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, January 28, 2017

Lazy Widow, Busy Widow

When the noontime news came on TV I realized I’d been sitting at my computer all morning. In my full length cranberry colored L.L. Bean flannel nightgown. And even though more of my body was covered than it would have been if I'd been fully dressed in street wear, I'd still be embarrassed if someone came to the door. I’d be even more embarrassed if anyone caught me eating cereal out of a coffee cup because I hadn’t run the dishwasher all week. Erma Bombeck might understand that I’ve had a busy week and I needed a lazy day but Emily Post would not.

I love the free lecture series at the senior hall and this week it was especially fun because I sat with three others from The Gathering (for people looking for friends) and we were able to carry on the same laugh-fest we’d experienced the day before at our monthly meeting. Four of us are starting to gel as friends. While going out for coffee afterward we talked about the women’s march and discovered we have similar political views but all of us generally keep our opinions to ourselves because we’re surrounded by people---including family---who are Republicans and Pro-Lifers. I’m beginning to think those of us who don’t fit that description need a secret handshake so we can find each other. 

Back to the lecture: In 1926 a heir to a lumber fortunate built an 11,000 square foot house on 8 ½ acres in my hometown and in addition to that main house with its 41 rooms he built residences on the estate for a gatekeeper, a gardener and a chauffeur plus an eight stall garage. It was one of five homes the owner had around the country including one out East where his wife and he hobnobbed with the Rockefeller's. It cost 4 ½ million to build and the landscaped acreage was designed by the same man who did New York’s Central Park. The house now belongs to a college but before it was donated to them the furnishings ended up in a high-roller auction in New York. When they cleaned out the basement, a dumpster was ordered and eight large boxes of records and blueprints got tossed. They documented all the materials and labor expenses accrued while building, landscaping and furnishing the place. Even letters and photographs to and from interior designers traveling Europe looking for things like marble, light fixtures, flooring, tapestries and silverware were in those boxes. 

Enter a dumpster diver who was also a history buff and she recognized the gold mine contained in the boxes. She donated them to the public museum and the contents are being cataloged by the guy who gave the lecture. He said that such a thorough documentation of a 1920s Great Gatsby style house is extremely rare. It's hard to wrap my head around why people think that kind of extravagance is going to make them happy and in the case of this house, the guy’s wife died near the end of project. On a document found in the boxes he wrote, “The house killed her!” Apparently she was so worn out from trying to make the estate better than those of her socialite friends that she died from the stress. He didn’t have the best of luck with wives, his second wife left him for a penniless California surfer and his third was decades younger than his children and they hated her.

The day after the "house" lecture I was back to the senior hall. This time for a field trip to our public museum. I’ve been there many times but this was no ordinary tour. We got to go behind the scenes to buildings and levels generally not open to the public where a quarter of a million archived items is housed including hearses, stuffed buffaloes, quack medical machines, furniture---you name it, they’ve got it. One entire level (almost as big as a football field) contained nothing but clothing going back to the 1700s. It was a great tour but tiring with all the walking through history we did.

5th Sadiversary Report: Finally, it's well and good behind me and I can report that I’ve lost that sense of restlessness that’s plagued me so much the past five years. The path to promising friendships is clearly marked and I’m comfortable with my decision to stay put where I live now. Even my neighborhood is looking friendly since last week when someone set up an online forum called NextDoor. Since I joined I’ve “met” three people living on my cul-de-sac, noted that someone from two streets over lost their dog and another person near-by is looking for a baby sitter. I see great potential in having neighbors connecting in this way. All and all, my life is looking good right now---well, except for the fact that the dog and my Fitbit are nagging me to get up and move and watching the news makes me sick to my stomach. ©

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Segregation and Syrians

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard about the movie Hidden Figures. I got to see it recently with my Red Hat Society group of ten and then the next day I had lunch with my Movie and Lunch Club of fifteen who’d just come from seeing the film. Without exception everyone absolutely loved it and I can say without reservation that it deserves every award and all the praise it gets. Here’s how IMBd sums up the storyline: “Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program's first successful space missions.” And from Popular Mechanics, “This was a group made up of mostly women who calculated by hand the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and Glenn to travel safely to space. Through sheer tenacity, force of will, and intellect, they ensured their stamp on American history—even if their story has remained obscured from public view until now.” 

The three women featured in the movie were pulled up the ladder from a pool of thirty who worked in a room labeled, ‘Colored Computers’ (humans computing figures by hand) in an era when bathrooms, lunch counters and drinking fountains were separated by race. A NASA historian quoted in the Popular Mechanics article says the hiring decision was made because they worked cheater than their male counterparts and he also says the film is pretty much on target accurate in all it depicts. That being said, my esteem for John Glenn rose even more after seeing this movie and reading the Popular Mechanics article. Isn’t it a sad statement on our society, though, that it took President Obama giving Katherine Johnson---the protagonists in the film and a real life hero---The Presidential Medal of Freedom (11/15) before most people even knew about this chapter in Black History, Woman’s History and Space History!

There’s one scene in the movie that had me and my movie companions all crying. Katherine’s boss was chewing her out for being away from her desk for twenty minutes twice a day and demanded to know where she went. Her answer? To the bathroom ten blocks away because there weren’t any ‘colored restrooms’ any closer. I won’t spoil the scene for you if you haven’t seen the movie, other than to say she really lite into him with a barrage of words and you could hear a pin drop with her co-workers and in the theater. My favorite line in the barrage was words to the effect: “I work like a DOG and I don’t even get paid enough to buy the only piece of jewelry the employee handbook says I can wear!”

It’s been an interesting week. I also went to a lecture at the senior hall billed as “Cultural Education: Radical Islam and Refugees.” A refugee is defined as someone who flees their homeland due to war, political upheaval or natural disasters with only what that they can carry. Today, there are 65 million people who are classified as refugees (one in every 100 people on earth). The speaker talked about how during the Bosnia carnage they even booby-trapped mass graves to keep people from paying their respects and how during the 90 days of genocide in Rwanda over one million people were slaughtered. Today, the largest refugee camp in the world is in Kenya a literal tent city that houses 500,000 people from Africa and the Middle East. The Kenya government wants to close the camp (Dadaab as it’s called) but repatriation and resettlement of that many people is a complex problem that will take a lot of time, international help and diplomacy.

Thus enters the humanitarian groups that help refugees relocate around the world. The speaker was from one of those groups that goes over to refugee camps to dig deep water wells, build micro-small health clinics and they distribute solar powered audio Bibles in dozens of different languages. They also sponsor refugees who come here to the States. I was surprised to learn that my city is the most prolific place in the country to sponsor Syrian and Somalian refugee families. 

During the question and answer period a woman in the audience was very aggressive about asking a line of questions that centered on the idea that maybe distributing Bibles in Muslim refugee camps was contributing to the growing resentment and unrest within the camps. “Oh, no!” the speaker replied. “We’re all about love. We don’t preach.” I’m not so sure I agree with that, given the fact that the brochure from his parent mission says they encourage forming listening groups to hear the audio Bibles. Our lecturer has been doing this kind of work for nineteen years, had traveled the world and knew missionaries who'd been taken hostage. It was a fascinating lecture that sent chills up my spine and made me feel lucky to live in a carnage-free country, despite the fact that Trump claimed the opposite in his inauguration speech. Agree with the Q&A above, or not, it does give you something to think about. ©

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tears at the Car Wash

The luncheon at the senior hall got canceled this week but when I got up that morning I didn’t check their website or look for district school closings on TV that triggers that to happen. It was rainy and gloomy but the temperature was a couple of degrees over 32 so it never occurred to me that ice or fog might have been an issue earlier in the morning when they have to send the buses out. Off I went to find the doors to the hall locked up tight and eight or nine others in the parking lot who’d made the same mistake. “Hell’s bells!” as my mother used to say---her only foothold in the world of swearing. A local restaurant chain I’ve ordered breakfast in since before I went through menopause was around the corner, so off I went. I surprised myself and the waitress by ordering the baked chicken special because it seemed like a comfort food kind of day. It was good but not like my mother used to make with a can of cream of mushroom soup. I’ve been craving chicken so much lately that I’m starting to crow like a rooster looking to get laid. Not funny? Not accurate? Sorry, I know nothing about the sex life of poultry. I do know my chicken cravings caused me to sign up for a two-hour cooking class on what you can do with store-bought rotisserie chickens. Apparently there is more than making soup.

The dollar store was my next stop. It's close to home and I often stop there when I’ve got no place else to go thus wasting getting all spiffed up for just a hour’s worth of time away from the house. (I used to joke about my dad’s girlfriend who, when I chauffeured them around on their dates, always wanted to go to the dollar store. Now that I’m the age she was back then, I get it. I get that sometimes a lady just needs to go shopping someplace where she can’t be tempted to spend more than a $1.98.) But Bill Murray, that prolific recording artist of Vaudeville fame---be still my heart---summed it up better when he sang: “When you're all dressed up and have no place to go, how you long for someone near you, just to cheer you, just to dear you. It’s when you’ll understand the meaning of that little word ‘lonesome’ when you’re all dressed up and have no place to go.”

Change of topic. Levi has a birthday coming up soon, his ninth, which meant he got to go shopping at Chow Hound to use the birthday money/coupon they sent him. We picked out a new collar and some peanut butter bones that usually make him barf. He got to smell the rabbits and cats in cages and the other dogs shopping. He loves Chow Hound and it’s sad that his mom (that would be me) doesn’t take him more often. When he’s along on shopping trips it cost more because Chow Hound puts all the plush toys, smelly pig parts and flavored treats down low where the dogs can grab them. With Levi’s long Schnauzer beard and mustache he always manages to smuggle something up to the checkout line where he’ll be coerced to drop it long enough for the cashier to scan it. Thankfully, he waits until I get the plastic off the contraband (usually a peanut butter bone) before he eats it. 

After Chow Hound we went to Starbucks where Levi got a puppuccino and I got a cappuccino. I get my drink free around my birthday but he gets his “drink” free any day of the year. After I pulled out of the drive-thru line I had to park the car to hold his cup while Levi licked up the cream. By the time he’d finished off the puppuccino his beard and mustache were white with cream. But he was happy and raring to go to the third place on his birthday tradition list: the car wash. Some dogs hate the car wash, others love it and Levi is in the latter group. When my husband was alive the three of us used to sing our way through the place but I can’t make Levi howling the way Don could. 

It’s funny how your emotions can change on a dime.  The first half of January leading up to my husband’s sadiversary usually effects my moods but the years when it made me cry, I thought, were in the rear view mirror. Going through the car wash, however, had me wiping a few tears off my cheek. Maybe it was the week of endless rain. Maybe it was the baked chicken disappointment without the mushroom soup the day before or maybe I was just crying because Levi was such a mess I would have liked to hold head out the window while going through the car wash. Nope, the tears couldn’t have been a ‘widow thing.’ I am woman and I’m too strong for that! ©

Levi's old and new collars. From 'Pets for Peace', bought during the Obama administration and
 'psychedelic', bought under the Trump administration.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Police Officer’s Widow

A cousin of my husband’s died, a super nice guy who’d been with the police department for thirty-two years. He was eighty-two. At the time of his retirement he was running the pistol range and teaching newbie cops how to shoot. The funeral service was in a church and I’ve never seen so many awards and recognition plaques in my life. They were everywhere---on the altar, a side table and every window ledge. He was a true, community service kind of guy who loved working with young people. When one of his daughters got up to read a list of qualities she admired about her dad I thought, wow, I could have written the exact, same list about my dad! Never raised his voice, wise, taught ethics by example, loyal, patient, could fix anything---right down to them both having a sweet tooth. When his grandson described how his grandpa taught him how to fish and row a boat it was exactly what one of my nieces said at my dad’s memorial. No wonder I always liked this guy!

His widow greeted everyone coming in and when I said I was sorry to hear about his passing, she replied, “Don’t be! He lived a full and happy life.” She was so ‘together’ I was actually shocked. They’d been together fifty-nine years and had a best-friends-and-soulmates kind of marriage that was obvious to anyone in their presence. I was also shocked to learn that they were founding members of their church and very active in it. It was one of those churches that believes if you haven’t accepted Jesus as your savior, there’s no way in hell you’re getting into heaven but in all the years I’ve known this couple they kept their faith close to their vests. You have to admire people who live their faith but don’t try to push it on others. I couldn’t say the same for their minister---duh, that’s his job to push and preach---who’s theme for the day was “only Jesus can complete you.” I didn’t enjoy that part of the service and I wish he had explained why it ended with five gunshots and an equal number of bells ringing out. There were uniformed police officers there, so I do get the gun salute part, just not the significance of the bells or the number five.

At the luncheon that followed I sat at a table with five rabid Trump supporters---nephews and nieces of Don’s---who’d been posting anti-Hillary, pro-Trump stuff on Facebook throughout the primary and general elections. Even the morning of the funeral one of gals posted a meme about how Trump was going to "heal our nation and bring us all together" and I cynically thought, what kind of a fairy tale do you live in? Wouldn’t you know it, she wanted me to sit next to her at the luncheon. It helps, sometimes, to be an old person wearing hearing aids because you can get away with ignoring directions you don’t want to follow. No one brought up politics, thank goodness, although there is one person in the Gang of Five who is notorious for doing so at family gatherings…while his wife kicks him under the table. I must be a bad person because I can’t wait until these people figure out that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are one and the same. Several of them were able to get insurance for the first time in years through the ACA resulting in them getting some much need medical care and surgeries. Ya, I know someone reading this is thinking that the Republicans will pass a replacement bill that will be better and I’m thinking that I get to use the words “fairy tale” twice in the same paragraph. 

Back to the police officer’s widow: She asked me what I do to keep busy and I told her about being embedded in the activities of our senior hall---she lives nearby---and she said she’ll call me later to talk about her getting involved because she wants to stay busy. If she doesn’t call by the time the April/May newsletter comes out, I’ve already penciled a note in my day planner to drop over to her house with a copy. ©