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, December 21, 2016

Sentimentality, Traditions and Gifts for Widows



I’m so darn sentimental it’s embarrassing. Some of the things I’m sentimental over makes sense like my childhood doll and her fur trimmed coat that was made out of my mother’s wedding suit, but some things would have others scratching their heads, wondering why I hold on to something with so little value. An example of the latter literally got turned into a pile of rags this week. It was a t-shirt of my husband’s that I’ve been using as a nightgown in since he died almost five years ago. For a couple of months I’ve been planning to cut it up for rags but it took the dog barfing all over the place before I could actually get myself to do it. That’s not the end of it though, before I took a pair of scissors out of the drawer I went online and bought another t-shirt just like it. 

Do I think I’ll fool myself when the new and improved t-shirt is folded on my shelf, waiting for a warm summer night? Can I pretend it’s still connected to my husband in a weird, twisted kind of widow logic? I think I can and as evidence of that I offer Exhibit A: A Mickey Mouse watch. My husband had a dozen watches but this one was his favorite to wear when little kids would be around and unbeknown to me he actually had two of them. I found the second one in a shoebox of junk he probably picked up at flea markets and after finding it, I gave the one he actually wore to the son-I-wish-I-had. His own kids loved that watch when Don wore it, now they are grown with babies of their own and Tim is having fun wearing it around a new generation. The watch I didn’t know existed now hangs in my computer wardrobe and even though Don never wore it, it still queues up great memories.

The t-shirt is one of two Christmas presents I bought myself. Ancestry.com was offering a holiday discount on their DNA kits and I’ve wanted to do one of those for a couple of years. Not having any children, it seems like a waste of money but on the other hand, I’ve been doing genealogy research since I tagged along behind my mother going to court houses back in the ‘60s and not long ago I had books printed up, one for each side of my family tree. DNA seems like putting a period at the end of a sentence, the end of a very long project. 

I’m getting used to spending Christmas day alone---this will be my fourth one but compared to seven decades of never being alone on the holiday, four Christmas’ is a drop in the bucket. Is it any wonder Christmas is a downer for so many widows and widowers? I try not to care about the holiday but I wish I could un-see the photos of candy cane shaped bread in various stages that a Red Hat sister posted on Facebook that she’s making for gifts. Avoiding Facebook in December helps but there is always something to remind me that joyful holidays are in my rearview mirror. Like an article in the newspaper about a project patterned after the Angel Trees for children where people pull a tag off the tree with a child’s name and age written on it, then they buy them a gift to be delivered by the “angel network.” Only this Angel Tree was for elderly people living alone. At first I thought, that’s a great idea, followed by sadness when I read that the tree is only for low income elderly people. I was thinking of another four-year widow I read online who had a major pity party---and that’s not an exaggeration---because a club she belongs to decided not to exchange gifts this year. Ya, I know her pity party goes deeper than a missed gift but that’s where she’s placing all her widowhood anger and resentment.

Although I’m quite used to buying my own presents, I think the no-one-to-give-me-a-gift thing bothers me, too. Last night while watching a movie until three in the morning I wanted to order everything they advertised. The Lumo Lift for slumping shoulders and a Google Home. No, Jean, those are fads you’d soon tire of. ThinOptics---Seriously, Jean? You don’t need another pair of reading glasses no matter how cool the design. A Water Pik. Maybe. But the biggest clue to my Christmas mood is that I ate the small box of chocolates I bought to have on hand in case someone unexpected stops by with a token gift---like cane candy shaped bread or a tray of cookies. The emergency-gift-on-hand tradition is something I inherited from my mother and it’s not supposed to be opened until New Year’s Day. That’s “The Rule” if the candy is not given away in December. My old doll caught my eye as I popped the last chocolate in my mouth, her intense stare telling me that Mom would not be pleased. Do we ever get our mothers' voices out of our heads? ©


24 comments:

  1. oh Jean. Wish you lived close; you would be invited to all of our holidays. :) :: Hugs ::

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    1. Thanks Silver. I might be going to a party on Christmas Eve if the weather cooperates.

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  2. The photo of a pretty, happy and confident-of-the-future Jean R. as a child made me smile. That's the result of a happy stable childhood.

    I don't mind the absence of gifts - much prefer to get something for me that I want and like. ~ Libby

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    1. I hadn't seen that photo in years but I love it. That was my favorite red coat. I did have a good childhood.

      I don't buy my own gifts, but I sure had cane candy bread envy. LOL

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  3. The answer to your last question Jean is NO. At least i haven't yet and I'm 60. :-)

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  4. As I posted on FB: "I wish this dark cloud of depression would lift." and a bit more, but--I was surprised at how many people feel the same way this time of year. Even people that are married and still have the traditions and all their family gathered with them. Maybe it's that darn 5th Sadiversary coming up? Maybe it's because my kids decided to change up the traditional day for our Christmas Eve get together--after ALWAYS celebrating Christmas family on the Eve, it is hard to change after these 77 years! I decorated to the hilt this year and all it has done--is make me sadder. I cannot wait for the new year to get here and I can get my house back in normal living looking. Clean and ready for 2017. I will think of you on Christmas Day as I too sit here alone. Dagnabbit!

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    1. Your sadiversary coming up on New Year's Day probably has a lot to do with your depression but family traditions changing is also very hard, isn't it. Family grow and chance and a new generation takes center stage as they should but still..... it's hard!

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    2. I think I must not be sentimental. I think my SIL cured me of that. I haven't had a Christmas present in years. Grandson is the only one who gets presents. Our Japanese DIL seriously does not like exchanging gifts. The six of us get together Christmas Eve for chili and again on Christmas Day for prime rib. I've never been alone on Christmas Day but I doubt I would like it. If that time ever comes I think I would lay in a supply of my favorite foods and eat all day.

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    3. That's pretty much what I---one last pig-out before the January dieting starts.

      I have a long history of being able to imagine a history to objects, being a person who loves antiques so I come by sentimentality naturally. I never knew my grandparents but the few objects I have that they owned became them---hard to excplain.

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  5. I think Holidays make me more emotional. It doesn't even matter which ones! Despite the noise and busyness of these little boys, it is a good choice for me to enjoy intergenerational living. In Maui, I usually had a tiny holiday decoration/candles on the dining table. Just don't want to become uninterested in celebrating.

    You would have trouble trying to organize anything on Christmas day due to weather. I invited several ladies on a whale watch followed by brunch last Christmas. In Oregon, the Nutcracker continues on Christmas Day. Or invite peeps for a movie. But if we have freezing temps or heavy rain, I'll just stay right inside with a toasty fire.

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    1. The gods of weather seem to be cooperating for me going to our family Christmas Party. The decision has to wait until Friday though because the rain/snow line is critical.

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  6. I'm sentimental, and I could see myself wearing H's t-shirt. I like the Mickey Mouse watch story. I feel like I've gotten to know Don through your writing. There's nothing like being married to a good guy.

    I might do the DNA thing. I never thought I'd be interested, but after I joined ancestry.com, I started thinking about it. My DIL did it. The results were interesting, so many ethnicities in her DNA.

    I've thought about Google Home or Amazon Echo, too. Haven't done it yet. I bet they will be even smarter in a year. I read an article that said there's a lot of potential there. I'm never the person who tries something as soon as it comes out. My father was that way with gadgets. He loved them and had to have them. We were the second family in our neighborhood to get that newfangled gadget, the television.

    Christmas is hard for a lot people. It brings up memories of happier times. I think January is a relief for so many. I hope for all good things for you in the New Year.

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    1. I sent my DNA in yesterday. I had to spit 10 times to get enough. I'm pretty sure mine will show only three nationalities but I think I'll heavily favor my dad's while my brother heavily favors my mom. Siblings don't have the same portions of DNA, I learned.

      You've got a great point about the Google Home and Echo. If I still want one next Christmas, I'll buy myself one. I like the idea of being able to ask questions without having to always sit down at the computer to do it.

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  7. I, too, really like the picture of you and the doll. I, too, have several precious pictures of me and my sister in our little coats with velvet collars and matching hats. One of the things that is amusing is that cameras, at least in my family, mostly came out on special occasions so there are a lot of pictures in our 'fancy clothes'. Not exactly a real representation of our life! Candid pictures on average days were rare.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. You are so right about cameras back in the day. Our generation is lucky to find just one or two photos of our grandparents. When the youngest generation today grow old, their descendants will find photos by the hundreds.

      I like that photo too. I just found it after not seeing it for decades. It was my favorite coat and hat growing up and my favorite doll. My mom made all my doll clothes out of our old clothing.

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  8. I have avoided reading your post, since you hinted it would be about Christmas. lol. But here I am, dear friend. I absolutely love your comment that you wish you could un-see many posts about others' wonderful Christmases. Not that I wish others any deprivation, mind you. Not at all!

    I really need to post, for my ducking out of the "forced joy"ous season by taking a solitary vacation in Boston is having quite a rejuvenating effect on me. I feel, as I walk around Back Bay and Beacon Hill, and as I look inward, too, that I'm getting to the source of love, that whisper of love originating inside my hungry heart.

    Don's mementos, whether replacements or originals, remind you that love's vitality cannot die. Wonderful! His life surrendered only its physical breaths, not its intent - to hold you safe until the two of you reunite.

    If I don't get my Christmas message written in time, Merry Christmas, Jean!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I've been wondering how it's going for you in Boston. Merry Christmas back at you!

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  9. You're right that many of us have very few photos of grandparents. I have perhaps a half-dozen, total. I actually have more photos of my great and great-great grandparents, on my mother's side. They sat for formal portraits more often, while my dad's parents, immigrants from Sweden and coal miners, didn't have the money for such things.

    After Mom's death, as I sorted through photos, I realized most taken during my childhood were of me, or me with my dad. There are very few showing me with my mother. Perhaps she had appointed herself the family photogapher.

    Every Christmas is different, that's for sure. I hope this is a good one for you, and that you don't get slammed by the weather I just heard about this afternoon. Someone is going to get snow for Santa's sleigh!

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    1. My husband appointed himself the family photographer, had the fancy camera with all the lens and thus I have very few photos of him.

      My grandfather worked in the coal mines in Illinois but he was an immigrant from Italy, so we have that in common. The only photo of him was a formal family portrait. I'll bet they had traveling photographers back then, just before the turn of the century.

      Weather looks good for me for tomorrow.

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  10. Love this post and your honest, humor, and sentimentality. I'm sentimental too. I've already been moved to tears twice this morning due to unexpected kindnesses.
    And I generally get overwhelmed and depressed over the holidays. At times I've longed to be alone because I've over committed and have felt the onerous responsibility of "creating the magic" for my family....yet know I'd be sad and lonely. This year I've delegated a lot to my adult sons and their partners; more manageable and pleasurable. The expectations of Christmas perfection, gifts, family, friends, snow, angels, peace....none of it is truly, completely attainable. We set ourselves up for "failure" and disappointment by buying into the culture norms that really can't possibly exist. I wish you a quiet, peaceful, restful, enjoyable and even joyous holiday season, no matter what form it takes. Hugs.

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    1. Thank you and right back at you for the wishes in the last sentence.

      I've never been the one who was responsible for creating the Christmas magic. I give that credit to my mom first and then my sister-in-law who just passed away. I don't think I fully appreciated how much work and responsibility it was. (Sorry Mom and ML!) I think it's good that you've learning to delegate this year.

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  11. I generally enjoy a relaxing Christmas day at home alone, but only if it is embedded in a season of celebrations and get-togethers with others. I, too, have been losing people to exchange gifts with, and that is a struggle for me. I used to do major gift exchange with one close friend, but she has been in declining health for the past several years, generally housebound, and no longer interested in the types of gifts I used to get for her (books, gourmet foods, pottery and art from local artists). This year, another small group of friends with whom I always get together over the holidays for a meal and gift exchange decided that they wanted to give donations to charitable donations instead. I confess that I felt like just lying down on the floor and having a temper tantrum worthy of a two-year-old. (Instead, I pretended to be an adult and asked my friends if they would be willing to to a combination of gifts and donations this year to give me a year to adjust. They were.) -Jean

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    1. Not getting a gift at Christmas really is a downer! Glad you have a whole year to get used to the idea of giving and getting a donation instead. I wonder if that's just a way to save money at the holiday because some of your friends probably were already making the charitable donations and still would be, whether your group stops the gift exchange or not.

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