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, May 19, 2018

A Widow’s Photographs and Dreams



I don’t have a lot of photos of my husband on display (or anywhere for that matter). Just three framed snapshots---one sits in the library, one on a chest of drawers in the hall and one is high on top of an antique medicine cabinet in my bedroom. Don loved photography and at social gatherings and on vacations he was always the person with a foot-long camera hanging around his neck thus he rarely appeared in the photos we had. Before we met I was into photography big time, took lots of classes and even knew how to develop my own film. (Boy, does that date me!) I loved taking photos of children and people who were unaware they were being photographed. Try doing that in this century and I’d get reported to the police for being creepy. And the few times in recent years when I’ve tried taking pictures of my toddler-age great-nieces and nephews they are so programed to taking selfies with their parents that the minute a camera appears they are posing with their tiny, fake smiles in place. I fear no one will ever take an arty-farty photo of a child again!

Don was a work-alcoholic with no other hobbies so he evolved into the chief photo documentarian of our travels through life. I had other hobbies, I collected them like some people collect stamps which, by the way, was one of my hobbies back in the day. Unfortunately, his pictures were all taken with a slide camera and you probably know what that means. Yup, they sit in boxes, unseen. Several years before he died I spent days sorting through the slides, picking out the best of the best intending to have them converted to a memory card to use in a photo-frame slide show. I set aside 200 slides and was planning to throw the rest out. However, my husband strongly nixed that idea. Mind you, no one had looked at those slides in decades but a wise woman knows where to pick her battles. So back down the basement the boxes went. Except for the best of the best that are still sitting in my closet with my good intentions to turn them into a viewable format all but forgotten. 

While sorting through the hundreds of slides it became apparent---as if I didn’t know already---that my husband also had favorite subjects in his view finder: landscapes, sunsets, flowers, wildlife and the dog. Rarely did he snap pictures of people. You can only look at so many photos of lovely landscapes, colorful sunsets and flowers, deer in fields and birds in the trees before they all start looking the same. And let me tell you about the many slides he took of our male dogs peeing! To me, if you’ve seen one dog peeing you’ve seen them all but Don was always looking for a humorous angle to the theme and sometimes, I have to admit, he found it. 

I’m reading My Mrs. Brown for book club and a passage had me reading it twice. It describes how Mrs. Brown takes a framed photo out of her bedside table drawer every night and displays it, then every morning she puts it back in the drawer. At first I thought, boy, is that ever weird! But then the author, William Norwich, went on to explain and I changed my mind. Mrs. Brown, he wrote, “was protecting her treasured photograph from time’s most corrosive element: forgetting.” He went on to describe how in a room full of furniture and knickknacks we get so used to seeing photographs among the other clutter that most of the time we don’t even see them anymore. “Her ritual of in and out from the drawer, morning and night, helps Mrs. Brown keep her greatest treasure alive...” I sure recognize the truth in that logic…not so much as a widow who has a few photos of Don on display but because the passage brought echoes back around of something Don often said about fixing broken things around a house. “If you let something go for more than two weeks,” he’d say, “you don’t see it anymore and it doesn’t get fixed until you’re getting ready to have a party or move.”

That book passage had me thinking that maybe I should adopt that in and out of the drawer each morning and night routine with a photo of Don. It’s a sweet tradition, isn’t it. But then I discarded the idea because Don comes to me in my dreams so often I couldn’t forget him if I tried. Last night he and I got separated at a huge flea market and I couldn’t find his cell phone number in my phone. He and I have been getting lost or separated in my dreams so damned often lately and I wake up with a jolt and sometimes I can't fall back to sleep. I’m amazed at how many different ways during REM sleep my bran finds to keep us separated. But that begs the question, which is the real me? My nighttime self who apparently still suffers from separation anxiety or my daytime self who likes to believe she's a well-adjusted woman? ©

The photo above, was taken by Don. That poodle could always find 'creative places' to pee.

P.S. If you read my last blog entry you might like to know that I finally got two hummingbirds to come out of the pines and down to my feeder!

34 comments:

  1. I just went through some old photos of my parents and the home I grew up in. Some wonderful pictures. Nothing keeps memories alive like photos. And I love the idea of a picture in and out of the drawer. But sometimes, for me, looking at photos of my husband and I in happy times, makes me sad to think it's all gone, so oddly even after 5 years, I don't look often.
    I think the old black and white and sepia photos captured a feeling and mood much more so than today's. It's an art that's gone.

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    1. I always loved working in black and white and did it by choice long after color photography became the norm. I love sepia tone!

      As I was writing this, I realized that I had my own version of the in and out of the drawer. For several years after Don died, I'd move my small framed photographs around to a new location every time I'd clean the house. I still move them from time to time but not nearly as often since I got a cleaning service.

      You are so right about nothing keeping memories alive like photos, at least for our generation. I often wonder if that will be true for the current generation who documents EVERYTHING with staged selfies. I find it very strange.

      Five years seems like a hundred sometimes and other times it feels like only yesterday, doesn't it.

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  2. I often have those frustrating dreams where I am trying to get somewhere or do something and my sleeping brain throws all kinds of obstacles in my path. When I dream that my husband is back with me, I am usually worried about how he will react when he realizes I've thrown out his entire hoard and overhauled his building. It's a relief to wake up and realize it was only a dream! I don't have any pictures of him around for obvious reasons, if you've read my blog. Thanks for another great post, Jean!

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    1. Long before I started reading your blog I've often thought about how hard it would be for widows who either had bad marriages or discovered after her husband died that he'd been cheating. I know how often something would trigger a good memory for me and I'd think how awful it would be to have things trigger bad memories. How do they keep that from happening? They "throw out his entire hoard and overhaul his building." LOL I love how you have taken charge of your life.

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  3. It's amazing how most of the husband took the photos. Every cruise I took about 200 or so and maybe Mary Lou took one. That one was of me. I thought, really there weren't many picture of me throughout the years. When my times comes, I wonder how can they ever remember about me?
    Dreams, especially about your husband, are they good or do they bring back sad memories? I had so many pictures of my mother but not many of my dad. That my really bothers me. One thing that really affects me is that I can no longer remember how my parents voices are. It bothers me a great deal. Am I just being silly or nuts. After I pass from this world, there will probably no picture about me and my voice will disappears into oblivion. Oh my God! I must be tired. I need a vacation. Yes I need a cruise. See ya Jean my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Hand that camera to Mary Lou and have her take some photos of you and record your voice while you're at it! Someday your kids will appreciate that. I have literally asked around the family if others have photos of Don and me together that I can copy but so far none have come my way. I really wish I had more 5 or 6!

      I have recordings of my mom and dad talking and, boy, do their voices bring them back to life! I keep thinking I need to get them off cassettes and onto a different format.

      Dreams can come in many form, Paul. Sometimes I don't want to wake up and I try to will myself to go back to sleep to pick up a dream where it left off. Often my dreams are frustrating because I'm always searching.

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  4. Jean, it appears we are very opposite about dreams and photos. I'm not a dreamer so I'm not surprised that I've had no dreams about Bob. My sister-in-law, like you, dreams a lot about her husband. Her dreams are so vivid she has trouble sorting dreams from reality. Her dreams are much happier that real life was for her. She seems to have chosen to block reality and live with her dreams. I'm for whatever makes you happy.

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    1. I have no trouble telling my dreams from reality and thank goodness for that! When my dad got to that point in his dementia it was a scary thing for him and me both when I got middle-of-the-night phone calls about stuff he thought was happening. Sorry to hear about Bob! You'd been gone so long from the blog community, I just found out.

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  5. That is so true about always displaying photos. As I read your words I looked around and saw thing that have been with me for years but go unnoticed today. I will try to do better. That little poodle certainly put his all into being a creative pee'er.
    Now that you have two hummers, the word will spread.

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    1. That poodle was the apple of my husband's eye, so to speak. The cover painting on the book in my side panel is of him, Cooper. He was a character.

      I hope so on the hummingbirds!

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  6. How wonderful to dream about someone you love. Those visits are very precious.

    I love that quote and must write it down. But I think no matter what, you don't have to worry about Don. Doing the photo method you described isn't so much to remember him, I think,for you won't forget. But rather, to recall the experience that photo represented, whether it was a peeing poodle or a beautiful sunrise. No matter what, you'll do what is best for you.

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    1. I love that quote and I couldn't let it go without building a blog around it. You bring up an interesting thought about how some photos aren't so much about remembering a person but rather being about experiencing a place and time again, when the photo was taken. The above photo of our peeing poodle is so iconic of both the dog and our sense of the humor.

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  7. I have a friend who has nearly every surface in her living room covered with framed family photos -- and a good many more on the walls. On the other hand, I have very few displayed. There's one of my mother, age six months, in one of those old-fashioned oval frames with glass, and just a few of the generations before her. I have a couple of Dixie Rose, and one of me doing my nails on the stern of a sailboat halfway between Hawaii and Alaska. Otherwise, it's art and such that surrounds me.

    I certainly enjoy looking at the photos I have, particularly of family life, but I rarely pull them out. Sometimes I wonder if it's not my strongly visual memory that makes photos less important. I can remember so much of my past, so clearly, that there's no need to jog it with a photo.

    Of course, that may change. In another decade, I may not remember who I am, even when looking in a mirror!

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    1. Of the three photos I mentioned of Don I only have three others of family on display. A small one of my mom at age 3 months in a silver oval frame, a tiny, photo-booth photo of my mom and dad taken on their honeymoon---their only wedding photo--and a snap shot of my dad's baseball team before he got married. I framed and show these because I don't want them to get lost or tossed when I die. I also have an 8 x 10 frame with all the dogs I've had through life. I agree about having a strong visual memory making photos less important. I can still draw floor plans of just about every house I've ever walked into and can paint memories in my mind.

      You takes such wonderful nature photographs that I'm surprised you don't have some of those enlarged and on your walls.

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  8. I love to keep photos of our family thorough out our home, in our bedroom. whenever I look any photos,I will remember how I was feeling at the time, vacations taken together always reminds you of fun we had together.

    Asha

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    1. I can see why. Some of the vacation posts I've seen on Facebook are awesome. I do think those emotions do change when looking at photos once a spouse is gone, when remembering becomes painful. It takes a few years for that to turn around.

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  9. you can still get those slides converted, can't you? I hope so.

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    1. Yes, and I've located a place in town that does it but it's on a side of town I rarely get to. I heard you get get something for your computer to do it yourself but I need to research it. It might be cheaper.

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    2. I have an HP scanner that will also scan slides so you can do that and they you have them digitally and can print if you want. Back when they had photo shops you could take slides there and have them made into prints but it's pretty hard to find a photo shop these days!

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    3. I just googled converting slides to digital and three places in town popped up. I knew about the one but I'm calling next week on the others which were, of all places Rite Aid and Sam's Club. We'll see. Both of the latter places are close by so that would actually get me off my butt and get the job done. That printer feature is something to keep in mind!

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  10. I don't keep any photos on display. After my renovation a few years ago (removed a lot of clutter), I like open space and freshly-painted walls.

    That said, I do have photo albums and am always surprised to see how young we (family) look a few years ago, and conversely, how OLD/ER we look now. ~ Libby

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    1. Sometimes I long for open spaces and freshly painted walls but downsizing is so hard. I have some photo albums of when I was young but photo boxes are more popular over here, I think. I have some of those as well. One of my nieces took all her photos out pf albums and put them in boxes, takes up less room. I know someone else who put copied all her photos, through out the originals and just has the digital versions. People are going to be sorry about that someday, in my opinion.

      Time does match on...and all over our faces.

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  11. Thank you for sharing that passage; it is so true, and about so many things. It's astonishing how we all can Live With so many things for so long and merely Live Around them: unrepaired things, inconveniences, tchotchkes on display, etc. They become part of our Daily Lives and we accept them and incorporate them into our routine, forgetting them as individual items.

    So many parts of our day are performed robotically, not ritualistically. There IS a difference.

    I have some thinking to do! Thank you.

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    1. I am one of those people who never re-arranges her furniture and I can now see the up side of doing that occasionally...because we do gain a new appreciation for our treasures. And you're right about that same logic spilling over in all parts of our lives.

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  12. Such an interesting way to view photos that I had never thought of. And honestly I thought it was odd until you explained it. Then I thought, why of course!
    I love that you dream so often of Don. I would never want to get up.

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    1. I know! That passage about the photos made the entire somewhat boring book worth reading.

      Dreams are a mixed bag. With some you really want to linger in bed hoping to hold on to them as long as possible, others you want to hop right up, and not let them get stored in a different part of your brain so that you can remember them. I wrote a blog the includes the scientific reasons for dreams if anyone is interested... https://misadventuresofwidowhood.blogspot.com/2012/02/true-meaning-of-our-dreams.html

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  13. Hi Jean, I enjoyed looking at your blog. Thanks for coming to mine. I always thought that I didn't dream much --or at least I didn't remember them... After getting the Apple Watch, I have learned that my Deep Sleep is always much greater than my REM... I seldom get much REM ---so maybe that's the reason I either don't dream --or don't remember them. It certainly is interesting to study SLEEP Patterns though....

    My husband and I both love photography. He is still trying to convert the old slides into CD's and he also is converting his old Vinyl Albums into CD's.. What a long, tedious process though...

    I am one who has lots of frames photos sitting around the house... AND--of course, I don't even notice them much (unless I have company). I need to take one each night and put it in the drawer --and then get it out in the mornings.... Great idea.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Welcome, Betsy! Oh my gosh, I didn't know Apple watches can tell the difference between deep sleep and REM sleep! My Fitbit just tracks the hours/minutes of sleep. Now you have me lusting for a new watch.

      I've heard it was a long tedious job to convert slides which is why I can't decide if I want to do it or pay someone else to do it. They charge 50 cents a piece which seem rather high to me.

      My fear with putting a frame in a drawer overnight is that I'd forget to take it back out. I'd have to leave the drawer part way open to remind me.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  14. Don was right about not seeing needed repairs until it's time to move. We fixed a number of things for the buyers in our last house, and then we wondered why we didn't do it for ourselves.

    A few years ago, I started organizing some of our pictures that were just thrown in boxes, but I've given up. My son mentioned to me that his wife is very interested in family photos and can't understand why he is not. So there you go. Why spend so much time on it if he isn't even interested? Maybe I'll select a few for him, tell him who everyone is, label them and call it a day.

    We are late on hanging our hummingbird feeder. I need to get on that.

    LOL about the dog peeing pictures.

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    1. Crazy, isn't it, that we let things go but I think we all do it. Except for my youngest niece who says, "Maintaining our house is our hobby." They are always doing something.

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  15. I understand about having a lot of slides/transparencies. My husband had thousands (40,000)and four years later, I am still sorting through them, although I haven't really touched them in awhile. I bought a scanner to convert them to digital a couple of years ago (about $85 at Best Buy) and it works okay, but it is slow going. I have thrown a lot away, but I have set aside several categories (personal, trips, cats, etc.) and I pull out favorites from time to time to convert to digital. I still have drawers full of flowers and landscapes and animals and who knows what else that are pretty but I just got overwhelmed and stopped. After reading your blog, I pulled out my converter again and will try to work on the personal ones. Interesting to know how much it costs to convert them. I never checked since I had so many. If you have set aside 200 slides you would like to convert, it sounds as though you are pretty organized and it might be about the same cost for 200 slides either way -- having them done professionally or buying a converter and doing them yourself. Maybe professionally would be better quality, although the ones I converted looked okay to me. Anyway...good luck. I surely relate to your project. Ann

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    1. It is a major task to sort slides, isn't it. There are places you can sent them to the mail that are cheaper than locally but that kind of scares me that they could get lost. I need to dig my 200 out again and put the project on the list again. Thanks for stopping by, Ann.

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  16. My tubs of photos and thousands of digital photos are the bane of me! Every year I vow to get them organized and put the best of the best into book form as keepsakes I'll actually look at...so far that hasn't happened. The task is daunting! And like your Don, my husband loves a landscape -- several shots of each just to get the perfect light or angle or something, so that sorting through them all is tedious and maddening! I prefer people pictures, although do admit to too many sunrises and garden photos. I have a friend how rarely takes photos and hates to have her own picture taken. She finds the whole photo-taking (especially selfies) thing annoying. And I love taking photos, and the more the better of people I love. So...likely one day my children will be faced with the task I've long procrastinated. I wonder if they will just hit "delete". LOL

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    1. Who knows about you kids. My oldest niece just sorted through boxes of photos from the 1900 to the '50s and had a party to hand out copies of all the ancestral stuff of great-great-greats that she had made. And they were all happy to get them.

      I don't like selfies either. It's changed photography and what's considered 'keepers.'

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