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. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Profiles and Secrets

It’s one of those do or die days where I have to sit here at the computer until something falls out of my brain that’s halfway worthy of writing down. I not only have a blog post to write for next week but I also have a piece to write for my creative writing group. I’d truly like to quit the writing group but it’s not big enough to survive without me and the others in the group seem to get a lot out of our band of merry scribes. When I first started the group I thought I could kill two birds with one stone---look at me using that tired, old metaphor---and write essays that could serve double duty, but that didn’t work out. No one here knows I keep a blog and since people living on my continuum care campus are often the subject of my blog posts I want to keep it that way. The bottom line is I can’t read my posts here in my writing group. And I seem to be fresh out of poems, after writing twelve about my campus.

A few days ago I was asked to write a profile for our campus newsletter. It’s a by-monthly publication short on content but it’s put together by two retired graphic artists turned college professors. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. It’s a full color newsletter printed on slick, shiny paper and is full of lots of photos. It also features two profiles of residents and each profile is written by the person being featured. “So it will be your voice, sharing what others might not know about you,” I was told. What a daunting task for someone who keeps so many secrets from my neighbors! In the past, the newsletter has printed three of the above mentioned poems. Submitted by invitation and they were well received if you can judge such things by the comments others made after they were printed. But a profile? I wrote and submitted it before I could chicken out because it’s so different than any of the other profiles printed in the past. Most people, for example, have listed where they went to college, their job titles, the number of children and grandchildren or their travel experiences, places they've lived, etc. etc.

Here is what I wrote and you might recognized a few lines borrowed from the top of this blog: 

“When I was asked to write a profile for Insight in 200 words or less my first thought was how can I do that without sounding like I’m writing a profile for a dating app? “Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace.” Yup, that sums up where I’m at in life right now, having lost my soul mate of 42 years a few years back. Life was good until it wasn’t when my husband had a massive stroke that left him right side paralyzed and with no verbal or written means of communication for the next 12 1/2 years and I transitioned into being his caregiver extraordinaire. For every Yin in life there is a Yang and my Yang came in the form of me becoming a mentor, a chat room host and an administrator on a large website in the stroke community, eventually taking a seat on the Board of Directors. I’m no longer active or associated there, but I still spend my mornings living in cyber space.

“Along with the invitation to write a profile came a list of questions and one was about hobbies and collections. It’s safe to say that I’ve tried every craft and hobby that’s crossed my path, with creative writing staying on the list the longest and Mahjong being the newest hobby added. My most unusual collection? A large jar full of every single watch I’ve ever owned including a sundial watch that only works on sunny days." ©

What do you think? Did I manage to write a profile that still left my secrets intact? The biggest secret of all is my online life in the blog community followed up by the fact that while my husband and I were soul mates for 42 years we didn’t get married until after his stroke. I know from a book club discussion that few people here in the land of long marriages would understand why we didn’t get married sooner rather than later. And the explanation is too complicated and would reveal too many personal facts that I’m not willing to put into the gossip mill around here. Even my path to getting a college degree was not in a straight line and just listing the place where I got it doesn’t begin to express how proud I was to finally get the degree 25 years after I started working on it. 

Well, I managed to knock out a blog post, Now I have to work on April’s writing prompt for my writing group’s meet-up on Thursday. It’s a tough one: “Until that moment, she hadn’t realized the past can change.” Each month we plan to draw a prompt out of an envelope based on the Ten Word Stories we wrote in January. Our first writing prompt bought some great results---all vastly different. This one is frying my brain. Wish me luck!

Until next Wednesday.  ©

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Bottoms Up and Binging on Netflix

When four days of your life are taken up by one over-whelming theme a blogger feels compelled to write about it even though she or he may not want to because---well, because it’s a gross topic and I for one live in a time and place where grossness is usually left to under-aged boys and men who are having a hard time growing up aka they still love a good story involving poop. For me it started on a Friday night at 7:00 when I wasn’t allowed to eat anything but jello and that fasting lasted until Monday at 4:30 when I could finally have food again. During the fasting---if you haven’t guessed by now---I had to consume four Suprep treatments for a colonoscopy and EGD that were performed on the same surgical table at the same time. 

Why did I get so lucky as to have drink four Suprep solutions over three days followed up with 32 oz of water after each bottle instead of the normal prescription of two bottles of Suprep in one day? Because I’ve had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) off and on since my 40s as a result of drinking a glass of raw cows milk and not seeking treatment for the diarrhea that followed for several months. Turned out the raw milk had some kind of parasite in it that got killed with medication but I was left with IBS that comes and goes---sometimes for years at a time---but if you’re prone to get impacted bowels my gastroenterologist's protocol is the prolonged fast and longer poop fest. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t eat and I drank every ounce of Suprep and water and I barely left the bathroom. I’d think it was safe and I’d make it across the bedroom to the door leading to the kitchen and have to turn right back around. When I wasn’t in the bathroom doing business I was doing laundry and cleaning in the bathroom. I lost track of how many half showers I took---and you can guess which half got showered. Even when I got back home after surgery was over I was washing the clothes I wore to the hospital because my youngest niece, who took me to my procedure, insisted. I wore Crocs cross trainers to the hospital and even they got thoroughly decontaminated as did my Crocs bedroom slippers. I’ve never asked but I’m guessing my niece is a bit of my germaphobic like me. 

So what did my surgeon find and what was she looking for? She found my tracks from mouth to rectum are free of cancer, polyps or anything else out of the norm. She also didn’t find anything like a small bleeder that would explain why I’ve been anemic for the past three years and why my right leg swells up from time to time. This was the latest and final test I’ve been through since last July 4th where they’ve been trying to figure out both of these anomaly's. They started with a ultrasound on my leg to rule out a blood clot. Next was the EKG and ultra sound on heart and lungs followed by scans of my kidneys, bladder and lady parts (the inside edition ultra sound and many of us know how much fun that test is). And did I mention I’ve lost track of the blood draws I’d had? 

The two weeks leading up the surgery I’ve been binge watching a (bad) Netflix series called The Resident. The show has a resident, Conrad Hawkins, who is supposed to be the best diagnostic practitioner to come along since the vaccine for Polio was developed. He can just talk to a patient and often figure out what obscure thing caused the symptoms, that brought him or her into the ER, then they run the tests to prove him right. He’s always right, of course, and where is my Doctor Hawkins when I need a diagnosis? My real doctors ran out of tests to do. 

But I think I figured my leg swelling issue out on my own just from watching The Resident. A patient on the show had some crushed vertebraes in his back---the same ones I do---and it was causing problems with his legs. And that reminded me that my bone doctor mentioned that those verebraes effect my legs and that maintaining a good posture when sitting was important. It was the reason I bought myself an expensive desk chair five years ago. The dark side of my brain needs to bill the other side of my brain for that diagnosis. A couple of the doctors on that Netflix series say that corporate medicine is all about the up-coding and billing.

The show was advertised as a cross between House and Gray's Anatomy but I should have read a few reviews before investing so much time in The Resident. Phrases like the  “doctors don’t always practice good medicine” and "the stories features terrible people playing God…” might have put me off from watching it. My opinion? If half the stuff the series shows is true-to-life happenings in hospitals we’d never go inside one and I have to believe a lot of the story-lines were taken from medical lawsuits. It's just that so many things are condensed into a short time frame when you binge that it looks worse than it is. But I kept on watching because I’ve decided watching the worst stuff that could happen during a surgery was akin to me watching and reading so many apocalyptic dramas during the pandemic. It gives me a strange kind of comfort to go deep into the darkness when I'm about to experience something scary. I can prepare for the 'worst' and be happy when it doesn't come.

If you’re still reading this “cheery” little post I owe you a gold star for sticking with it. I do apologize. Truly, between this medical event and my brother’s passing I’ve done nothing else to write about. Nothing I wanted to write about. But that changes in a few minutes when I’m going to an opening day viewing party for the Tiger’s Baseball season. 

On another cheery note, I bought  myself a gift for not having a bleeder inside me to fix and recover from…a Mahjong mat to go with my new mahjong set. Have I mentioned lately how much I love that game? Buying myself a frivolous gift for coming through a dark patch in life is a long-time tradition in my life. Or as one of my blogging friends, Dawn, might say, "A little retail therapy is good for the whatever ails you."

Until Next Wednesday?

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Easter Basket and the Melting Pot

BEFORE WE GET TO THE POST BELOW I want to thank everyone in the blog community who posted comments regarding my brother's passing and who contacted me by other means. Your condolences, prayers and shared experiences means a lot to me. I apologize for not replying individually as I normally do with blog comments. (There's been a lot going on.) This community is so supportive and let's admit it, we often know each other better than the people we see off line on a daily basis. I know I share far more here than anywhere else. This past week I've felt the warmth and well wishes you've all sent my way and it's appreciated more than I can express. Jean

Why do all my best ideas for what I want to write about come when I’m doing something without a pen and paper or keyboard near by? This morning in the shower I heard a noise from my upstairs neighbor that triggered a memory about my mom which in turn brought a flood gate’s worth of connected thoughts flowing like the proverbial river. So I used my finger to write on the steam-covered shower door the words, “Labelle Street, old country and genealogy” knowing the words wouldn’t last. I did, however, think they’d last long enough for me to use my squeegee on the glass to wipe them away. Words written on steamy bathroom mirrors in scary movies seems to have a life span longer than it took for them to disappear into unreadable streaks in my bathroom. With the luck of someone who plans ahead for times when I want jot myself a note I had a pad of Post-It Notes and a pen on a small desk near enough into my bedroom that I barely had to step out of the bathroom to grab them. What were those words again? Apartment house, family history and what else? 

On the floor next to the desk where I fetched the pen and paper is basket that was my Easter basket for my entire childhood. I stubbed my toe on it fetching the Post-it Notes. Ouch! My parents practiced recycling before the word was even coined. Year after year that basket was brought out of its hiding place by the notorious Easter Bunny. He filled it with a cellophane covered chocolate bunny and assorted candy and on Easter morning I’d remove the rabbit, bite off his ear and take my basket around the yard or house (depending on the weather) to gather dyed, hard boiled eggs. Then one year no basket was brought down from its hiding place in the attic. There were no eggs to find. No chocolate bunny to eat. Instead, on Easter morning I found a small box made out of cherry wood waiting for me on the kitchen table. Inside was a note that read something like this, “You will be ten in a couple of days and you’re getting too old to still believe in the Easter Bunny. This is his last gift to you.” Also in the box was a necklace nested in a bed of jelly beans. I still have the box but the necklace is gone now. I'm pretty sure my mom heard my brother and me arguing about the Easter Bunnies existence a few days earlier and he was responsible for the dreadful note and the disappointment that followed.

The basket, now, holds a life-sized sleeping cat. Its an aqua, pink and gold gilded porcelain cat adopted from an auction house over a half century ago. Back then I was newly in love with the man I’d later marry. I thought he was crazy to keep bidding that cat up to a whopping twenty bucks just because I admired it when I walked by it before the auction started, but a quick google search of its value today had my eyes bugging out and the word, “Wow! escaping my lips. The cat has never had a name but she’s rests on a pink blanket that kept me warm in my baby’s crib eighty-some years ago.

I’ve walked past the cat-in-the-basket ever since I placed her in it after the auction. Sometimes I ignore it and others times it makes me smile but one thing remains the same: I’m too sentimental for my own good. I worry about what will happen to “my treasures” when I have to move to assisted living or I die. I wonder sometimes if I’m not related to Egyptian Royalty who also felt strongly about taking their treasures with them and they found a way to do it. At least they thought they’d accomplished that goal. Not having a thousand slaves to build me a pyramid I’ll have to be satisfied with the idea that my nieces will arrange to get my stuff into an auction where people who bid on it will treasure what they win. I have a niece who collects white ceramic cats and I briefly thought about giving it to her but like me with my collectibles, it's the thrill of the hunt that she likes about finding her cats plus mine is too old to get along with hers. Look at me personifying hunks of china.

My Easter basket and the porcelain cat have nothing to do with the words I wrote on my shower door. Hearing a loud noise from my upstairs neighbor reminded me that my mom and dad once owned a house that they converted into a two family. It was just after WWII when housing was in short supply for returning soldiers and their new brides and that gave my mom the idea to do some renovations and rent out their upstairs. My mom then saved the rent money for a down payment on a house in the suburbs that would get them out of a declining neighborhood. For their entire married life my mom had my dad building and remodeling one project after another. He always credited her for how far they’d come…both living in poverty as kids, both losing their mothers in grade school, neither one getting much of an education but in their twilight years they were able to enjoy living on a lake in a cottage they converted to a year-around home plus they had lake property up north where they camped. 

Our parent gave my brother and me the conic childhoods that were romanticized on TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best with their wise fathers and hard working moms and the carefree fun of being a teenager during the ‘50s that were portrayed in the Happy Days sitcom. We weren't exactly spoiled---we did chores and a lot of them---but we were rich in after school activities and opportunities. I've always thought my mom was creating the kind of childhood she wished she'd had or she was she living vicariously though us.

As for the words written in steam. My parents once rented their upstairs apartment (on LaBelle Street) to a deaf couple and they said were the noisiest people who ever lived above them because they couldn’t hear themselves making loud noises. My upstairs neighbor (who had all her brand new carpeting removed) is hard of hearing and I’m about ready to shoot her. I swear she's giving bowling lessons up there.

How does genealogy enter into all this---one of the words written on my shower door? My upstairs neighbor is of German descent and speaks with an accent not often heard in my part of the world. It hit me in the shower that younger people don’t care about family history like many people in my generation do because they are homogenized into society in a way like we never were. People all over my campus are working on genealogy (me and Miss Upstairs included) thinking we are going to connect to the youngest members in our families someday when they are old enough to read what we so carefully created. Giving us a false sense of immortality, a way to be remembered after we're gone.

Many of us born before or because of WWII grew up hearing stories of the Old Country, we knew our families came from some place else. Young people, if they think about their family lines at all, don't care about the Great Melting Pot of immigration or the Salad Bowl of immigration that followed and that lack of homage to our history seems to be leading us to isolationism in our politics. Our American Mosaic which has always been our strength is being judged as a bad thing, a scary thing. But that's a topic for another day, another blog post. In the meantime I'll just say I'm thoroughly disgusted with the MAGA Republicans for tanking the latest, fairest and toughest bipartisan border deal to come along in decades just because it will help Trump's campaign not to implement real solutions to real problems so he can keep on campaigning on the crisis at the border.

Until Next Wednesday!