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, December 2, 2017

Gracie Gruesome and her Mighty Schnauzer




I wish it would rain. Hard!…because a skunk came to his demise on the road leading to my cul-de-sac and every time I come home from some place Levi asks to go out to his yard but instead he’ll take a detour round and round the car in the garage until I get all huffy with him and chase him inside or out. He’s pulled this shtick before, but since the skunk died nearly two weeks ago Levi has been more militant, persistent and devoted to his mission. It won’t do any good to go to the car wash until someone removes the carcass from the road and it rains. If the skunk had died in front of my house, I would have bagged it up and thrown it in the trash. How hard could that be? But, no, I’ve had to watch it go from a beautiful animal through various stages of sadness and yuckiness as time and traffic takes a toll on the body. Yesterday when I noticed a rabbit had bit the dust on the same curve it dawned on me that I’m driving past a “body farm” for critters, not unlike where some people who donate their bodies to science end up. 

We have seven body farms in the United States where people taking forensic science courses or training K9 units can study decomposing human bodies left out in the elements. I’ve always thought it was curious that all the body farms are located in southern states---people don't all get murdered and dumped where stuff doesn’t freeze in the winter---but last May our governor signed a bill that will allow a 2½ acre body farm next to the Marquette Branch Prison to be used by Northern Michigan University’s new forensic anthropology program. Isn’t that a perfect location, or what! Body farms are a necessary evil to train crime solving units, coroners and cadaver sniffing dogs but I like the idea of prisoners having to live next door to a place like that. What does that say about me?

The 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is coming up on December 7th and I went to lecture about it. The presentation had a different twist because the speaker’s aunt and uncle were there and they were his springboard to putting a human face and emotions to the bombing. The aunt had taken an ocean liner over to Hawaii where she was met at the dock and taken directly to the Justice of the Peace where the couple was married. Then they went to the married housing area of the base and the next day the attack happened. Can you imagine having that honeymoon story to tell and document in black and white photos? The speaker also had aerial photos taken by the Japanese and plenty of before and after shots of the fleet. The young couple stayed on the base for the next four years, helping to restore the harbor and fleet.

Aren’t I Ms. Gracie Gruesome today! I did do something light-hearted and fun this week. After cardio drumming class I met a friend for lunch. We always have good conversations and lots of laughs but I did have an alarming incident happen. She was asking about my work history and I said something that wasn’t factually true. I corrected myself right away but it shook me up just the same. I had the same thing happen at the doctor’s office and it scares the freaking stuffing out of me that my brain misfired and missed part of my personal timeline like that. I can’t help but worry that it’s the beginning of the big ‘D’ word. And that leads me to the burning question of why did the word ‘senility’ fall out of fashion and the word ‘dementia’ is taking its place? Both of them refer to a mental decline associated with aging but I guess we’re supposed to be less insulted if someone says, “she has dementia” rather than “she’s senile?” I'd rather be called 'daffy' or 'she's out to lunch' when I'm not. Euphemisms. You've gotta love them.

I just started reading a book written by Effie Leland Wilder titled Out to Pasture. She was eight-five when this book was published and there 750,000 copies in print plus she wrote four since. I wanted to read it because its fiction written “journal-keepers” style and she’s supposed to be funny and wry with her elderly main character’s observations of living in an assisted living place. One observation had me mulling it over in agreement. “Many of us seem older than we are,” she wrote, “because we absorbed our parents’ memories.” She went on to explain how our generation grew up listening to the stories and conversations of our parents and their friends. How true is that! Younger people don’t do that anymore. They’ve got their noses buried in their devices and seem to have no time or interest in the experiences of their elder's. If the guy who gave the Pearl Harbor lecture hadn’t been listening to his family’s stories growing up he never would have developed an interest in researching the day that lived in infamy, as President Roosevelt correctly labeled the attack on Pearl Harbor. May the 2,403 people who died that day rest in peace. ©

24 comments:

  1. Since childhood, I've been known for asking questions. It continued into my working life, and many didn't like it (some did, and enjoyed the challenge of mentally stepping back and also questioning why a certain process/procedure was followed and we all learnt from the experience).

    My quick read of Google says 'senile' refers to old age/ageing per se, whereas 'dementia' refers to insanity or related disease. The two terms are often used interchangeably. Now 'dementia’ is being replaced with new terms: 'major and mild neurocognitive disorders' to delink ageing from demential (so you can be old but not necessarily have dementia).

    People seem to be losing the art of oral communication, face-to-face. I know I get a quicker response from my adult children if I text - rather than talk - them. ~ Libby

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    1. I think it's sad and not really good for society that people are going to be losing the art of conversation because of our devices. I hear my friends with kids say the same thing about their adult kids and texting as you have.

      Here, I don't hear anyone in the medical community or elsewhere using the word 'senile' but now that you mention it, I have heard "cognitive disorders" and I suppose its like back in the days when we were getting used to the various words for learning disabilities.

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  2. Focus is my problem. I'm forever rewinding the television to catch what I missed because my mind wandered. If someone interrupts me in the middle of something I'm saying, when they finish, I can't remember what the heck I'm talking about. Well, sometimes I can, but it takes me a few seconds for it to pop back into my head. It's probably normal stuff, but I hate it. My DIL is 40 and says she is forgetful lately. She has three kids. I'd be lucky if I could remember my name.

    Body farms and dead skunks! No one can say your don't cover a lot of terrain. :)

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    1. I don't really have a gruesome side to me but body farms do fascinate me. You can see photos of them online but I wonder what they do about the smell. My husband and I accidentally came upon once when we were wondering the back roads down south...just close enough to be turned around by authorities. I think about that place whenever someone talks about donating their body to science. Not for me!

      My problem is very similar to yours and is usually caused when someone asks me a question in the middle of something I'm talking about and I answer incorrectly. Then I miss the thread of the conversation as I debate with myself about correcting what I just said. In this case my friend had asked if I worked with silk flowers when I was doing weddings and I said yes, when in fact, they weren't even on the market back during my 20 years of doing wedding flowers...until the every last year! How could I forget something like that? That's why I like writing better, you can edit and fact check yourself.

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  3. I've read several of Effie's books and loved them. I would go to an assisted living home in an instant if she were still alive and a member.
    I listened to my elders but even to day I think of something I wish I'd have asked them. Wonder if today's youth will have that regret?

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    1. Effie is my new role model. I want to be her when I end up in a home. LOL

      When my mom died I really regretted not paying more attention to her stories and I was determined not to have that happen with my dad. I interviewed him on tape and ended up writing my first family history book. It was part of my grieving process just like this blog started out as my grieving process. I don't see younger people being all that interested in their elders, but were we at the same ages? At what age did we start caring? For me it was my mom's death that triggered the interest and I was in my forties.

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  4. I didn't realize that we had facilities like the body farms, after looking them up it's really fascinating how much they put in to training for forensics. If they put one in there you will have to make sure Levi doesn't try to hire himself out as a cadaver dog.

    The thought of dementia is really scary, we watched Cindy's mom go through it, we actually had her right here until the end and now my dad is right in the middle of the same thing, my short term memory is terrible leaving me making a lot of notes to myself, but I can remember things I did as a child clearly, it is scary.

    I remember it being called senile, dementia is a term Cindy's mom hated she said that she would rather hear it called Alzheimer's, so we did...

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    1. Body farms are fascinating and so detail intense in charting weather, insects and other stuff we'd probably not want to know about. Levi would never leave a place like that. I've never had a dog who is as interested in smells as he is from hand creams to dead birds. Even after I pick up a dead bird he'll return to the same place for a few days. I could see how a dog like him could be trained to find people buried during earth quacks, etc.

      I don't like the word 'dementia' either! I went through it with my dad and it was scary to watch but I think it's going to worse going thought it.

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  5. I was at my flute lesson on Wednesday. My teacher is a senior college student at the music school so she is probably 20-21. We were working our way up the scale (me imitating her tone) and I blanked on the fingering for A flat. She then told me how she had been turning pages for her friend and suddenly felt that she couldn't read the music. I do think we forgot how we have been doing a lot of this forgetting all our lives but we are really aware of it now. I do know there is some forgetting with age but there is also some that has always been there. It's good to be reminded of that!
    I, too, feel that focus is hard for me. That is one reason I like podcasts: I feel like I am often rewinding a bit when I realize that my mind has wandered.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. You are so right about us all needing to remember that we forget and lose our places at all ages. Thanks for that!

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  6. I first heard of body farms while watching CSI (the original, not all the spin offs in various cities). I was repulsed and fascinated.

    Memory--I'm noticing more and more losing the word I want to use, or losing names of people I should know as well as my own. It terrifies me. But I read that is a fairly normal phenomenon, so I guess I'll wait for more dramatic issues before I truly panic. But it IS disturbing because I think of myself as being as sharp and as articulate as ever. Not so much.

    I've heard of Wilder's books and have avoided them because I fear they will play into ageism stereotypes....but I have nothing to base that on, so I'm being judgmental before the fact. I just have such a "trigger" ageist assumptions or "jokes" that are denigrating. Let me know what you think about the book.

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    1. I'm half way through the Wilder book and I'm not really enjoying it all that much and I will donate it to the senior hall library when I'm done. (I don't donate books I like.) There are some laugh-out-loud jokes and her character development is good and I can't say it plays into ageism stereotypes BUT it's too "cutey" for me.

      My word loss and word search is improving now that my thyroid medications has been lowered over the past 8 weeks. Maybe I'll get really smart again when I get through the next reduction. I hate worrying about what will come out of my mouth. I want an internal edit and fact-check in my brain that works in real time the way it's always done in the past.

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  7. My definition of dementia is not wondering why you came into this room, it is proven that a doorway shuts down your memory and starts anew. It would be walking up to a refrigerator and not knowing what it is for. i.e. when you start placing your keys in the refrigerator.

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    1. I'm glad I have an open concept, universal design house with very few doorways if that's true about our memories shutting down when we go through them. I'm pretty good about never losing my keys, cell phone or purse but I've caught myself opening the cupboard NEXT to the refrigerator when I meant to open the refrigerator...freaks me out a little. Nice to hear from you again, Dean.

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  8. I lived near 3 generations that I spent time with each day. So I have ALL their conversations and memories in my brain. No wonder I can't remember what I had for supper last night. There is no room in my brain for that.

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    1. Wow!That's amazing. I do sometimes thing it's a bad thing to keep putting new stuff in our brains but experts don't seem to see that as a problem that leads to dementia.

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  9. Ew! Skunk smell! Surely your county or city has a number to call to get dead critters removed! We sure do. Poor Levi! He surely wants to be rolling around in that!!

    I, too, first learned about body farms from CSI then had to google it. I'm thinking that's about the only way I can donate my body to science!!!

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    1. I suppose the county does have a number to call but in the back of my mind I sort of remember their budget for that being cut and it takes longer for pick ups. We used to have a lot birds that would pick at carcasses but I haven't seen them at all this summer.

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    2. Skunks do tend to be a bit smelly under some circumstances. Gee, a body farm on your street! I did see the news bit on that and found it interesting.

      Might be good for us to determine how users define senility and dementia (which is true with so many "labels"). The differences I think most clearly describe those words for me are:
      "dementia is characterized by a decrease in cognitive abilities. This may include the person's ability to concentrate, to recall information, and to properly judge a situation. Senility is a deterioration of body and mind associated with advanced aging."

      And then, there's senile dementia........

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    3. My mom would have said I had dementia from birth. My recall has always been terrible. LOL

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  10. I always worry about Alzheimer's or dementia or whatever. Even though I'm only 58, it's my biggest fear. Especially before getting my low B12 diagnosis, when my forgetfulness was really upsetting. Thankfully, it's abating.

    Apparently, there is some sort of test that can show the APP predictive gene for Alzheimer's. It's only offered in certain circumstances.

    I think I would take a pass.

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    1. I would pass on that test unless I had someone who depended on for their care like a disabled adult child or husband that I had to make arrangements for. I can see advantages to knowing if you have the gene.

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  11. I'm in the middle of reading Gene Cohen's The Creative Age, about the increase in creativity during the second half of life. He argues that, while we may lose some brain cells as we age, we continue to develop new connections between neurons, making our brains more flexible. -Jean P.

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  12. I do a lot to exercise my brain and creativity at the expense of my physical health. I need a book to help me find a balance.

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