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, February 19, 2014

Presidents, Red Hats and Apartments

On President’s Day the senior citizen hall sponsored a program described as: “A two-character play that brings history alive. This one-act play chronicles the true love story of the lives of John and Abigail Adams.” What a treat that was to watch this play and this is coming from a woman who has never been big on going to live theater productions. I guess I need to give them another try, broaden my horizons as they say. The actors---well-known in area Civic and Heritage theater groups---spoke in character for an entire hour, never once missing a line or stumbling on a word of the fast-paced dialogue. The acting was extraordinary and it didn’t hurt that they brought up one of my Revolutionary Era ancestors who had a well-documented connection with the Adams family and the revolution. I left the building uplifted and smiling just as a snowstorm was moving in that dumped another eight inches of drifting snow overnight, bringing our seasonal total up to 101.1 inches!

The cost of these life appreciation lectures are unwritten by area businesses and the President’s Day play was paid for by a senior living apartment complex. (You have to be 55 or older to live there.) Since I keep going back and forth about moving to a condo or senior complex or staying put I asked a lot of questions of the representative who was manning their table full of handouts. It’s a nice place with some bells and whistles I want but I was shocked to learn that the rent for one person in a 780 square feet apartment is $3,180 per month. It doesn’t cost me anywhere near that much to live in my 1,600 square feet house, not to mention I would hate going down the hall to do laundry, not having a garage for my car, and I would be exchanging snow shoveling for walking my dog in the winter, since here I can just turn him loose in his dog pen. Maybe I'm just out of touch with rental costs?  If I sold my house I'd end up spending all that money in five or six short years on rent! Then what? No wonder people end up living in their cars.

I did learn one important fact to tuck in back of my mind in case I ever reach bag lady status. These kinds of senior living places will let you try out their guest apartments for a weekend for free, if you’re interested in sampling their social life. I’ve never counted but I’ll bet there’s enough senior places like this around town that you could stay in a different one every weekend for a year, and then start all over again using a different name. Always have a backup plan, that’s my motto. Last year I toured another place like the one mentioned above only it was more upscale and downright spooky. Why spooky? Because you buy your apartment for upwards of $300,000 plus paid a high monthly fee but if you live there longer than one year, then died or move out, you or your heirs won’t get a penny of that money back when it’s resold. The money goes back to the complex. I wrote about this Stepfordville for old people HERE if you’re interested in how these places work. Apparently their business model is pretty common. There are at least three that I know of in town that are set up in a similar way.

Our bad weather last week caused my Red Hat Society chapter to cancel their Valentine’s Day party at the nursing home and it was reschedule for this week. Why did I have to join a do-gooder chapter who does these little cheer-up-the-inmates events from time-to-time? I did my thing with nursing homes twice a week for seven years when my husband’s mother was in one. I share-cared my dad for five years through his early Alzheimer’s and cancer. I was my disabled husband’s caregiver for twelve years. I don’t want any more reminders in my life that many of us get helpless and needy as we age, thank you very much. I’m perfectly content to bury my head in the sand on that score. But I’ve ran out of excuses for Red Hat nursing home duty and so Wednesday I played nice with a bunch of their residents---many of whom aren’t that much older than me. I came home determined to take better care of myself lest I be the next recipient of a do-gooder group handing out punch, sugary treats and holiday trinkets, and playing bingo in slow-motion with cards the size of Texas. It wasn’t such a bad experience---I made myself useful---but you know what a drama queen I can be.

Transitions in life are often scary and I’m finding this one---attempting to age with grace---the hardest of all. Yes, you caught that---I’m at a point where I’ve separated the transition caused by grief from the transition of aging which makes it easier. Divide and conquer. But it’s a little like having the horse that was pulling my cart run off leaving me to decide whether to push the cart or abandon it. I accept that my horse isn’t coming back but now what? Do I sell the house and move on or do I stay as long as I can still keep it up? If I move, where to? If I go to a senior complex will I be happy living so close with others my own age? Or will I hate the loss of real privacy? What will I gain, what will I lose if I move? Will I run out of money and end up roaming the streets? People in transition can drive themselves crazy with questions!  ©


  1. I have done nursing home do-gooder duty twice. It just depresses me so much because I see my future--especially if the resident is my age. I can't afford those lovely senior living places, nor do I want to live with people on either side of me, above and below me. I tried apartment living once and hated it. I will stay here for as long as I can--however it is a small place, 960 sq. ft. and I can take care of it. Glad I made the decision to move from the large, 9 room farm house a few years ago--now I don't have to make that decision. Just take it one day at a time and see how it goes?

    1. You hit the nail on the head about seeing our futures when visiting nursing homes. It didn't used to effect me that way when I was younger. I never looked for excused not to go.

      From the costs of senior living condos or apartments complexes I doubt I could afford them either without living on a shoestring. That's good advice about just taking it one day at a time. But sometimes I get obsessive thinking about all the choices.

    2. You guys have taught me to NOT make quick decisions. Although I'm SOOO glad we downsized before Mr. Ralph got sick. And we picked each space for aging in place. Ground floor units, 980 sq ft and 1200 sq ft. Walkable to necessities like groceries, bank, Rite Aid, post office, library, coffee shop.

      I think it's nice to obsess and use paper to write down pros and cons. And then procrastinate as long as possible!

    3. I really feel badly for widows how HAVE to make quite decisions due to financial matters or whatever. I've seen way too much people make quick decisions after the death of a spouse an end up regretting it and/or grieving not only their husband's but also the loss of their homes as well.

      My house, now, is my downsize from what we had before Don's stroke and because it's perfect for aging in place---universal design for wheelchairs---it's going to be hard to find a smaller place that has those features. that I've come to love. Even the senior living places I've seen don't cut it in the bathrooms.

  2. Decisions, decisions. We want to downsize. Our house is too large and requires too much maintenance. We are trying to decide if we want a condo or a small house in a 55+ community.

    I, too, have done my share of nursing home visits and caregiving. Just like you and Judy, I find it depressing. It only reminds me of what could potentially be my future.

    Good luck with your decision-making process. I know it isn't easy to make such a decision without a partner.

    That play is right up my ally. We both enjoy plays and occasionally attend a local, nearby theater. The amount and quality of local talent never fails to surprise me.

    1. I find it easier to make decisions without my partner because I only have to please myself and I don't have to negotiate compromises or consider what is best for both of us. It's just that the choice I want doesn't seem to be at my end of town. If I could only move a 55+ condo community I saw on the other end up here, I'd have no trouble moving.

  3. Jean, how is it that you nail an issue that's been rolling around in my head?

    The idea of calling myself a senior is abhorrent to me, because it conjures up dependency. I don't mean emotional dependency, but practical physical dependency. One of my close widowed friends moved into an assisted living facility after years of parttime live-in care in her house. It's as if she's crossed this line into invisibility, entering a cushy holding pen for eventual release into the yonder. We visited her there to celebrate her 90th birthday, but none of us have visited her since, nor does she invite us. I myself have lingering discomfort with end stage life, having been so up close to it for years with my late husband.

    I don't think we drive ourselves crazy with all these questions. We're pitching and tossing possible scenarios around, like we do with outfits, until we come up with one that fits, for now. I very much agree that separating the issues of aging from the issues of grief is extremely helpful. In my case, the primary reason I launched into a physical fitness regimen was to maintain my independence. My older siblings let their fitness slide, and hence one is freaking out as her options dwindle. I wanted to avoid that at all costs. It doesn't take much to stay fit, just consistent effort.

    Again, thanks for writing. I feel less alone when I read what you write.

    1. It's really not something I'm proud of...the dragging my feet about going to the nursing home with the Red Hats. I "hope" it would be different if someone I know well was in one but I'm not sure at this point in my life. I've always believed that we teach the next generation below us how to teach us when we get old by how we treat our elders. So it feels like I'm betraying my own values when I don't have the attitude I once had regarding nursing home visits.

      I wish you luck with keeping fit, but I know you don't need it. You have the right mindset. Unlike you I do find it a lot of effort because staying consistent is not one of my strong suites.

  4. Your analysis of the nursing home racket is fascinating. You could publish some investigative journalism on this! No joke.

    While my situation is different, I am just where you are with transition, it's just the kind of transition that's different. One of my children suffers from anxiety/obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's a lot harder than it sounds. In the past few months, I've come to realize that this is the hardest thing in my life right now, not the grieving. It's hard for me to write on my own blog, but it brings me down, wears me out, makes it harder to heal and move on, etc., etc. It's heartening (but unfortunate) to see that kind of line-drawing done here, as well. Thanks, Jean, and I'm here with you as you make these decisions. Rough stuff.

  5. Nothing about dealing with a child's disorder sounds easy to me. I'm sorry to hear about your son or daughter's heartbreaking disorder.

    It's kind of liberating, isn't it, to be able to separate grieving from other issues. It's one of the steps of letting go of the grief, to realize it isn't driving our entire lives.

    I have the opposite results of blogging than you do. It helps me purge my thoughts as I work them out on paper (or rather the keyboard), helps me move on. It's my sounding board since I have no off-line human in my life to be one. LOL

    Thank you so much for commenting from time to time!