Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sex, Bullets and Baby Bliss


Sometimes I have the strangest dreams then spend too much time in the morning trying to figure out where they came from and what they mean. Today I had an opportunity to sleep in for the first time all week but at 7:00 a dream pushed me awake. It involved a young woman in a skirt so short you could see her pubic hair and bare bottom as she flitted around with a bound to her steps that made her pleaded miniskirt flair up in front of Don and myself. (No Brazilian wax job for that girl. Apparently I dream in the grooming styles of decades gone by when the only one who would see your pubic area was your future husband.) I tried to will myself back to sleep so I could figure out what the little trollop was up to, but I couldn’t.

Just before going to bed last night I was watching a rerun of Saturday Night Live with Lady GaGa singing, “Do what you want, what you want with my body.” She was covered with a silver jumpsuit and blouse--- nothing sexy about it---but as she sang she was feeling herself up and by the time the repetitive and boring lyrics quit coming out of her mouth her backup dancer was also feeling her up. Then she laid down on the floor and they simulated sex as she sang the final line---you guessed it, another, “Do what you want with my body.”

I fell asleep trying to figure out when (and if) I’ve become a prude over the years and if I have why has society come to accept violence in movies and the nightly news but sex in the media is still trying to push the shock value envelope. The pundits on cable news talk so freely about how we should bomb this place, and challenge that country’s leader and “kill them before they kill us.” They talk and we listen as if what they're talking about all happens in a movie where the blood isn’t real and the bullets don’t hurt. Guess they've never read General William T. Sherman words: “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it…War is Hell.” Now, war is on little and big screens everywhere---fact, fiction and in games---and we don’t seem to care. Yet we see a singer not only pushing the sex-in-music envelope but trying to set it on fire and we get all indigent and worry about the future of the world.  

Where are the mother’s marches against war? Wouldn’t that be a better cause than trying to keep sex education out of the schools? Maybe what we need is more (not less) sex in the media, in video games and on the nightly news---less time to prompt aggression. Brad and Angelina had sex on the balcony of their New Orleans home last night. It was too dark to get a video but here's the audio. I worry that we’ve programed a whole generation of people who have no empathy for the suffering of others. I must add a disclaimer here: I do know that a Society can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can simultaneously care about baby seals, violence and sex in the media and whether or not the lids on our canning jars have sealed properly. Heck, we can even worry about that stuff in our sleep in the form of girls without panties trying to tempt our husbands.

Sex and violence in the world are such heavy things to cover on a Sunday morning. You would never guess that yesterday I spent the afternoon getting to know and hold the newest member of my family…a great-great nephew born a week ago. His great-grandmother and great aunt were present, too, and the concept of from the cradle to the grave was flitting through my head. What will the future be like for that little boy in the world we're making up as we go? But on that idyllic afternoon all I saw was a young mother completely relaxed and surrounded by a family totally emerged in baby bliss mode. I saw a little boy who already knows love. I saw him get introduced to his four-legged sister who is full grown but smaller than him. I laughed as his newly minted grandmother, assisted by his great aunt (my two nieces), learned how to change a diaper for the first time in decades. It was a matriarchal gathering that probably hasn't changed much since time began.

I can’t control my nighttime dreams but I can control my day-dreams. And yesterday was a special day that deserves a Sunday day-dream of a world with cotton candy rainbows, Snoopy-dog happy dances, and family love that will continue growing in size and depth. Day-dream along with me.... what do you wish for? I'm going to sound like Sandra Bullock in Miss. Congeniality when I say: "I really do want world peace." ©

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Widow's World: From Donuts to Japanese Gardens

It was spring the last time I went to a retirees union meeting, so off I went Thursday to the land of old men and giant sized donuts that are so fresh-out-of-the-oven I wish I could write in smell-o-type. Close your eyes and remember the last time you walked by a bakery in the early morning and imagine a hundred bear claws, Boston creams, sour creams, jelly rolls, fritters and chocolate éclairs all lined up and trying to lure you in. Oh, man, I’m getting a sugar fix just remembering that sight and the aroma that came with it.

After I collected my chocolate covered Boston cream and coffee and found a seat, one of Don’s old co-workers came by. He’d noticed I hadn’t been there all summer and wanted to know if everything was going okay. Just busy, I told him, “But I like coming here and being around people who remember Don.”

“No one could forget him,” he said and then he spent the next ten minutes telling me stories about things that happened during their work days together. I’d heard them all before but I didn’t care. It makes me happy to see people smile and laugh when they tell “Don stories.”

It was a beautiful day, perfect for reflection and after the meeting I took that reflection over to the near-by Sculpture Park and Gardens. I was having trouble registering online for a one-day pastel class being held at the park in October, so I took care of that in person. Then I got spontaneous for the second time this week. I jumped on the tram for a 45 minute tour of the grounds and outdoor sculptures. When I looked at the others on the tram I realized I was surrounded by plain dress Mennonites! I’ve always been fascinated with the Amish and Mennonites communities and have fantasized more than a couple of times about being placed on an Amish farm by the Federal Witness Protection Program. Not that I’d enjoy having to witness a high profile crime to qualify for that program but when I was a stressed-out caregiver, living simple called my name.

There was an empty seat between me and a Mennonite woman in her early 50s and she greeted me with a comment about the weather. Three plain dressed girls in their early 20s sat in front of me. I could see others including two plain dressed men who sat close enough for me to touch. I was excited to be that close to others whose life style is so different than mine and even more intrigued after the tour started. The tour guide had quite a sense of humor and threw out many funny observations and trivia about the sculptures we went by. Much to my surprise and delight the Mennonites also had good sense of humors and laughed right along with the rest of us. One of the guys (mid 50s) has such a sweetly shy way of burying his face in his knees and hands when he laughed, his cheeks red, but the woman next to me made no effort to cover her amusement. At one point the tour guide was talking about a larger-than-life abstract bronze sculpture and he told about all the different guesses people have made about what it was supposed to be ending with he thought it looked like a collection of, “what women use to feed their babies.” 

“That’s just what I thought when I first looked at it,” I softly blurted out and without missing a beat the Mennonite woman next to me tapped my shoulder with the palm of her hand and said, “Me too!” I must be easily impressed because I thought that was quite a neat moment to share with someone who is so different from master-consumer-me. She had an unjaded presence about her that I wish I could describe. She was warm---unguarded---made eye contact easily and I’d love it if there more people like her in the world.

The Sculpture Park is building an eight and a half acre, authentic Japanese garden that will have Zen, moss and Bonsai sections, five bridges, four waterfalls, three islands, two gazebos and a tea house. On the tour we got to see the construction zone and the bones to the project. It’s going to cost 22 million dollars (privately donated) and will be the biggest tea garden outside of the Orient. Because I’m a member of the park I’ll get to go to the members-only opening next June. I wish I still had my kimono, a gift from a serviceman stationed in Japan during the early sixties. It got down-sized out of my life after Don’s stroke but I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to wear it anyway. It was a beautiful white silk garment with tiny flowers embroidered all over it and it was lined in red silk. I can imagine a simple woman like my Mennonite seatmate spending weeks zen-like sewing those cherry blossoms on a kimono for someone else to wear on her wedding day. Cherry blossoms: the fragility of its petal and briefness of its bloom time symbolize in Japanese culture the transience nature of life.

Like I said, it was a good day for reflection on the little things we often overlook and under appreciate---sharing memories with old friends, the late summer sun, the time to do spontaneous things, the soft touch from a stranger's hand, the allure of something new to look forward to, and the smell of fresh pastries that can take us back to that childhood bakery on the corner.  ©

Note: The photo far above is of the Japanese Garden's construction zone and the one just above is of the sculpture I mentioned in my post.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bones, Bingo and Tai Chi for Widows

I always thought if you found me playing bingo you could just put me on a chunk of ice and let me float out to sea the way the some indigenous people used to do to their elderly who were too old to pull their weight in the tribe. So imagine my surprise when I found myself sitting with three bingo cards in front of me for the first time since I was a kid. My, how times change! These cards had sliding tabs to cover the numbers. What happened to the red bingo chips of my youth? And I hear tell they even have handheld electronic gadgets that let you keep track of dozens of cards at one time. Who knew! But I bet you’d like to know how an anti-bingo-no-not me type got roped into playing. I went to a summer potluck at the senior hall and as I was walking out the door a widow friend asked, “You’re not staying for bingo?”

“I’m not a bingo kind of person,” I replied.

“Me neither,” she said, “But I don’t have anything else to do today.”

I got out to the car, put my potluck dish on the back seat and thought: Well, shoot, I don’t have anything else to do either. So I went back inside and sat at a table with bunch of ladies from the Movie and Lunch Club. I was proud of myself because I’m generally not a spontaneous kind of person and I didn’t let my snobbish, stereotype opinion about bingo hold me back. By luck the woman sitting next to me plays bingo 3-4 times a week and she gave me a crash course on playing bingo. Corners, straight line, postage stamp, full card and bingo-the-hard-way are a few of the bingo variations that we played. I also learned she often wins between fifty and a hundred-and-fifty dollars a week playing bingo! A light bulb went on in my head. Some old people must be supplementing their income playing bingo! And here I thought they only played for soup cans and pizza kits. At the senior hall, however, a winning card only brings in one to three dollars. I went home with an extra buck in my wallet and a lot of laughs under my belt. It was fun because the people around me were fun.

Earlier in the week, though, I wasn’t laughing. I woke up with a “slipped” rib causing a stabbing pain with every move, deep breath, yawn or sneeze. Sometimes called a “floating rib” I learned that the 11th and 12th ribs are ribs that are attached to the spine but not to the sternum like all our other ribs and they can slip out of place, putting pressure on internal organs. I also learned that at one time in the history of fashion women had been known to have these ribs removed to help give them a more hour-glass figure. I would have done my own rib surgery the day my rib slipped out of place if I had had a sharp scalpel, a bone saw and someone to hold a mirror up to my back, it hurt that bad. An appointment with the chiropractor, though, took care of the pain in less than five minutes and with no blood spilled or drugs shot up my veins. It was like a mini miracle. Since all stories should have a moral or lesson to teach, this story sings the praises of keeping your core muscles strong so they and the ligaments can help keep your 11th and 12th ribs in place as you age.

Today I was back to the senior center to take a Balance Class where we’ve started doing Tai Chi moves. Or I should say kindergarten Tai Chi as our instructor calls it because we’re required to keep a chair near-by to grab should we lose our balance. Tai Chi moves have some neat names like: the white crane, calming the water, lotus flower and gathering the stars. We also learned the horse stance and the bear walk and when class was done we all thought it was a great work out. By next spring, we kidded, we’ll be good enough to do to Tai Chi barefoot in the park the way they do in the orient. We’ll have our qi (life force or energy) flowing through us because our body’s yin and yang will be in perfect balance. One class and already I can throw around the lingo (hopefully correctly). Pretty cool for an old bag of bones like me, don’t you think. ©