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, February 11, 2017

From Tattoos to Cemeteries, Oh My!



It finally happened. I went on a senior hall outing that turned out to be a waste of time except for the fact that writing about it will take up space in my blog. We took part in a pilot program at the art museum that involved viewing of a classic black and white movie plus an extra hour to check out the museum’s exhibits. I’m not a fan of black and white films but I signed up because I haven’t been to the art museum since the last century---I love saying that. It makes me feel old and wise to have lived in two centuries. (I know that’s crazy. Everyone old enough to buy beer can say the same thing.)

Before my husband’s stroke we used to love going to the old art museum but after seeing our new one, I don’t care if I ever go again. The beloved permanent collection is gone and they had a whole gallery devoted to “collections”---mostly filled with tennis shoes and tiny rubber toys none of which were as old as the bra I was wearing. I’ve got better collections in my house. The other main exhibit was all about a tattoo artist who lives in Hawaii and has popularized tribal tattooing. People from around the world apparently pay good money to go there to take one of his classes and get a small, trademark tattoo to prove they’ve met him. I hate tattoos and I especially do not understand people who feel the need to turn their skin into a facsimile of a zebra or an ancient piece of pottery unearthed in an archeological dig. Tattoos in an art museum: we’re supposed to respect the artistry but the term ‘circus freak’ crossed my mind a time or two while viewing the photographs. But what the heck, if I had stayed at home all I would have done is knit and feel guilty about wasting that time. 

One of these days I’ve got to have a serious conversation with myself about what I’d have to do to feel like I’m not wasting my time. The older I get the more often I think of my days as wasting my time and I suspect that bothers me because it’s closely connected to the term “bidding my time” which is scary close to saying I’m just sitting around waiting to die. But I’m not gonna go there today, not when I’m celebrating the rebirth of my ergonomic keyboard. I spilled water on it, gave it firstaid then stopped at the computer shop for an expert opinion on whether or not I’d electrocute myself testing it out, and after impatiently waiting the required four days they suggested I leave it sitting upside down and wrapped in a towel, I’m now using it. They said it could take a week for malfunctions to show up so I’m not out of the woods yet. 

Whether I’m debating on political sites or blogging, sitting at my keyboard is one of those times when I vacillate between feeling like I’m accomplishing something and wasting too much time. When I’m blogging, the computer prompts me to leave the house at regular intervals because the cold, hard fact is I need a life in order to have something to write about it. It’s a catch-22 and I'm okay with that. Blogging has been the single most driving force in widowhood that keeps me from drying up like an unidentifiable object in a vegetable crisper. That may be a little melodramatic but it was one hundred percent true in the first few years after Don died. Now, I recognize that getting out and about is reconnecting me to the life-long learner part of my personality. It’s always been there, but during my years of caregiving I was learning things I didn’t necessarily like having to learn. My do good days are behind me. Pencil on some eyebrows, put on some Bert’s Bees lip gloss and I’m out the door.

Speaking of learning things, this week I also went to a travelogue about eastern Canada---a Maritimes and Newfoundland tour covering New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It made me homesick for our old motorhome and the days when Don and I poked around wild and woolly places. The video was filled with untouched land, lighthouses, water, sunsets, sailboats, birds and beaches. And I don’t know why it never occurred to me that Canada also has places where you can whale watch. Duh! This tour also stops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the maritime museum and the cemeteries where people are buried who lost their lives when the Titanic sunk. 1,500 people lost their lives that night but only 328 bodies were recovered and 118 of those were never identified. I used to collect North Star Lines memorabilia and that stop at Halifax calls my name. I’m glad the White Star Line set up a trust to maintain those gravesites. Jeez, that’s the least they could do!

Now that I’ve taken this blog entry down to death and dying I might as well share something I got in the mail recently. A survey from the funeral home I used for Don’s service, mailed out shortly after his 5th sadiversary. “In order to assist others with sensitive, caring and professional help when they need it, we need to know real thoughts and feelings of individuals like you.” My first impulse was to write across the top: IF YOU WANT TO BE SENSITIVE, DON’T SEND WIDOWS SURVEYS NEAR THE ANNIVERSARY DATES OF THEIR SPOUSE’S DEATH! I didn’t do it, but the stupid survey still sits close at hand taunting me. ©

27 comments:

  1. I have housework piled up, but am disinclined to do it. From experience, I know that if I force myself to do tasks when I'm not in the mood, I will break/damage items. For example, the time I smashed a window and had to spend time/$ getting the glass replaced. With that in mind, I think no point in forcing myself AND better to sit at the computer where at least I am learning something. The recent hot weather is also not conducive to housework, other than tasks I keep aside for hot summer days like washing heavy linen and bathmats, which dry in a few hours in the blazing hot sun.

    I also received a survey/sympathy card from the funeral home at the death anniversary. I find that more and more, the world is getting smaller and business/politics 'copy' each other.

    Re museums, I have been to very few but VERY unimpressed with some "modern" exhibits and paintings. I felt I could do better myself and refuse to call it art just because experts opine it as art. (This part of old age: the freedom not to be bound down by convention, I do like!). ~ Libby

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    1. I can identify with not wanting to do housework. It's one of the main reason I hired one after my husband died. It freed me up from feeling guilty about not doing it.

      Now, the art world seems to define good art as that which sparks conversations, especially on social issues. We have an old local artist who has been commissioned by many world leaders and important people like astronauts to paint their official portraits. He's as good as any Old Master and has been around for 40 years yet our art museum doesn't have a single one of his paintings. They've never had an exhibit of his work. I'll never understand that.

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  2. I think your comment on the survey might be a learning lesson for them. BTW--I know a lady who has her entire body tattooed, except her face. She is now in her 60's and looks very weird. I notice that now, she wears a lot of long sleeved turtlenecks and jeans.

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    1. Yuck! Wait until she starts getting molds that need to be cut out and biopsied. LOL I think bored prisoners and people crave attention are the ones going for full body tattoos.

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  3. In the case of the funeral home letter - your first impulse was spot on! How heartless!
    I don't think of knitting as wasting time. How's that shawl coming, btw?
    Tattoos on old skin ...

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    1. I read over that survey several times and decided they really aren't trying to find ways to be more sensitive to the needs of clients. They just want to open up an opportunity to talk to you so they can sell you a pre-planned funeral. Ticks me right off.

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    2. P.S. I got royally side tracked from the shawl and have made 17 hats for next Christmas out of 27 I'll need plus I took a break from making those to make five hot pink pussycat hats for young women who all wanted one. The shawl is 3/4 done and knowing I'll never wear it, it's hard to want to finish it when the wonderful yarn could be used for something I will wear. I'm not a shawl kind of person but I loved the challenge while I was learning the stitches.

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  4. I think you should put your honest thoughts that you expressed here on that survey. They asked, they shall receive. Please share that with them. It may help another woman/man in the same situation.
    Sending you ((hugs))

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    1. I think that's why I still haven't thrown the survey away. In the back of my mind I'm working on a nicer way to say the same thing.

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  5. I would write the words you just uttered about the mortuary, on their form, and send it back to them. They need to hear that.

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    1. The "vote" is trending in that direction. LOL

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  6. Good to learn what to do if I spill water on my keyboard. Do you think the date of Don's death actually generated the survey or could it just be coincidence? I usually put that kind of mail in the trash without opening it so I probably would not have seen the survey. Don't know what I would do.

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    1. Absolutely no doubt in my mind about the timing. I open everything because I don't want to worry that I threw out something important. I've had investments and banking places change their names and I didn't recognize the new one.

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  7. You guys had a motorhome? I don't remember you mentioning that. How cool. A couple of my neighbors have them. They will soon be getting them ready for trips. It's warming up already.

    Thanks for the tip on the keyboard. I once spilled on H's work laptop. In all our years together, he's never been that mad at me. He didn't kill me, but he paced a while -- to keep his hands from going around my neck methinks. :/

    Sorry your senior hall outing was a bust. Considering how many you've attended, that's a pretty good ratio. There's a mariners' museum a little over an hour from us. I haven't been to it since I was a teenager. I'd like to go again. I can't even imagine how much it must have changed.

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    1. On a wireless keyboard...first you need to turn it upside down as soon as possible, turn it off, give it a few gentle shakes and blot off as much water as possible. It's more complicate with a laptop but basically the same with it being upside down for days. With my wireless keyboard you can't get shocked because there are only two little batteries. Not sure if that applies to laptops.

      We called our motor home a rolling dog house. We had it about 8-10 years. It was one of the things I had to sell after the stroke. We had a lot of fun with it.

      I loved the mariners' museum on the east coast still romanticize them in my head.

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  8. I always wonder if the full-body tattooed folks know that one of the groups that's made use of them for years as a sign of membership is the Japanese mafia: the Yakuza. I read a fascinating book called "Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster's Daughter," by Shoko Tendo. By the time I finished it, I went on to a couple more books, including "Confessions of a Yakuza." There are worlds out there we know nothing about, that's for sure.

    Two of the best museums I've been to are Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, and the Museum at PrairieFire in Overland Park, Kansas. Crystal Bridges is going to host an indoor/outdoor exhibit of Dale Chihuly's glasswork this year, and I've got it on my schedule. I've wanted to see Chihuly's work for years, and it's finally going to be close enough to do so. Well, relatively close. But NW Arkansas beats Seattle or Boston for convenience.

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  9. We had a Dale Chihuly glasswork show here at our sculpture garden 5-6 years ago. Don't miss it! Try to go on a sunny day if you can. We also have one of his ceiling glasswork sculptures on permanent display in the cafeteria. With your photograph's eye and appreciation for color you will absolutely love his work.

    Interesting about the Japanese mafia tattoos.

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  10. Life long learner is a great theme for life. For me, your show and tell blog is a 'no pressure' way to dip into things I'd not marshal up enough enthusiasm to do myself.... That didn't come out right... Anyway, I'm trying to say that at this end of life it's delightful to be the kid in the candy store instead of minding the candy store. If there's one thing that lifts my spirits, it's NO PRESSURE, DEAR ONE, JUST ENJOY!

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    1. I know what you mean. I feel that way about going to travelogues. I'm continue to let others do the actual traveling as long as I can hear the stories about far away places and see the movies.

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  11. I'm with you ... not interested at all in traveling. It's so much work and rather uncomfortable so it would only be to visit a relative, if at all. It's a much better "travel" via a great camera person.

    Once again, I'm glad Mr. Ralph did not want a funeral. I think it would bother me to get a survey in the mail ...

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    1. Some people thrive on travel and I understand the attraction but my old bones and bladder aren't on board with the idea. LOL

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  12. I'm with those who think you should give the funeral home a piece of your mind, and don't worry about being polite. (Subtlety doesn't seem to be their strong suit.) As far as I'm concerned, nothing I do is a waste of time as long as I'm open to the sensory experience of being in the moment. -Jean

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    1. There are lots of time when I can live in the moment but I suspect my feeling like I'm wasting time has to do with not feeling like I've accomplished enough with my life and time is running out. The key (for me) is to define "enough" and how that differs between people.

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  13. Definitely think you should send your comment just as you reacted to it to the funeral home. Very emotional manipulative actbon their part if deliberate and insensitive if not since their records would show the date of his death they could crossche k.

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    1. I think the problem is that all of society thinks that at the five year mark widows are "over it." We are functioning and moving on but that doesn't mean we don't still think of our lost loved one and have a bad day on anniversaries.

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  14. I'm in a hurry right now so the only thing I can comment on is this sentence: "Blogging has been the single most driving force in widowhood that keeps me from drying up like an unidentifiable object in a vegetable crisper." I cleaned my 'fridge today and I know just what you mean! LOL Great image!

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    1. I'm cleaning my refrigerator tomorrow and I hope I don't find what I know could be in there. LOL

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