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, October 17, 2018

Everything that is Old is New Again

It’s one of those mornings when the thoughts in my head are as hard to nab and put down in writing as bobbing for apples in a tub of water at a Halloween party. As the game goes, you try to pick an apple up with your teeth but the apples keep slipping away and you get your face wet trying, to the delight of everyone watching. No one is watching me try to come up with a cohesive topic to write about but if someone were here, they’d snicker and poke fun of how many stall tactics I’ve been taking to the whole write-a-blog-entry-or-die-trying thing I’ve set forth to do today.

I learned during one of my stalling side trips that in recent years the game of apple bobbing has come under fire for being “unsanitary and it could lead to blindness.” Sounds ridiculous to me, given the fact bobbing for apples has been around since the Romans invaded Britain in AD years. If it were true, billions of kids and young adults would have been asking for white canes and Seeing Eye dogs for Christmas. I suppose it could happen but I prefer to believe it’s a rumor started by the makers of an iPhone app that takes apple bobbing to a place I don’t care to go. Everything that is old is new again.

After getting sidetracked googling apple bobbing, I tried to remember if I’ve ever played the game with an old friend I had lunch with this week. Nope, the Halloween party for adults I’m thinking of was with a different group, a group for singles sponsored by the YMCA, a group I joined in my twenties when I was in hot pursuit of husband material. But the old friend I had lunch with was part of a package deal I got when Don came into my life---three guys who met in high school and who stayed close their entire lives. Since Don died, Gary and I have been getting together spring and fall, meeting half way between where we both live. And we talk on the phone whenever the political world heats up and we want to bitch to another member of the choir. This year was special for him because we met at a bar/restaurant the three amigos hung around in their school days. It burned down last year and was recently reopened. Brand new, but with enough nods to its history to make the hometown people happy to see it back. Everything that is old is new again. Ever notice how many times we can say that as we age? 

Letty Cottin Pogrebi, founding editor of Ms. Magazine and co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus once wrote, “We need old friends to help us grow old and new friends to help us stay young.” I don’t know about the staying young part but forming new friendships does add value to one’s life. And in that pursuit I met with my Gathering Girls pals on Monday at the Guy Land Cafeteria. This past summer we’ve been meeting at different places and while that was nice, so many places now days have such poor acoustics that carrying on a conversation is a challenge. I just ran into an article that said the new decorating trend in restaurants of high ceilings and hard surfaces has resulted in the number one complaint of diners being “noisy” and a couple of new apps have been created to measure the decibel levels in restaurants so it can be posted in reviews. People talk at 60 decibels and anything over 70 in public places causes you to raise your voice. If they keep developing more and more apps for this and that, will phones have to grow in size again? How many apps can those little buggers hold before they'll squeal like greased piglets in a county fair game? 

After lunch I was pulling one of my hearing aids out and pulling it in my change purse, something I often have to when I go to the movies. One of my Gathering Girls pals and I went to see A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Everything that is old is new again. I remember going to an earlier remake of this movie---this is the fourth one---with Barbara Streisand and Chris Christopherson in the leading roles but as I sat in the theater this time I couldn’t recall how the story line was going to end, so I was as shocked as any newbie to the theater. As I sat listening to Lady Gaga sing the finale---God, can that girl sing---it struck me that the song she was singing will become a classic. Spoiler Alert: It’s a perfect anthem for anyone who has lost someone they loved. ©

“Wish I could, I could've said goodbye
I would've said what I wanted to
Maybe even cried for you
If I knew it would be the last time
I would've broke my heart in two
Tryin' to save a part of you…”

All of the film’s music was written by Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son). Such a powerful trio of talent! If you’re as interested in Nelson’s contributions to the film as I was, you can find an article about it here.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Book Clubs and the Downsizing Lecture

Thursday was unique in the Chronicles of Jean. I got a call from the facilitator of my old book club, the one I belonged to before my husband died. Things were crazy around that time and I had to drop out and by the time I could concentrate on reading again they didn’t have an opening. The book clubs around here use the Book-Club-in-Bag program through the libraries to borrow books so they are limited in size to twelve members. Fast forward a couple of years with my name on a waiting list to get back into the club the senior hall, who sponsors the club, had enough people on that list to start a second group which I joined a year ago and I’ve have had a love/hate relationship with it ever since.

Then came the call. My old group invited me back in because they had an opening and didn’t want to take an unknown person off the wait list if I’d be interested in switching clubs. I liked these ladies because I could say anything about a book and they didn’t look at me like I had two heads. So I made the call to the senior hall director to get her “permission” to switch clubs which would make an opening for her to fill with my departure in Group Two. She was worried the members of the second group “would get their feelings hurt” so her only requirement was that I go in and explain my decision to switch groups. Get their feelings hurt? That never even occurred to me. 

That comment got me to wondering if I drift through life obliviously making selfish choices that unintentionally hurt the feelings of others. I guess I can see why Group Two could view my move as me favoring another group of ladies over them because…well, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Oops! The two groups meet on the same day and time and so Thursday I tried to contain my excitement as I dropped off last month’s book with Group Two and said my goodbyes, then I went across the hall to go to a lecture on downsizing. And near the end of the hour I went back across the hall to the room where Group One was breaking up to pick up their book for next month’s discussion. Yay! 

The Lecture: This was the second “downsizing” lecture I’ve been to at the senior hall. The first one was a few years go and I hated it. So why go again? I thought maybe I wasn’t in the right mood back then and that I was too closed-minded to what she had to say. To me, her only message seemed to be, “Donate, donate, donate, throw it out and don't look back.” Donate things like my husband’s Yellow Dog, the two headed pot, when I knew I could and did sell it for over $350 for it? This time I was hoping to find resources to help with downsizing---lists of tag sale services, auction houses, consignment shops---and not just a list of places to donate your life in cardboard boxes. God, I miss having a Yellow Pages book! Life was simpler when you knew a business was established long enough ago to have a listing in print. 

That was then and the lecture this week was much different. It was titled, ‘Transitioning without Frustration’ and the class description was: “If it's downsizing to another home, moving to senior housing, or downsizing everything into a motor home, we will support you in making the transition as easy as possible.” What it turned out to be is a tag team of three female real estate agents who say they specialize in “encore services,” a marketing niche trolling for seniors. They will help you find a new place to live, help you get your house ready to sell connecting you with a hub of painters, cleaners, de-cluttering services, handymen, house stagers, movers, bankers, tag sale services and supposedly hold your hands as they walk you through the process from start to finish and all 7% of the sale of your home. Most realtors have these same kind of contacts to recommend and they charge the same 7% but these ladies claimed altruistic goals which reminded me of the time some little kids wanted to shovel my sidewalk for free because, "We just want to help old people."

There were probably 40 of us in attendance and we were encouraged to talk, ask questions and share our stories. At one point we had to write our answers down to three questions and one of those questions was: Where have you always felt the happiest? When they asked people to share what they wrote down, they got answers like, “with my family,” “outside,” “by the Big Lake” and swear to God, the first answer I thought of was, I’m happiest when I’m living inside my head! Our answers were supposed to be a guide to what we should be looking for in a new place to live. At first my cynical-self laughed and thought, Well, that didn’t work but then I realized if I move my next house really does need a room devoted to creativity---a writing and crafts room---and it has to have a great view. All and all, it was an interesting, free lecture/sales pitch and I learned I’m certainly not alone in being torn by conflicting possibilities for the future.  ©

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Won’t be Doing That Again!

I’ve been walking around feeling naked since Saturday. Why? Because my emergency dialer device malfunctioned and I’ve been waiting for a free replacement to come in the mail. I’ve been wearing one around my neck and tucked in my cleavage ever since my husband died. Not that he could have dialed the phone to get help for me should I have fallen and couldn’t get back up with my two fake knees and messed up elbow but he could have fetched the phone for me to do it, assuming I could still talk to 911. One of the two times I’ve fallen since I’ve been wearing the device---when I broke my wrist---I didn’t think to push the damn button to get help. Nope, I scooted my butt across the floor to the bathroom where I was able to fling myself across the toilet face first and haul myself up using the grab bar on the wall. Twice I’ve accidentally hit the button while taking off my shirt and the loud voice coming from my chest scared the crap out of me. Still, I like wearing my security blanket and someday I should bite the bullet and paying extra to have them active the fall detector feature.

There’s a style of writing that I’ve been fascinated with since---well---I learned about it a few years ago. It’s called ‘stream of consciousness’ and it involves depicting the multitude of feelings and thoughts that passes through one’s mind. But when you’re doing a stream of consciousness in a memoir type blog it’s more complicated (or is it less complicated, I can’t decide which) than having a fictional character do it. In fiction you can make stuff up, have your characters be saintly or sinner but in a memoir/blog we’re supposedly striving to find Our Truth---the truth the way we see ourselves in all our actions and feelings but the problem is sometimes our truths can be embarrassing. In fiction, if you’ve read William Faulkner’s Sound and Fury or Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius you’ve read the two best examples of stream of consciousness writing. Or so they say…which always leads me to wonder: who the heck are THEY? 

“...Secrets do not increase in value if kept in a gore-ian lockbox,” wrote Dave Eggers in the above mentioned book, “because one's past is either made useful or else mutates and becomes cancerous. We share things for the obvious reasons: it makes us feel un-alone, it spreads the weight over a larger area, it holds the possibility of making our share lighter. And it can work either way - not simply as a pain-relief device, but, in the case of not bad news but good, as a share-the-happy-things-I've-seen/lessons-I've-learned vehicle. Or as a tool for simple connectivity for its own sake, a testing of waters, a stab at engagement with a mass of strangers.” Gosh, you’d almost think good old Eggers had blogging in mind when he wrote that passage. Maybe he did, I started reading the book but lost interest in it. That quote, however, reminds that I have to quit writing so many diary style posts---I went here, I did that---and try harder to analyze and philosophize along the way. I mean we all know that sharing our heartaches helps but I’ve never thought to compare sharing to an aspirin pain relief medication, so to speak. Truth be told I like using famous quotes like that in my blogs because I think they make me look smarter and better read than I am. But in fact aren’t I just using them as a substitute for not doing my own analyzing and philosophizing? I’m letting the Big Guns do my thinking and I’m just adding, “Ditto!” 

“All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born,” William Faulker wrote, “webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.” Ditto! I was thinking the exact, same thing but Faulker wrote it first. You believe, don't you, about my thoughts matching those of the mighty and masterful William Faulker?

Faulker once said in an interview that a writer “…must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” Fine for him to say---he was really talented---but don’t you think that never being satisfied with what one does can be a two-edged sword? At what point do we drive ourselves crazy trying to perfect the un-perfectible? Have the perfect house, write the perfect essay. Do the perfect whatever. At what point is it just plain foolish, for example, to get out of bed after taking a sleeping pill because you thought of a better way to word a sentence? Trust me, I won’t be doing that again. At least not until after my new emergency dialer gets here. ©