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, November 26, 2016

Black Friday, Blue Thoughts



It’s Black Friday and I’ve been sitting in front of the computer screen for what seems like forever because I have no idea what I’m going to write about for my Saturday blog post. When all else fails I think about writing about my dog, Levi. He’s my housemate and the only living thing that remotely needs me to stick around. Woo is me, I spent a wonderful day at my youngest niece’s house yesterday and when I came back home to Levi I was wishing once again that I lived closer to my family. My niece and her family are loving, kind and fun and I miss being around that kind of warmth between the generations. And did I mention there were four dogs in attendance? The two large dogs had to spend the day in the garage but the other two---petite things that I doubt weigh eight pounds put together---were in Action Central. It’s amazing how they manage not to get squashed under someone’s feet. I know it sounds silly but one of those dogs even wears pajamas to bed. Her “mom” says the PJs keep her from getting hair in their bed. I wish my mom was alive to see that Papillion mix. Mom thought I spoiled my dogs too much and it would have taken the heat off me, knowing this dog has a wardrobe of girlie things that would make a Barbie doll jealous.

Tomorrow I’ll be going to my nephew’s house. Their two grand-babies are both going to be town thus I got invited out to give auntie hugs. They aren’t even a year old yet and my nephew and his wife are truly enjoying their grand-parenthood status. I love that I’m included but it’s another long drive and every time I make a trip out to see my family it makes me sad coming home, knowing at some point I’ll be too old to do that drive safety. Why can’t I stay focused on the here and now and quit worrying about my tomorrows? Why can’t I make a decision to stay put or move and quit vacillating on that topic every time a holiday comes along and I see my family? 

I looked up writing prompts when I couldn’t come up with a topic for this blog and I wrote down, “Heart vs Head.” I thought I’d disregarded that topic but moving or staying put actually is a heart vs head dilemma because it always comes back to the same conclusion: my heart wants to go but my head tells me I still wouldn’t see my family more often than on holidays---they are all busy, working and/or traveling---and I’d be giving up the only anchor I have beside Levi: the senior hall and all its activities. Yada, yada, yada. I’m starting to sound like a broke record. All I know for sure is it’s crazy to make myself blue over something that only takes place inside my head. Right now, this week I’m seeing family and that should be enough. 

My husband's memory has not been heavy on my mind this week, but I knew he was lurking somewhere in the darkness when I picked up my silver ‘butterfly’ ring off the base of my monitor and put it on. I do that when I want to feel close, then in a few days I'll put it back where it came from. I bought it to commemorate my second annual pilgrimage to the Butterflies in Bloom exhibit to honor his life. I have this thing about widowhood jewelry with symbolism. First there was my antique Victorian mourning broach that I have worn to every single funeral I’ve gone to since 1983. Then came the ash pocket, heart-shaped locket bought soon after Don's funeral followed by a custom made beaded necklace that incorporates my husband’s wedding ring. I wore one of these three pieces whenever I left the house in the first phase of widowhood. After that came my cowardly lion charm from the Wizard of Oz. It symbolized having courage when I first started to venture out into the world of socializing alone. Last and also the least meaning full to me is an Origami living locket. The only reason I bought it was because I was jealous of another widow who had one. She tells everyone about how all the charms inside the locket relate to her husband. She still wears hers every day and it’s been four years but I’ve only worn mine a total of three times in the same length of time. I couldn't find charms that told Don's story. All I have inside the glass fronted locket is a Taijitu (yin-yang symbol), a ruby red cut glass heart, a tiny pearl and an 'in memory' charm. Jealously never ends well.

Black Friday, blue thoughts. I have never, ever been shopping on Black Friday. It's right up there next to going to the dentist on my list of dreaded things to do. The day before Thanksgiving I got my short shopping list polished off in just over an hour while everyone else was home cooking. All I had to buy was a $10 exchange gift for the Red Hat Society party, 48 fingernail files to put in gift bags we’ll be packing for the residents in our adopted nursing home and three boxes of chocolates from a shop that makes the best sweets in town: two to have on hand just in case I get a visit from someone unexpected and one will go to my house cleaner with a tip inside. One of those boxes will probably still be around for New Year’s Eve and I will then eat it up with the gusto of a woman intent on punishing her thigh for every thing she's done wrong in 2016.  ©

NOTE: Photo at the top is a Papillion like the one at the party.

29 comments:

  1. The holiday season brings more than mistletoe and eggnog for us as we age. We don't need to be single for that. The younger generation gets caught up in their own lives and all too often the 'older ones' are lost in the shuffle. Living close to relatives doesn't always mean a person will see them more than on the traditional holidays. It's true, some families are a tightly bound group, but I don't believe that's the norm any more. Looking back even to my childhood, the holidays and funerals were the only time for the large family gatherings.
    The holidays are not my favorite time and I don't believe living close to my family members would make things any better. I do what I can to be happy with what I really have and try not to worry about it.
    I suppose I am not much help, am I? Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trust me, validation of what we already know is always a big help. Our memories of the past often come sugar coated. And you are right, I don't think it's a "widow" thing as much as it's just part of being part of the oldest generation.

      Delete
  2. I agree with the first comment above. My kids live close to me, busy in their own lives, and rarely see them. I think back on my younger days and I behaved much the same with my parents, so that stopped me in my tracks thinking that my kids were thoughtless and selfish. Also, the occasional neighbour/passing-ship-in-the-dark will hand out a helping hand more readily than my kids.

    I've been beating myself up recently. I've really been feeling so sorry for Hillary and Obama, with DT's win. Yet, I have not felt the same sympathy in the past for family members going through a bad phase. I now have more time to think/reflect so that's one reason - but it still makes me very ashamed of myself. Then again, I know someone today who is ready to tell me sob-stories, and whom I avoid for the same reason as it upsets me and I figure I have enough problems of my own. Its very contrary, but such is life.

    Finally, I remember the couples I see in the mall sometimes, sniping at each other, and the scenes of war on TV and think to myself: count your blessings. As you say, validation is always helpful. ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember a time when I disappointed my mom by showing up very late to a family reunion (with all her old relatives and I guess she wanted to show us off). We didn't mean to hurt her but it still did and for that reason I have empathy for adult kids who sometimes forget that their elderly parent/relatives won't be around forever. There is nothing really new in the world of human interactions other than we trade places in the roles we take.

      I wish I hadn't written this post. I didn't spend enough time on it thus it was rendered dead-on-arrival and pointless. Thanks, Libby, for sharing your thoughts. It helps.

      Delete
  3. LOL about punishing your thighs. I did plenty of that on Thanksgiving. We even had fried oysters.

    Family. I don't know if I'd see my family (my brother and nephew and their families) more if I lived closer to them. I do wish I saw my grands more often, who live in the opposite direction of the rest of my family. I think about how far away they live. If something happens to one of us, my son and his wife won't be able to help us much. I cannot afford to move where they live. The cost of living is too high, and I really don't like it there. I can see why it's such a dilemma for you - to give up what you know for the unknown. It definitely takes a leap of faith, and the decisions we make at this age can be so impactful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After New Years our thighs will be punishing as we try to undo all the bad stuff we've done over the holidays.

      I've actually made the decision to stay put until driving gets to be an issue, then I will go to an independent living place closer to my family. If I can't drive it won't matter at that point where I live but it will matter for my power of attorney for me to be closer. I love being around my nieces and nephew's families but lately with all the new babies being born into the family it's also bringing out regrets about not having any children/grandchildren of my own. I thought those feelings were well behind me in the '70s.

      I really admire that you and H were able to make a successful downsizing and move last year.

      Delete
    2. Not long after our move, my health was so louse that I told H we moved just in time. It would have been so difficult at that point, but now I feel much better. I'm so happy to be on one floor. In your defense, it's much easier to take on a big move if you have a partner. Your decision to stay put for now is probably the best decision. You don't want to move and then have to move again.

      Delete
  4. I am very close to adopting a rescue dog. I've been a widow for a year and a half, and have adjusted to living alone. I count myself lucky, have two daughters near and their families are always there for me. But I would love to have "something" that would be glad when I came home! Haven't had a dog in years but suddenly would like the company. My kids have been urging me to get a pet for a while. We're a big dog family. Any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's a great idea. I don't think I could stand living without a dog to keep me company. The only thing I would advise is to get one that you can pick up by yourself to put him/her in the car. Mine is 29 pounds and it's a bit of a struggle since he doesn't always want to go. Rescues all come with their personalities formed so take a lot of time in the shelter interacting with a dog you think you might like. They will usually let you walk it outside and play in a room without the distractions of the other dogs. Let me know what kind of dog you end up with.

      Delete
  5. I think you did pretty well this holiday. It was difficult for a lot of reasons, mainly the election. Reading the comments I see confirmation that living near family isn't always the answer. Young couples today are so busy you don't hear a lot out of them day to day BUT I've found they're pretty attentitive if you're sick. It's just that you go back to not seeing a lot of them once the crisis is over. Sometimes you're better off with friends than family. I have a lot more contact with our daughter in Texas than I do our son that lives here.

    Holidays are just hard for people grieving and remembering family that have died. I doubt there's anyway around that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually did do well, didn't I. Two invitations and enough leftovers to keep me eating holiday foods for three days. And you are right that family might not be around most of the time but if you're in crisis mode they show up. That's the great thing about families.

      Delete
  6. I think that the more holidays you spend with your niece and her family,the more likely it will be that, when you are no longer able to drive there, they will be thinking,"It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Aunt Jean; who can go pick her up?"
    Is your relationship with your niece such that you could have an honest discussion with her about the pros and cons of moving. You could say something like, "I so much enjoy spending time with you that I think about moving closer so that I can do more of it, but I'm not sure that's realistic."
    So nice of her to send you home with leftovers. Not having leftovers is the hardest part of being a dinner guest at the holidays. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will have that conversation with my nieces when the time comes.

      My family has always divided up the leftovers after parties and get-togethers while my husband's family never did. Although there are a few of the younger ones who won't eat leftovers. Don't know how they got that way. :(

      Delete
  7. That is such an adorable dog! But he doesn't look 29 lbs. your post hit home with me in that it's just harder getting older, especially being widowed and alone. I too have no children and it was my preference, but now at my later age (70), I sometimes regret not having a daughter to be close with, like I was with my Mother. But there are no guarantees. Friends can be just as important as we age. Luckily a neighbor's husband is a superb cook and does all the holidays with leftovers to boot. But holidays can be a lonely time bringing back all the memories from the past and of what once was and is no more...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should have labeled that photo above. It's a Papillion and very tiny. Not the one at the party but it looks exactly the same. My dog's photo is in the right side bar.

      Thank you for sharing that. I run into so few woman in our age bracket who never had children and I think being childless does bring a different layer of feelings and memories to the holidays.

      Delete
  8. A pajama-wearing dog? My, my. There's always something new. I spend Thanksgiving with two friends who have five tiny dogs between them -- all rescues, and all with issues of one sort or another. Eventually, pandemonium ceased, but it took a while.

    As for family -- well, I guess I have that solved, since I don't have any to speak of. I have my aunt, who's 90, and three cousins, with a small of assortment of their kids and grandkids, but that's it. We sort of keep in touch, but we're not really close. There are reasons -- one cousin has a husband with Alzheimer's, and that's consuming her. Still, it's something. But there aren't any holidays with family. They keep asking me to come up for Christmas, but traveling north in winter isn't my thing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Traveling north is a good thing to avoid. They should be inviting you for the Forth of July. LOL

      I've never seen that tiny dog without clothing on. Only dog I've ever known with a wardrobe to fit all occasions. Mine has one coat and one sweater and he fights it when I try to put one on him.

      Delete
  9. What?

    "I wish I hadn't written this post. I didn't spend enough time on it thus it was rendered dead-on-arrival and pointless."

    I read several good points ... family, aging, pets and life. One day at a time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so sweet to say that. I'm in a better mood now so maybe my next blog will please me more.

      Delete
    2. I think the the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas are always loney, depressing. I'm always happy to get past them. I'm single, no kids, and no close relatives.

      Because of the election things are even more difficult this year. This weekend I watched 2 shows on Cspan. The original airing was a week or 2 before the election and each group of speakers assumed Hillary would win. All of us who voted for her, or against him, remain shocked and depressed at the thought of the repercussions of his presidency.

      Your post was very good and represents how many of are feeling. Thank you.

      Thank you, Jean.

      Peggy

      Delete
    3. Peggy, thank you for reading here and I agree with what you're saying about the election. The fact that Trump has flip-flopped on so many things since the election gives me some hope but he could easily flip-flop right back again. He will never gain my trust or respect and that does add another layer of depression to the holidays.

      Delete
  10. On Friday My wife, daughter AmyLynn & I went to Devonshire Mall because I wanted to get a Christmas gift for Mary Lou. Boy was that ever a mistake. Once we got there we noticed that the parking lots were loaded with cars so Mary Lou dropped me of at the door and I thought I said I'd see them at 11:00 exactly where they dropped me off. I guess she said at 11;30 and that was our biggest mistake. After some time, I did find her gift, a piece of luggage, the one with 4 wheels. It was near 11:00 so I went exactly where she dropped we off, outside. I waited and waited until 11:30 and still she wasn't there until AmyLynn noticed I was outside ( they were waiting for me inside where they were warm ) freezing. I was a little peeved but she said that I should have waited inside. I had said EXACTLY where she left me off. I guess since I'm a man, I should stayed inside just like they ( they are women ) said I should have. I fumed all the way home but I was still wrong they said. Like my daughter says men are wrong and women are always correct. That's the way it is in my house. Ha,ha,ha. I can never be right I guess. But at least Mary Lou loved my gift. Was I wrong? No don't answer that it might make you angry wife me. LOL
    See you my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a classic male/female debate. One person says one thing and the other hears it differently, or defines "right here" differently. I was so afraid of getting left behind or missing the meet-up places that I would repeat directions in detail and make Don do the same. In the long scheme of things it doesn't matter who is right or wrong as long as you still have each other to meet up. Glad Mary Lou loved her gift.

      Delete
  11. It was a good post. You wrote what you felt and it's OK to share feelings. I doubt anyone is happy and grateful all of the time. I think we have our "pity parties" for a little while and then get back to daily life. I was surrounded by a large family on Thanksgiving but was relieved to go home and not have to act like everything is wonderful in my life. Holidays are hard when you go back home to being alone. Only those who do it understand I think. We just have to keep going and do our best to find ways to live the best life we can.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, you summed up my holiday pity party perfectly. Thanks for that. My blue moods never last long but sometimes they just have to be acknowledged out loud.

      Delete
  12. You honestly expressed what you were feeling in those moments of time you described but doesn't mean that's your permanent state, or at least that's how I rationalize some of the various moods I've experienced the past decade following my becoming a widow. I think your assessment of the amount of time you would spend with family if you moved closer is probably quite accurate based on what I've observed through the years with the many elders I've encountered, beginning before I became one myself. There are always exceptions so guess you can only go by your best judgement.

    I would enjoy having family just within driving distance but such is not the case and flying is not the pleasure it once was. As close and compatible as we are, after a few weeks I'm ready to come home and I suspect they welcome having their family unit alone -- at least that's sorta how I recall thinking years ago when my household was intact. My thoughts about moving closer to family always include consideration they might move, and would I follow? Especially if I was in a part of the country (snow country) where I really didn't want to be any more. I prefer to stay put at this time in my life though I've been repeatedly encouraged to move where they are. I do not care to live in a colder climate again, either, which influences my view.

    My last pet was from the shelter and proved to be less than satisfactory -- neurotic, jealous to name a few negatives -- the dog, not me! ha I enjoy the freedom of not having the care though I've loved pets and had many throughout my life. I've thought, too, of the elders I've encountered whose health situation as had sudden changes resulting in the person having to find immediate care for the pet or even give up the pet which is emotionally hard and I don't want more loss -- seems like so much of that with family and friends, increasingly so the past twenty years, then more rapid beginning ten years ago when my husband died.

    There are no friends like old friends and I treasure what few are still living as a friend wrote me long ago before she died. Visiting some for a few days last year that I hadn't seen in 50 years left us wishing we lived closer. Another on the east coast has stopped writing but from previous correspondence I think her health has declined -- we've known each other all our lives but not seen each other over 50 years. Seems strange someone caring for her wouldn't drop me a quick note, but when family or caregivers don't know a correspondent personally they don't always think to do so, even if they've read the inquiry though we had promised each other we'd tell others to do so.

    My point is, I remain convinced to continue focusing on my goal of "living in place", living in the moment as best I can, open to developing new close friends but not really expecting any beyond the casual level, valuing those few family and friends remaining across our miles, doing what gives me pleasure including nothing at all occasionally. I don't anticipate having to give up driving anytime in the near future, but should that ever occur I know losing that independence will be a significant major adjustment. So am making certain I'll be able to access all services I'll need -- keeping my options open.

    We each have to find our own path to contentment but I had lots of questioning, some restlessness, probably some erratic behavior, expectations that didn't materialize, especially in the first several years after my husband's death. Sounds like you're working healthily through your widowhood process which is unique to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful and thorough reply. You touched on so many common threads we have in common, including a 60 year long friendship with someone on a different coast. I worry that if something happens to one of us, that person's family won't let the other person know.

      I've actually got instructions and plans made for my dog in case of a short term or a long term medical issue or my death. He's got a small trust fund to help make sure it gets cared out. But what you said about a rescue dog has always been my worry, should I ever get another dog. I've never had a dog I didn't raise from puppyhood.

      Restlessness is probably my biggest and fear-est issue that I deal with off and on...mostly on. But your next to the last paragraph is my goal.

      Delete
  13. I know that Head and Heart dilemma -- I have it over lots of things. My mindfulness practice, like you mention about being in the moment now of being with family and trying to stop the grasping for more, really helps. I go back and forth with it around "downsizing" this big old house. But for now I love it and can manage and for today that's enough. My heart is here.

    I love your symbolic jewelry. I have one piece I bought for myself at a difficult time celebrating my coming through it with new insights. I used to wear it constantly as a reminder -- now I notice the silver is tarnished and I haven't worn it in years. We move on.

    No Black Friday shopping for me either. I detest shopping even on a calm, uncrowded day. I cannot imagine the horror of that experience! Chocolates...now that might get me out. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, the chocolate factory is only six miles from where I live and I go by it often. Thankfully, I don't stop as often as it yells at me to do so. I limit my stops to holidays and that's bad enough.

      Madeline Albright wrote a whole book about her symbolic jewelry. If I was young or starting over all my jewelry would be symbolic. If others cracked the "code" they could read me as if I was wearing a mood ring that changed colors. I had one of those, too, back in the day.

      Delete