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, February 27, 2016

Storm Chasing and Tornadoes

As he always does when I’m dinking around in the bathroom getting ready for a shower, the dog parked himself on the end of the bed so he could watch. He either knows there’s a good chance that I’ll be leaving the house soon and he doesn't want me to slip out behind his back or Levi is a voyeur who likes to look at old ladies naked. He stays there until I’m fully dressed and I open the blinds. At the point he changes his position so he can look out the window to assume his role as an Early Warning System in case a rabbit tries to break into the house while I’m gone or a beach ball rolls by. I didn’t tell Levi that the snow was way too deep for either one of those two things to happen today. Rabbits are a common sight and surprisingly so are beach balls in the summer. There is something about the terrain that causes stray balls and plastic bags to come up the street and circle my house if it's windy. One time I counted a ball going around my house six-eight times before it got caught in the bushes.

The lecture at the senior hall that got canceled because of the snow storm was rescheduled for today and while it was very interesting it was also a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat reminder that tornado season is not far away. It was given by a guy who has spent his vacations for the past twenty years storm chasing in Oklahoma. During his ten days in the state he and crew are able to chase between one and five tornadoes and he was in Moore, Oklahoma when the big once struck a few years ago. He showed videos taken from inside their vehicle that day and I’ve got to tell you, I think a person would have to be half crazy to storm chase a tornado. That particular tornado killed 24 people and injured over two hundred. It was on the ground for 39 minutes and it made a 14 mile path. That day, they not only chased the tornado, it chased them.

When asked why he likes to storm chase, words like “adrenaline rush” came up and he said it was like “hunting a tiger on a bike.” In fact, he said it’s a lot like hunting in general because they have to study the terrain and weather maps, figure out where a storm is likely to pop up then hang around that area waiting for a tornado to appear so they can chase it and shoot some film. Storm chasers have died pursuing what is a hobby for most of them and, can you believe it, storm chasers even have yearly conventions. The lecturer said his fascination with tornadoes began in his childhood with The Wizard of Oz and when it came time to go to college he left Michigan and studied in Oklahoma where he got hooked big-time on storm chasing.

The photo above is of my husband standing on the steps of the farm house where he grew up. A tornado hit the farm twice, ten years apart. That last time they couldn’t rebuild. Strange stories came out of that tornado like the fact that Don’s birthday cake still sat on the kitchen table on the other side of the rubble in the photograph---not a fleck of debris on it. The only wall that was still standing upright had a clothesline attached to it and a tree and when that clothesline was cut the wall fell in. One of their horses was found miles away and a heavy china cabinet with a wave-glass front toppled over and while the legs snapped off the wave-glass was still intact. We humans are resilient creatures, aren't we. We go through horrific events like losing homes, jobs, health or people who are important to us but somehow most of us manage to come out the other side of our tragedies to rebuild our lives again.

Some men act all macho when we get tornado warnings and they don’t want to go down to the basement. Some, like the lecturer, find it fun to try meet them head on. Don was never one to drag his feet about running for shelter. After his stroke there was no way I could get him and his wheelchair downstairs, so we’d  huddle in the hallway with quilts over our heads but he’d want me to go downstairs which added extra stress to an already stressful situation. I figured we’d die in the hall but if I went downstairs and lived while he died upstairs, I couldn’t live with the guilt. You can actually see the warning alarm for the entire township from my house---it’s only 1,000 feet away---and when it goes off there is no missing it. They test it once a month and it drives Levi nuts for the full five minutes. I put my hands over his ears. He refused to go down the basement during tornado warnings and I can’t carry him so even though Don is gone, I still have the dilemma of should I go down or stay upstairs with the dog.

Speaking of Levi, did I tell you what happened to him yesterday? He’s a miniature schnauzer with a tough-boy build but he was no match for the 11.2 inches of wet, heavy snow we got. I had shoveled him I narrow path across the deck to the three steps down to his yard. But once down in his yard he got himself stuck in the snow and couldn’t move. I’ve had dogs my entire life but I never had to dig one out of a pickle like that. He was getting stressed trying to free himself from the white “concrete.” Although so much trouble and danger that can come with major snow storms, I’d still rather take my changes with them than a tornado. And as much trouble as dogs can be sometimes, I still wouldn't want to live without one in the house. ©

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mistakes, Missed Opportunities and a Mishmash of Thoughts

Levi, my schnauzer, is so predictable yet he fools me every time I come home and he acts like he’s got to go outside to pee near his private fire hydrant. “I’m desperate, Mom, hurry up and open the door!” I oblige his canine-to-human mind communication and open the door to the garage, intending next to open the door that leads to his yard. Only instead of him following me he leisurely strolls around the car sniffing and lingering here or there to see where I’ve been, then he goes back in the house. Yesterday before going back inside he gave me a dirty look. I think he knew I went to the pet store without him.

I normally do take him with me to Dog Shopping-land but yesterday wasn’t a normal day. I woke up, had a quick breakfast, let Levi take care of his business, took a shower and raced off to the senior hall to catch a bus: destination the First African Church in town and a Buddhist Temple, part of the monthly ‘How we Worship’ series. The problem was I was a day too early. It was on my calendar correctly but I made an old person mistake and got my days mixed up. Don’t tell anyone, okay? Plan B. With extra time on my hands I went to the pet store and post office then dropped my primary ballot off at City Hall. Ya, I finally made up my mind who to support.

In case you’re wondering about Levi’s private fire hydrant in my back yard, Don bought it from a scrap iron place years ago when we were on our way out West. He bought two to keep and others to sell for a shocking profit---but it was a challenge moving around inside our motor home with fire hydrants covering the floor. That was so typical of Don. I still have those two hydrants. They were restored at a body shop. One is very small, over a hundred years old and I wonder if they’ll let me take it to nursing home when I go. I suppose I should be taking a photo of it instead for that time when we’ll have to part company. Now, it sits next to an Eco Air Meter and a large Mobil flying Pegasus in my tribute-to-my-husband corner of the garage. They are the last of his gas station memorabilia collectibles. Not sure if this is true or not, but I’ve always believed that Native American Indians in the Old West used to pick up peddles, feathers and small things to put in their possible bags as souvenirs of special days or events. Don and I used to kid each other that we had Indian blood in our veins because we were the king and queen of bringing souvenirs back from our trips.

So here it is the correct morning of the church tours and I’m trying to decide if I want to go. I’ve been spoiled by the mild winter we’ve had and we have a monster storm due to hit my area about the time I’m supposed to leave. They’re talking lots of blowing snow, accidents and wide spread power outages. The weather people are calling it “heart attack” snow because it will be wet, heavy and deep. Okay, just typing that has made me decide to stay home and finish the book I was reading into the wee hours of the morning. The senior hall only cancels their tours if the schools close and I suspect tomorrow’s lecture on storm chasing will be collateral damage of the storm. But if they send the kids home early today, and I’m on the tour in the heart of downtown dependent on the school bus drivers, we could get stranded and end up at the soup kitchen with the homeless for dinner and a night sleeping on the floor. Yes, my imagination is out of control. At least there will be no chance of snow for next month’s church tour. We’re going to an Islamic Center where we’ll have a transitional Muslim lunch. We have to wear long sleeves, dark colors and head scarfs and I hope some mad shooter doesn’t pick that day to demonstrate his hate. Sad, isn't it, when fear and going to a place of worship gets bundled in the same sentence.

I’ve been watching The People VS. O.J. Simpson TV series. It’s fascinating. I remember when the real trial was televised. Just about everyone I knew was glued to the TV day after day include Don and me and I have since read all the books written by the major “players” in the trial. I thought Don and one of his brothers would come to blows over whether or not O.J. was guilty. I wonder if his brother is watching this series and still thinks he’s innocent. Does anyone still think O.J. is innocent? 

Time to get some breakfast and hope I didn’t make a bad call by not going on the tour. The missed opportunity to see the Buddhist Temple made the decision hard. The weather people have been wrong before but the satellite maps show a pretty wide storm approaching, not much chance for mistakes in their forecast. Time will tell and in the meantime I have a book about living on Mars to finish. ©

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Choice and the Headless Rabbit

What would you think if a headless rabbit showed up just a few feet from your front door? That’s what happened to me this week. Was it a message, a warning? I doubt it, but it was creepy and it made me think of the scene in The Godfather where the guy wakes up with a horse’s head in his bed. After seeing the gruesome sight out my front door window I planned to dispose of him after breakfast. An hour late I passed by the door again and the rabbit was gone! At least I thought it was, but his frozen carcass had moved across the sidewalk and onto the lawn. Of course, that creeped me out even more. I threw on some clothes, got a shovel and a plastic bag to get the rabbit. Using my CSI skills acquired from watching TV, I figured out something tried to drag the poor thing off and either got scared off from its mission or it wasn’t strong enough to take it any farther. Damn, it left a blood stain the size of the missing head on my cement. I wonder how long that’s going to take to dissipate.

Aside from the dead rabbit it’s been a good week. I can usually say that when it’s time for my monthly Movie and Lunch Club to meet. This month we saw the The Choice, based on a Nicholas Sparks book by the same name. IDMd’s summary says this about the storyline: “Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbors in a small coastal town and wind up in a relationship that is tested by life's most defining events.” And, indeed, it was tested in the heart-string tugging way so common in Sparks’ stories. The romance was full of predictable sentimentality and I loved the first line spoken: “Now pay attention, because I’m about to tell you the secret of life.” But it wasn’t easy for Travis’ good ol’ boy drawl to win me over. Although given the fact that it didn’t win Gabby over at first, either, I guess the casting choice of Benjamin Walker for that part was right on point. By the time he threw out the line, “Why do you make it so hard to flirt with you?” and Gabby replied, “if I made it easy you won’t flirt anymore” I was starting to like the guy. Gabby did, too, because seconds later they were having sex on the kitchen table. I must be getting old because while their lovemaking was more ‘sweet’ than ‘cave-man’ with enough skin shown to make it interesting without being x-rated all I could think about how cold that antique porcelain topped table must have been. 

I won’t be a spoiler just yet. Instead I’ll share some snide words from the RogerEbert.com review: “Another year, another return to the daffy romantic outpost of Sparks-landia, a place that often claims to be on the North Carolina coast but one where logic does not apply, fate is more fickle than usual and every nature shot feels like a photoshopped postcard.” Okay, I agree the coastal scenes made me want to step into the movie screen for a dip in the ocean or to sit in the Adirondack chairs to watch the sunsets and the movie was a “daffy” romance but sometimes that’s exactly what you’re in the mood to see. Predictable can be good and there is nothing wrong with lasting love portrayed in fiction from time to time. God knows there isn’t enough of that in real life. That said, I’m not a huge Nicholas Sparks fan but the movie didn’t deserve to be kicked around just because it’s not Citizen Kane. I’ve got to quit reading at RogerEbert.com!

Now for the spoiler alert: Nicholas Sparks’ books/movies always have an obstacle---a plot device---that keeps the characters apart. In The Choice that obstacle was a 12 week coma and a decision on when to pull the plug on the ventilator. (How many of us widows can identify with that choice? I can.) Most of the thirteen ladies in our club were crying by the time the movie got to that part and they were passing a pack of Kleenex down the row. I didn’t cry because I knew Sparks usually delivers a happy ending. I did, however, get a lump in my throat wondering if he broke suit in this story. He didn't.

We saw this film at a theater we rarely go, in the small town where Don grew up, for the cut-rate of $5.00. Then we went to a local tavern for baskets of the best fried fish I’ve probably had in my entire life and that was only $5.00! For ten bucks and a tip it was a great bargain day of entertainment. And going to that town spoke to me in a way I can't describe. Maybe it was the romance we'd just seen combined with the memories made in that town but I felt close to Don that day, kind of warm and fussy inside...until I got home and saw the blood stain by my front door again.

I decided to google the term, “headless rabbit on the doorstep.” I didn’t expect Google to turn up much of anything with such a long search term but I got 20,000 hits! I kid you not. I only went to three websites when I ran across this---and I quote---“There are plenty of animals that are crazy for bunny brains.” Crazy for bunny brains! Gross! I ruled out coyotes and raccoons because I’ve never seen any running around here. But red-tailed hawks and great horned owls are not uncommon in my yard so I guess I won’t need to call my local CSI to investigate. Did I mention earlier this is the second headless rabbit I’ve found in the yard? I found one last spring as well. Darn hungry birds! I'll never look at my hawks and owls the same way again. ©

Favorite line from the movie: 
"Some choices will effect every moment for the rest of your life."