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 21, 2022

Fire Trucks and Rule Breakers


A fire engine just went by on the main street, horns blasting they way they do when little boys grow up to do a man’s work. I can barely see them now that the trees have given birth to their summer foliage. The woods that separates the main street from the campus is maybe two-three hundred feet wide so the blue, black, white and red vehicles that travel that street are just flashes of color tracking behind the tree trunks. The fire station is just around the corner----less than two blocks away by foot---which is handy given the nature of our private road that’s lined with an assisted living, an independent living apartment building and twelve town houses, a memory care facility, Hospice and an activities building. 

The fire engine is here at my apartment building three to five times a month. One time someone’s toast got caught in the toaster causing the smoke alarm to ring down at the fire house. Any time a smoke detector is activated on campus it can only be turned off by the fire department so waving smoke away from your detector does no good. Another time the fire department came out because someone put a pot of water on to boil and she claims the steam set off the alarm. Twice a couple burned the steak they were cooking and as a result they strong-armed the CEO into buying a “community grill” to use outside but it sits by their door, too inconvenient for 98% people living here. They seem to get a lot of special privileges like spreading their lawn ornaments and chairs ten feet out into the public areas which our rules book says is a no-no. It’s not in my wheelhouse to snitch on rule breakers but if I was I’d start by reporting the guy who is feeding birds. He thinks because he’s using seed cakes instead of loose seeds in a feeder it doesn’t count. He’s on the second floor and the birds going to and from his deck are dropping do-do where the public lounge chairs are located for viewing the lake. It’s just a matter of time before someone gets poop on their head. It should be noted that it's my jealously talking here because I miss my birds, but I'm not brazen enough to break the no bird feeders rule. I catalogued 26 variations of birds at my old house. Here, I haven't even started a list. Hand me a tissue, I think I'm going to cry.

The fire department is the first on the scene for medical emergencies, too, and when everyone living in a place is over 65 you’re going to get to know their procedures. I’ve gotten good at telling which kind of call they’re coming to when I see the guys hop off the engine. I love guys in suspenders even if they are holding up turn-out gear for fighting fires. For fire calls, all the guys and gals on the truck will have their turn-out pants and boots on but only the lead guy will go in with a jacket, helmet and tank of something strapped on his back. Once that guy does an assessment, the next person to go into the building will have a box box fan and someone else will be charge of turning off the alarm. I’m assuming if there was a ‘real’ fire, the entire crew of six would be throwing on their jackets and helmets and the alarm would stay on like it did during our fire drill. 

We haven’t had a big fire here but if they do I’ve got a hydrant literally two foot off my deck and right under my bedroom window so I won’t miss any of the action. As long as I’m not the source of the fire I’m good with that. The building has a sprinkler system so I don't expect a fire could get out of hand. I do worry, though, about living with so many older people. My neighbor admits to putting a roast on the stove and running off to the church. On purpose. "What if you got in a little fender bender on your way home or you got distracted and went out for coffee with an old friend?" I asked, "Your apartment would set off the alarm when that roast runs dry!" "I hadn't thought of that," she replied. Why is common sense so uncommon? 

Tuesday we had our monthly “Dialogue” with the CEO otherwise known as a ‘Pitch and Bitch’ meeting where we residence listen to an upbeat spin on various issues and where some residences are more than willing to hold management’s feet under the fire for promises not fulfilled or answered with their classic phrase, “We’re working on it.” We’ve wanted a way to recycle from the beginning and just this month the management finally came through with containers in our trash rooms. Six months. It took four months to get our screen doors, too, but few of us cared in the middle of the winter. I was one of the first to order one (back in January) so I got my screen installed just in time for warmest temperatures of the season to pop. Others will be waiting until summer is almost over because apparently some people thought they'd magically appear when needed. And let that be a lesson to you: Learn to use apps and email daily because life in places like this is peachy-keen if you do. Otherwise you're getting your information like the old party-line telephone game where you sit in circle and whisper a secret in the next person's ear.

I would hate being in charge of the people who live here and our CEO is in charge of our sister campus as well where there are twice as many of us old people to keep happy. He can’t walk anywhere without someone putting a bug in his ear about something they think needs changing from smudges on their shower door the cleaner left behind to why can't maintenance just kill the geese? It’s interesting to watch a few people here who once-upon-upon-a-time had high powered jobs try to bulldoze someone who now has a high powered job and is standing in their way of getting what they think they're entitled to. 

And last but not least, here is my public service announcement for anyone who doesn't think they'd like politics and gossip that takes place on a continuum care campus. You become one of those prairie dogs I wrote about last week. Easy-peasy. For me, it's entertaining blog fodder and lest you think that's all I do is gather fodder you'd be wrong. I average an hour or two a day to interact with others and that includes a lecture and Mahjong once a week. The rest of my time is usually spent by myself. By the way, I've won twice at Mahjong out of the five times we've played. I'm enjoying the challenge of learning something new. ©

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Pardon my French and other Colorful Euphemisms


My husband used the euphemism I have to go see a man about a horse when he needed to use the restroom and we were in ‘polite society’ which is another euphemism meaning in today’s world we were out in public but in ye olden days the phrase polite society had more to do with having a so-called superior set of standards for behavior brought to them compliments of their wealth and breeding. As a man, for example, you’d never think of even whispering the word ‘sex’ to others of your social standing but forcing sex on a lowly housemaid was a different ball of wax. Though I suppose that example would be more along the lines of a dichotomy? Either way, there was a time when you could use the term ‘a different ball of wax’ and everyone knew you were talking about two things that might seem the same but were completely dissimilar. But I was shocked to learn that in today’s world you have to be more careful throwing the term ball of wax around. 

The urban dictionary is claiming a ‘ball of wax’ refers to the crud that builds up under a man’s balls when he hasn't bathed in a few days. I could have gone on playing the euphemisms game all day long if not for that bit of information. For one thing, I didn’t know that crud built up there and two, now that I do I can’t help wondering if there is a euphemism for the crud that builds up under a woman’s breasts when she’s doing manual labor in the hot sun. I spent the summer one year working on my husband’s asphalt paving and patching crew and I learned all about sweating my balls off which is another idiom my husband often used and in case you’re dumber than a box of rocks that means it was hotter than Hades. Side note: Does this whole paragraph remind you of belly button lint? Or is it just me?

I love idioms and euphemisms but they’re supposed to be a lazy man's verbiage. Still I don’t care. I don’t think I could talk without them and it’s common for me to edit one or two out of posts I'm working on because I do try to follow the rules of good writing---well, except for posts like this when I’m in a silly mood and I want to play with words, maybe make you smile or remind you of a phrase someone from you past was fond of saying. It's fascinating that word usage can sometimes remain the same for centuries and other times words can completely flip in its meaning. I’m over the moon for internet websites devoted to doing deep dives into where and when certain sayings and word usage started.

Shakespeare coined a lot of our English phrases like the green-eyed monster and wear your heart on your sleeve that both came from Othella. Love is blind and in a pickle both debuted in The Tempest. It’s all Greek to me appeared in Julius Caesar and a wild goose chase is from Romeo and Juliet. A method to his madness is something that reminds me of my mom and it’s from Hamlet which was written in 1602. 1602. I had to write that again so you’d know It’s not a typo.

Disney is probably the most comparable we have today to Shakespeare in terms of influencing a large market to use catchy phrases from their prolific bodies of work. And we’ll have to wait around a few hundred years to see it lines from Disney films endure the test of time. But I predict little girls who grew up singing Let it go with Elsa from Frozen will be be using that phrase as a coping tool their entire lives and passing it onto their grandchildren. But in our world things come and go in our media at a faster pace than in Shakespeare’s time and catchy phrases don’t have as long to peculate and take roots in society before another shiny new penny comes along to replace it. Did you know, by the way, that the Shiny Penny Syndrome is a real thing? It refers to when we get distracted by the newest whatever---the latest technology, a flirty party girl. Something that keeps us from sticking to our goals as in, “You won’t get far in life if you’re always chasing shiny new pennies, son." 

Back to my husband: I used to think it was a family idiom he was using about the horse. He was raised on a farm and they had work horses but the see-a-man-about-a-horse euphemism dates back to at least 1866 when it first appeared in print. In 1939 it was heard in a NBC radio program and during prohibition it was commonly used when a man was going to the back room of a super club to have a drink of bootleg booze. As euphemisms for using the bathroom go, I’ve always been grateful my husband didn’t use take a piss which I’ve noticed lately is showing up on TV---the phrase, not the action itself---and I hate that P word more than the other P word. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go powder my nose. ©

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.