lake Michigan, in his hometown by the river, at his family farm and here at the house and I still had plenty left over for the cemetery plot. I have no regrets.

      I get the Oregon and Maui choice for you but what's the significance of Indiana? You have a daughter in Oregon so I would think you'd want part of Ralph's ashes there unless you don't think she's likely to stay in the area.

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  5. The practice of honouring the departed seems to be across all religions and cultures. I'm also finding the same commonality across architecture, politics, education, housing, etc. I wonder if its a byproduct of the internet - although the only way I pick up the similarities is *because* of the internet, so chicken/egg situation.

    While my family did the traditional customs for the dead, like you're doing, I've dropped the observances. But the inner grief continues till the end. ~ Libby

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    1. I think the commonalities were there before the internet, but it did take longer for cultures to "borrow" from one of the other.We have a pyramid tomb, for example, in a local cemetery that was built in the 1800s by a rich guy who had traveled extensively.

      "Inner grief continues 'till the end." Well said!

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    2. On re-reading my comment/your response, I didn't express myself clearly. All religions and cultures, be it Muslim, Shinto, Christian etc, are intertwined with honouring their dead. With the internet, its easier to read and note the commonalities and the customs, which undoubtedly were there before the internet.

      But its the commonalities in say politics, and education policy etc that I am observing as I web-surf. We have political Oz counterparts of Trump, and Palin (so did Oz copy the USA guys eg in that making outrageous comments gets attention?) Similarly, I read of some new fangled policy here and then later read elsewhere that the same has been introduced in UK - then think that Oz is just copying, with few tweaks. The cliches are so true, including that: nothing new under the sun. [I remember reading a disparaging comment made in Roman times by a senator about young people - it read as if it was a contemporary comment, though written hundreds of years ago.] ~ Libby

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    3. Libby, I often answers the comments that come in over night with my first cup of coffee in the morning...like now. I'm half awake and could easily misunderstand no matter how well they are written.

      I remember that Roman speech. It does prove the point that with humans there is nothing new in our emotions and they do cycle through out time. That's one of the reasons why I am ho-hum when people say the Bible is prophetic when it's really just love, hate, power, destruction and rebuilding reaching its high and low points over and over again. Human nature does not change, just the settings they happen in. Civilizations move like ebbs and tides.

      That's interesting that you have your own 'Trump' and 'Palin' down under. We never get news from your politics here.

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  6. I meant to visit my grandmother's grave this weekend, but my husband had projects lined up that precluded the visit. Perhaps I can go sometime this week. Unfortunately our peonies have already bloomed and gone, so I'll have to purchase some flowers for her grave. None of our family live in this town anymore -- we just moved back here after a thirty-year absence -- so no one has been tending her grave in all that time...

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    1. Call me crazy but I find cemeteries to be a peaceful place to visit. Something about looking back makes us appreciate the presence more.

      Our peonies haven't even budded yet!

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  7. Personally, I love cemeteries. Peace and quiet. That park is beautiful, Jean!

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    1. Isn't it a pretty place! I love both sitting there and walking through it on the nature trail along the river which goes for miles. The other side of the river isn't quite so pretty but one side of it has a line of stores---ice cream, candy, restaurants, coffee shop---and the other side is the river and fishing access.

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  8. What a lovely park: a perfect place to sit with a rocky road. So many of our memories were made on holidays.

    I've been lax about keeping flowers on my parents' grave recently. Their gravesite is over an hour from me. I'm not sure I want a grave. I may just have my ashes scattered. That's what I'm thinking.

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    1. No reason you can't do both...scatter ashes and have a gravestone. My mom and my husband both had that combination. Mom wanted to be scattered but my brother wanted the stone. But my husband wanted a stone but didn't care where he or his ashes ended up. I love that now the stones can hold one of those codes on them that you hold a phone up to read the person's history and/or see photos. Can you image going to historical cemeteries once they've coded all of them. Don's new neighbor in the cemetery has one.

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