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, April 24, 2013

Contrasts, Bag Ladies and Floods

our main street downtown
Yesterday I had to go to a part of town clustered around our former industrial base. I say ‘former’ because in recent years that industrial base has dried up or moved on to other cities. It’s a depressed and rundown area from what it was just five years ago. One thing that struck me was the billboards I saw advertising phone numbers where people can get help for drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse and neighborhood watch groups. We don’t see those on the other end of town where I live.

On one corner where I had to wait for a traffic light a woman about my age was sitting in a wheelchair holding a sign that read: “Need help and money for food.” Was she for real? A dozen questions went through my head as I waited for the light to change including why would she sit on a busy corner where there was no place a driver could pull over and park if she/he wanted to give the woman some cash. It wasn’t likely she’d spring up from the chair and walk over to a car to collect the money. Would she? She was old enough for Social Security, Medicare, subsidized housing and many other safety nets our community provides to needy people. Why would a person her age need to sit on a corner holding up a sign begging for money? Perhaps she wasn’t mentally capable of navigating her way through Social Services. Perhaps her grandchildren were using her to get money for drugs. I wish I’d had a sign I could have held up that read: “Call 211 for help!”

Whatever the woman’s back story, she was the personification of every fear I had during my younger years, of what my old age would look like if I didn’t play my cards right. Don and I both were both children of depression era parents who’d gone through a lot of tough times in their lives. It was in our DNA to believe that bad luck and hard times could be just around any corner. Consequently, we were workaholics most of our adult lives. Fast forward decades later and I didn’t turn into a bag lady and unless the whole world falls apart, I most likely won’t ever be one. Still, the woman sitting on the corner bothered me---the contrast between her life and mine. In the stroke support community I was a part of for twelve years I’d met a lot of people who thought their futures were secure but they watched it all slip through their fingers when their medical problems and lack of insurance caused them to go bankrupt. Sometimes people get beaten down through no fault of their own.

I drove back to my end of town taking a broad boulevard that makes its way past two well groomed college campuses, several upscale malls and a large botanical garden. I was driving a paid-for car that had just gotten its first anniversary “buff and shine”---warranty required for its clear coat---and I was feeling guilty because by the grace of God or good fortune or the forces of the universe I wasn’t the one sitting on the corner holding up a cardboard sign begging for money. Whether it was a scam, or not, she was still a woman who’d lost all dignity and pride. And that’s sad.

Oh cripe! I just thought about something else to feel guilty and sad about. We’re in the middle of dealing with a 100 year flood with the river that runs through town and record rain fall. I wonder if anyone helped all those homeless people evacuate who live under the bridges and viaducts. Where did they go, who took them in? The lower levels of dozens of buildings downtown are flooded including a five star hotel, the museums, and high-rise apartment buildings. Homes along the river near-by where I live look like little islands and the evacuation of a nursing home was well covered in the news. But my storm damaged yard was put back to normal with a phone call to my landscaper. My biggest flood related problem has been trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B because of road closures. More contrasts. More good luck versus bad luck. I might be alone in the world. I might be a lonely widow. But I’m one lucky, alone and lonely widow. And I hope I never forget to count my blessings as well as the tears. ©

2-3 miles from where I live


  1. Jean :

    I feel the same way about our financial blessings, since both of us have been raised by depression era parents, saving for rainy day & living within our means & on only on one salary was in our DNA, so it always amazes me when illness causes people to go in bankruptcy. sometimes I feel blessed that stroke allowed me to retire at such young age & able to raise our son & get paid for that how cool is that. I am happy that you have this kind of blessing in your life


    1. You have definitely found the silver lining in your challenges dealing with the aftermath of your stroke. Your parents and my parents and those of our spouses taught us valuable lessons that paid off when disaster hit. Continued blessings to you, Asha.

  2. Jean R.,
    I love your blog! Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts and all else.

    1. Thanks, Connie. I love yours, too.