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

Friday, May 24, 2013

Widows and Memory Triggers

This week I learned that if you ever need a dose of ‘nice’ in your life all you have to do is go to the grocery store with your arm in a sling. People give you understanding smiles, offer to help you reach stuff, and are more patient when you’re clearly in their way and the cashiers offer to get you help loading bags in your car. I even heard a few stories about grandmothers who fell and broke their arms. I experienced the same kind of gestures when I shopped with my wheelchair bound husband but he’s been gone 16 months now and I ‘d forgotten how society can be when you really need a little ‘nice’ in your life.

Speaking of Don, it occurred to me a few days ago how impossibly complex it is for widows to “just move on” and put the past behind us. The memory triggers keep coming and coming like this week when I saw a classic MG, the exact model year and color of one Don and I found on vacation years ago. It was a fixer-upper that we would have had to be trailer back to Michigan and we were headed out west to the mountains at the time. If it was meant to be, we decided, it would still be there for sale when we passed by on our way back home. It wasn’t but it sure gave us a lot to dream about on that trip. All those dreams came rushing back upon seeing the restored MG on the road, dreams of taking “our MG” through the Smoky Mountains and along the California coastline. But the MG memories also reminded me of how lucky I am that my memory triggers are mostly good ones. How hard it must be on widows who had bad marriages to be constantly reminded of things they’d rather not remember. Oh course, in the beginning months of widowhood my memory triggers came with a heavy dose of melancholy for what can never be again. Now, my memory triggers just valid the fact that my past life was never dull or empty with Don around.

Having my broken elbow in a sling is slowing me down but my Plan B includes purging filing cabinets, cleaning drawers, ordering books online, and researching my next major purchases---a washer and dryer---so I’m finding things to do. In the second drawer I cleaned I ran across two memory triggers, trinkets that were given to Don and me at a drummer circle we took part in 4-5 years ago. It was a chance meeting in a park we were wandering around when we came upon a group of people beating drums. After watching for a while, they motioned for us to come join them. Don was given a rattle to shake, I has handed a tambourine to beat and for the next hour we fell into the rhythm, at one with the group. To this day I don’t understand who or how their percussion shifted from one rhythm to another without spoken words but it was an amazing experience. Native American cultures believe instruments have a persona and life of their own so maybe it was the instruments, not the people setting the pace? How do you throw away trinkets that remind you of a feel good memory like that sunny afternoon in a park spent with a group of nice people who without words made us feel at one with the world? I did and I didn’t. I kept the beads off the whatnots to sting into a necklace and threw the other parts away. Others might call that silly to keep the beads but I call it progress to throw out what I did.

We spend much of our younger years looking ahead and now I’m in a phase of life when I spend much of my time looking back. If we had had children and grandchildren things might be different. I think they help you keep looking ahead as you exchange grandparent stories with your friends, but that’s just a weak theory on my part. Old people stereotypes that include us telling endless stories from the past didn’t just magically appear, whole clothe doesn’t get woven without thread. As we go through life we keep mementos and souvenirs, we write journals, take pictures and then we wonder why our elders and widows often seem to be living their lives in reverse? My best theory? If we were only meant to live in the here and now the invention of cameras never would have caught on and tourist destination shops would only sell ice cream and soft drinks because memory triggers would be of no value to us. Therefore I conclude its part of old people DNA to review and make peace with our own personal histories; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Yesterday I got another one of those infamous widowhood memory triggers in the mail. It was a letter addressed to Don with these words printed in big block letters on the envelope: WE MISS YOU AND WANT YOU BACK! That piece of junk mail acts as a marker on how well I’m doing as a widow. A year ago it would have made me cry. Yesterday it only brought a moment of sadness as I said out loud, “Me, too. Join the club.” ©


  1. What an interesting point you make about our obvious need to record our lives and buy souvenirs. I'm beginning to seeing the value in finding meaning in personal history.

    My father just turned 100 and we children had such fun creating presentation boards with over 155 photos from his life. What a gift this was, learning his history. Did you know, that at age 23, in 1936, he and a buddy went from Wisconsin to the Pacific and back with $60 in their pockets? How cool to see my Dad in his 10 gallon hat proudly standing by his Model T car!

  2. 100! That's amazing and how cool that his family created the presentation boards. $60 dollars today wouldn't even take you on a night out on the town. Thanks for sharing a bit of your dad here.