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, October 4, 2013


MAYBE it’s because I spent seven years of my life visiting a nursing home twice a week that I’m not looking forward to going again. Or MAYBE it’s because it’s not unusual for people my age to be living in a nursing home and I’m scared they’re going to lock the doors and not let me leave. Whatever the source of my apprehensions, it felt weird being in a group of women ages 55 to 80 as we sat around a table stuffing assorted Halloween candy, spiders and gummy worms into bags for the residents of a nursing home. But that’s what we did at our Red Hat Society business meeting. Fifty of them---bags, not ladies. Apparently, we’re going trick-or-treating in reverse. We’ll be delivering candy room-to-room instead of getting it by going door-to-door. Worry wart that I am I can visualize half the recipients of the bags ending up in ER. I know I would have a heart attack if I opened a bag and found two big black spiders mating inside. And the person I visited twice a week, my mother-in-law, would have eaten the plastic arthropods. How smart is it to include non-eatable things in candy bags going to people who have been known to pick lint off the floor and pop it in their mouths? But I’m a newbie in the group so I kept my worry wart thoughts to myself.

Also at the meeting the “Princess in Charge of Veteran Affairs” reminded us all to start accumulating stuff to put in shoe boxes for homeless vets that our chapter will be packing in November and giving out at Christmas. Jeez, I hope we don’t have to deliver those boxes in person---although it would be “character building” if we did. (That’s what my brother used to tell me and his kids whenever we didn’t want to do something.) Ya, ya. I know. I’m a liberal and liberals believe in helping people who are down on their luck. Save your heckling for someone else. I’m good at writing checks and sending them periodically to the soup kitchen and the homeless shelter in town. In years gone by I was even good at talking to the homeless when Don was at my side because I knew he could handle any threatening situation that might come up. But a swarm of old ladies dressed in purple and red climbing under bridges and viaducts looking for refrigerator box condo communities? How’s that going to work out? My new Red Hat chapter, I suspect, is going to be taking me out of my comfort zone a lot. MAYBE peer pressure will finally catch up to me after all these years of avoiding it.

My social calendar this week also included a lecture at the Historical Society. The lecture was about an old amusement park that used to be in town in between the 1890s to 1954. It was Disneyland huge and it drew in a string of well-known entertainers at the dance pavilion, playhouse and vaudeville theater---one venue alone could seat 1,700 people. The park also had a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, four story toboggan run/roller coaster and a roller rink where I skated more than a few times. The park sat in between two lakes and you could rent canoes that came with picnic baskets so you could lunch on the water. Like people who have reached their expiration dates, it’s hard to believe an amusement park so big and popular could disappear as if it never existed except for the pictures left behind in a book.

MAYBE it was the romanticism of a by-gone era or the pure talent of a cameraman to tell a story, but I went home from the lecture longing for something I can’t have. I want more candid photos of Don and me together! We took photos of each other, of the dogs, of scenery and flowers but any photos of us together were usually taken at someone’s wedding and they were formal, line-ups and stiff. “You stand over there by the bride.” “Line up by height.” “Say cheese.” I want the kind of photos where we were having a quiet or romantic moment while hundreds of people were having the time of their lives in the distance background. I want pictures of myself and Don lounging in a canoe or feeding swans along the shore on a sunny summer afternoon. Iconic photographs of an iconic era like those at the slideshow/lecture. The current generation with their cell phone cameras sure won’t have to long wistfully for more photos when they get old. Judging by what they post on Facebook young people pretty much document every moment of their days. Do they think if it isn’t captured in a photo it didn’t happen? If so, I’m beginning to wonder if they might be right. Am I just imagining the smiles that passed between Don and me so long ago? Did he really hold my hand when I needed his support? Was he real? Were we real? MAYBE I’m not so sure anymore and it hasn’t even been two years yet since he passed away. What’s it going to be like in ten?

Time marches on. The pines outside my window are thinning their needles. The cattails are losing their color. The season is changing and Halloween is just around the corner. MAYBE if I can remember not to eat any plastic spiders when I visit the nursing home with my Red Hat chapter they won’t want to keep me locked inside. MAYBE, like the main character in Water for Elephants, I'll find a way to escape the nursing home and run away to join the circus if that does happens. ©


  1. Wow. Your Red Hat group does pretty great things! I need to look into that as a social AND do good organization. I am also thinking of our local Meals on Wheels. Unfortunately, I'm pretty lazy and the center is 35 minute drive from home.

  2. All chapters have the right to design their groups any way they want to. If you find a few chapters in your area ask each of them what kinds of things they do before joining. It's pretty easy to start a chapter, too, if you wanted to. Then you can really get a say in what kind of balance you have between social and do-good projects. I could see a group for widows and even thought about starting one if this chapter hadn't come back into my life in such a serendipity way.

  3. My daughter (who is NOT a Liberal) and her family go into the inner city in Detroit every summer and work on passing out meals to the homeless, cleaning up the empty lots where junk has been thrown and live in an abandoned school gym while they are there. I am more the check writer person. As for nursing homes? When I had to stay in one for rehab after my hip surgery--I did not eat in the dining room with the residents--the whole thing scared me because all I had to do was look and ponder and see my future right there. Hopefully, by the time we get there, our memories will be so shot we won't care where we are? Sometimes it crosses my mind that I have forgotten huge chunks of time that Fred and I spent together. Sometimes, I wonder, "was it real?" "Did we really have that wonderful a relationship?" "Has he really been gone ONLY two years? It seems like longer." P.S. I DO NOT think it is a good idea to put non-edible plastic bugs in with edible ones either. I see chocking hazard. Headline: "Local Red Hat Society Halloween treats turn into tricks for nursing home residents. Two residents have died from chocking on plastic toys."

  4. Judy, I'm so glad to know my thoughts about the nursing home are not so unique. I hope you're right about our minds being gone if and when we find ourselves living in one.

    I can also relate to your the missing huge chunks of time with Fred and wondering if you really did have the wonderful relationship you remember. I really do think there is such a thing as widow's glasses...some of us have rose-colored lens and some us are wearing dark lens, so dark that those widows wearing dark lens can't see the lighter side of their lives before the trauma of loss occurred. At least with our rose-colored lens we can gloss over the pain near the end of our spouse's lives and be comforted by our memories of joy---regardless of whether they were entirely real or are elevated slightly by distance and longing.