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, January 14, 2017

Forgiveness in Fiction and Real Life




Weather wise, we’re having the weirdest January in years, and the forecast for the foreseeable future is a rollercoaster of rain by day and ice by night. Boohoo, nothing keeps me at home more than weather. I thought I’d get out of the house today for my book club but it got canceled due to ice and here I was looking forward to a lively discussion of The Sandpiper by Susan Lovell. She actually lives nearby and set her book in places along Lake Michigan where I’ve been. That was fun. She even leads a book club through the local OLLIE program but, geez, each meeting costs $17.00. I can’t imagine paying that when free book clubs are all over the city. But then again there are people who’ll do anything to rub shoulders with published authors. Been there, done myself a few decades ago.

The themes in The Sandpiper---alcohol addiction, infertility, a dysfunctional sister’s relationship and forgiveness---were well written but not all that interesting to me. The plot of this story hinged on a misunderstanding and withheld information where one little conversation could have prevented ten years’ worth of pain. Do people really do that---not speak up for themselves when one sister wrongfully assumes the other sister was having an affair with an older man when she was actually raped by the guy? I suppose they do. Don’t you feel sorry for authors? We pick apart their plots, settings and characters and every detail in between. On the other hand, authors have the power to make us think. In the case of this book, think about anyone we’ve forgiven or need to forgive.

In my own life, finding forgiveness for someone who’d done me wrong took five years. He was a former friend and employee of my husband’s parking lot maintenance business who, after Don’s massive stroke, wanted to buy the business. I had the equipment appraised, we made an agreement and he promised to pay in 45 days when he could withdraw some investment money without penalty. Without a nickel down gave him all of Don’s bidding and contracts information, helped him write bids and assured the mall owners the guy would have the needed equipment. (You can’t bid big places like that without a verifiable list of equipment.) With my help, he got contracts with all the places where Don had done work for years. But when it came time to pay for the equipment, he strung me out for another two months, making up one story after another on why the money was held up. Two days before the storage yard needed our frontend loaders, etc., moved off their property, he finally admitted he’d been buying equipment piecemeal and he was reneging on our deal. 

I’d never felt so used in my life and mad at myself for helping him procedure thousands of dollar's worth of contracts. Had the guy been up front and honest about what he was doing, at the very least I could have sold the equipment months earlier saving me a summer’s worth of liability insurance and storage, not to mention having to pay big bucks to have the equipment moved to a heavy equipment auction site because I no longer had the option of selling it where it sat. It hurt to have a so-called friend do that to us, especially at a time when Don was still in a rehab facility fighting to get some quality of his life back and I was having major cash flow problems.

The forgiveness finally came when I was planning Don’s ‘Thank God, I’m Alive’ party on the 5th anniversary out from the stroke. Don was not aware of the fiasco outlined above---he’d lost several years of comprehension---and he wanted to invite the so-called friend to the party. I invited 50 people, 67 showed up including this guy who I had hoped would have the decency not to accept the invitation. As I watched how happy it made Don to see the guy, I decided it wasn’t worth holding a grudge against a guy who was too stupid to be ashamed of what he did.

The last chapter with this guy came a few years later when he stopped by because a faith healer was coming to his church and he tried to talk Don into going. Don had a working vocabulary of twenty-five words, a forth of them swear words and he used them all that day. Nearly a year of therapies---physical, occupational and aquatic---plus 6-7 years of speech therapy couldn’t take away the repercussions of the stroke, but a faith healer praying over an agnostic was going to make him walk and talk again? Every time Don swore the guy “joked” about fining him for a “swear jar” which only served to make Don even madder. It would have been a funny scene in a movie but I was seriously worried that Don would have another stroke. The guy had recently found religion and had a come-to-Jesus spiel that rivaled any street corner preacher yet he never did understand the concept of doing onto others as you would have them do onto you. Hint: You don’t torment a stroke survivor with words when he doesn’t have the vocabulary to fight back.

Forgiveness. Sometimes it comes easy and other times you just have to shake your head and keep chanting, “Stupid is what stupid does.”  ©

20 comments:

  1. I have a real problem forgiving other people, usually I go by - once burned, twice shy. In your case I think I would have physically hauled said 'friend' out the door with a few well chosen words, myself.

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    1. Not much gets through to the come-to-Jesus types when they're on a roll, in my experience. I did what I could to protect my husband.

      In my mind, forgiveness is something apart from trust. I wouldn't loan this guy a dollar if he ever asked. Fortunately, I rarely see him anymore since we no longer live in the same neighborhood.

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  2. I find it difficult, indeed impossible, to forgive wrong done to me, or others. In your shoes, I could not and would not have forgiven that man. Especially if he had become a born-again Christian.

    I understand the theory of "Hanging onto resentment is letting someone live rent-free in your head." But for me, there's a huge gulf between theory, and practise.

    I remember reading the words "Vengeance is mine, said the Lord. I will repay" in my childhood, and not really comprehending. Its only now in a particular, personal situation that I understand the words, after many decades. Notwithstanding this particular, personal situation, I still find it difficult/impossible to forgive wrongs.

    Re book plots, after watching the continuing political world climate where fiction is indeed stranger than fact, and leaves me shaking my head in disbelief..... I think nothing is impossible!!

    Having said all the above, I have often been reduced to tears by the innate honesty and sheer goodness of some people (more often than not strangers/passing-ships-in-the-night) - they restore my belief in God. ~ Libby

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    1. As I wrote this blog, I found I did/do have some left over resentment.It actually helped to write about it. I can't feel bad for him that he gave up on the snow removal business after a couple of years, opened a sandwich shop and lost it a year later. Then lost his house. Karma got him. His Facebook page is still full of come-to-Jesus stuff. There are a lot of good Christians in the world but there are some fanatical ones too.

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  3. Having worked with so many stroke patients with communication deficits, I can appreciate the situation you describe with the faux friend and also, some religious types who know not what they do, to put it kindly. As I exited a facility one day, I saw the young wife of a patient of mine placing her hand on the forehead of a wheelchair bound patient as she flamboyantly and emotionally uttered her healing words. She expected to cure him as other wide-eyed patients and some of his family watched incredulously. So insensitive of her. Needless to say her efforts were futile, Your husband's utterances can be the major, even the only, words some individual's can produce with certain strokes as you may have learned -- even people who have never uttered aloud such language in their lives. Can be difficult for those who know them to understand the speech is not them, but the stroke.

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    1. For years I sat behind a one way mirror watching student speech pathologists work with my husband while a professor was in the room with me and other students. I learned a LOT. In group classes, too, and knew people like you described who'd never swore in their lives, but did it after their strokes. It didn't bother me, but what got me is there were a few people who thought my husband was faking his inability to talk because he was like a parrot who could repeat anything but not initiate words on his own. I'd seen him struggle for hours to get out just one word and by the time he got it out, I'd forgotten what we'd been talking about. Very hard to loss speech as you well know. We spent the first year singing nursery rhythms to try and kick start his speech. I've got so many memories of how hard he worked and never gave up.

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  4. I am impressed that you were able to forgive such a betrayal. I'm not sure I could. Having said that, we had some awful issues with H's brother after their mother died. It was bad, and I thought I'd never forgive him, but once it was all over, I truly dropped it. It no longer bothered me. I think it helped that we lived in a different state, and I didn't have to see him often. But forgiving does not mean that I don't fully understand what he's capable of. I'm not stupid. On the other hand, I had a hard time forgiving one of Dad's caregivers. Still not completely there. Thank goodness she's not someone I have to see again. What a great, provocative post.

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    1. I think if we had not been able to recover financial wise and was in a good place by the time of the party, I wouldn't have been able to forgive. But like you, that doesn't mean I ever forget.

      Caregivers who have our loves ones lives in their hands...THAT truly is a hard one. A Hospice worker gave my dad a laxative as a "joke" to the person coming on the next shift and one of them stole money from him. I still get mad when I think about that.

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  5. I cannot even comprehend a "friend" doing such a thing. Especially knowing what you were going through at the time. While you shouldn't let it eat at you (or live rent free), it is hard for me. I can forgive, but I cannot forget. This experience would change forever how I would respond to the man.

    Book clubs are just not for me. My time and focus is limited and I prefer to read things that are interesting to me. Since many friends (and favorite bloggers) belong to one, I can ask for a recommendation after they have read. Lazy is as lazy does.

    We are still stuck at home by weather as well. Jesse and I and the boys ventured out 1/2 mile to the grocery and almost did not get out of the parking lot! Portland rarely has snow so there are few people or companies scraping it out of parking lots. Now we have giant 3" thick sheets of ice every where. Hopefully the weather really will follow predictions and turn to 50 and rain next week.

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    1. I look at Portland's weather and feel for you guys! Ice is so dangerous.

      I can be civil and polite to the guy BUT I'd never socialize with him again or go out of my way to see him. I don't respect him and don't like being around people I don't respect.

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  6. You know Jean, I'm seething right now after reading your blog. I don't know what to say about the situation you were in and your husband. I am a stroke survivor and I'm angry just reading what you wrote. I'd like to stand right in front of that so called friend and kick him in his ass and few other places.
    You know Jean,Forgiveness is just a word to me. A few people tell me just to Forgive you brother & sister for what they did you after your mother's death. I've tried but they hurt me so bad and to me also hurt my mother. My brother sent me an 8 page letter of pure hate and his final word to me were, " you are no longer my brother and you shouldn't have the name " Pietrangelo " ". With the help of my wife, daughters and my Uncle Rocco, I just getting back from this hurt I'm have.
    It's amazing after reading your words, you and I are alike. I feel so close to you now after reading your blog.
    Try to have good day my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

    PS Two weeks for my cruise. I'm excited.

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    1. It seems like the times when we most need honest and good people around us that is the very time when some dishonest and/or bad person is there to take advantage of us or hurt you like your brother did. I've been over this episode so many times in my mind and know I wouldn't have allowed myself to be taken advantage of if I hadn't been under so much stress. I'm smarter than that! In my case, I take comfort in the percentages, meaning the percent of people in our lives who were there to help and give comfort far outweighed this single ass-breath. The party, in fact, was thrown to thank all the people who went out of their way to help us in big and small way in the year/s after the stroke...which was the irony of this guy being included. I made my piece more for my husband's sake than my own and it was the right thing to do, at the right time.



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  7. I feel comfort with your commenters because I, too, have trouble shaking off someone who has wronged me. I do hold a grudge. But I think, because we all seem to feel similarly, that it is human nature to not forget. Yes, you can forgive. You can blame it on ignorance or misguidedness bit it seems important to not forget. That's where the lessons get taught...that's where you remember not to dive in again as quickly.
    Thinking I was have a break for a while from the cold of Northern New York, I was rather disappointed to find it snowing and cold here in England yesterday and today and in fact, a lot colder than it is at the moment in Northern NY!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Lessons learned sure are important! I'm surprised at all the emotions just writing about this topic churned up in me. I never really talked it out with anyone after it happened. My brother-in-law knew about it from day one of the deal because he was there, and was just as outraged as I was but we never talked about it after the stuff went off to the auction site.

      We're suppose to have unusually warm weather during the days next week. I just hope that doesn't delay spring later on.

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  8. Gosh. As I read this i think of my cousins who were horrid to me around the time of my mother's death. FAMILY. I wrote a book about it all, but left out all those awful parts. It still made me feel better. Good on you.

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    1. I was just poking around your blog. Wow, you've got quite lot of experience in writing and research. Love your photos.

      You just reminded me of a cousin of mine who, when my mother died, demanded that I hand over a cookbook that that had been with my mother for over 60 years. (It originally belonged to our grandmother.) It was all really tense and she didn't have an answer for why she waited until my mom died to ask for it if she truly thought it should have been given to her---a kid at the time---instead of my mother all those years ago. People should do strange things when people die.

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  9. Beautiful post. Raw. I could just picture you trying to sell Don's business, thinking you were doing a good thing, being ripped off....I cannot stand the innocent and well-intentions being jerked around like that. And then to torment Don with religion! As others have stated, I have a hard time with forgiveness too and I hate admitting that. I think of myself as more emotionally and spiritually evolved, but someone wrongs someone I love, well, they are pretty much on my personal shitlist even if I find a way to be civil and we sort of get past it, I never fully forgive it. I get that forgiveness is to alleviate the suffering of the person who holds the grudge more than the one being forgiven, but I still can't quite get there. Life...a work in progress.

    Your book reminds me of when I used to watch soap operas. I'd get so frustrated that a story line would go on and on just because two people wouldn't sit down and tell the truth to each other about whatever misunderstanding they had to dramatically cover up for several years and then reveal and then a new actor would get cast and it all seemed like it happened to different people. LOL

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    1. Forgiveness is far from easy and I'm not sure that I've even used the right word to describe my change of attitude. Maybe tolerate and letting go of the raw anger and hate might have been a better way to describe it. I think of people who say they have forgiven someone who murdered a love one and think, How is that even possible? I guess there are degrees of forgiveness.

      Soap opera plots, that would be a good way to describe this book except for the fact that the author has dealt with the cord issues in her family so things like going to AA meetings rang true. But I do hate the drama created but misunderstandings. I still watch one soap opera a couple of times a week and they still do it. LOL

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  10. Taking advantage of friends in a time of need strikes me as exceptionally nasty; but you're right to let go of it. Hanging on to anger only ends up hurting you, not the morally obtuse former friend. BTW, a small town in Maine recently learned the lesson about certifying the plow contractor's equipment the hard way. They took bids on a plowing contract for the town and awarded the contract to the lowest bidder. When the first big snowstorm came along, the contractor's equipment wasn't up to the job. His one plow ended up broken down and abandoned in the middle of one road and most roads didn't get plowed at all. After a day or two of not being able to get to work or get kids to school, the townspeople took matters into their own hands, getting the job done with shovels and plow-equipped pick-up trucks. -Jean

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    1. I won't even hire a driveway plower with only one plow. Even the best maintained equipment breaks down in the elements. I won't hire the lowest bid either because they usually come people who are green at the business and don't understand that. Hard to believe a town could make that mistake. :)

      Morally obtuse---I love that term for the guy I wrote about.

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