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, August 10, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer



According to dictionary.com the phrase ‘the dog days of summer’ is defined as, “The sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11. A period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.” I didn’t know there is a ‘dog star’ or that the phrase originated in the area around the Mediterranean Sea but I sure have gotten a taste of the dog days of summer. The weather here in Michigan has been hot and humid and the senior hall has been closed for their two week annual maintenance so my social life has been non-existence except for a Red Hat Society tea where I got some sad news, marking the end of a mini era in my life. 

The chapter has decided to change its meeting location. I’ll no longer have an excuse to go twice a month to a quaint little tourist town near-by. No more popping into the cemetery once in a while to check on my husband's stone or drive past the land where his family farm stood before a tornado wiped them out. No more impromptu walks along the river where I used to take Don after his stroke. No more taking a frozen yogurt down to the park where his memorial brick is part of the walkway to where I sit to watch the swans above the dam and the fly fishermen below. No more grabbing a Starbucks drink on the way upstairs to the community room of a grocery store where the Red Hatters met or picking up a rotisserie chicken on my way back down. The new meeting place is closer to me (only four-five miles) which will be nice in the winter but we are meeting in the community room of a brand new assisted living facility. The powers that be think the new location is “cleaner and quieter” and they will service us free cookies and beverages. In return, our chapter will open our membership up to any of the ladies living in the facility who want to join.

Call me selfish but I’d rather not spend time around an assisted living facility before I actually need to live in one. I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend life is just a bowl of proverbial cherries---beautiful, sweet and lasting longer than the sultry days of summer. Oh, well, I learned a long time ago that what I want and what I get are not conjoined twins. But I see complications coming. For example this weekend our chapter is going to an out-of-town Celtic Festival and if we take new members off site who among us will to be responsible for their safety? Been there, done that. Don’t want to do it again. And if they don’t go on our monthly walk-abouts what’s the point of them being in our group? Our bi-monthly teas are just planning and gossip sessions. Our first meeting at the new location doesn’t start until September so I’ll have one more bittersweet day at the tourist town to soak up the warmth and closeness I feel to my husband when I go to the place where he grew up.

The dog days of summer are a good time to catch up on that pile of unread books. I have a large pile but instead of picking up one of those books, Jojo Moyes’ After You jumped into my grocery cart. It’s the sequel to one of my favorite books, Me Before You. If you read that book you’ll remember Louisa who was the caregiver to a quadriplegic named Will. They fell in love but at the end he went to a clinic to get an assisted suicide. I’m only on page eighty of After You but already Louisa has fallen off a roof and lived to tell about, joined a grief support group and met a paramedic that the back cover claims “might be the one man who will be able to understand her.” It also says the book is, “funny, poignant, romantic---a deeply emotional, surprising novel that asks, How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?” Oh, boy! I hope the book delivers answers to those questions that so many of us widows ask.

Did you know there’s a song titled, The Dog Days are Over? There’s only one line in the whole song that I like and I REALLY like it: “Happiness hit her like a train on a track.” I remember feeling that way more than a few times in my life. But usually happiness is more a quiet sort, an acknowledgment when you get up in the morning that life is good. The train track sort of happiness, for me, came with special occasions like the time my husband threw me a surprise birthday party. He rented my cousin’s entire restaurant, invited our families and friends and he hired a skinny, bald headed senior citizen stripper/entertainer who had on so many layers of clothing that by the time he got down to his long-johns we were all laughing hysterically. At one point I remember calling out, “Does your cardiologist approve of what you’re doing?” His grandson got him into the business but we didn’t get to see him strip. Grandpa was too old to drive so the grandson was just his driver that day. 

John Barrymore of Hollywood fame once wrote, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open.” And that, dear friends, is probably why summer time is a promising time to find happiness. We go places, do things, see people and we wake up some mornings to find that we forgot to close the doors before going to bed---literally and metaphorically. We have to be open to new beginnings even when we have to be dragged over the thresholds of change. ©


NOTE: The photo below is of the planter on my deck railing just outside my window near my computer. I’ve discovered the miracle of Miracle Gro. That planter has never looks so good. Usually by the dog days of summer it peters out and I have to take it down. 



23 comments:

  1. That is one beautiful mixture of flowers. Miracle Grow is aptly named.

    We had a short "sort of" reprieve - not super cool but not really hot and still kind of humid, but not as bad as it can be this time of year. I turned the a/c off in the car and rode around with the windows down and the sun roof open yesterday. As long as you keep moving and catch the breeze, everything's okay.

    I'm sorry your Red Hatters meeting has changed its location. There were so many side benefits with the last location. I do understand your feelings about nursing homes. We don't like to think of them until we have to, especially those of us who've already done a "stretch" in them with a loved one. It can unearth some better-left-alone feelings. I hope it works out.


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    1. I've never had a potato plant before (the dark plant in the center) and it's done so well. I'm going to try bringing it in house in the fall.

      I get tire of the air conditioner but sometimes you just have to have it on or I live like a lizard taking a sun bath in the desert.

      I'm sorry, too, about the change. I know I can still go there but it's not the same when you have to make a special trip.

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  2. That planter is beautiful. Here in Northern NY we are officially in drought conditions. My cucumbers had so many lovely little yellow flowers but no fruits have come ( I lie...I got one stunted cucumber yesterday). The tomatoes like the weather: hot and sunny. My neighbors, who use either miracle grow or something equivalent have plants at least 4 times the size of mine and they have been producing cucumbers and zucchini for weeks. I guess I should consider it if I want salad ingredients.

    That is a difficult situation that the Red Hats will be walking into because assisted living implies a certain amount of care and supervision is needed. You will probably find that most residents don't want to leave the facility but it might just be the person who shouldn't, who does want to. Good luck with that.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Makes you wonder what is in Miracle Grow, doesn't it. But soil does get depleted of its minerals so I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that it works so well.

      I've already decided that I won't be taking any assisted residents in my car. It's one thing to take a loved one whose medical history, docotors and hospital preferences you know and quite another to take a complete stranger whose is in an assisted living facility for a reason.

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  3. I get that same feeling whenever I walk into a Nursing home/Old Folks home--whatever they call them nowadays. I can see "me" in every wheel chair I pass or every room I glance into. Maybe that's why I can't get comfortable with the Senior Center or the other groups for Seniors? I keep thinking, "I'm too young for that."I would much rather spend two hours at the Montessori school, or Pre-Kindergarten classes.

    My planters look like they all are in the Hospice Garden!!!!

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    1. You articulated that perfectly about seeing yourself (myself) in every wheelchair and every room at nursing homes and assisted living places! I don't feel that way at the senior hall because people there (me included) are trying to enrich our lives with activities and entertainment in an effort to STAY young of mind.

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  4. Daughter has been here from Texas where temps are over 100. Everyday she's been here temps have been in the low 70s and upper 60s. She's loving it.

    Tour planter is gorgeous. Potato plants add so much to mixed planters.

    I guess I never thought about Red Hatters needing a meeting room. I thought their purpose was strictly social with no service projects etc. I suppose though you still need a place to meet and plan. I just run into them in restaurants so I thought they mostly met to eat and visit.

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    1. Each Red Hat Society chapter is free to make up any rules they want except for one fast rule that must be observed from the international: you must wear red and purple. Some chapters do service projects---our adapted a nursing home to entertain at several times a year, and send cards and gifts to at holidays---and some are just social clubs. We do both.

      Free meeting rooms are easy to find but I was a founding member and in the group the first two years before I had to drop out for caregiving duties. Back then we met at each others houses and our teas were actually fancy tea parties. I don't know why and when that changed but I really liked them. My chapter does one weekend trip a year but I never go to those. Our monthly walk-abouts always include eating out but that's secondary to a special event. Next month we're going a Jim Crow Museum after lunch.

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  5. As long as you don't end up eating crow after your visit to the Jim Crow Museum, it'll all be good. I'm still trying to decide whether you're going to be focused on race relations or whiskey. :-)

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  6. Ah, ha. I think I just answered my own question. Apparently I conflated my dad's Old Crow and Jim Beam. Personally, I can't stand that stuff -- I'll stick with wine and beer. But I still think the Red Hat ladies in a distillery would be lots of fun.

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    1. Not going to a distillery but we've been to a brewery. The Jim Crow Museum is billed as a place that teaches tolerance through the use of racist memorabilia. It's connected with a college and quite an extensive museum, from what I understand.

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    2. That sounds like an interesting, and worthy, excursion. I'm hoping you'll write about it. If only all racism was in a museum. Unfortunately, it's not.

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    3. I'm sure I will. I'm hoping I'll be able to weave it in with some stories my dad told about growing up the the Klan living near by.

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  7. The planter looks beautiful, and a great advertisement for Miracle Grow.

    I don't have the patience to read any longer - now I just rifle through the pages, and read the ending - finish! Web-surfing so much better and real-life.

    Shame about the venue change. I don't like change, but often find that in the end it often has unexpected advantages. I do like the name "Red Hat" ladies - conjures up images of the Cat in the Hat (red, of course). ~ Libby

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    1. It took me a couple of years to get my reading concentration for reading back again after Don died. It's still not back in full force again. I'm hoping the book club can held with that.

      One of my chapter sisters has a cat-in-hat style hat that she wears to parties.

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  8. East of you, and we're getting your dog days now. I went bicycling in mildly hot, humid conditions a couple weeks ago. Seven miles instead of my usual 25 and I was bushed...for days. Now that's it's so grim outside, I'm looking forward to forced indoor activity. Maybe I'll set my bike on the trainer in front of the TV, maybe I'll catch up on my PC, maybe I'll do housework. I'm so grateful we haven't had a single power outage so far this summer...

    It's a bummer, really a bummer about the R.H. chapter's shift to a new facility. I do not want anybody dragging you over a threshold of change. Not that kind. The surprise birthday party kind, yes :-) You once asked me to tell more about my past, Jean. I realize I DO tell about my past, but the more difficult stuff, so that today I can measure my progress out of it, and feel blessed. When I compare my current lonelier life today to yesterday's pleasures I feel too deflated. This is why I don't linger on the fun I've had. Make sense?

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    1. We rarely have power outraged because of the heat like you do in your part of the world. I have a friend out your way and the had to buy a generator. I fear winter outrages and they do happen here. Not often, thankfully. I wish I could be as devoted about exercise as you are.

      I guess that makes sense---why you don't write about the happier parts of your life. If it works for your, that's all that counts. I just think it's sad you that a decade out from your husband's passing that you spend so much time focusing on your awful childhood and can't enjoy sharing memories from your marriage that I know from all accounts was a good, loving, supportive one.

      I'm kind of the opposite in that I want to remember the good times to reassure myself that my life did have meaning and rich experiences---that I wasn't always alone mentally and physically.

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  9. I don't know why, but this post hit a tender nerve with me and I found myself with tears in my eyes at the end. Still trying to figure out where that came from, but thanks for the lovely post that touched my heart for some unknown reason.

    I think the assisted living location for your Red Hat gatherings is a crummy idea. My mom was in a beautiful assisted living facility -- very upscale -- but that didn't stop it from being a place where most of the residents needed physical and cognitive assistance. I have always thought of the Red Hatters as being loud, bold, and fully engaged in the world, so where you used to meet sounds like the perfect setting! That and all the memories you have there. I pictured going there with you...maybe that's what made me sad. Sometimes I'd like to hang out with you in Michigan. My old Midwest roots perhaps need tending.

    Speaking of roots. I hate to rain on your Miracle Gro parade, but around these parts they are part of the Evil Empire of Monsanto. No denying whatever is in there works (my mom was a fan and she was known for her "green thumb"), but my organic friends tell me MG puts lots of chemicals in the soil and eventually nothing will grow there without it. (Flowers on heroin). So whenever I see lush flower gardens in people's yards, I'm suspect (and jealous.) http://www.organicagardensupply.com/why-we-dont-sell-miracle-gro/

    I'm so glad you looked up Dog Days of Summer -- I've always wondered about the origins of that. And I LOVE Florence and the Machine's Dog Days Are Over. She rocks! :)

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    1. I have never heard of Florence and the Machine's until I wrote this post. That's one of the things I like about blogging...I learn stuff.

      That's interesting about Miracle Gro! I never would have guessed that and I'll check out your link later.

      I thought this post was kind of sad when I wrote it and I was trying at the end to find a more up beat ending. Maybe that's what you were picking up on...a forced Mary Poppins. I'm thinking that my involvement in the Red Hats may be coming to an end. Even before the location change was announced I'd already made up my mind that I don't want to volunteer at our parties at our adopted nursing home anymore. It's only a couple of times a year but they bring me down, so what's the point?

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  10. I love all your blogs learn so many new things its kinda educational for me. It teaches me valuable life lessons how to look closely & find that small open door for happiness. you were so fortunate to find that kind of love in Don that getting over is so difficult.

    Asha

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    1. You've been reading me since my very first blog on the stroke support site and I feel privilege to have someone follow me that long. You know all my secrets now. LOL Well, not all but neither does anyone else in this world. LOL

      In the book I'm reading now there is a long that says something like: Moving on does not mean you loved him any less. I love that thought and might write about it one day.

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  11. I don't care for change and this move for the ladies wouldn't be too popular with me. Of course, you can still go to that quaint little town for your nostalgic visits, it would have to be separate. I don't care for your new location, thinking it would be a downer. A twice a month preview, so to speak.

    Your flower pot looks very pretty, nothing I grow looks so good. Eye-catching!

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    1. Going to my tourist town just for a nostalgic visit seems too much like a pilgrimage and I know I won't do it more than twice a year to check on the cemetery. So I am sad about that.

      My Travel Club meets at a funeral home and I've long gotten over the creepiness of that so I'm hoping it will be the same with the new Red Hat meeting place. :)

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