Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Making Snap Judgments About Others

 

There are a two people living in my continuum care complex that I don’t like and didn’t from the minute we met. I’m trying hard to understand why I make snap judgments about people because there are others living here that I’ve loved from our first encounters. Right or wrong I like to think of myself as a student of human nature and as one I decided I’ve got a rare opportunity to exam if first impressions hold true. In past work or social situations it’s been easy to avoid people who at first glance made me not want to get to know them better, but here that’s not so easy to do. Here there’s a core group of us---twenty-five or so---who take part in most of the activities and/or group meals while the other twenty-five living here are like prairie dogs who spend most of their time underground to protect themselves from predators. We might see them popping up at the mailboxes and going to or from their cars but that’s about all.

Recently my building acquired our fifth prairie dog, an aloof retired engineer, who seems determined to ignore all attempts others have made to get more than a “hi” greeting out of her. It’s quite the talk of the town as one might have said in a past century. At first I thought it was just me and I internalized the cold shoulder as being from one of those tall skinny, well-put together women who is afraid to ride in an elevator with a fat person because she thinks she’ll get fat by osmosis. But she also gives a cold shoulder to our resident Cheerleader so I had to slap my insecurities back into place. I’ve mentioned the Cheerleader before. She’s a cute, energetic do-gooder blonde who probably hasn’t had a mean thought in her head since babyhood when her mother tried to switch her from the nipple to a bottle. The engineer walks Energizer Bunny fast and keeps on going whenever someone says “Hi” or asks, “Are you new here?” Even the Cheerleader has given up on trying to make her feel welcome and like we're an inclusive, friendly community. The Cheerleader is popular and a force for good and she works hard at getting to know the newbies and introducing them to others with common interests.

Where was I going with this post? Oh, ya, I’m trying to figure out if my first impressions of people have held up after getting to know them better. I was wrong about T-shirt Tom the lawyer who I thought was stuck up and rude because he asked to sit at my table once then two minutes later said he changed his mind and wanted to eat alone. He turned out to be to be a nice guy. He says living with all us women has made him a better person. In the workplace, as a partner in a law firm he had to carry himself with a certain air that he didn’t name but here, he says, he has learned to totally relax and be happy. (The table incident I'm chalking up to him being like a fish out of water when he first got here and trying to make small talk scared him.) He’s got the nicest family. His sons all have a nightly zoom meeting with him and we’re often posing for photos that he shows to his five boys--kind of a talking blog, I’m guessing, as he tells them about his day. He’ll shop on Amazon, mark something in a Wish List and his one son is in charge of ordering the stuff and getting it shipped to Dad. (We get Amazon deliveries here 2-3 times a day.)

T-shirt Tom is the most dramatic example of me misjudging a person here but then again he admits to having mellowed out since moving in so did I really misjudge him or did the change make the difference? The Cheerleader too, when we first met I was leery around her because I thought maybe her goodie two shoes persona was an act. However, I quickly figured out that, yes, she is the real deal. But I don’t put her in a column where I misjudged someone because I purposely reserved my judgement of her for the first few months and she has my goodie two shoes cousin Judy to thank for that. I hold Judy in high esteem and as proof that angels do inhabit the earth. 

For the most part, though, my first impressions have held up and I’m happy about that. I have not seen anything to change my mind, for example, about the two pretentious souls I've disliked from day one. I’d hate to think I've gone through life discounting and misjudging people based on little more than a vibe I can’t name. Call it instinct or snobbery or a past life experience whispering in my ear, I can usually tell if I'm going to like someone in the first five minutes of meeting them. Probably not fair, but after my mini introspection here I'll continue making snap judgments but I'll leave the guilt of doing so behind.

I don’t have any real friends here and I’m not surprised or unhappy about that. I’ve only had two really good friends in my entire life: one in the third of my life who I met in kindergarten and then my husband in the last two thirds of my life. Both friendships were honed through years of mutual trust and spending quality time together. At the ripe old age of eighty I don’t have the time to build those kinds of friendships again and for what? Just to lose them? We’re already lost 5-6 of the original residents who all came into this new place together last October. But I do have an eclectic group of interesting neighbors to chat with or play with or eat with whenever the mood strikes me and that’s worth a lot in the grand scheme of growing older. 

And the cherry on top of my social sundae came last night when six of us revealed ourselves to be flaming liberals and we solved all the world's problems in a long after dinner 'brain storming' session proving that I'm not the only liberal who keeps her cards close to her vest until she knows it's safe to come out and play.  ©

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public.” 

Paulo Coelho 

Photo: This photo was taken of the line dancing class the day they did the flash mob that I wrote about a last month. It was posted on the internet by the CCC so I am not breaking anyone's privacy rights by sharing it here. Some of these ladies I've written about in past posts including The Cheerleader, Auntie Mame and Robbie's Mom.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Abortions: Past, Present and Future

Spoiler Alert: If you’re a Pro-Life activist please stop reading here. 

I haven’t wanted to do this but here I am writing a post about abortion. I’m a product of the Second Wave of the Feminist Movement back in the ‘60s/‘70s and I fought for the Equal Rights Amendment (‘72) and I was invested in the outcome of the abortion issue (Roe vs Wade ‘73) having known someone who died from a back alley abortion, and I listened intently to the media when doctors, religious leaders and scientists presented their opinions to the Supreme Court on the topic of when life begins. From the moment of conception to zygotes to embryos to fetuses to birth---no consensus was ever reached on where life begins. All of these measurable benchmarks along the baby making process will become center stage again because certain forms of birth control will be classified as ‘murder.' 

When life begins was not agreed upon back in 1973 but viability outside the womb has became an important medical standard and is set at the 24th week. Though, now, with the advances of ultrasound and neonatal care it’s a harder agreement to put forth and it gets stronger push-back on the time-line. Viable outside the womb is arguably lowing but at the tune of nearly a million dollars per baby in neonatal care. Then the argument becomes is being hooked up to machines actually a viable life? If we applied the same million dollars to a person near the end of life couldn’t we also change the life expectancy rates? I’m not saying we should or shouldn’t as a society force insurance companies and/or tax payers to take on these kinds of expenses, I’m just saying Pro-Lifers should also be willing to save lives at the other end of life as well as babies incubating in the womb. Cryogentics anyone one? We’re already freezing embryos and at what point does it become murder to discard the ones not implanted? Harvesting a woman's eggs becomes a next level legal issue with the no-abortions-after-the-sixth-week trigger laws in thirteen states that are set to enact if Roe vs Wade is overturned in June.

At what point when a woman spontaneous aborts through no fault of her own does it become murder if heroic actions aren’t taken in a neonatal care unit to save what Mother Nature expelled? How many of us would be in abortion prison right now if we couldn't prove a spontaneous abortion in the first twelve weeks wasn't planned? And will Pro-Lifers be there to help with the cost of a new wave of younger and younger neonatal babies? If we as a society are going to force pregnant women to carry to term why can’t we be forced to keep people of all ages on life-support until new treatments come along?  I’m being sarcastic with that last sentence, and I hope you figured that out on your own.

I’m getting lost in the weeds here aren’t I. The whole reason I wanted to write about the topic is to help rally people to wake up to the rights women and families are about to lose if we don’t start fighting back. The Far Right has been planning this attack on Roe vs Wade for decades, they’ve been playing the long game getting sympathetic-to-their-cause judges installed at all levels and they’re well organized. 

Probably most people who are reading this are past the age when pregnancy is possible but we have come too far to turn back and we owe it to the next generations of women and men who want to plan their families to speak up. Pro-Choice means just that. If you don’t want one don’t get one, but don’t send other women out to the back alleys where the procedure was too often done with wire coat hangers and knitting needles. 

I knew a girl who died from a botched back alley abortion. Her father took her and her father was the 'man' who impregnated her. Why isn't punishment for men not part of the Pro-Life proposed punishment laws? Women don't impregnate themselves. At the very least men who cause unwanted pregnancies should have their abilities to have an erection taken away chemically for nine months. And just to be clear, I'm not being sarcastic here.

Abortions have been taking place since biblical days when dropping large rocks on a woman’s stomach was the preferred method. No matter how many Handmaid Tales-like laws they put in place women in desperate situations are going to find a way to undo a pregnancy. Our battle cry back in my day was “keep abortions safe, legal and rare.” If you agree spread it around and don’t be quiet about it. 

If you don’t agree, I’m like the shingles commercial that keeps repeating shingles doesn’t care. I don't care if your church says it's taking a life. I don’t care if you had an abortion and regret it. All tough decisions come with regrets, with what-ifs. Women who’ve given babies up for adoption have regrets, too. Women who’ve kept babies they didn’t want don’t always learn to love that child unconditionally. There is no perfect choice, one without painful reflections before and after. And this should be a painful choice but its one each woman should be allowed to make for herself.

In late June the Supreme Court is ruling on a case that could overturn Roes vs Wade but a leaked draft of that ruling shows the majority of justices are willing to do just that. There's no time to waste if you want to add your voice to the fray. A draft is not a ruling and there is still time and a slim chance we can influence the justices on the court. ©

* Photograph at the top by Anna and Elena Balbusso

 


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Swans, Margaritas and Mother’s Day


It wasn’t exactly a beautiful spring day but the temperature was in the 62 degrees range and I’d waited long enough. I was going to walk around to the lake side of the building to see the baby swans. Lunch chatter from the people who’d paid $10,000 more for their units with window views of the lake and an additional $300 more per month in service fees were raving about the little gobs of gray feathers gliding along side the turtles sunbathing on a log near-by. Someone said I’d better hurry to see them before the turtles snatch the babies up for dinner. I knew snapping turtles could do that but while the turtles I saw that afternoon were big enough to drown a baby swan like a swamp alligator does with its pry, the sun worshiping turtles I saw were box turtles. I’m surprised I remembered the difference. I guess spending all my summers on a lake growing up gave me a few useful tidbits of information, like never lick the baby turtles we caught unless you wanted to get salmonella poisoning and spend the night in the outhouse with the spiders.

I sat on a bench by the lake for 10-15 minutes listening to the birds. That’s another thing the lake side people get for their money. Birds singing. Birds calling. Birds fishing. Ducks waddling on land. But the tin dog is doing a good job of chasing the Canadian Geese off the 20+ feet of land between the pedestrian path and the lake. On my side of the building we get to see and hear the Fed-X, Amazon and the US postal trucks coming and going and the only birds I’ve seen from my apartment is a pair of geese who seem to think they are night owls. They strut around in the middle of the night, honking and waking up the light sleepers. The parking lot lights are so strong they probably think it’s still the middle of the day. I get fooled by those lights all the time. I’ll get up to pee in the middle of the night, see the sliver of bright light coming in at the top of my black-out shades and think it’s the sun so I’ll wander out to the living room and see the geese outside acting like they're king and queen of the place.

Some of the rich people on the other side of the building complain about the real sun being so bright in the morning that they can’t sleep in. Others say the birds wake them up and they all fear that mosquitoes are coming. Am I sympathetic? Not in the least. But to keep my jealousy at bay I do remind myself that I was the twenty-forth person to sign up to live here. I could have picked an apartment across the hall if it hadn’t been for the fact I played it safe money-wise and I told myself that not having a good view would give me incentive to walk more. But the walking around the building part hasn’t happen most of the time because I found out I can take the elevator down to the parking garage, go out a pedestrian door near-by and I’m there---just a few feet from a park bench and the sounds of nature at its best.

The Life Enrichment Director loves theme weeks and this week it was all about, Cinco De Mayo. Why we are celebrating Mexico’s victory over the French in 1862 is beyond me, but the holiday here in West Michigan seems to be growing in recent years. Here on campus we had a one-man Mariachi band for entertainment on Wednesday. Then a happy hour featuring free margaritas and homemade pita chips another day. But the happy hour got super crazy because the Enrichment Director accidentally scheduled a woman’s group at the same time who came out to give all the ladies living here five carnations with cookies  and punch for Mother’s Day. We were all having such a good time because of the margaritas and dunking cookies in them that I don’t think it registered what a screwball combination was going on until we all got back home to our apartments.

Also this week was a fancy luncheon for Mother's Day, but I’m not one so I didn’t pay attention to that dress up and look pretty party. I was told I could still go because I did have a mother even if I’d never been one or I could invite a niece to be my surrogate daughter for the event. But an invitation like that to either one of my nieces would be a hardship for them to arrange, given the distance that they live and the heavy load on their plates right now, not to mention they had a mother who has passed away. For all I know they could be making time to stop by their mom’s grave this week. Flower sales for grave-sites ticks upward this time of the year. I’ve never been to my mom’s grave for the holiday---or rather her headstone, her ashes were scattered---but my brother has been known to do it. My mother died in the early ‘80s but Mother’s Day still churns up bittersweet memories. I wrote about my mom once here, so I won't get into the bitter or the sweetness in this post. Besides, I'm guessing those feelings are universal when it comes to mothers and daughters. ©

Photo: This is the bench you'll find me on if I'm not in my apartment. It looks like it's sitting on a road but it's actually a walking path for residents and dogs that also doubles as a fire access road should the lake side of my building ever catch on fire. It goes all around the lake---one mile. One of those low windows behind the bench is at the end of my parking stall and I have a chair parked there. I actually did sit there a few times over the winter.