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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lincoln the Movie: a Widow's Impression

Watching the new movie, Lincoln, I fell in love with James Spader’s character W.N.Bilbo, a real-life figure from history. One reviewer called him a “rapscallion” who “worked under the table to sway delegates in the House of Representatives.” I’m not sure what that obscure word means in this century but he was a colorful character with a kind of cockiness that only comes from a healthy dose of self-confidence and he kept me guessing about his moral character and values. Another reviewer called W.N. Bilbo a “charismatic political operative” who worked for Lincoln and by today’s standards would be akin to a lobbyist. Regardless of how you describe the man, he was part of the “Gang of Three” that put pressure on lame-duck Representatives to get them to change their vote on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to end slavery and without the Gang of Three, the course of history would have been vastly different. It wasn’t a huge role in the film compared to some of the other parts but I was fascinated enough to come home and google the guy and read book reviews at Amazon, trying to decide if I have the concentration to tackle the 944 page paperback the movie is based on: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I saw the film with the movie-and-lunch club from the senior hall but I had to skip the lunch in order to be at home for some scheduled warranty work on the house. That was a big mistake. It made me feel so alone not to have anyone to discuss the movie with. The dog didn’t care that I enjoyed the politics of how Lincoln pushed the amendment through and ended the Civil War, the arm twisting that went on and the unexpected warmth of Lincoln’s personality. The dog didn’t care that I was shocked to see the theater was filled almost to capacity at 11:30 on a Friday morning. The dog didn’t care that when Lincoln was pronounced dead at the end of the movie I had a flash-back to Don’s last day on earth and I had to fight back the tears. And the darn dog didn’t care that I will never look at another penny again without thinking of Lincoln’s passion for and skill at ending slavery.

It’s been a busy week----several appointments, shopping, the movie and lunch with my in-laws. At lunch I was telling my sister-in-law that trying to find and build new friendships is now my biggest challenge in widowhood. In truth I’m very lucky in that regard. I don’t have any of the more common widowhood challenges: financial hardship, being helpless about maintenance issues, dealing with the grief of children, or clinical depression. And I haven’t dealt with feelings of guilt since the first few months---the ‘shoulda, coulda, and woulda’ syndrome that applies to so many life-altering events. In the Lincoln movie they brought out the fact that Mary Lincoln suffered a great deal from feelings of guilt over the death of one of their four sons. Throw in her migraines, chronic depression and possible bi-polar disorder you have a woman whose life was not all it shoulda, coulda, woulda been had fate dealt her a fairer hand. Even so, she lived an extraordinary life during extraordinary times.

Mary Lincoln became a widow in 1865 and it took five years of her lobbying Congress before they granted her (by a narrow margin) a life pension---the same as the widows of Civil War soldiers had been getting since 1861 which she felt she deserved, her husband being the “fallen commander”---in her view. I find it mind-boggling that it took so long for Congress to agree. She was preceded in death by her husband and three sons and in widowhood she even spent time in an asylum for her erratic behavior. All this wasn’t brought out in the movie, of course, but if you’re history or political science buff and you go see the movie keep it in mind. Lincoln won’t disappoint you, but then I say that about all of Steven Spielberg’s movies. I don’t think he knows how to make a mediocre film. ©

Interview with James Spader on Lobbying for the 13th Amendment can be found here.

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