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, June 21, 2017

Adventures and Misadventures in Aging



Have you ever done something and soon after you start questioning why you did it and if doing it was a sign that your mental sharpness is waning? That’s what happened to me last week when the irrigation guy was in my garage. He spotted an iron object and said, “Hey, that’s a Civil War cannon ball!” and I replied, “Yup, I know. I’d been carrying it around since I was ten.” “I could take it off your hands,” he offered and I shocked myself by saying, “Why not. Take it.” And that was the sum total of our conversation about the piece. I’ve given antiques and collectibles away to family and friends but never, ever to a total stranger and I can’t get it out of my head. Am I entering the land where old people are be easily manipulated? I’ve heard stories about elderly people getting conned out of valuable antiques but I never thought it could happen to me. Not that I was a victim of anything more than my own impulsiveness. Afterward, I thought he might think of himself as an American Picker and that was his clumsy way of expecting me to throw a price back at him. But the more I thought about it the more insulted I felt by his “take it off your hands” remark. One: I wasn’t looking for a way to get rid of it and, two, if I was, I know its value and how to use eBay to sell it.

With all my hand wringing about giving a Civil War antique away to a stranger the only thing I could come up with to explain my out-of-character action was a few weeks ago when I was sweeping the garage floor I saw the cannon ball and I thought, I should put a label on that so it doesn't get discarded as junk when I die. Maybe with that thought in the back of my mind, I was just happy someone came along who knew what it was and wanted that cannon ball with the same enthusiasm I did back when I was a kid? Still, afterward it shook my confidence and made me feel vulnerable. There have been other small changes I've noticed in my interactions with strangers that had me concerned even before this happened, a kind of need to please them. Will I start buying things from door-to-door salesman just to make them happy? At what point do I throw a lifetime of carefully cultivated caution to the winds and start inviting homeless people to crash on my couch? Is it possible to pinpoint the beginnings of dementia, of letting go of inhibitions that have worked to protect us from harm? Does that 'pinpoint' look anything like a cannon ball?

Enough of that! Yesterday was the long-awaited Conversation Day---a whole day of interaction with people I know and like, starting with a haircut from my stylist who seems to like hearing me ramble on about my misadventures. That was followed by a trip to Starbucks for a drink from their Cup-of-Kindness line and a couple of their new Sous Vides (egg white bites with bacon). For every ‘cup’ sold Starbucks is donating twenty-five cents to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and the Channel Kindness project, guaranteeing a minimum check of $250,000 for the six day campaign. I’ve tried the Pink (strawberries with coconut milk) and Violet (blackberries with coconut milk) and I’m hoping to get back for the Green (malcha green tea with lemonade). No need to tell me how you don’t like their coffee; we’ve had this conversation before. Starbucks aficionados never, ever order a plain cup of coffee. Why would you when there are dozens and dozens of blended and shaken coffee and tea concoctions and flavor profiles from all over the world to try? Starbucks isn't just a coffee shop; it's an adventure park for your taste buds. If I could, I’d take all you naysayers by the hand to a Starbucks tasting party.

After Starbucks I went to the senior hall for the monthly Gathering (for people looking for friends). A new couple was there, former teachers, who after retiring had bought a sailboat and they’ve been all over the world with it. When they revealed that I wanted to be them, to be able to tell the stories they must have up their sleeves. The mauve-to-mango sunsets, the stunning pink sand beaches and the pearl white sails blowing in the winds. I used to be an artist, I know all the proper hues to describe those colorful things. The couple is new in town, downsized from two houses elsewhere. I admire them for having had the adventure of their lives but in the end their goals for the future and mine are the same: they want to be close to trusted family members as they age.

Author Mercedes Lackey, wrote, “Adventure, yeah. I guess that's what you call it when everybody comes back alive.” That means we can’t call the aging process a true adventure---it's more like a misadventure---because the one thing we know for sure is that no one gets out of this world alive. The most we can hope for is we get to keep our grey matter and marbles in place for as long as possible. And I write to help with that endeavor; it's my mental calisthenics. ©
 

30 comments:

  1. Only you can know why you gave away that cannon ball and you seem to be unclear about the answer to that question -- unless there was that sense someone who recognized the object likely might treasure it as you apparently have by keeping it all these years -- much as you describe. If you have regret now, you may want to pay attention -- as you seem to be doing -- to whether you find yourself giving away other possessions. I'm not sure I understand the feeling of wanting to please strangers you seem to think is more pronounced in yourself. Awareness, again, is informative. Don't overdo this analyzing of your actions as that could become a problem in itself.

    I determined to acquire a taste for black coffee when I decided to begin drinking it as I saw so many people getting upset when they didn't have access to sugar and/or cream during the break before we opened doors for business during the years I worked in a bank. Then, at the TV station in subsequent years I drank enough black coffee throughout the day to last a lifetime. Some years ago I switched to decaf so all the mixes at Starbucks hold no appeal to me. But if you enjoy them then indulge yourself! Especially at our age, small pleasures are well-deserved even if others don't share them.

    Adventure means coming back alive -- but does it specify in this dimension? Maybe we'll be "alive" in another dimension. Whatever! We do want to keep our marbles, it's just all these material things we've accumulated that we might well dispose of through down-sizing, I guess.

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    1. What bothered me the most, I think, is I gave something of material and intrinsic value away without so much as a forethought. And to a person I wouldn't recognize in a line up. I've had other people come in my garage and say things like, "Are you interested in sell" this or that and wanting to give me their phone numbers if I say "no" in case I change my mind. That's respectful and acknowledges that we both understand its value. Cannon ball guy, I felt afterward, knew its value and thought I didn't thus the borderline con.

      If I didn't "overdo the analyzing my actions" I wouldn't be me. My style of journaling/writing depends on it. LOL

      Most Starbucks coffee drinks only get one or two shot glasses full of actual coffee in them. I would go every day if I could. Lately I've been limiting myself to their low calorie menu choices. At home I drink my coffee with Italian sweet cream.

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  2. I've become more impulsive as I go along here. It's only once in a while though that I second-guess one of my impulses and know for sure I need a keeper. I am not in a position to give away state secrets or the family throne, so I don't worry about it too much. If it bothers you a whole lot, see somebody - I would say that ignorance is truly bliss.

    It peaks my interest - all the different flavors that the coffee shops come up with, maybe for just a taste ...

    I cannot imagine how wonderful it would be to sail around with my move in our advancing years. Won't happen that's for sure. Must be nice.

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    1. I went through a phase when I was in my twenties when I dreamed of sailing around the world. I even bought a small sailboat and spent a couple of summers sailing it (or trying to sail it) at the family cottage. Fast forward to this past summer when the senior hall booked a sailboat ride on the Lake Michigan and I didn't go because I didn't think my old bones could take the bus trip up north. I went to a lecture put on by another couple who also sailed around the world after retirement and she broke her arm along the way. What a mess they got themselves into. Had to hire a stranger to help them sail it back to America and he turned out to be scary strange.

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  3. I googled cannon ball selling prices and they ranged from $70- several hundred depending on the type and condition. And I do agree his remark to "take it off your hands" was telling. But don't worry your not getting dementia! He caught you off guard. And you have to think...what would you have done with it? Wasn't like it was on display in a cabinet in your home. And nonrelative had laid claim to it.
    I have some nice things that will probably go to a thrift store when I die, since I have no family, but I figure if it gives someone pleasure or need money, so be it. I enjoyed it while I had it.
    As far Starbucks, I love their coffee, lattes etc. and I actually do order a plain old cup of coffee cause I love the taste.
    People, unfortunately will try to take advantage of us no matter the age....so just consider it lesson learned...

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    1. There is a local auction house that I take things to as well as I've sold LOTS of stuff through eBay. Selling it would not have been a hassle. And when I think that the cannon ball could have paid for one of my gas or electric bills, I just can't believe I gave it away! But what is done is done and I will let it remain a cautionary tale for my future interactions with contractors who come around.

      Chalk another fan of Starbucks up. I've never known anyone who likes it plain.

      Your last line is so true.I know of two elderly woman who were taken advantage of quite badly by antique hunters. I don't know how people live with themselves who do that.

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  4. I, too, have a plain old cup of Starbucks and add my own cream. Occasionally, in the afternoon, I might have an iced coffee. If I'm feeling crazy fun, I have some coconut syrup added to the iced coffee!! I wish there was a separate line for those of us who just want COFFEE and not the 25-word fancy half portion of this and that and heated to 175 degrees.

    I just did the same thing ... giving away something that I could have sold myself! I think because I've been telling myself to sell it for five years and never made a move to get it done. Giver-away's remorse. I don't think it will happen again.

    Sorry I haven't blogged for so long! I'm having so much fun with these kids (no school) and enjoying our Oregon summer (patio party last night for longest day of the year) by the time I go to my Granny Pad, I fall asleep!

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    1. I have never been to Starsbucks in the early morning when the working people line up, maybe it's only the people of leisure who have time for the mixed drinks. LOL I need to get some coconut milk for my at-home morning coffee. I love the creaminess of it. I usually set aside a glass full of coffee to chill for my afternoon coffee.

      Giver-away remorse. I like that.

      You are having a life driven by the grand-boys. I'm glad you're having so much fun. If I didn't blog, I wouldn't have a life because it drives me out of the house where I'll find things I want to write about.

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  5. Jean, like you said "What's done is done" and you shouldn't worry yourself over it now, I do think he handled it wrong and should have at least asked what you would take for it, but that's just my opinion.

    Excellent post Jean, it appears to me your mind and taste for coffee are crystal clear.

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    1. I've been selling antiques for over twenty-five and buying even longer. That's why I was so surprised that I didn't automatically go into the banner involved that business/hobby and set a price on the cannon ball. It's just another punch in my Old Person's Card. LOL

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  6. His "take it off your hands" was a strange, disarming approach. That he knew right off it was a cannon ball lets you know at least he will appreciate it and care for it. Otherwise it may have gone for a buck fifty at the estate auction as an unknown. Just hope it has found a good home and not that he planned to make a huge profit.

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    1. I'm guessing he's a Civil War buff because I doubt most people would know what it is, or even care. Lots of people have walked by it over the years and never showed any interest in it. You're right about what someone would mark it at an estate sale. Auctioneers, though, would know. Not much gets by them.

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  7. He showed interest in the cannon ball and I think he found you in a generous mood. Nothing wrong with that. You probably made his day. I think your mind is fine, not to worry. :)
    BL

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  8. Sometimes I find things happen for a reason, revealed at a later stage. I'm sure you will not repeat the mistake again. 'Once bitten, twice shy'.

    I'm making short trips away from home nowadays. Usually I research to the minutest detail. But once, I did a cursory search on the place and accommodation. Big mistake! I wasted time during the trip because I didn't have the required information at my finger tips and asking people...well, you need to be lucky to ask the right person, and not a well-meaning stranger who misdirects you. The accommodation was not up to the mark, either. Thankfully, this was a short trip so no major drama, but lesson hopefully learnt. Note for self: do your homework and due diligence. ~ Libby

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    1. I think you're right about it being a mistake I won't repeat. If I do, I really will be worried, though.

      Good for you on the mini trips! I'm a detail planner, too.

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  9. Don't fret about that cannon ball. You had it for decades, got your pleasure from it, and now someone else will trip over it. My relatives live in Gettysburg, and they are largely unimpressed with cannonballs, minie balls, Civil War bullets and the like. They are not that uncommon and not worth very much unless they have clear provenance identifying them as being from a specific and important person/event.

    It IS odd, I know, to find yourself a bit unlike yourself at times. In my recovery at present from a long and wasting illness, I am impatient with this Different Me. It's like I'm inhabited by Someone Else, and it's unnerving. I wish she'd move out and let me be back in charge.

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    1. "Unnerving" is the right word for it when you do something so uncharacteristic. That's rare with me which is why it shook me.

      I've seen a lot of the impatience with the "new me" in the disability community when my husband was doing the rounds to therapies. It's a very frustrating when your body lets you down, isn't it. We take so much for granted with our health when it's good. Thanks for the comment. It helps.

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  10. I've had those moments and given away things that later I wish I hadn't. I have also (recently) said things I wish I hadn't. They seemed to fit into the conversation at the time, but later I could hear my own words and wonder---am I losing my "filter"?
    Then there are days I am stunningly clear-headed, remember everything and don't make any mis-steps. I wish that woman would stay here all the time!

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    1. Finally, someone who has done something similar! I have also wondered if my 'filter' quit working on occasion. Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one in blogger's land to find this scary.

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  11. It sounds like you've fully processed the cannon ball folly. I do hope this irrigation guy fixed your system. Sounded like you weren't getting adequate customer service in your last post. I guess you can put a price tag on your filter - anything a few hundred dollars or less doesn't trigger it.

    Let's hear it for mental calisthenics!!! Lifelong curiosity and learning, whether its inward or outward, sometimes invited, sometimes forced on us (I'm thinking technology and house management) keeps our little neurons and telomeres firing. If our brain's like our muscles, our youthful fast twitch signals give way to the endurances twitch signals.

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    1. I won't know if I got adequate customer service from my last service call until I see if they charge me for the call or not or try to call it the mid-season check that's part of the yearly contract. A mid-season check involves more than just adding time to the zones and since it was their screw up that the zones were only set at 5 minutes of watering, in my mind I shouldn't get charged for anything. Trust me, I'll fight it if I get a charge. I called the A/C company to complain that they didn't pro-rate the Freon the added and they are sending me back $100.

      Mental calisthenics is a full time job as we get older. LOL

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  12. When we moved, I got rid of a lot of things. Every now and then I miss something, but I know that's not the same thing you're talking about. The best thing is to be aware of your decisions, and I think you're doing that. This aging thing is a little scary at times, and it must be more so when you live alone. If your blogging is any sign of your mental state, I'd say your in very good shape. Writing is so good for the mind, body and spirit.

    I love Starbuck's coffee and their blueberry muffins. Oh, my!

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    1. I have a new mission now---I have not tried their blueberry muffins. I've tried all the breakfast and lunch sandwiches, thou.

      I've gotten rid of things because of moving and missed a few few, too, but you're right this wasn't the same thing. If it's not our bodies failing that we're worried about, it's our minds. LOL

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  13. Sometimes the desire to simply be done with something exerts itself and the regret that sets in is more an aspect of our nature than justified sorrow over a serious mistake. However, there is a fix...

    Call the company, get his name and call him, apologize and tell him you made a mistake. If he doesn't give it back it will reflect badly on his company, so I'm quite sure he will. Offer to pick it up.

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    1. I like what you said in your first paragraph but regarding your suggested fix I think what's done is done and I take responsibility for my own actions here. It was just a giant wake up call for me that I need to be more guarded when strangers are in the house or garage.

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  14. If I ever start going to Starbucks again, you'll know I'm losing my grip. Actually, there are only two things I don't like about the place: their coffee, and their prices. Other than that, it's great!

    I still laugh at one experience that's sort of the flip side of your cannonball experience. One night, my mom was down here for dinner, and she was looking over my things, as she often did. Suddenly, she picked up one of my favorite miniature oil lamps and said, "I really like this. Why don't you give it to me?" Without a hint of a pause, I said, "No." You should have seen the look she gave me, before asking why she couldn't have it. I said, "Because it's mine, and I like it." What's funny is that she later said, "I don't know why I asked for that. I didn't really want it." Who knows why we do these things?

    On the other hand, your impulsive gifting of the cannonball makes perfect sense to me. There are plenty of things I've given away in my life, just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Regrets? I've had a few -- but then again, too few to mention. :-)

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  15. Thanks a funny story about your mom. I love primitive whale oil lamps. At one time I have a dozen and I'm down to around 5-6 now.

    I've given a lot of things away, too, but only to people I love and know will treasure the items. It's fun to do that and I've never regretted those gifts.

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  16. Jean, I've never been a person who collects things (well, unless you count garden plants ;-) ), so I may be way off base here; but I've noticed that as my friends who are collectors age, they become less concerned about the monetary value of their collections and more concerned about finding the right home for them. This sometimes includes the realization that the children or grandchildren or nieces/nephews that they imagined leaving their collection to don't share the passion and could care less. Under those circumstances, I could imagine the appeal of giving away a valuable collected item to someone who would appreciate it. -Jean

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    1. I don't think you are off base at all. Since my husband died I have given a lot of valuable things away to members of both our families, to museums and to friends who I know will always appreciate a particular item. (One item alone was worth $2,500 and could have been sold in a heartbeat had I needed the money.) It's very satisfying to do that. I was just totally shocked after the fact the I didn't know that guy more than three minutes before giving him the cannon ball and I had no inner conversation with myself beforehand when I put a lot of thought into other things I've given away. But I'm not crying over spilled milk anymore. It was a lesson learned.

      By the way, you DO collect plants. I only have 6-7 house plants but one I've had since the early 1960s and I am always on the lookout for someone who would take it when I'm gone or before hand.

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