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, March 14, 2018

Blame my Mom – Elephants, Rocking Chairs and Rolling Libraries



One of the bad things about being a widow is we have no one to stage an intervention when our crazy or self-indulgent obsessions get carried away. When something grabs us we’re free as the wind to pursue it. One of the good things about being a widow is we have no one to stage an intervention when our crazy or self-indulgent obsessions get carried away. When something grabs us we’re free as the wind to purse it. Is that a dichotomy or what? I really don’t know. Am I using the word right? Is there a better one to describe how something can be both bad and good at the same time?

My most recent self-indulgent obsession has been binge-reading about African forest elephants and if a herd of them comes wandering through my yard here in Michigan this summer I’ll be ready for them. If they raise their curled trunks high in the air and spread their ears out perpendicular to their heads I’ll be hiding under the bed, knowing they were about to charge me. But the most fascinating thing I’ve learned is that elephants communicate with low-frequency rumblings that are below the hearing range of people. They can communicate this way over a hundred square miles and their favorite time to send messages is during the night when the atmosphere helps their rumblings travel farther. A researcher with Cornell University’s Listening Project, who is compiling an elephant dictionary, says they have identified and defined seventy distinct messages they send each other. Some of their messages can be felt by humans as vibrations in our diaphragms if we’re in the area and paying attention to our bodies. We can, of course, hear some of their vocalizations and trumpeting but the vast majority of their communication is infra-sound that can only be heard using special equipment that can triangulate the exact location of the elephant sending a message and the location of the elephant that replies back. Simply amazing.

I realize it might seem odd that a blog categorized as a widow’s blog is going on and on about elephants and I’ll only share one more story about them before I move on: They mourn their dead. As many as 300 elephants will line up and walk by the body of a dead pachyderm, vocalizing and touching it with their trunks and this can go on for days in the rain forest of central Africa, the funeral procession only ending when the head matriarch breaks away. Even after nature has reduced the carcass to a pile of bones the immediate family unit of that dead elephant comes to visit whenever they are in the area and they’ll fondle the bones---one was even observed for over an hour rocking a skull back and forth in her trunk and tears were running down her face. And some of the stories I’ve read on how a family unit works together in a circle to try to save a dying newborn can’t help but break your heart and make you realize the largest land mammals on earth are very much just like us.

I blame my mom for my wanting to share my binging on subjects that catch my attention. When I was in grade school I’d get home from school, settle on her lap and she’d say, “What did you learn today?” It was such a well ingrained habit that by the time I got too big to sit in her lap she’d still be the first person I’d want to tell if something new and exciting crossed my path at school. To this day when I see one of her two rocking chairs still in the family, I get a warm fuzzy feeling. She loved her rocking chairs and when she wasn’t rocking me, one of her cats or dogs or grand-kids she was reading.

After I met Don, I learned that he was just as interested in whatever I might have read as my mom was and he got my “book reports” like the one I shared up above. On vacations, he loved talking to the people he met along the way and I was content to stay in the motor home reading. When he’d get back in to drive the next leg of our trips we’d give each other “reports” on what we’d both just learned. One time out west he went into a gas station and didn’t come back out for several hours. After the first hour I went inside to check on him and there he was sitting with a group of locals around a pot-belly stove swapping stories and drinking coffee---his two favorite things to do. We traveled well together and I didn’t mind Don being Don, storyteller extraordinaire, as long as I didn’t run out of reading material. He lived life, I read about living a life. (I'm experiencing deja vu. If I wrote about Mom's rocking chair and/or the rolling library before, I apologize for repeating myself.)

With age comes wisdom, or so they say. To me it’s more like watching a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle coming together. We can see how all our life experiences come together to form the unique human beings we each become. With age and widowhood we have the time to reflect and apply our memories to explain away our idiosyncrasies. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. ©


The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence 

30 comments:

  1. You really should watch the original Jumanja. I seem to remember that at one point they are chased around the house by a herd of elephants! Most of their moves involve animals from the African landscape.

    Awareness of our development and maturity is actually one of the exciting aspects of growing older. Turning around and observing the path from which we came is so interesting!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I've got that movie on my list of things I want to see, but I didn't know about the elephants in the house.

      There are perks to growing older, aren't there.



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  2. I, too, have read and watched documentaries about elephants' empathy for each other. I have a friend who I once told about my interest and love for them. When her mother died, she gave me two elephants from her collection. They are remarkable animals. I hope we don't eradicate them from the earth. How can we be so selfish?

    I enjoyed your story about Don and his affinity for storytelling. Funny how you were opposite in your ways, but how you came together at the end of the day and shared your adventures and what you'd learned. Nice.

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    1. I was cleaning a showcase in my library yesterday and discovered I have elephants in there! Old toys from the 1800s that I had forgotten we had. One of them is of Jumbo, who was the most famous circus animal. Ever inspired the Dumbo movies. I was surprised one, because I'd just watched a documentary about Jumbo and why he died so young...ice cream and tooth decay and whiskey!

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  3. So many animals have such intelligence - sad that they don't/can't speak our language!
    My dad was my 'go to' person to really talk with. He passed when I was 25 and I still miss that closeness.

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    1. Every kid should have a go-to person to really talk with. You lost yours way to young.

      I'm more of a believer now than ever before that animals can communicate with each other and with us if we just pay attention. I'm sure you saw that with Jill and Jack.

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  4. I live with a Don. I am somewhere in between you and Don. But traveling through the country in an RV and stopping to meet and discover is nirvana to me.
    Did you have a bookmobile growing up?

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    1. We had a bookmobile that came to our neighborhood and would park by the drugstore every Saturday (1940s and 50s) but I wasn't a reader back in those days. My oldest niece---2000-2010---set up her own bookmobile using her own vehicle and books in the summers. She used Facebook to communicate where she'd be and when like the food trucks do.

      I loved RV traveling. You meet a lot of interesting people in RV parks and else where and everyone has the time to talk.

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  5. Now that would be interesting if a wild herd of elephants were to go into your yard. I'd want to see that Jean. You know my friend, you miss your husband Don, don't you? I love the way you talk about him. I've lost my parents and just the other day my Uncle Rocco and all I want to talk about them and what they did for me. Keep writing about your Don. When you talk about him, it's like I've known about him all my life. Elephants not some much. Ha,ha,ha. Have a great day Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have many shrubs left if they came to visit me in Michigan. I've actually watched elephants walk from the railroad yards here in town to an exhibit hall for a circus show. That was before the Ringley Brothers retired all their elephants to a sanctuary in Florida a couple of years ago, where they can just be elephants in the wild. There are 39 elephants there now. Another elephant sanctuary is in TN and they have 14, mostly from zoos and circuses that have health issues. I am so glad some rich people use their money to help causes like this.

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  6. How about the word "paradox"? Does that work?

    Being able to extend my knowledge is one reason I stopped reading fiction and switched to nonfiction many years ago. That way, the book is never really over; I can simply go beyond it and read about its subject forever and in all sorts of places. It explains lots of my obsessions.

    My mother was similar in that she used to ask me to take out certain books from the school library so that we could read and learn about things together. I wrote about it here. Coincidentally, I adopted a cat from my mother's brood of garage strays--a Siamese. The picture of your mom holding a Siamese made me smile.

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    1. I consulted Alexa and 'paradox' works. LOL

      I need to make that switch...less fiction, more non-fiction. I need to make that suggestion in book club.

      My mom loved her Siamese cats. We had three growing up. They are a one person cat for sure. I still long to have a cat but I'm allergic. I spend time with them at Chow Hound then I'm there, talking with them and wishing they find good homes.

      Off to check out your blog.

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  7. The information that you shared on the elephants just goes to prove a fact that a lot of people don't believe, animals have feelings just like we do! The description of their funeral processions and the way that they mourn their dead does show how close to us they really are, thank you for sharing this information I never realized.

    I enjoy meeting and talking with people when we are out, this can sure slow down a road trip, but that's OK, I have met a lot of good people this way.

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    1. On morning, Jimmy, we left Utah to go home and by evening we'd figured out we'd only gone 20 miles. We ran into a bunch of garage sales. LOL We had to do some night driving to make up for it, and get home for work on time but I got a lot of mileage out of teasing Don about it afterward. Road trips are meant to enjoy that way.

      I can't stop reading about elephants! I truly am going to need an intervention if something else doesn't come along to save me. I'm going to a lecture about solving crimes tomorrow and a movie on Friday, so there is hope I'll get distracted.


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  8. There’s a book from one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, called Leaving Time that is based around a woman who was a scientist who studied elephant. šŸ˜. Fiction but lots of facts about elephants!

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  9. I like her books! Thanks for the tip.

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  10. Nice blog entry Jean. Very touching about the elephants and Don. Those memories we have mean so much.

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    1. Thanks, BL! I wish I had more memories but they are slipping away too fast.

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  11. Jean :

    love your blogs, learn so many things, & I am realizing we have similar parents, only difference between your mom & my mom was since I like to talk so much she will ask me to press her feet which we did by walking on it in the night, that used to give her relief from her leg pain while telling her stories about how my day went & what did I do in school today with my friends. I love reading your love story with Don where both of you gave each other enough space to shine in their field
    Asha

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    1. Thanks, Asha. I can always count of you to brighten my day. Moms---good moms---all have their own way of encouraging and guiding their kids without their kids even knowing it's happening. Your own story of how your stoke influenced your son is something you can be very proud of and your husband's wisdom has long reminded me of my dad.

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  12. Elephants are wonderful, I agree. I am a member of African Wildlife Foundation, it is cheap to join and they do a lot to protect elephants. You and Don had a nice partnership on vacations, my late husband and I did too. I did more reading and he always took his mountain bike.

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    1. I'm glad you mentioned the AWF. I've been looking for a way to help and didn't really know where to start.

      I think reading helps more relationships than it hurts. Glad you and your husband found a good balance as well.

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  13. My oh my but I love getting the email with your latest post. It's the same delicious feeling I used to get when I'd find a letter in the mailbox.

    Then I get sad that I can't meet you because Oregon and Michigan are waaaay far apart, and I'm positively absolutely certain we would be chums (as are probably most of your readers).

    I love elephants too but I think you could talk about dishes drying and make it entertaining.

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  14. I have never subscribed to a blog. I should try it something. I just list the ones I read in my side bar here and click away when they come to the top. I'm glad the feature works for you. If my social life doesn't pick up soon, I WILL be writing about drying dishes. LOL

    I love your blog too!

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  15. You look like your Mom. Too bad nowadays, we don't have more Mom's waiting for the kids to come home from school and wanting to hear all about their day. Poor kids are missing out on something that was so real in our lives--part of our day.

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    1. All my great-great nieces and nephews have stay at home moms but one and he's got his grandma, a retired teacher to care for him until mom and dad comes home. Today a lot parents can work at home on line. Everything comes full circle if we wait long enough.

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  16. I've known that about elephants...think I learned it at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo where they try to replicate animal's natural habitats (some so well, you never see the animals!). It has always made me feel akin to these creatures and have deep empathy for them. That's why their slaughter for ivory just about makes undoes me.

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    1. If my memory serves me right, it was a woman from Seattle who was visiting the zoo who first discovered that she could feel something in her diaphragm around the elephants. That led her to the whole research and discovery that elephants are communicating with sounds we can't hear.

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  17. That story about you and your mom sharing that special after school time is wonderful. Judging by then photos, you have a lot of her in you.

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    1. My mom lost her mother when she was nine and didn't get to go school much after that. I think she really wanted to learn what I was learning. She was a ferocious reader. Don once gave her the book, "Everything You wanted to Ask about Sex and are Afraid to Ask." I always thought that was funny, but she read every word. LOL

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