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, July 2, 2022

Music that Comes with Tears and Laughter

I’ve got to stop listening to old music from the ‘50s through the ‘80s. Once a month they have a birthday party here at the continuum care complex to celebrate everyone who was born in that particular month and the party usually includes a singer/musician. Many have been singer/song writers both young and old and they have something else in common. They try to sing songs fitting the age of our residents. One guy missed the mark and did too many songs from the ‘40s which on paper to a young person probably sounded good since most of us were born in the ‘40s but the music most old seniors like us identify with is the decade of songs from when we were teenagers and young adults. The ‘50s and ‘60s songs usually have us all singing along and having a great time. And I can have as much fun singing as the next person but those songs often make me teary-eyed as well. 

For example when the guy above in the photo ---John D. Lamb sang “Each night I ask the stars up above why must I be a teenager in love?” I felt like I was right back in high school, encamped in my converted attic bedroom with the pink cabbage roses in the wallpaper. I’d lay on my moss green carpet and play that record over and over again until my mom would yell up from the bottom of the steps for me to, 'Turn that damn thing off." I learned it from her---playing records over and over again the way she did when I was a toddler. She had a collection of WWII records that she played over and over again. The Andrew Sisters singing the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy is tattooed inside my head. 

I can’t hear a WWII, gun-ho-to-support-the-war song without remembering the day my dad and I cleaned out our basement and we took her record collection to the dump. We had a good time sailing those records across the field of garbage and trash. She hadn’t played them in years but she was so mad when she found out what we did that it took her a week before she spoke to either one of us. As an adult looking back I know there was a story there I’m missing, probably a love story about a boyfriend who joined the Air Force and never came back. She had a pair silver U.S. Air Force wings in her jewelry box and a photo of her with a guy she dated before my dad that she never talked about or rather I was too self-centered to ask about. Mom’s are moms. We don’t see their lost dreams the way we see our own.

At the same birthday party John D. Lamb also sang Anta Lucia in Italian. His ancestry is Italian like my dad’s was and hearing that love song sang that way reached so far back into my memory vault I had nearly forgotten about all the Italian weddings I’d been to as a young kid. My three great uncles were still alive and they spoke their native tongue and always sang that song to the bride while one or two of them played the accordion.

Another song that nearly brought me to tears was the theme song from Ghost. Remember Demi Moore’s character at a potter’s wheel while Patrick Swayze’s character/the ghost was behind her and the theme song played: “...I've hungered for your touch, A long, lonely time, And time goes by so slowly, And time can do so much, Are you still mine?” Corny, I know but to quote a line from The Holiday “I like corny.” I liked it enough that day to have trouble holding back the tears. But I did. 

Until John D. Lamb pulled out a Tom Jones song. I’ve told the story before but briefly its of the triangle dating thing I had going between me, Don and his friend who looked like he shared the same gene pool as Tom Jones. His first name was even Tom and he was playboy type who took full advantage of looking like the famous singer. “It's not unusual to be loved by anyone, It's not unusual to have fun with anyone’, but when I see you hanging about with anyone, It's not unusual to see me cry, I wanna die.” It was Don who had the staying power, as long time readers here know, who wanted to cry when he saw me out with the Tom Jones look-alike. Cornball, I know but it's my story and I'll tell it the way I want.

At lunch the next day someone remarked that I was having a good time at the birthday party, that she was sitting behind me and could see me getting into the music. “I was,” I told her, “but along with the happiness I fought back a few tears. Old music does that to me.” Others at the table said the same thing happened to them at this birthday party. So either John D. Lamb knew how to play to his audience or all of us had our emotions close too the surface that day and our tears needed a place to escape. I suspect it was a combination of both because the world outside that room, was filled with nothing but bad news. All I really know for sure is by the time the hour was up I was crushing on John D. Lamb and I left in a better mood than I came.  ©

The video below is of John singing a song he wrote about two friends who went to the capital January 6th. He didn't sing this at the party but I love how song writers can turn anything into music. He holds an annual Retreat for Song Writers and is on his 28th year doing so. The second video is a humorous song he wrote and did sing for us. It's for all of us who know what it's like to drive up north in Michigan.

Laughing in all the Wrong Places
Look Out for Deer

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Dementia Brain, Grey's Anatomy and Tick Looking Moles

I blow off a lot of steam in my blog. I’m really not as surly as one might think as you read through my inner most thoughts. I write about them because---well, because I’ve been writing about my inner most thoughts in diaries since the early ‘50s and I wrote with such bad spelling back then you’d need a decoder ring to figure out what I was saying. Most of us have busy minds that take us to places, at times, we wouldn’t announce out loud---unless we’re a blogger. Bloggers do tend to over-share which works out great because no one has read us the way one would be stuck listening to a rambling, old uncle at Thanksgiving Day dinner.

I’ve had the above paragraph in my computer for over a week of wondering where it will lead me. With my stream of consciousness writing style, I don't usually set out to write about any particular topic. But with all the crappy things going on in our world I feel like I should take a bite out of the elephant in the room and write about something that matters. Where would I start? His leg? His trunk or maybe his belly? The problem is the damn elephant is too damned big and diseased and he's completely out of control, destroying the damn Republican Party tent. Why should I care about their tent when it was the RNC who let the damn crazies out of the asylum? The same crazies who are marching that damn animal around the drain of Democracy. Some writer I am. I just repeated a swear word five times in three sentences. Good writers---if they use swear words at all---use them judicially. 

The point is I feel like a cork barely holding a fermented liquid in its bottle. Hey, maybe I could study the anatomy of elephants and aim that bottle so the cork could become a kill shot missile. Metaphorically speaking. I really love elephants I see baby elephants every day on my Facebook page. Facebook with its steady stream of baby elephants, puppies, kittens and panda bears is my happy place. Where else can you find memes like Keri Beevis, author of gruesome psychological thrillers, churns out saying things like: "I'll bet giraffes don't even know what farts smell like." Her mind truly is an paradoxical place to live.

I had my yearly dermatology appointment this week which was as welcome as getting an STD, not that I’ve ever had one but I’m binge watching Netflix’s Grey’s Anatomy and an episode I saw recently had the interns passing a case around to each other. My old dermatologist retired early because of covid and his son took over his practice and I was worried he’d look like Doctor McDreamy or Doctor McSteamy which would have made the process of being naked so much more embarrassing. But thank goodness he's skinny and looks twelve years old. At one point I wanted to smack him for patronizing me by calling many of my mole “wisdom moles”---never putting a real name to them. He seemed so pleased to find so many of them that I wanted to hand him an ink pen and tell him to play connect-the-dots. He did a biopsy of a spot on my ankle and I’m still waiting to hear back about it. Last winter I thought it was a tick and I pulled it off only to discover no critter resided inside that black, crusty thing. It grew back. I picked it off again and it wouldn’t heal up, got itchy and bloody, grew back yet again.

I wasn't the least bit worried about the spot until the doctor said he sees cancerous moles on ankles all the time. Then this week while I've been binging on Grey’s Anatomy Izzie Stevens got brain cancer from a mole on her back and was given a 3% chance of survival. What are the chances that out of eighteen seasons of that show I'd be watching the metastasized skin cancer episodes while waiting to hear back about my mole that looked like a tick?

Change of topic: We have a new resident who moved into the CCC a month ago and she became the topic of conversation at dinner one night…after she left. She’s got short term memory loss and the question came up about how/why she got into the independent living section on campus and didn’t go directly into the Memory Care. She constantly repeats the same questions. If you sit next to her at a meal she’ll ask you literally ten times in a row how long you’ve lived here, if you like it here, how long can we stay here and she’ll tell you how her family supposedly put her here without telling her a head of time they were doing it. She walks about with a schedule in her hand, afraid if she misses something she’ll get kicked out.

A lot of compassionate people were at the table who have all tried to help her. We talked about the criteria some of us knew about for how the CCC decides when you get moved to a higher level of care and most of us agreed she’s not there yet---she’s not a danger to herself or others.

When I got back to my apartment I googled the question of how to respond to people with dementia who keep repeating the same questions over and over again and I got some tips I can’t wait to share others. We’ve been doing it all wrong, we’ve been trying to reason with her, giving her sympathy for the way she thinks she got dumped here, urging her to talk to her family about it. Telling her it takes time before she'll feel at home. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

In a nutshell we’re supposed to be responding to the emotions, not the words. In her case we need to say variations of: "Your family made a good decision putting you in this beautiful and safe place where you can stay as long as you need." Keep our answers short then quickly use distraction to change the topic. "How do you like Mary's scarf? Isn't that a good color for her?" I don’t know if we can make a difference by changing the way we react to her but we all have a vested interesting in this issue because who knows which one of us will get to that stage sooner rather than later. 

However, the way the world is headed maybe having a dementia brain is not really such a bad thing, especially in a place like this where so many residents are looking out for each other. ©