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, June 28, 2015

Birthday Parties and Online Auctions

The woman in the photo above was married to my cousin. What does that make her, an in-law cousin? The twins were her babies and that’s me holding one of them. My parents were surrogate grandparents to this set of twins and another set that came into their family a few years later. Growing up, the two sets of twins spent a lot of time at our house and I did a lot of babysitting at their house. I should probably blame them and a family of nine kids I also babysat during my high school years for a phrase I’ve used tongue-in-cheek through-out my entire adult life: “I don’t babysit anyone who can’t say, ‘My stomach hurts. I need to go to the hospital.’” Not that anything bad ever happened while baby-sitting but babies are such a scary responsibility and by the time I was thirty the gods of infertility whispered in my ear, “Go forth and raise poodles, they’re easier” and I obeyed. I must have been a good baby-sitter, though, because the twins in this photo claim I was their role model and was responsible for them setting their sights on going to college. If that’s true, I’m flattered because they grew up to be wonderful women.

On Saturday the two sets of twins threw a party for their mom's 85th birthday and I was excited to see this branch of the family again. Life and distance got in the way of staying close in recent decades except for weddings and funerals. But family is still family and when you have so many shared memories it’s easy to fill an afternoon with laughter. We were all asked to bring a photo and the one above it the only one I had. Next winter I really need to do something about transferring all my slides to a computer file. I have a huge box of slides in the basement, twenty-twenty years of my life documented in a format I can’t access. The librarian who taught a genealogy class I took last fall said there is a raging debate in library circles involving transferring microfiche files to computers. One side says in a 100 years people may not be able to access computer files in the formats we use now and they shouldn’t destroy the microfiche as their documents are put online. Apparently, the microfiche reader machines are simple to maintain and repair. Others say it’s nonsense to let them continue to take up space. I get that debate, says the women with a box of floppy disks I don’t know what to do with. They’re sitting next to my slides.

Friday I met the son-I-with-I-had at a humongous auction house in a small town near-by. All their auctions are online and my friend swears by this method of getting rid of stuff so I thought I’d give it a try. When I pulled up to the loading dock there were 10-15 others doing the same thing and after getting a tour inside I told my friend, “I think I’ve just found my new best friend.” He laughed and replied, “I said exactly the same thing the first time I came here.” While I was waiting to sign in I talked to several others doing the same. They told me they are very happy with the ease and results of selling there compared to listing on e-Bay. This place take the photos, creates the listings and does the shipping all for a lower percentage than e-Bay takes and e-Bay doesn’t do anything but host your listings and process your money for an added fee. I took nine antiques Friday including three that would difficult to pack. Only one thing had a good memory attached, 42” oak and iron wagon neck yoke in case you have few a horses to hook up. 

What was the memory attached to the antique neck yoke? One time the neighborhood was having its annual garage sale weekend and my wheelchair bound husband came home---down the middle of the street---with a car following him at two miles an hour. It seems he tried to straddle the wagon yoke across his electric wheelchair but didn’t get very far before it fell off, so someone took pity on him and carted it home for him. I hated that yoke on sight, but he was being his pre-stroke self so it made me happy to see him happy with his “prize.”

I’ve sold most of Don’s big “prizes” and “guy stuff” off since he passed but I still have more purging to go. If I can get into a rhythm of taking a load out to the auction house every week until the snow flies again I’d be in great shape to move next spring. That IF is a big word, though, because in my world I’m easily distracted by a widow’s bittersweet memories. I do have a Plan B; don't I always? If I lose my common-sense and buy a condo on impulse---like I did my car---before I’ve finished purging my new "best friend" has my back. They'll come to the house and buy whatever I don't move out when I left. How easy is that?  ©

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Slow Week on Widowhood Lane

Here it is Wednesday already and I don’t have my mid-week blog ready to go. It’s one of those weeks where I have little on my day planner except work projects and a party on Saturday, so there's nothing much to write about unless you want to hear about the two boxes of stuff I skimmed from the house and garage and took to the Salvation Army or the nine antiques I’m dropping off at an auction house on Friday. First, though, I had to take a trip to the dealership and admit I couldn’t figure out the directions on how to get the back seats in my Trax to fold down. I felt foolish and old when the salesman did it in two seconds. Nice young man that he is, he said a lot of people come in with the same issue. It seems the owner’s manual left out a step in the directions.

I love my new car, though. I may have bought it on a whim but it feels like me and, knock on wood, I will probably own it until I can no longer drive. Crazy, isn’t it, to know that day will come and there is nothing we can do about it but try to handle giving up our driver licenses with grace. I had the salesman, today, help me with another issue while I was there. I was having trouble pairing my phone book from my cell to the Trax. After a half hour of the salesman trying to do it, he finally paired his own phone book to my car which helped us decide his smart phone has a higher IQ than mine. Time to upgrade. He deleted his data from my phone book and I told him, “Too bad. I might have enjoyed stalking your friends.” He laughed and apologized for not being able to resolve both my problems. “But you did,” I replied. “Now I know it’s a tech/device issue and not an old-lady-can’t-do-anything issue which makes me very happy.” 

It was a good day all the way around in Old-Lady Ville. While I was away from the house the guys who put the first coat of stain on my deck sixteen days ago---and who got paid in full even though they still had 30 foot of details on the spindles to finish plus apply the second coat---came back to finish the job. I was starting to get depressed about the deck, thinking I’d made an old person, too trusting mistake. When I was younger I never would have paid in full for half a job. I was more business savvy than that. I’d even started writing bad reviews in my head to post online and I’m glad I don’t have a reason to use them. Still, I hope the anxious feelings I had these past sixteen days over writing that check serves as a lesson that I’m no longer on top of my game and I need to be more careful. What next? Will I start writing checks to all the heart-tugging charities that fill up my mailbox with requests?  Old people, you can’t trust them with their own money! But let’s not tell my nieces. Keep them in the dark as long as we can. 

Since this blog is short, I’ll take you on a photo essay of my yard. The nature strip on the back of my lot looks especially pretty right now and most of the photos below are of that. (The French Lilac at the top is in my front yard.) Between that man-made nature strip in the back and the natural cattail bog on the side. my yard brings in a lot of wildlife for a city lot. ©

view off my deck of the nature strip

this and the next four photos are close ups of the nature strip

the tall stalks are day lilies, this whole area will be various shades of orange soon

behind the lilies & other flowers queen's Ann's lace will bloom later in the summer

The cattails that separates me from my new neighbor. I love that frog factory.

across from the cattails, along side of the garage with the dog's fenced in area in the distance

I have three of these along my deck in different colors
more stuff along my deck

Another view off my deck. The white fence marks where some of my husband's ashes are buried. I planted a dogwood behind the fence, his favorite tree.
my front patio and view down the street

Sunday, June 21, 2015

From Movie Reviews to Family Parties and Confederate Flags

My Movie and Lunch Club saw a good film last week, I’ll See You in my Dreams. From the tagline used to promote the movie---a widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age---I got the impression it would be about an older woman who discovers love again. As it turned out that part is true but with a shock of a twist that I’m dying to talk about but I don’t want to be a spoiler for others who might want to see the movie. Aside from that element serving as one arm tied by behind my back, it’s a hard movie to describe. After seeing it I read an interview of Brett Haley, the director, and he said, “The movie is presented as a series of random and idealized slice-of-life episodes.” The minute I read that I ‘got it’---got why it’s hard to describe the plot. It didn’t have one! But it’s a funny and smart movie with a few tears thrown in and the casting was spot-on with Bylthe Danner and Sam Elliott in the lead and well-known character actors playing three sassy girlfriends who live near-by in an active retirement community. It was great seeing a sisterhood of older women portrayed so positive and alive on the screen. (Color me green with envy.) And unlike a lot of movies featuring senior citizens it isn’t about looking back, it's about looking forward. 

In the same interview mentioned above, Bylthe Danner is quoted as saying this about how she identifies with her character: "I've had to go through losing dogs and people and parents and my one wonderful husband. I think it's about a human being's capacity to handle loss and I think the longer you live, the more you lose, and that's the price of being a survivor." And that’s all the hints I’m giving out, but if you want to see a good chick-flick for older women, do see this movie. You won’t be sorry. All seventeen of us in my group loved it and we laughed hard and long through many scenes. Although we didn’t all agree on whether or not we liked the way it ended. Me? Imagining any other ending that could have brought closure to the non-plot wouldn’t have fit the slice-of-life presentation of the characters, so I’m good with it. The director brought the audience full circle, ending almost where he began.

New Topic: Michigan has a lot of lakes and both my nieces have houses on lakes and Saturday I drove out to the boondocks to go to a family party at my youngest niece’s place. The drive took me by a corner store that had been there since before I was born. Seeing it so busy and full of tourists filling up on junk food and gas to run their water toys brought such a wave of nostalgia over me that it brought tears to my eyes. Growing up I spent many summer afternoons walking the dusty road from my folk’s cottage to that store to get ice cream cones and on Saturday nights we’d bring our blankets there to spread on the ground to watch movies on the side of the building. As I drove on by the store, following the road along the nearly 2,000 acre lake to where the party was held I thought about buying a little place down there. Moving closer to family pulls on me and I love the summer energy around the lakes, but then I came to my senses and remembered how it is in the winter, after the tourists leave and the snow comes. You can’t go home again but it sure is a great place to visit in your daydreams.

The party was just as fun as I knew it would be. I got to hold my first great-great niece (two months old) and watch my two great-great nephews interact with the family. One had learned to walk since I saw him last and the other one has recently learned to stand up. It’s bittersweet to watch this newest generation. Sweet because our family line is finally starting to grow and bitter because I’ll never get to interact with these kids like I did with my nieces and nephew. I won’t know them and they won’t know me. Heck, I don’t really know how to interact with my great-nieces and great-nephews all that well. To them, I’m the old aunt who gets invited to parties who gets the hugs and ‘how are you?’ but I’m not the beloved aunt who played with them as kids, who gave them hands-on love. That baton was passed down a generation a long time ago. Aunts ARE different than great-aunts and given how far away I live from them all I’d be wishing for unicorns to expect any different.

I guess it's also bittersweet because it's another reminder that I’m growing old. But I’m a proud growing older person, proud of everyone in my family and at the party I was especially proud of my oldest niece. We were all talking about the shootings at the South Carolina Bible study and she said she is writing a letter to the South Carolina Tourist Association to tell them she won’t be coming back to their state until the Confederate flag is removed from the state capital grounds. She and her husband have been renting a cottage down there annually for years and she said it hurts to give that up because they love the state. But she wants to take a stand about a flag displayed on public property that has become the banner for White Supremacy groups like the one the shooter belonged to. Living your values when it’s hard to give up something you love is something my dad would have done. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Your influence is still relevant even after all these years since your passing. ©