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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Widow’s Impulse Purchase

I’ll give you a tip: Never walk through the showroom of a dealership unless you’re prepared to be wowed by their newest acquisition and never, ever ask the salesman you’ve bought your last few vehicles from what your trade-in value is on your present car unless you’re prepared to be pleasantly surprised. In the past I've never bought anything over hundred bucks without researching it and sitting on the decision for a day or two but on Wednesday I broke that unwritten Rule of Life here in Jean County. And how did that happen? I’m not sure beyond the fact that my Malibu needed its 15,000 miles maintenance done and I left the place with an agreement to buy a brand new Chevy Trax mini SUV. All I had left to do to own the thing was to arrange for insurance, local the title for the Malibu, get the money from the bank and return the next day. I got a great deal! Minus the trade-in and GM Family First discounts and rebates, the SUV now sits in my garage for just $9,000 out of pocket. Using Jean Math I’m also deducting my income tax refund from that which drops the 2015 Trax down just under $6,000. 

There goes the money for the trip to Alaska I was thinking strongly about going on next summer and good-bye to a new iPad. That purchase is getting put on hold---again---until I can sell a few more things on e-Bay. There’s irony in waiting for an iPad, though, because the Trax has built-in Wi-Fi. I still can’t wrap my mind around that feature. It even has a phone apt that lets you lock/unlock the doors, hit the horn and flash the lights plus remote start the vehicle. I would say the only thing you can’t do in that mini SUV is fry eggs but that would be a lie because it has a household plug to run a printer or whatever appliance you want including an electric frying pan. That should come in handy should I ever find myself living in my car. 

Impulse purchase or not, after a life time of driving pickup trucks and full sized SUVs I haven’t felt safe in the Malibu and it certainly has contributed to me being afraid to drive in snow these past two winters. I’ve also missed having cargo space, sitting up high enough to see ahead in traffic and having a back-up camera. It should be a law that everyone over seventy has a back-up camera, especially those of us who have driveways with blind spots. The neighborhood mothers can rest easier now that I’m no longer the old lady backing up on a driveway that tempts kids on tricycles to go "weeeee!" all the way down the incline. 

When I bought the Malibu a few months after Don died, it was the first major purchase I made with the exception of a cemetery stone and at the time I couldn’t get rid of our Traverse with the wheelchair lift fast enough. If I could have left his memory service and sold it on the way home I would have. It was depressing me to see keep seeing the place where the EMTs worked on him just before transferring Don to their ambulance a week or so before he died. I sold the Traverse to a relative for a few thousand over trade-in value, saving them a ton of money over dealership prices. They were (and still are) happy and for a while I was happy, too, to be driving the little Malibu. But over time I realized I missed having haul-stuff-around space inside. But mostly, I seriously missed feeling confident and safe driving in the winter. 

What worried me the most about buying the Trax isn’t that I bought it on impulse, although this is so out of character for me that if I had kids they’d probably think it’s time to put mama in assisted living where I couldn’t write checks or even go shopping without an escort. No, what worried me is that I might pull the same impulse buying trick when I toured a condo a few days later.  A house is definitely something you don’t want to buy on impulse! The condo, as it turns out, was in a neighborhood that was baron of any trees or landscaping and I hated all the dark wood floors, dark painted walls and black marble counter-tops. I wasn’t remotely interested in living there even though it was a zero steps concept condo which is second on my ‘must have’ list just under it being a pet friendly community. Thankfully, I didn’t make two major purchase on impulse in one week. Even I would have wondered about my mental health had I done that.  ©

The Great Debate:  Please weigh in on the great sweater debate going on in my head. Is this toddler sweater doomed to win the ugliest sweater contest or something else? I had fun making up the color blocking as I went along but I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed (or not) to give it to the senior hall craft sale and more importantly, make any more crazy sweaters to donate. (Note: The green didn't photograph well. It's a clear, primary color green.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Monuments Men and When Words Fail Me

On Tuesday I had something interesting penciled into the day planner. I went to lecture followed by a special screening of the Monuments Men movie. You may remember hearing about this George Clooney film when it hit the movie theaters last year. It’s about an actual event in history where men from around the world were charged with finding art works stolen and hidden by the Nazis during World War II. The daughter of one of the actual members of the Monuments Men was the guest lecturer---she was born and raised in a near-by town---and she shared her father’s personal stories, letters and photographs of the recoveries of the stolen art in which he took part. He helped catalog the thousands of pieces of art found in two salt mines and with trying to local their rightful owners.

It was a fascinating story and one the daughter didn’t fully appreciate until a friend called her one day to tell her that her father’s photo was in the latest Smithsonian Magazine. She went online, left a comment on the article and the next day she got an email from a man writing a book about the Monuments Men. He wanted to interview her and her mother and within a week, the author flew in from Texas with a camera crew and he left with some of the memorabilia that her father had kept in a box labeled, “Army Stuff. Do NOT throw out.” Fast forward: The book got optioned for the movie, she was an invited guest at the Michigan premier of the film, the local newspaper picked up the story and she began getting asked to speak to groups around the state.

Once a month I talk politics with a life-long friend of my husbands, or rather I should say we vent to one another. We’re both liberal democrats and as the next presidential election winds up we’ll talk more often. It’s been that way since Don lost his speech and before that it was my husband and his friend who’d have these political conversations. He’s my political ‘pigeonhole’ friend. If I want to talk dogs I call a certain pigeonhole friend and if I want to hear some family gossip, I call a sister-in-law who knows it all. If I want to talk books I’m up a creek without a paddle because no one I know reads for pleasure anymore. Online reviews are a good substitute for real conversations but after seeing what I did on Tuesday I would have loved having a pigeonhole art friend to talk Monuments Men and art with. I still can’t get over the fact that Hitler had left orders---should he die---to destroy all the art that he had his military steal and hide, and they did start that process. It boggles my mind that a person, even Hitler, could be that selfish and vindictive. So many of Europe’s finest treasures---pieces by the likes of Michelangelo, Monet, Rembrandt, Raphael, Vermeer, Leonardo de Vinci and so on---would have been lost forever if not for the quick actions of the 350 men who served in Monuments Men units. 

When my political friend calls we’re usually on the phone a good hour which is a long conversation in Jean’s World where, these days, I can easily go a week or two without talking to anyone except the cashier at the grocery store and the Starbucks speaker. During our most recent political call I realized (not for the first time) that my conversational skills are slipping. I’m not as quick with getting out my thoughts and words. I’m not forming easy comments to his statements like I used to be able to do. Part of that is because since last winter I’m not following the news as closely as I used to do but the other part has me worried. Why? Because I’ve noticed the same, not-as-quick-thing when I’m having shorter, more casual conversations with strangers and acquaintances. What’s going on in my brain? Am I getting rusty because I live alone? Is this just something that happens as we age? Because it’s embarrassing when the words don’t flow like they used to, do we start pulling back from even attempting casual conversations? Ohmygod, I hate thinking about all this!

If nothing more, I think I need to start talking out loud around the house. I don’t even talk to the dog as often as I used because I swear he reads my mind and I know I can read his. He only has a few thoughts inside there. “Give me a treat.” “Play with me.” “Let me outside.” “Let me inside.” “Did you see that rabbit?” “You’ve been in the chair long enough. Put on my song and let’s dance.” With the latter, I go to YouTube and when the music come out of my computer speakers, we take off doing obedience training and tricks as we ‘dance’ through the house. “No matter who you are, no matter where you go in life, you’re going to need someone to stand by you,” the street performer sings. Five and a half minutes later Levi the Mighty Schnauzer in my life is happy. And I’ve done my dog-mother bonding duty but lately I’m left wondering who will read my mind when I’m old and as wordless as my dog. Who will stand by me? ©

A footnote on Tuesday’s lecture: The woman who gave us such a wonderful view of her father didn’t take the speaker’s fee the senior hall pays out to the people we book. She asked that we donate it to the Monuments Men Foundation. How cool is that!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Judgmental Bees in my Bonnet!

I am turning into a judgmental old lady who needs to quit reading other widow’s blogs before I lose my head and leave comments I'll regret. Case in point: A widow in my age bracket is desperately lonely and wants to find another man but she insists that any friendship she enters into must be with a man who is likewise marriage minded. Why? Because her religious beliefs prevent her from spending time with someone just for companionship. Jeez, Louise, there’s full range of social interactions one can enjoy that doesn’t include shacking up for illicit sex! Silly me, I thought sex outside of marriage was the only part of dating or hanging out together that a church would frown upon. Lunch at MacDonald's? How many Hail Mary’s would that earn a widow? And how does that work out if a guy should ask this widow out on a date for the first time? Does she say, “I don’t know if I can accept your offer, are you interested in getting married soon?” That too-eager-to-get-married mindset scared off the guys when we were eighteen, I would imagine it would get the same reaction at seventy.

The truth is, we senior citizens have a whole different set of issues involved with joining our lives together in marriage than young people do. Young people don’t generally come into a marriage owning paid-off houses, having pension plans and investment portfolios or have children and grandchildren standing in the wings who you’d like to see get the fruits of your life’s work when you die. Young people aren’t rooted in homes they’ve lived in for decades or have to worry about becoming caregivers soon after saying, “I do.” And they don’t have children who might worry that you’re handing over your entire estate to a person they don’t know or trust. Sure, a good lawyer can safe-guard against most of those things, but how many people sign a prenup when they marry late in life? I've seen one too many farms that had been in a family for generations end up in the hands of the second spouse’s kids to know that trust isn't enough. Get it in writing!

Those kinds of what-ifs drive me to distraction and the bees start buzzing around inside my bonnet. It also drives me crazy that another widow I've known half my life gives her kids ten to fifteen thousand dollars at a whack yet she counts pennies and does without necessities because she’s afraid she’s going to run out of money. “Stop giving away the money meant for you to live on!” I tell her. “If there’s any left over when you die, then they can have it.” To which she replies, “You don’t have children so you don’t understand.” I understand that one of her daughters has a beautiful hardwood floor thanks to her mom’s ‘donation’ while the mom doesn’t have enough money in her wallet to pay for her prescriptions.

In another blog I read recently, the “other woman” in a love triangle was complaining because the widow to the man she was having the affair with isn’t changing her last name back to her maiden name now that he's dead. They’d been married for over two decades and even if he was a bag of cheating crap they had kids together, for crying out loud. If the widow wants to keep or ditch a surname, that’s her choice. How do people come up with things to resent like that? And get this, the “other woman” wants to change her last name to match the dead guy’s. I guess the tattoo she got to commemorate his passing wasn’t enough. Make me a promise. If my values and sense of logic and fair-play ever sink this low, just book me as a guest on the Jerry Springer Show because that’s where I’d belong. And while I’m standing on my judgmental soap box, ladies, I don’t care what excuse a guy gives you for not leaving his wife, it’s just an EXCUSE. It’s called having his cake and eating it too. 

There, I’ve said my piece. The bees that have been buzzing around my head has left my bonnet. Got any bees in your bonnet to share? Please don’t let me think I’m the only judgmental old lady on earth! ©