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 18, 2017

When the Past Connects to the Present

 


He was in his mid twenties with long, Braveheart-style hair only clean and looking like a photographer's fan should be blowing it back away from his perfect face. He was tall, muscles in all the right places, flat mid-section and his eyes---heck, I’d be lying if I said I noticed what color they were but I’m assuming they were like pools of dark chocolate. Let’s cut to the chase; he was tall, dark and handsome and I picked his checkout lane at Lowe’s because...well, his was the only one open but if I were inclined to embellish this story I’d say I picked it because he made my heart go pitter-patter. 

He took my check and stared at it for the longest time. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake and put the year 1967 down instead of 2017. I’ve been living in that year every day since I started re-reading the letters from the fifty penpals I had back during the Vietnam War. Finally he said, “You have beautiful handwriting.” Oh. My. God! That’s exactly what made so many G.I.s I had sent Christmas cards to want to write me back. That and the Avon Unforgettable perfume I sprayed on the envelopes. But I digress. “It’s nearly perfect,” he added. It wasn’t and I had an urge to say, “That’s my in-a-hurry writing. I can do better. Let me write you another check.” I didn’t. I kept that thought in my head.

“Did you know that Steve Jobs studied calligraphy with a monk before he started Apple?” he asked. “I do,” I replied and then he said, “Isn’t it ironic that a guy who credited his love of calligraphy for the fact that computers now come with lots of typefaces would become the very guy who is making cursive writing obsolete.” Wow, that’s mind blowing! I thought but I replied something about how they don’t even teach cursive in schools anymore and how someday there will be scholars who will do nothing but translate cursive. The guy was clearly in love with my handwriting and he seemed reluctant to put the check in his drawer. If I had been his age, I would have written my name and phone number on a piece of paper and slipped it into his shirt pocket. We made that kind of connection. Well, not exactly. I was in lust with his mind and body and he was fascinated with the mathematical precision of my penmanship and how Jobs could write coding for that, but it’s my story so if I want to suggest our connection could'a run deeper in a boy/girl kind of way if only that age thing hadn’t been an issue, I can. 

I came right home and googled Steve Jobs and I found an article about a speech he made at Stanford’s 2005 graduation ceremony. He talked about his time spent learning calligraphy and how it influenced how Apples were built to include different fonts and typefaces and how that in turn influenced Microsoft to follow suit. "You can’t connect the dots looking forward," he told the grads. "You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something---your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." 

Being the age I am, I saw the truth in Steve’s words. When we’re young we try a little of this and a little of that, haphazardly tasting what life has to offer. It’s only through the passing of time that we can see the trajectory our lives took, how all the parts fit together. I see that in the letters I’ve been re-reading. I was so young and innocent back in 1967 and not afraid to take on the world. In 1967 and 1968 I saw both the highest and lowest points in my entire life and who would have thought that 50 years later I would go to a lecture about war letters that would cause me to revisit that pivotal era in my life and in such a close-up and detailed way.

I’m three quarters of the way through the letter reading project and it finally dawned on me to get out the journals I kept during that time frame and compare them to the copies I kept of the letters I wrote to my G.I. penpals. Two sentences jumped out at me and they changed the watercolor memory of a serviceman I dated for a year after he came home and who broke my heart and spirit in ways I’ve never written or talked about. It went something like: “He scares me sometimes. When we’re horsing around he’s not quick to let me go when I tell him to stop.” Those sentences sent chills down my spine. There's no way of knowing where that aggressiveness would have led if we had stayed together but I do know I'm on a cathartic journey that is connecting all the dots in my life.

Steve Jobs said you have to believe in something and I pick destiny. Destiny put me in a checkout lane for a brief liaison with a young guy who loved my penmanship. He might have loved it for an entirely different reason than my G.I. penpals did, but his expression as he studied my check could have been the same mesmerized look that stared at my envelopes at Mail Call back in 1967. Having beautiful penmanship changed my life.  ©

35 comments:

  1. “That’s my in-a-hurry writing. I can do better. Let me write you another check.” LOL That would make a great "cute meet" (a scene in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time) scene in a movie.

    I can't believe you're three quarters of the way through your letters. That's huge progress.

    Years ago, I saw Steve Job's commencement speech at Stanford. It was inspiring and I remember him speaking about calligraphy, and how we never know what will come in handy later in life.

    Your encounter with Fabio was intriguing. Will you go through his line again? :)

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    1. I do that, too, think in terms of what would make good boy/meets girl scenes in a movies. When I was in the wedding business I asked all the new brides the 'how did you meet' question.

      That's funny you should mention Fabio. In my first draft I wrote 'Fabio hair' but his hairline is getting too receding and I couldn't think of anyone else famous with long slightly curly hair.

      I wonder if you saw the same Job's speech that I read, 2005. Maybe he did the same one more than once. I loved the point he made using calligraphy. Nothing we learn is ever wasted, is it.

      5 or 6 of my penpals were not stationed in war zones so they aren't getting sent to the war letters project, so I don't have to go through them before I can count the project finished. I don't think I'll destroy them though. If I can track them down, I might try to send them to the guys IF there wasn't anything remotely crush-like in them. Can't say that didn't happened with some of the others.

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  2. "Watercolor memory"...such a nice descriptive image. Your diary entry completes the picture so many years later in ways you probably never imagined at the time. When a young woman on television said that she couldn't read cursive, I was stunned; and I only later learned it is no longer taught in schools. I thought of all the genealogy records that I wouldn't have been able to read and the enjoyment I got from uncovering my family's past. I still remember all the practice we did in grade school and those who had the nicest handwriting. Sometimes I am surprised to be complimented on my handwriting because I still see I need improvement! Ann

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    1. I have been to two showers where the mother-to-be's couldn't read the cursive in the cards on gifts and had to hand them over to someone else to read for her. I was shocked. Puts a whole different spin on keeping my old diaries, doesn't it. LOL This project of letting go of the letters is moving me closer to doing a diary project of letting go, maybe winter 2018/19.

      Since this guy complimented me on my handwriting I decided I need to make an effort to always use my best handwriting because these young people need to see what they are missing.

      That diary entry did shock me and bring back many things I had forgotten which was good, I needed to see him from a more worldly, broader view that I have now.

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  3. Jean, this is one of your best entries ever. It's compellingly written and makes so many connections to your life and experience. It's outstanding. A complete piece of terrific writing.

    I'm thinking a lot now about the Jobs quote regarding Trusting In Something to make a difference in your life.

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    1. Wow! Thank you! When the cashier was studying my check and made the comments he did, I literally felt like a voice-over should be speaking to an audience to explain what was going on in my head. I couldn't wait to get home and write about it. I knocked this blog out in record time.

      Steve Jobs was an interesting person. I ended up reading a ton about the day I went to Lowe's.

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  4. Very compelling look back into your time writing to your pen pals, and comparing that time to the handwriting on your check being admired by the young man just recently, you wrote a really interesting post with some thought provoking statements that may lead to future posts, I am sorry that your heart was broken then.

    Just think, the reason that young man stalled so long taking your check was, he could have been waiting for you to slip your name and number into his pocket written in your impeccable handwriting...you never know.

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    1. It wasn't just my heart that got broken, I nearly died and maybe some day I will write about that relationship. It took me a long time to process it all and I'm not quite ready to do it again only through wiser eyes than I had back then. But I'm closer....

      Sometimes I wonder if cougars are old women who forget that age thing really makes a HUGE difference. There will be no slipping notes in pockets from me, even if I'm still young at heart enough to have the thought. LOL

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  5. I have trouble reading some people's cursive ... especially older writers, so I'm not sure it was that the notes to moms-to-be is just about cursive. I think I should practice cursive. I love it but never ever seem to need to use it! I went through a phase of no using capital letters ....

    I have not looked at a man with any interest whatsoever! Even just to admire their muscles or handsomeness. What is wrong with me????

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    1. These girls both said outright that they can't read cursive and were never taught to. It wasn't just about bad penmanship which is another story.

      What is wrong with you? I doubt there is anything wrong with you. I've been looking at people as objects of art since forever and especially since taking nude figure drawing classes in the '60s. Some people just beg you (I mean me) to take a second look.

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  6. Jean :

    I love steve jobs commencement speech given to Stanford Graduates, that speech make me look back at my own life even now & I see beauty in everything. even though going through my hard times like stroke & my visa issues after my marriage brought out so many other good things in my life, that I am thankful for all those lessons in life. I completely agree with jobs "You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future". I believe in karma & destiny. I feel I have to do my karma based on what role I am playing in life then destiny, God will help me out in getting good results. So if I am playing role of mother, wife or employee whatever role I am playing I need to do give my 100% to it then trust god or my destiny for results & not get attached to results, its Bhagwad Gita(Indian biggest spiritual lessons book) biggest teaching. whatever will be will be for my best only.& trust God when things go sideways then believe "something better going to come out of this hardship". I am still trying to learn that lesson every day, when things don't go as according to my plan then trusting in god's better plan for my life.

    Asha

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    1. That speech of his makes me want to read his bibliography. I know he was adopted and his birth parents were Syrian and he had a child out of wedlock that he didn't accept as his until she was grown. I'd like to see how he made those dots all connect.

      I believe in karma but I call it the western version of "cause and effect." Life lessons come to us in many forms, big and small. You've found your best lessons through balancing hardships with study and grace and I've always admired you for that.

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  7. What fun having that studly young man rave about your writing. I notice since I rarely write anymore that mine has become almost unreadable. Hard to believe that young mothers to be couldn't read cursive. Pretty soon we will have our own secret language.

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    1. I think not reading cursive is more common than we think. We have a whole generation who wasn't taught to write it and they've never had a reason to have to read it. By the time we get to the nursing home we'll be able to pass notes the help won't be able to read. LOL

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  8. Cursive writing is distinctive to the writer. Years ago, I was taken aback when a fellow colleague (well read, University-educated) wrote a note in printing style, as I found it babyish (learnt later that it was the new "style"). I still remember how happy the sight of a hand-written letter from home made me. ~ Libby

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    1. I wonder if printing is distinctive to the person doing it. I guess that's what people are doing on checks these days. It seems like it would be easier to forge a name on a document if you just print. I used to use a rule when I write, not just to learn but well past---well, I still do it on envelopes and cards. LOL

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  9. I always feel like some kind of "perv" when I get a little tingle feeling when talking to a lovely young man.
    I can still write cursive and do on my checks, but with the hand tremor, it becomes more difficult. We had a penmanship class in Junior High School and our teacher was strict about our handwriting.

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    1. Talking to a nice young man doesn't make me feel like a "perv" because I know it's just a human connection. But the idea that is could have been different in a era is a nice feeling to visit from time to time. It's harder and harder to find people who actually listen to and interact with older people without feeling like we're just being tolerated.

      In junior high school! Didn't anyone had cursive writing classes that late. I actually flunked penmanship in the lower grades because I'm left handed and the teacher didn't like the way I held my pencil and paper, hit me with a ruler daily because of it. My mom raised holy hell when she saw my report card and took a sample of my writing over to the principle. That teacher hated me for getting her in trouble and still found a reason to hit me daily with her "do on to others as you would have them do on to you" ruler.

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  10. Penmanship is definitely a lost art!

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  11. OMG. What a moving post. I've got tears in my eyes. You are a goddess. Wish I could see that handwriting....send me a check??? LOL

    PS I commented on your last post..twice..but it wouldn't "publish" for some reason. I liked it a lot. Miss my Hershey's can too. :)

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    1. That's a great joke...send me a check. Can you believe it, I've only got two batches of letters left to do...one sailor and one Army guy. But they are the biggest batches. And one of them is like a soap opera! The flirting has me blushing.

      I don't think the chocolate tastes the same in the bottles as it does from a can, and it doesn't mix in milk the same.

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    2. P.S. I tried a test on my last post and it went through for me but I don't know if that means much since I'm the blog owner. Bummer!

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    3. I think it was a glitch on my end that prevented my comment on the last post. I figured it out. I know you don't want to miss any of my insightful comments. LOL

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    4. Oh, good. I'm a little jumping about comments now because several bloggers have been having problems lately getting their comments.

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  12. Really enjoyed reading this account and all the connections you made. Handwriting beyond producing basic cursive was never emphasized in my classes as I recall, so my writing is just that. My brother and my husband apparently had reason to use printing mostly in their work. By their older years both observed they had become so accustomed to printing they had pretty much forgotten how to write in cursive. I was surprised to hear that happened.

    I can appreciate the physical and personal attributes of younger males, but my first reaction and thoughts are thinking of them as my son and his friends. The movie Harold and Maude with an older woman and younger man relationship I enjoyed. I’m not suggesting what you describe is like this, but happened to think, too bad some of these old guys (Clinton and Trump) hitting on younger girls don’t think about them being daughters and how would they like it if someone like them was after their daughter.

    I think our attitude toward our life experiences makes a major difference in how we emerge from the more difficult events we encounter. Hopefully, we’re able to feret out some positive knowledge for future benefit. Everything in our life can be all tied together in one way or another if we take the time to connect the threads.

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    1. I agree with your second paragraph. I don't think "some" older guys can separate appreciating younger women in an aesthetics way without their minds going to sex right away. I sure don't do that looking at younger guys. My mind goes to wanting to paint them or take them home to be a stand-in son. LOL

      Also fully agree with your third paragraph.

      I can't believe cursive wasn't emphasized in your classes! It was a huge deal at my school growing up...or maybe it just seemed like it because I was left-handed and always hassled for not having my hand and paper positioned in the right places.

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  13. You know Jean, I was told that I had beautiful writing for a man. I didn't know whether to take it as a compliment or something else. But after my stroke, I was right handed and after being paralysed for months I eventually got my right side back but my writing was no longer the beautiful one it use to be. I then began learning Calligraphy because making the letters, I had to slow done. I eventually became great with Calligraphy where people asked me to do it cards, banners and once my church asked me to write the names of those that died in the church in a book for history. Steve Jobs knew what he was doing. I still love doing Calligraphy but the many different fonts that are in the computer no longer need my use to my Calligraphy. It's still great knowing that I can do it. And it's great knowing that your writing is so beautiful but even better was the fact that this young man stated that he noticed how beautiful it was. You should be very proud of it. I was proud and loved the fact that my writing was beautiful but no longer. Oh well, that's life. I'm still alive being about to just write to you my friend. Have a great Thanksgiving Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. It was a compliment because men are notorious sloppy writers.

      What a great stroke recovery story, Paul. It takes so much work to re-gain what was lost and so many people give up on tried. That you were able to learn Calligraphy post-stroke is a wonderful testimony of never giving up.

      Not sure if you guys up there in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving but either way have a great weekend!

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    2. Yes Jean we do celebrate Thanksgiving but our Thanksgiving is in October 9th this year. I still love Turkey and pumpkin like everyone, ( apple pie too ) See ya.

      Cruisin Paul

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  14. I still have the Palmer penmanship awards I won in grade school. We began our exercises in about third grade, as I recall, and I still can make those loops and slanted lines. Texas has reversed course, and cursive has been put back into the curriculum, for many of the good reasons suggested here: particularly, that the loss of the ability to read cursive cuts students off from historical documents, not to mention notes from Grandma!

    I love writing, and still have a decent hand, although I don't do as much hand-writing as I used to because my hands tire. A keyboard is much easier to use, and the touch typing I learned in school helps with that, too. I still handwrite thank you notes, birthday cards, and such -- I'll send the occasional e-greeting, but for the most post, I prefer the real thing, with stamps and a handwritten note.

    That reminds me: it's time to get rolling with the Christmas cards!

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    1. That's interesting that Texas is adding cursive back into school programs.

      I write a lot of notes and lists to myself plus all the same things you names. But you can't beat a computer for increasing creativity when writing.

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  15. Before my stroke I had beautiful handwriting, but since I was right-handed and the stroke turned me into a lefty, I'm now working on printing with my left hand. I'm proud that it's very legible, and think I will eventually learn to write cursive with my left hand, but for now I'm satisfied. I figure it took several years learning to print before I learned cursive (3rd grade sounds right) so I think I'm right on schedule, because I just started really working on it a month ago. I had the stroke nearly 5 years ago, but it took until last month for me to get over the loss of my beautiful handwriting and acknowledge that it's gone now and I will not get it back, and I still need to be able to write.

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    1. My husband's stroke was on the right side, too. By watching him try to relearn to do things left-handed I can sure appreciate the effort it's taking you re-learn a skill like writing. Be proud of the fact that you are still trying. Too many stroke survivors give up too soon, before the brain has a chance to make new neuropaths about around the damage to make re-learning possible. Acknowledging losses helps us all to move forward, no matter the challenges we face in life.

      Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Some stroke survivors will give up, certainly, but I think the medical profession is responsible for a lot of that, because they mistakenly tell survivors that whatever they get back in 6 months is all they'll get, and that is absolutely not true. We can keep improving until we die, if we want to keep working toward it. But because they kick people out when we run out of insurance/money, the doctors and nurses and aides only see us at the beginning of our journey, and like the 3 blind men encountering the elephant, they think everything is like the little bit they perceive. I'm so thankful for the internet, which has allowed me to connect with the people who've had strokes and their caregivers and learn from the real experts! I learn every day. And thank you for having these conversations with survivors and others, it means a lot to me.

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    3. You are absolutely right about why people give up. It's all based on the money the insurance companies are willing to pay for therapies and because they don't have data past their 6 months they don't know how much people often do get back.

      When my husband was five years out from his stroke I threw a 'Thank God, I'm Alive' party and I wrote a letter to his stroke rehab doctor who took a chance on him at the one month mark after his stroke and after two neurologists said my husband would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. In the letter I outlined everything Don was able to get back and how happy we were that he (the doctor) took Don out of the nursing home and into his rehab program, etc. The doctor wrote back with a very touching and telling letter about how he wished he had that kind of feedback on patients but they never gets it after they leave rehab so they tend to forget that continuing progress is very possible if you don't stop working at it. He said the letter would help him be a better doctor. He was already a saint in my book.

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