For anyone who likes statistics, my last blog entry was the 500th one that I’ve written since becoming a widow four years ago. I don’t know how to feel about that. On one hand, it's hard to be proud of something that came about because of my husband's death but on the other hand, it feels like I’ve reached a cake-and-candles worthy benchmark. Either way, this blog and the caregiver blog I kept while Don was alive both helped to keep me sane when my world was flipped off its axis. Both helped me find my sense of humor again while forging my way through some difficult challenges. And both blogs gave me a sense of purpose, that I might be helping others by exposing my journey to other caregivers or widows who could identify with its ups and downs.
Caregivers and widows have a lot in common, but society seems to judge widows with a harsher eye. With caregivers, others can see the on-going stresses and the changes in life-style and they’re often looked upon as “angels” who buck it up and do what needs to be done. But with widows others look at a calendar and at varying points along its timeline they will send out silent messages that seem to say, “Get over it, already!” Caregivers and widows both tend to feel isolated and feelings of fear, regrets and longings are kept increasingly closer to the vest. For me, being a diary keeper since I was ten, it’s second nature to unpack those feelings in a blog like this. I write mostly for myself, but I'm grateful that people have found it worth reading here from time to time, giving this blog over 224,600 unique views since I started it. For statistics junkies, like me, that averages out to about 450 views per blog entry and viewers have come from eleven countries including 6,038 from Russia of all places. I try to write around 800 words per blog which equals about 400,000 words written in this blog. The most read blog entry---a letter to my deceased husband---has 7,041 views and hopefully Don got to see it, too, where ever he is in the Great Unknown.
Now on to my daily grind. This week my Red Hat Society Chapter went to our adopted nursing home where we make residents, who were interested, into honorary members of our group---we do a total of four events there per year plus send bags of goodies over on three holidays. Wednesday we served cookies and punch to thirty women and five guys and helped them all hot glue bling onto red visors. A few ladies were disappointed that we didn’t have bingo on the agenda this time. What is it about bingo that seems to go hand-in-hand with aging? With this group, it could be the prizes we hand out. We roll out a cart full perfumes, body creams, socks, books, etc. and it takes the winners forever to pick out their prizes. It would be fun to sneak a pair of sexy, red lace panties in with the other prizes and see what happens, but the World of Proper Decorum can be glad my actions rarely follow behind my mischievous thoughts.
Honestly, though, it’s a good thing my chapter sisters all wear red hats when we go to the nursing home because it’s getting increasingly harder to tell us from the residents. Four of the ten of us who showed up were using canes and two couldn’t stand long enough to do much besides give moral support to those of us serving and interacting with the residents. And guess what, I finally graduated up to working at the glue gun station. Well, sort of---I only got to glue a few bouquets onto visors near the end. But that’s okay. After working twenty years in the floral industry, I don’t enjoy creativity by committee. As others debated if this flower or that one should go here or there I resisted the temptation to flaunt my two floral design school diplomas to get them to do it my way. But I didn’t do it because being right isn't as important as keeping peace in the valley and letting diplomacy be the star of the show. Mostly, I helped residents pick out their bling and ran it back to the glue station for someone else to marry it to a visor.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m never enthusiastic about going to our adopted nursing home, but my better self always shows up when I walk through the doors. I do my best to make eye contact with the residents I come in contact with and to show genuine interest in what they’re trying to say. One old guy, for example, wanted to talk about the fiddle he used to play and I told him it’s my favorite instrument to listen to. When Don and I first started dating we went to a lot of bluegrass festivals and my honorary Red Hat guy had played at a few of the venues I named. Who would have ever guessed that finding some foam rubber musical notes to hot glue onto a visor could evoke good memories for two passing strangers? But along with the good memories a hint of sadness followed. We could see it in each others eyes. And that’s why after writing 500 blog entries I still may have something to share. My memories of the past, the accomplishments of my present and my dreams for the future still come filtered through a lens known as widowhood. ©