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, August 27, 2016

Ben-Hur, Movie Dilemma and Loneliness



Recently I was supposed to go to my Movie and Lunch Club but I ended up just going to the lunch before the movie. They picked Ben-Hur this month and I was hoping someone else would show up who’d wanted to see an alternate movie choice with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant---Florence Foster Jenkins. It’s a story about a New York socialite who wanted to sing opera. Variety said, “Money, it turns out, may not buy you talent, but it can buy you a one-way illusion of it” and IMBd’s tagline was: “The inspiring true story of the world's worst singer.”

I was the only one in the group who wasn’t geeked up to see Ben-Hur which wasn’t surprising, given that all of them are active in their churches. Ben-Hur was not a biblical figure but the movie was based on an 1880 novel titled, Ben-Hur: Tales of Christ by Lew Wallace, a Union Army General. From what I read, this film version differs from the 1925 silent film and the 1959 Charlton Heston version because co-producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey put the accent of Ben-Hur’s interaction with Jesus, faith and forgiveness rather than on revenge which supposedly the early films did. You'd never guess that from the official movie trailer. The new Ben-Hur had a hundred million dollar budget but early reviews predict it won’t match the 1959’s box office success or its eleven Academy Awards. After all these years it’s still the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time. (Did I ever mention that I once listened to the entire Bible read by Charlton Heston? I had those long playing 33 ½ RPM records for decades.)

As my Movie and Lunch Club stood in the theater lobby waiting to see if anyone else would show up---some just go to the movies and skip lunch---the others in the group tried to convince me to go see Ben-Hur with them, but for once I didn’t go along to get along. I gave a couple of lame excuses: “I’m not in the mood for all the violence” and “I liked the 1959 version too much to want to spoil it in my memory.” (Lame excuses but still, how could the new movie top the Heston version with its 2,500 horses and nine minute chariot race?) I should have known that lying is not my strong suite because my lies gave others an opportunity to try to change my mind. But as we all stood there in a circle of smiling faces I couldn’t bring myself to say, “I’m not a Christian and I don’t want to spend $11.00 on a Christian message movie.” I thought about it, I really did. But deep inside I’m still that little girl in pigtails who was told, “I can’t play with you because you don’t go to my church.” Jesus might have preached forgiveness but apparently I’m still not ready to forgive the parents of some of my classmates who taught hate in the name of Jesus. So I still hide, still feel like a second class outsider when I do.

I didn’t want to see the Meryl Streep film all by myself so when it was time for the others to go inside the theater I went home, telling them, “Have fun!” And if memory serves me right---okay, I'll admit it full out---a chocolate frosty found its way into my life on the way home. Comfort foods. Don’t we all have a love/hate relationship with them? I’d just had a slice of yummy spinach pie at the restaurant with the Movie and Lunch Club. I wasn’t hungry but I was feeling lonely, alone and misunderstood. And there was no one to blame by myself. I'm so weak when my inner child shows up.

In the four plus years since my husband died I’ve observed how acquaintances turn into friendships down at senior hall and in groups like my Movie and Lunch Club. Pairing up to go to events outside of the core group seems to be the key. I hear them talk about going here and there together. They seem to have a special radar for finding like-minded souls. Where are my like-minded souls? Where do people like me hang out in the City of Churches? Where are the childless people like me who don’t have photos of grand-kids on their phones to pass around a table? If I took a bunch of pictures of Levi my Mighty Schnauzer to pass around do you think the others would get the joke going on inside my head? 

Recently I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t shake the thought that I’m truly and thoroughly lonely. More so, I think, than in the first year after Don died when I had bigger fish to fry and I honestly don’t know what to do about it anymore. Maybe I should have seen that Meryl Streep movie to pick up some tips on building an illusion without a solid foundation for that belief. If I tell myself I’m content with my life, can I make it happen for real? ©


41 comments:

  1. Hmm, think I would keep the Ben Hur of my younger days in my faulty memory. A remake could not (in my estimation) compete. Sometimes a person doesn't want to be a drone and just follow the crowd.

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    1. If I've ever seen a remake of a movie, I don't remember it. I do know I liked Ben-Hur the first time around.

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  2. Thank you for your courage in revealing your feelings. Most people do not. I could have written the last paragraph of your post, word by word. My kids, now adult, are rarely seen. I've resigned myself to being on my own, and do not look for friends. Sometimes I observe long married couples without a word to say to each other, and think *that* loneliness would be even worse. Or the couple always belittling each other in company, shudder. The positives in my life are that I am my own mistress, with basic wants satisfied. If life cannot be better, it could be so much worse.

    I smiled to myself at your description of you in that movie hall lobby. I'd not have been happy either to spend good money on a movie that I didn't want to see (watched the trailer, and too violent for me). Unlike you, I'd have seen the other movie if it appealed to me. In a dark hall, who knows who is alone or with companions? And, yes, if I had gone home, I'd have treated myself to some decadent dessert, hungry or not, as a treat.

    Sometimes I think about an old family relative, who lived on her own for many years. She was financially independent. In my ignorance, I thought she had a great life, living her life on her own terms while I was busy bringing up a young family with a full time job and no time to myself. Now I think how lonely she must have been, and so very much regret that I was not more understanding. It is because of that I understand that my children now do not understand my loneliness. The circle of life is complete. In the end, we are all alone. Thank God for the internet - it has opened up another world for me, through blogs and on-demand videos. ~ Libby

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    1. The internet does give us all a way to connect to others and that's a good thing, isn't it.

      That trailer was violent, wasn't it! I'm sure the horses got mistreat more back in 1959 than now with the laws to protect them on movie sets but watching them all in that trailer was enough for me. The people can speak up for themselves if they get hurt.

      You are right about couples that bicker and belittle each other in public. That would be worse than being alone. Sometimes I just want to knock their heads together and tell to learn to get along or separate and I've felt that way before I lost Don. I see couples in the supermarket arguing about which brand to buy and I wonder how long it will be before I lose my ability to mind my own business and I say something like, "Just buy them both! Is being right THAT important that you can't have two tubes of toothpaste in the bathroom?"

      I have regrets, too, about not making more of an effort to spent time with older people when I was in my prime. Like you said, it's the circle of life. We can't understand some things until we experience them for ourselves. If I was experiencing depression 24/7 for weeks on end I would talk to my doctor about it, but I'm certain my ups and down are not organic in nature. I went through that kind of depression after Don's stroke and I was on anti-depressants for three months which helped me get a grip. This time is more of a "longing for" than a "drowning in" difference and those who have experienced either or both will understand what I mean.

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    2. My Goodness. Anonymous sounds like my life.

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  3. I'm so glad you mentioned Florence Foster Jenks. After a friend wrote a review, I wanted to see it, but when it arrived here, it only was playing at 10:30 p.m. No way I'm roaming the streets at midnight, even with a friend.

    But, I just went and double checked, and it's playing today at 4:30 p.m., so I'll get to see it. It's even in a theater fairly close by, so if the weather's as bad as they say it will be, no matter. None of the roads between here and there flood -- what a criteria for choosing a theater!

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    1. I read some place the Meryl Streep wanted to be an opera singer when she was young so she's perfect for that roll. She had a singing part in one of her last movies, too. I also like the young guy from The Big Band Theory who plays Streep's voice coach. I may still go see the movie. I was not in the right mood just then.

      Where you live, water and weather must influence most of your choices.

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  4. My heart goes out to you but perhaps if you would have stuck to your guns and went to the movie you wanted to see your day would have had a different ending. So you would see it alone, you went home alone too. Do what you like and enjoy no matter what.
    I am sorry you were hurt as a child by ignorant people but perhaps the key is that you are not ready to forgive. It is tough to carry that around all these years. Maybe if you can let go of it your step will be lighter and the future a little brighter. I wish you peace.

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    1. Thank you.

      I agree that not forgiving others only hurts yourself. In my defense (LOL) the playground rejection was just my earliest memories of being rejected because of religion. It was repeated throughout high school and dating in my 20s. Even today, the topic of religion comes up often in social circles and I know if I admit to not going to church that it will open up a conversation that I won’t enjoy. One couple, for example, bugged that heck out of my husband and me to go to their church whenever a faith healer was scheduled. They thought he could cure the stroke damage what three months in the hospital and one year in outpatient therapy couldn’t do. My husband had had his own bad experiences regarding religion growing up and he'd get so upset with this couple's insistence. I thought it was anything but Christ-life to upset a man who couldn't talk back. Anyway, forgiveness is a good thing and I really don't hold grudges but I also try not to put myself into uncomfortable situations that will make we feel bad.

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  5. I don't think I can contribute a lot more than what other commenters have said. My husband is living, we have children, and one grandchild so I cannot speak to issues of not having them in my life. I can speak, however, to the issues regarding 'Christians.' I grew up in Texas and tried to be the best little Baptist a girl could be. In fact I did not fully remove myself from church as long as my mother lived. I even worked in a seminary for 17 years after I knew church was not for me. Texas is not a good place to live if you don't do religion. I love living in Oregon, which I think is about the 3rd most unchurched state in the nation. Seldom run into religious talk here.

    I have a lot of anger and I intend to keep it. I feel it is healthy anger. I earned every bit of it working through this 'Christian' thing that everyone seems to think is so wonderful. The more confidence I got in facing 'Christians' and saying I wanted no part of that scene the more confident I became in being around 'Christians' as long as it is a take it or leave it situation. As long as I can say to myself "that works for them, not me," and move on I'm fine. If they come on to me about their faith and what I should be doing they will incur my anger. I know that world inside and out and I want no part of the "god" they worship. I'm not aggressive but I will no longer stand and take it when they approach me. I don't feel I have anyone to 'forgive.' I'm keeping my anger, it protects me from 'Christians.'

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    1. Thanks for your honesty and sharing your experiences. The bad experiences my husband had in his youth were with people in the Baptist church. I believe they have mellowed over the decades but it was pretty hard to overlook the hurt they caused when he was small. Before his stroke, Don was just like you...faced the pushy, holier-than-thou types straight on and it worked for him, too. I, on the other hand, have always hoped if I show respect for their views then they will respect mine as well, assuming my first line of defense (avoidance) doesn't work. LOL

      Oregon is one of the few states I haven't been to. Sounds like a good fit for you.

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    2. Linda...I feel just like you do...too many negative hurtful run ins with religious so called Christians..after my husband's death, one "good Baptist" said behind my back, that my husband was in hell because he hadn't been saved.
      Jean, I wouldn't want to see Ben Hur on a bet! Sounds like your group may not be the right choice, but I agree in today's world, it seems so many are jumping on that bandwagon that it can make you feel quite lonely. Wish I could afford Oregon...enlightened people...ah....

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    3. Mary, I do like my movie and lunch club, but they are predictable in their movie choices. I should have just gone to lunch and gone straight home like a few others did. That was my poor choice.

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  6. Good for you for NOT going to the movie! We don't have to be lemmings ... we can enjoy parts of the outing (lunch ... and Frosty!) and leave the rest!

    I was raised Catholic ... 12 years of school, played the organ at church, married in the faith to another Catholic. So I am totally organized-religioned OUT. Not atheist, just not so much into what always evolves into politics and power ....

    So far, I feel comfortable having a couple of friends here, a few acquaintances and my volunteer buddy. While the family was here, we were out and about every day and I did notice a difference in myself. Although the bad knee hurt more (and I am still just taking OTC Aleve), I liked the driving and I slept better. So I'm thinking I'm going to make myself be a bit busier.

    You would LOVE Oregon! If you don't get affected by the grey. Moderate temps (usually ... although HOT this summer!)

    After two weeks with the busy boys, I no longer feel sorry for myself if my daughter doesn't call or text in response to mine. She and Jesse are VERY busy raising great kids.

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    1. That was a great by-product of your family visiting...seeing how busy family's get with little kids under foot and no time to call.

      Do you still play piano, the organ or any instruments? My father's family were (and still are) devoted Catholics so I understand a lot about being raised in that church.

      I always wanted to see the trees in Oregon and I hear the air is incredible there.

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    2. We sold the piano when we downsized ... rarely played it. If you ever want to visit Oregon, let me know! I'll meet you. My condo complex has a guest suite for just $50/night. It really has to be one of the most beautiful states we have. July/August/Sept are the really best months for walking and scenic drives!

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    3. There's a train trip offered through my travel club that goes to Oregon and Washington, the only mainland states I've never been to. I might do that someday. It goes up to Canada for Carvery. (I think that's what it's called.)

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  7. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and give you the kinds of friendships you are longing for. I wonder if friendship is like love in that people seem more likely to find it when they're not really looking. During my first ten years working in Gettysburg, I tried mightily to develop some close friendships and it just never happened, so eventually I gave up and resigned myself to having my primary friendship group being in Maine where I lived part-time. When I retired back to Maine, I wasn't looking for new friends, but I seem to keep finding them. Life is perverse! -Jean

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    1. I know you're right. It's like Ann Landers used to say, get out and do what you like doing and you'll eventually meet like-minded people.

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  8. I've been to quite a few of the monthly(Wed. evening) CFI Center For Inquiry events at the Women's City Club. Dinner afterwards at Vitalis. Other events like Cafe Inquiry are too far go to on a regular basis. Just was at the Brewery Vivant today, Only 2 out of eight thought the food was really good. The chef is working on interesting choices but hasn't got there yet. I'd sit at the bar and look at the glasses and stained glass window with maybe some appetizers next time.

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    1. I had to google the Center For Inquiry and the Cafe Inquiry to find out what they are. I never knew we have groups like that here in town! And it's kind of funny that someone from out of town knew and I didn't. Thanks for sharing that info. Makes me feel good to know there actually are places for secular people to meet.

      I've heard of the Brewery Vivant but haven't been there yet and sounds like I should wait awhile. We are getting so many Brewery over here it isn't funny. They are putting the city on the map.

      Thanks, Dean.

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  9. Hello from Maine. Those empty places inside just seem to grow like weeds, don't they. I guess we could choose loneliness like one chooses a new hobby and gain mastery with it. But that'd be fooling ourselves. Loneliness may be from our own (non-religious) soul tugging on our sleeves. What can we to do to nurture and connect meaningfully (and non-religiously)with her? I'll tell ya. Widowhood ain't for the fainthearted.

    I'll post pictures tomorrow...that's my plan, when all my gadgets talk with the Wi-Fi cloud in the nearest town 25 miles away. 'Til then, just this brief 'hello!'

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    1. Hey, that must be you're on the road to your camping adventure! Very cool. I hope you blog a lot about it.

      I think our empty places usually come from an organic/biological cause or from a reaction to loss. That's my opinion anyway. And small losses can remind us of bigger losses that we thought we'd already dealt with in the past. I usually snap back fairly quickly---a couple of weeks at most. I felt them when I was caregiving my dad, too, before my widowhood days. I felt him slipping away and taking a part of me with him and it was hard to be light-hearted with that hanging over me.

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  10. So many can relate to your story, I'm sure. I am one of them. I never want to offend people, so I've tried to find polite excuses when I'm feeling "pressured" to go along. Lately though, I've decided to try being a bit more honest. "I'm not interested in seeing that movie" would cover it, right? Honest without having to call out the Christian thing, but also not dolled up in polite excuses.

    (BTW, the Unitarian Universalist community is full of "recovering Christians", atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, Buddhists, Pagans....usually not a problem finding a community of social justice minded, non-traditional, non-Christians there!)

    If you have another chance, Florence Foster Jenkins is a delight -- and also a nuanced poignant story. It plays at first as a comedy, but as the many layers of all the characters are revealed I found unexpected depth in the story and compassion for all of them. Plus, Meryl Streep is as always a wonder. (I am a fan.)

    As to friendship. I am blessed to have a number of "girlfriends", three in particular who I count as my "besties". Two of them know each other and one doesn't know the other two. I find as I get older it is harder and harder to find and make new friends. Part of me isn't up to the task -- it's "work" to do the "dating" dance of getting to know another person and sharing about myself. Part of me realizes I don't belong to as many social institutions as I once did where friendships could flower -- church, school, work, etc. And part of me is a bit more picky. This sounds awful, but I just don't have time to waste on people who I have to "tolerate" in ways that I might have when younger. I also think I am redefining my definition of friendship in the digital age. I realize Facebook and Twitter and the like are not a forum for finding depth in friendships, but blogging is different. Those of us who do personal essay blogs reveal ourselves to others all the time and find a sense of community with those who respond (you have far more responders than I do and I've come to enjoy the regulars here and look forward to their comments.) So, Jean, I now count you among my friends. I refer to you not as just "this blog I read", but "my friend, Jean." Is that weird? Hope not. :)

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    1. Not weird at all. We reveal ourselves in our blogs much deeper than we do to people we meet in person. (It could take years to get to that kind of trust, at least for me.) It's just the nature of writing and self examination that goes on in the blog community. I, too, value these relationships.

      Meryl Streep is such a great talent. Maybe I'll get gutsy tomorrow and see if anyone in my Gathering group wants to see it, put out a mass invitation.

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  11. Jean:

    I don't know about you, but reading your blogs for past 12 years & following u everywhere like stalker lol, I consider you as my friend mentor & whether u like it or not me as your friend that's why I have wrote you emails with personal troubles & you have always given your valuable insights to my problems better than professional. 'For me I think being raised in India as an Hindu. It always felt like Hinduism is more like way of life than religion. For me all religions r way to one God whatever you you feel comfortable calling. So

    Asha

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    1. You're not a stalker Asha. LOL And I'm in total agree about all religions leading to the same God, just with different names. If we lived closer I'd be camped out on your couch to learn more about Hinduism. I like covering all the bases, knowing something about all world religions. Hope the Kiddo is enjoying the end of the summer before college starts.

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  12. I am a Christian and have no desire to see the new Ben Hur movie. How could it ever top the 1959 version? Besides that, I don't remember reading in my Bible that Mr. Hur and Jesus ever had a conversation. I thought Ben Hur was in Roman times before or after Jesus was around. Oh well--you can come play with me. No playmate in MY life was ever turned away because of their belief system. I wouldn't have cared which church you did or didn't go too and neither would have my wonderfully Christian mother. :-) BTW--one of the best movie experiences I ever had was when, Last year, I went to a movie alone. I would sit where I wanted--back upper row and laugh when I wanted to and cry and no one was around to comment. I loved it!!!!!

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    1. This is what Wikipedia says about Ben-Hur: "The story recounts in descriptive detail the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, who comes from the same region and is a similar age." Key word: Fictional.

      We would have had funny playing together back in the day and even today or tomorrow.

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    2. Yes we would have had fun!!!! You would have had to be a Tom-Boy however because, when you came to play, we'd be up in the hay loft, or up in the willow tree, or in the ditch beside the road, making a hide-out!!!

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    3. My kind of play time. I would have brought my Gene Autry six shooter.

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  13. Do you mean the Calgary Stampede?

    Terry Gross on NPR had an interview a few weeks ago with Meryl Streep. It was very interesting: she talked a lot about her singing career. The movie sounds interesting although the clips they played during the interview on the radio were not anything I would have wanted to hear for much longer than a few seconds!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Yes, that's it: the Calgary Stampede.

      With your musical talent and life experiences I can understand why the singing might annoy you more than it might annoy others. She's sang in a lot of movies, but I've always thought of her as an actress first and foremost. In this movie, she's supposed to be bad to be in character.

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  14. "Florence Foster Jenkins" was a really good film. In fact, it was thoroughly enjoyable. I think you'd like it.

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  15. From all accounts elsewhere this new Ben Hur doesn't appeal to me either. I enjoyed the one with Charleston Heston and Stepen Boyd, I think, so havent wanted to bother with another, but dont recall that i gave a lot of thought to the religious aspect though I know the story revolved around it. Some religions or denominations and individuals seem more compelled to aggressively and overtly express their beliefs which can be uninvititing to sat the least.to all but the like-minded. Too bad about your childhood experience. Such adult groups can be no more pleasant either.

    I made a note to see the Streep movie as vaguely recall hearing talk of that woman singer back in her day. Streep usually good in her roles.

    I don't have an abundance of contemporary friends nearby as they've either moved away, died or both. Even old friends scattered about the country have decreased significantly in number. Lots of years before husband died when social life decreased wasnt making new connections. Since he died it seems groups i became involved with just meet, but none socialize outside the meeting. I've become quite content with just mostly distant friends and family. No longer give much thought to finding chums in the area to pal around with.

    The Amtrak train trips have sounded intrguing but never got around to taking the one to Oregon, or East to Chicago from Calif. Some interesting sounding Canadian rail trips, too.

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    1. Anytime Roma Downey is involved in a movie, I know I won't see it just like when I know Meryl Streep is involved in a movie I know it will be good. I also like supporting movies with older characters because for so long they weren't make movies for our age bracket.

      Traveling by train does sound good to me, too. Except there is no direct connection from where I live... still have to go to Chicago by air.

      I have good friends and family scattered around the country and state, too. But I do miss conversation, even though my husband's communication was severely limited after his stroke we knew each other so well I usually knew what he wanted to say or was thinking. Plus we went to speech groups where I interacted with other caregivers.

      Thanks for sharing!

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  16. I understand the loneliness thing. My husband is my best friend, and so many of our friends have disappeared over the years: death, moves, etc. It just happens. I still miss my sister. I'm am lucky to still have a few very good friends, but some of them live in other states. My friend bench is not very deep, at least not friends who live close by. Finding a compatible friend is not an easy thing.

    I have no interest in viewing Ben-Hur either. Not my cup of tea, but I'm always up for a Streep movie.


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    1. This morning on of my acquaintance wrote a post about how hard it has been for her to find female friends and how he longs for great gal pals. I was shocked because from all appearances I thought she had lots of warm friends but apparently she's not connecting on a deeper level, just like I am bellyaching about all the time.

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  17. I find making good friendships with other women hard too. Lots of acquaintances but very very few deeper permanent friends. This is true especially if you move and have to start all over again and are older. I want to but then if I feel depressed then I don't make the effort. My best friends were my Mother and my husband and they are both gone.

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    1. It is hard isn't it, Mary. But being alone is hard too. So---for me---it's six of one and half dozen of the other and still worth trying to change those odds.

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