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, September 10, 2016

If it’s Thursday This Must be Book Club



Tuesday I got up, showered and dressed in my finest Red Hat Society clothing. Our new meeting place was throwing us a complimentary welcome luncheon and I didn’t want to be late. It’s a brand new place for senior citizens---one of those progressive places that starts you out with an independent living apartment then they move you along to enhanced living, assisted living and ending with memory care as we age our way down the rabbit hole on the way to the grave. We were supposed to sit down for lunch at 12:00 and at 12:05 the young chef came out to the pub where I sat all alone, wondering if the other fifteen ladies had shown up yet. Long story short, we figured out that his events planner had written down, Tuesday the 7th instead of Wednesday the 7th and I just showed up on the wrong day---I thought it was Wednesday! That earned me another punch in my Old Person Card; twenty punches and they'll haul me off to a memory care unit. At least I didn’t prepare and set up the entire luncheon a day too early. I told the chef, “I won’t tell if you won’t tell.” He laughed and replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I didn’t keep my word though because I never miss an opportunity to laugh at myself and I thought our sister in charge of reservations should confirm the dates for our future meetings there.

Following our lunch and meeting we were given a tour of the place. They have many amenities and services for hire including a pet wrangler, fitness club, beauty shop, shuttle service, happy hour music, a pub and restaurant. The cheapest one bedroom independent living apartment was tiny---the kitchen and living room would fit into my current bedroom---and its monthly rent was $2,700 to $3,000 depending on if it had a patio, balcony or neither one. Even though the rent includes one chef cooked meal a day, linen service and a twice a month cleaning service that’s more than I could afford and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to live there. I hated the long halls and the only apartments that had decent views were the ones reserved for memory care residents at the back of the building that overlooks a woods. The rest overlook an expressway exchange and the kinds of businesses that grow up around them.

This was my second tour of a senior place that steps up in care levels, if needed. The other place I called Stepfordville because all the residents looked so perfect in their little tennis and golf outfits, like gray-haired models hired to walk around. Their public rooms had walnut paneled walls that reminded me of lawyers and old-time bankers. With that place, you had to buy in for a nonrefundable fee of $300,000 and still pay a monthly fee of nearly $3,000 and then you die (or move) your family doesn’t have the right to sell your unit. I’m going on a third senior living tour next month. It seems to be a popular marketing tool to offer free lunch and a cultural event to groups willing to do a tour. Stepfordville paid for my senior hall group to go to the zoo and next month’s senior living place is paying for our tickets at the sculpture garden. Between the free meals from places like this and from the investment/estate planning people who fill up your mailbox with dinner seminar invitations, old people could eat well at least once a week. File that tidbit away in your brain in case you get to the point where you can’t stretch your grocery budget far enough.

Rounding out my social calendar this week was a meeting of my new book club where we discussed Brown Girl Dreaming. The inside cover sums up the book like this: “In vivid free verse, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and South.” I was impressed that someone could write an entire memoir in free verse and we had a lively discussion about growing up in an ordinary black family. We're all white, so what the heck do we know about that topic! Still, we had a lot to say about a book we all enjoyed. Near the end of the novel Ms. Woodson wrote the following words about the Civil Rights Movement and it's the passage from Brown Girl Dreaming that chose I save to savor. 

“When I hear the word
revolution
I think of the carousel with
all those beautiful horses
going around as though they’ll never stop and me
choosing the purple one each time, climbing up onto it
and reaching for the golden ring, as soft music plays.

The revolution is always going to be happening.

I want to write this down, that the revolution is like
a merry-go-round, history always being made
somewhere. And maybe for a short time,
we’re a part of that history. And then the ride stops
and our turn is over.”

I love the line about history always being made somewhere and that we’re all a part of it. I wrote something similar back last May but Ms. Woodson did it with a rich efficiency of language that I'll never achieve.  ©

25 comments:

  1. Glad you didn't miss out on the lunch. I've heard about those 'retirement villages' with an entry fee (non-refundable), monthly charges, etc. I pray to God I never have to enter one, and that I die at home.

    Re the free lunches, I used to feast quite well on tastings offered at the supermarket, Costco, etc. when they have multiple products on offer. The tastings do me very nicely for lunch. Most of the products are calorie-laden so the small amount on offer is just right for me - only sometimes do I like the product enough to buy, to satisfy the occasional craving for junk food.

    No book-reading for me - web surfing is so much more fun. (Its addictive too - must go off it, cold-turkey, for a few days.) ~ Libby

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    1. One of Those places I wrote about have separate buildings for the separate levels of care, the other only had separate floors and dinning rooms. They must appeal to someone. The one I went to this week just opened this summer and they are already 66% full. What worries me is you know the costs are going to keep going up and up and at some point eat up savings, they what?

      I spend way too much time reading on the web!

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  2. We've all mistaken what day it was or got days mixed up. If they say nay, they lie.
    I suppose it's easier to blow the sales reps off as a group. I don't like their pushy, hard-sell approach and their expectation of your soul for the price of a luncheon much like a lousy date expects sex for a meal. It does sound as if you get to visit some interesting places. (I am not referring to their version of "Shady Pines") At prices like that, I believe I will die here in my home, drooling and wetting my pants.
    Are you actively looking for a place like that?

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    1. Touring those kinds of places in a group is far better than doing it by appointment. No follow up phone calls. I've never been to one of the estate planning dinners but I'll bet you're right about them being hard-sell. For someone on a tight budget who likes to go to places like the zoo, art gallery, etc, it's a good trade off because every things including transportation, food and tickets are free. Fun afternoon.

      I'm not actively looking for a place like that, but it's good to know what's out there...just in case. My house is too big for me. I was impressed that this place actually has a dog walker/groomer for hire. But Levi is four pounds too heavy for most condos, apartments and senior places rules. He's 29 and has nothing to lose. He could pass the 'interview' with flying colors---as my veterinary neigbhor says he's got the best temperament she's ever seen in a schnauzer. But he barks a lot so I could see where that could cause me problems even if they let the weight thing slide at first. Not going to chance that happening!

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  3. I "shopped" for assisted living places for my mom once upon a time. I was grateful she was able to move into one that was a converted elementary school -- an historic building beautifully reconfigured for the public rooms with a couple of apartment "wings" added. The residences with the long, long corridors and too cheerful and slightly feminine/frilly decor were so off-putting to me. This one was beautifully decorated in a sort of "classic" style. In one place I saw, the residents with highest needs were put "in the basement" -- the bottom floor with high ground level windows you couldn't even see from! So, yeah, there are good and bad, but the thing I really dislike is how older adults get segregated from the rest of society. I find that depressing. No easy answers, I guess.

    Don't worry about age being the reason for your day mix up. I did exactly the same thing when I was in my mid-20's; showed up, gift in hand, for a baby shower a day early. The host was out mowing the lawn and we had a good laugh. I've stopped blaming my foibles on age because most of the time I see younger people making just as many "life" mistakes. Older doesn't equal dim-witted. LOL

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  4. There really are no easy answers or right, one-size-fits-all answers for everyone. I guess we need to be grateful that there are choices out there. There is a country I read about who were experimenting with offering free apartments for young people who lived assisted living places for seniors. And the results were positive for all ages.

    My youngest niece also went to a party a day early. But older people, I think, get judged for doing it where younger people are laughed at and excused as just being busy. Or maybe we just judge ourselves and worry...

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    1. Yep. Judging ourselves is often the place we go first -- because we are worried,yes, or embarrassed (and want to be the first to make excuses by blaming age/memory). Dementia is not a given, but it's terrifying to contemplate so we worry. I get that. I just don't assume my age is the reason for all my mistakes. LOL

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    2. What worried me is I had three "memory things' in one week: the luncheon, a lost umbrella and a water bottle left behind. Got the umbrella back and bought another water bottle the next day so I could quit obsessing about doing that.

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  5. Interesting that you write about this today when a search is actually on in Houston, TX this week for a memory care facility for a sister-in-law. I was pretty sure they were in for severe sticker shock. I'd already experienced that when another family had to put another sister-in-law in memory care recently. We simply could not afford it. Apparently they start with a base package and add additional charges by the services you need, services like hep bathing, help at mealtime etc. I thing the monthly charges for this one sister-in-law is $4,500.

    I think I've done about as good as I can do on our budget. We came to Oregon with no intention of owing propert. We have a nice 2 bedroom apartment that takes me about an hour to clean. I call in a work order for any maintenance needs. A landscaping company takes care of the grounds. We are in a super great location to everything we need. When we bought Bob a single bed we bought the adjustable base. It can easily serve as a hospital bed if the time comes that he needs that. If that time comes I'll go for Home Health Care to send an aide in to bathe him and a nurse to come by as needed. I hope to be able to see Bob through with these arrangements. Then what happens to me? I have not a clue.

    I don't know a lot of people who can afford $5,000 a month for memory care. I feel for them.

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    1. I have no idea what memory care around here goes for but I'll bet it's over $4,500 if independent living is around $3,000. They have fees for everything you add.

      There's one good reason why a couple should own as opposed to rent and that's the fact that the state will make you run through all your cash/investments to pay if one goes to a nursing home before they kick in to help, but they won't make you sell your house. In theory that allows one of you to hold on to some assets for their future. Lots of hard decisions when we get older!

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    2. or remain unmarried as Fred and I did. If he had to go in, they couldn't take my assets and vice versa. I have known older couples who get divorced for this very reason. They still live together, but they had divided their assets equally so the State won't get it all!

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  6. Okay--I am be prejudice, but I think the memory care people should be in the rooms over looking the freeway and the more alive people in a room with a nice view!!! I toured one of these places a few years ago and realized, I will have to go to an old, stinky nursing home. I also realized, because my step-mother lived in one of those fancy places, that THAT was where she had spent her 1/3 of my Dad's investment plus the other 2/3's that was suppose to go to my sister and I when the old gal died!! Oh well. It's the nursing home for me and the one just around the corner has a view of a lake and the railroad tracks. I can't wait to hear that train whistling by at 4:00 am!!

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    1. I felt the same way about the views, Judy! My sister-in-law was in two different memory care places, both in small towns. I think those small town places get better care than in the city because the help comes more from farming communities. You will be fine. I hear a train each night. Didn't take long to get used to it.

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  7. When my sister and I looked for a place for our Dad, we learned so much. Ended up with a HUGE spreadsheet to be able to compare apples to apples. Since he really didn't have much money, we had to find a place that would accept him as Medicaid.

    It was CRAZY the way they price things ... like if he had ten pills a day, it was $X. If we wanted to add a calcium tablet, that threw it into the 11-20 pills a day and it was $XX. I'm kinda glad Oregon has death with dignity. Ralph could have chosen to fly back and end it himself ... but he didn't want to die in the rain!!

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    1. I have a friend who oversees an aunt's care and she has over $400,000 and they are worried she's out live her money. Those places will run through your bank accounts so fast! It's scary.

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  8. I'm still laughing about the fact that both you and the chef got the date wrong. I hope he fed you a really nice lunch! I was reminded of the year my mother was in the nursing home. My disabled sister always said that she made a point to get to know the nursing staff; otherwise, she was afraid that someone might try to stop her when she went lurching out the door with her walker at the end of her visit!

    Your description makes me want to read Brown Girl Dreaming. It seems to me that one of the strengths of literature is that it gives us access to experiences that we couldn't otherwise have. -Jean

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    1. You should have seen the chef, the events planner and me when we made the connection of why no one else was there. It was pretty funny. The only thing that suffered was the homemade crackers that went with the chicken cranberry salad and melon. You could tell it had been refrigerated overnight on the plates. But now that you bring it up he should have fed me on Tuesday as well. LOL

      The 'Brown Girl Dreaming' is actually a book in the young adults category so it's a quick read, each poem taking up no more than two pages, some as short as a few sentences. The poem below, 'Ghosts' is a good example of why our group thought adults would understand the book better than the teen market she wrote for.

      "In downtown Greenville,
      they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
      except on the bathroom doors,
      they didn't use a lot of paint
      so you can still see the words, right there
      like a ghost standing in front
      still keeping you out."

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  9. I just got an email this morning from one of the classes I signed up for in our senior thing. He sent an email to all participants because the day and date were different. He was confirming that the date was correct and the day was wrong. I noticed it but I didn't think to notify the office...clearly someone else did! It's common!

    The poem with its reference to a carousel reminded me of the Joni Mitchell song being on the carousel of time and going round and round. I'm not sure I like the metaphor of the carousel stopping because I think that we continue to go round and round even if significance is passed on to somewhere else. Nevertheless poems are good in all forms!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I get what you mean about not liking the metaphor of the carousel stopping. I don't want to get off either! Joni's "We're all captive on the carousel of time" is slightly different than Danson's 'revolution carousel' where history is always being made and individuals having a part in that history from time to time.

      It's a strong metaphor to use. I just wish I'd thought of it first. LOL

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  10. Sitill plan to live in place in my home. Provided therapy servíces in these retirement communities so can appreciate benefits as well as aspects that dont appeal to me. Yes, we are all part of that "circle". Seems as though theres always some sort of revolution going on somewhere with the result not always having an inmediate positive out come.


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    1. My house and yard is too big to stay here when I get older. So I don't know what I'm going to do.

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  11. Glad you were able to catch the lunch the following day. I screwed up on a hair appointment last month. I showed up twenty minutes late because I thought the apt. was at 9:30 instead of 9:00. I arrived about 10 minutes before her next appointment. She cut my hair anyway. Very nice of her. Her next appointment showed up on time and sat there and talked with the two of us. Very nice of her, too.

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  12. That doesn't happen often, that you can be that late for a haircut and still get it. That was nice of them both. At the shop where I go I've seen them reschedule people who were 10 minutes late.

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  13. I saw/heard Jacqueline Woodson speak in Detroit at the Michigan Reading Association conference. She had just written the book, "The Other Side" which was illustrated by a friend of Bill Rich's. So cool to have the author's voice in my head.

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    1. What a cool connection! Oh my gosh, that must have been a great experience. Knowing the sound of her voice would sure make a different when reading her words. It's a book I doubt anyone would ever forget reading.

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