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, July 6, 2016

Holidays Past and Present



My Fourth of July celebration brought memories ranging from sappy sentimental to those that tapped into my well of youthful playfulness. I was at my youngest niece’s house on a lake and since I spent all my summers growing up at a cottage I felt right at home with the beehive of activities that goes along with holidays spent next to a body of water. Motor boats, sailboats, swimmers, sunbathers, family parties in yards as far as the eye can see and the smell of grilling food coming from all directions. It was busy in the sensory over-load kind of way that I enjoy for its memory triggering side effects. I was one of twelvish guests that included my brother (the oldest one there) and the sweetest, pixie of a baby girl who just learned how to walk a few weeks ago. Age mattered because we lined up to eat by age and I was third in line. It was a running joke but being the baby sister it was fun teasing my brother, the elder statesman at the party.

Growing up my brother always managed to get into more trouble than I did. Probably the worst thing he did was run full speed into a bob wire fence, nearly decapitating himself. A slight exaggeration but there sure was a lot of blood, a tense ride to the hospital and stitches from ear to ear. He sported a gauze dressing around his neck for quite some time afterward. I’ve never asked but I think he loved his scar because it was fertile material for inventing stories in his youth. The most creative tale was about an Indian attack at our fort in the woods. As the years passed by the scar faded to a point that I doubt anyone asks anymore. But I’ll bet he still gets questions about his half-finished tattoo of a pair a dice that comes with a story about getting under-age drunk with our cousin. It hurt so much he never went back when he was sober to get the tattoo finished. That, and probably the fact that our mother hit the ceiling when she saw what he had done. You can only wear a Band-Aid so long on your forearm before a mother needs to see what’s under it. 

At my niece’s house we were all down by the water when someone asked about some round, lime-green balls that were floating by. Some were guessing they were eggs of some sort, others said they were parts off a plant. The 1985 Ron Howard movie, Cocoon, came up. If you don’t remember that drama/comedy/sci-fi film this IMDb plot summary will refresh your memory: “A group of aliens return to earth to retrieve cocoons containing the people they'd left behind from an earlier trip. These cocoons had been resting at the bottom of the ocean. Once retrieved, they stored these recovered cocoons in the swimming pool of a house they'd rented in a small Florida town. Their mission is hampered by a number of elderly people from a nearby retirement community who had been secretly using the pool, and who discover unusual powers from within these cocoons.” It was a favorite movie of my husband’s and it inspired some interesting conversations back in its day. What if there really was a foundation of youth, would you want to live forever? If you were invited onto an alien spaceship, would you go?

I had forgotten how easy it was in our youth to get my brother to do my bidding until I suggested we could tell if those green balls floating by were plant or animal if we cut one open. It didn’t take long before my brother scooped one up and squashed it open. I protested that if there was a creature inside we’d need to surgically cut one open---not mash it open---to find its face, tail or a polliwog-like entity, so he scooped up another. That’s when a young guy spoiled our fun by using his cell phone to google, “floating green balls in freshwater lakes.” He came up with the name ‘duckweed,’ an aquatic plant that water fowl and people in parts of Asia eat. Normally I love Google but it was more fun imagining those perfectly round, one inch green balls were alien eggs. In our youth we would have had to wait a week---on laundry day back in town---before getting to the library to look something like that up. That’s assuming the oldest guy on the lake front didn’t have an answer for us when we’d bring our ‘prizes’ up to the glider where he always sat. He was our Google Search. No one asks old people stuff anymore.  

Holidays Past: My first kiss from a boy came under the fireworks on the Fourth of July. He was staying with friends at a cottage near ours that summer and the next summer he got me into so much trouble when he put a line of hickies down my neck. I didn’t know what they were but my mom did and I had to wear a turtleneck shirt in the hot July heat until they faded. 

Holidays Present: When I got home from my niece’s house I saw on Facebook that my nephew’s family had grilled bacon wrapped corn on the cob and my oldest niece had just stopped at the cemetery down in Indiana where my grandmother is buried. For all its pitfalls, Facebook is still a wonderful way to keep families within our circle of love when we can’t physically be together. ©


NOTE: The photo at the top is of my brother sitting on the dam we built at our the fort in the woods. We kept our pop cold in the water behind the stones. The photos below are of our fort. In the second photo we kids were looking at a snake by the stream. I'm the one on the left. I didn't like snakes so I wasn't getting any closer.


23 comments:

  1. What wonderful memories! I don't remember any fun filled special Independence Day celebrations. I know I must have had them. Nothing is standing out in my mind at the moment. When we lived at the lake, I spent the whole summer on or in the water.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We spent a lot of time in and on the water, too. Most of my best childhood memories were made at our cottage.

      Delete
  2. Sounds like you had a nice day thinking about past memories and making new ones.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Our summers were different but similar! We were city kids and as such, we were all shipped off to summer camps for 8 weeks. From the time I was 6 years old, and for the next ten years, we were away from our parents for the whole summer. There were two 'visiting days' when parents brought all kinds of foodstuffs that were not on the camp menus! But (and this is where the similarities were), it was our chance to discover nature and all things crawling and creeping in it. Our cabins always had bats in the rafters and there were always skunks living under the cabins. We discovered spiders and snakes and poison ivy and communal living and we thrived! We learned to swim and play ball and play nicely together and yell and scream at each other when we couldn't play nicely!! We learned how to be independent and to cooperate. I think about the experiences a lot but I don't really have anyone to discuss them with (I do have a sister who was there with me but she is from the school of 'I don't remember'.

    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's sad that most kids today won't have the kind of memories you and I have of summers getting to know and appreciate nature. Most of my family live in the country so that won't happen to them but I know families who eat, sleep and dream sports who send their kids to sports camps and others who go to computer camps. Times sure change.

      I went to Camp Fire Girl camp a few times (never for more than a week at a time) but I can relate to the bats, skunks and spiders in the cabins. And pillow fights and ball games.

      I'll bet your experiences being away from home in the summers contributed to you being a person who has no trouble bouncing between two countries an ocean apart. When you write about it I am wistful for an English cottage I've never seen. LOL

      Delete
  4. There are so many similarities between our experiences, but there's one big difference. I didn't have any brothers or sisters, and now that I'm older, I sort of wish that had been different. On the other hand, when I listen to the tales from some of my friends, any romanticizing of sibs can go kaput pretty fast. But when a family is close (not perfect, just close) it seems like the best thing in the world.

    I'm sort of glad we're into the dog days, now. It seems like it's been holidayholidayholiday. Of course it hasn't, but there have been lots of events to deal with, and I'm ready to go all sluggish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I have gotten older I, too, wish I had a sister but growing up I wanted to be an only child. My brother, however, wanted a brother so bad he invented one. LOL I know not all adult sisters get along but all the families I know personally with sisters are close to one another. That must be so nice.

      Delete
  5. I too missed having any siblings my own age. Also, living on a dairy farm, we didn't often go away for any length of time. Cows have to be milked twice a day, 12 hours apart. My kids all went up north to a cottage for a weekend together. They had a great time. I'm glad they all like each other. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having a sister much younger than you has its advantages, too, like you do.

      Michigan and cottages sure go together, don't they.

      Delete
  6. What a nice Fourth of July! Ahh, the wonder of imagining and making things up, be they alien stories or forts or dams for cooling soda bottles. The instant culture of Google is too fast for me.

    I hope you never get to first in the line; or rather, I hope I never get to first in line. Let's freeze time...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would vote to freeze time if we good. Good idea.

      Being first in line is such a touchy thing. For the entire 12 1/2 years that my husband was in a wheelchair people would put us first in line every where we went and I hated it. I understood it, but still felt like we stuck out like a sore thumb.

      Delete
  7. Your post triggered a few memories for me too. My elder brother, in his teens, walked into a prickly cactus like plant at a party. My dad spent the rest of that day painstakingly taking out the cactus needles embedded into brother's skin with a sewing needle dipped in Dettol. Painful. ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, I've heard of dogs getting into cactus but never little kids.

      Delete
  8. PS Just browsed the other posts on your blog-roll. Thank you for your comment on Judy's post. I just skim the news nowadays and so get the "mashup" equivalent. Your words shed light. ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad someone appreciates it. She has so many hard right Republican followers that I hesitated writing it. But I reasoned if you bring up politics in a blog, you expect someone feedback. I know I do.

      Delete
    2. Also thought Judy's comment was gold: only the truly rich and the poor can live decently these days. The middle class are the most badly hit. SO VERY TRUE.

      Also find interesting that world-wide, major parties are losing out and marginal parties (even the idiots on the basis that they are not mainstream politicians) gaining ground. Just the sheer commonality worldwide is amazing.

      Finally, enjoy communicating with you. ~ Libby

      Delete
    3. The world is definitely getting smaller and that is scary to a lot of people who want to go back to the 1950s. But most stuff you can't shove back into the bottle. I just hope it doesn't get worse before things get better world-wide, but I think it will.

      Delete
  9. I enjoyed sharing your memories. The stories of an older brother with a penchant for getting into trouble resonated :-) -Jean

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is a nice walk down memory lane! Memories can just come from any thing in our past ... and can be wonderful or not. We were lower middle class (probably lower class in terms of $$$) so camping was our big adventure. The boys would go fishing and Mom would fry them up for dinner. We never went on holidays ... because the noisy loud crazy people brought their radios and TVs and what not. My parents, with six kids, wanted the QUIET!

    I spent the evening of 4th of July at my next door neighbor's watching his kids light the fire works. They are always so sweet to me ... he had to tell me what a positive impact Ralph made on him ... in such a short time. Indiana boys! Tear in my eye ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you weren't alone on the 4th. Sounds like you have a great neighbor and it's so special when people still let you know they think of our husbands.

      Gosh, you mentioning catching fish and frying them up for dinner brought some great memories to mind! Fishing was a big part of my younger years.

      Delete
  11. Love the photos and your memories. I guess a lot of us have a love-hate relationship with Google. Nothing replaces real life experiences, but neither can I imagine living without it... even though we did for most of our lives. I could never give up a/c either. Whew! No way! I remember sparklers on the 4th, and my brother always had firecrackers and cherry bombs.

    We lived on the water and July 4th often included going to the beach or out on the boat in the James River to fish, and to eat my mother's potato salad, deviled eggs and fried chicken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get lost in Google searches so often I can't imaging living without it now.

      I'll bet you have some good fishing and water activities stories. Some day we may have to write about them and I'' bet they will be similar.

      Delete