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, July 29, 2017

Ice Cream, Screens and Clams at High Tide

After spending way too many days in a fog of pain I’m getting my range of motion back in my neck. It’s not totally there yet but at least I don’t want to crawl under a rock and play kissy-face with a toad to get him to let me share his space. All I’ve wanted to do is hide in a cool, dark place and I’ve discovered that an ice pack wrapped in a kitchen towel and held in place by a chip-clip makes a nice fashion statement. Ice Collars by Jean. My third appointment with the chiropractor was yesterday and I don't need a forth unless I'm not back to normal in a week. The Recuperation Train, she says, is running on schedule. My words, not hers. She talks like an adult.

One of those days when I wanted to cohabitate with a toad I went to an ice cream social at the senior hall instead. It’s a free event and they tend to result in more people wanting to go than the place can hold. So when you get your RSVP approved it’s not fair to those who didn’t, not to show up. I lucked out and sat near two ladies from my Gathering Girls group and our table was dismissed first to get in line to build our own sundaes. The entertainer, a guitarist and singer, was good but I couldn’t turn my head enough to see him and I wasn’t in the mood to hear songs my mom used to play on a Victrola when I was a kid. Listening to those old tunes while in pain made me feel ancient and I wondered, how old does this guy think we are? In between songs, I made my great escape and I only felt half guilty for leaving early. 

On the way home I had an errand to run. I needed to pick up three window screens and return one I had picked up a few days before because the newly replaced screen fabric was baggy. The lady at the counter must have had a cob up her butt because when I (nicely) showed her the problem she said, “Well, that’s what happens when you order fiberglass instead of aluminum.” I was shocked and in no mood to get balled out like that. My voice turned as snippy as hers when I replied: “I’ve had five or six screens redone here over the past few weeks and this one is the only one that looks like it was done by a ten year old! And,” I added, “When I started this process no one told me there WAS an aluminum option.” She took the screen back to the work area and came back with a message that they’d redo it. “Wait in your car and I’ll bring it out when it done.” By the time she brought it out and showed it to me her snippiness was gone, probably because the difference in the screen was so obvious. I went home, took an Aleve, put on my “ice collar” and pouted about mean Mrs. Cob-Up-Her-Butt until I forgave her. Maybe that cob was giving her as much pain as my stiff neck.

Remember Larry the Cable guy? This week I had a service call from my own Larry the Cable Guy. Actually, I got two cable guys for the price of one and one actually looked like Daniel Whitney who played Larry the Cable Guy. He mostly did the work required outside and down the basement while grandson-material-Jason fixed all my issues on the main level and I had many. One of my TV’s picture was breaking up at a certain times of the day (a downstairs issue) one of my remotes wouldn’t hold its programing (an improper setting in the TV) and he set me up with a new remote for the bedroom that glows in the dark. (That's going to save me a ton of stress because pushing the wrong buttons in the dark takes me to places I can't return without an agent on the phone to walk me through it.) I also got a new signal receiver outside since mine was twelve years old and Jason checked the speed of my computer. I was as happy as a clam at high tide when they left but the next morning the problem I called about---the picture breaking up---was back again only worse! Back to square one.

Trivia note: The phrase ‘happy as a clam at high tide’ has been around since at least 1833 when it first appeared in print in a memoir and by 1848 it was included in John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms. The theory is it evolved because at high tide clams open up and they look happy in that state. Over the years, we’ve dropped the 'high tide' part and now most people just say, "I'm as happy as a clam." Old metaphors endure because we're too lazy to come up with new ones, but that's also pretty cool when you think about it. I wish I could write a metaphor that a google search two hundred years from now would trace back to me.

I was trying to find a quote or meme about pain to end this blog and it’s clear that society admires people who power through it with smiles and quiet humility. My neck issues will be gone in time if I don’t do anything to inflame it again---I have to curtail my upper body strength training at the YMCA for two weeks---but after the week I’ve had I’ve learned I’m still a little girl at heart; I’ve wanted my mommy, ice cream and a good cry. At least I got the ice cream. ©

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Royal Pain in the Neck

After dinner when the heat of the day gets pushed aside by deep shadows in my back yard I’ve been sitting out on my deck reading until the fireflies announce that the light is fading fast. The new book club selection is over 650 pages of foreign words, strange customs and medical terms describing things I don’t want or need to know about. The story centers on a set of twins growing up in a small mission hospital in tumultuous Ethiopia during the ‘50s and ‘60s. If you’re getting the idea that I’m not enjoying the book, you’d be right. But I’m stubborn so I keep reading my required two chapters a night so I’ll get the darn thing finished in time. If there was a movie version of Cutting for Stone I’d cheat and rent it but it’s still in production according to IMDb. I’m only on page 361 but I understand part of the book I haven't read yet takes place in the slums of New York City where one twin becomes a surgeon while the other twin stays behind as surgeon at the mission, but I don’t imagine the change of scenery will make me warm up to the book. The story will still revolve around abject poverty, bloody surgeries and boys with lusty thoughts. After reading pages and pages and PAGES of detailed descriptions of surgeries, I could probably do vasectomies and turn babies around in breach. Crawl up on my kitchen table. I’ll take care of that. Two years on the New York Times Best Sellers List and all I can do is wonder if I’m the only reader who doesn’t understand half of what I’m reading and doesn’t care about the other half.

This evening as I read out on the deck the dog was being a royal pain. Usually he’ll sit quietly watching for rabbits who try unsuccessfully to violate the fence around the neighbor’s vegetable garden and listening intently for the jingle-jangle of dog tags announcing that pitbull’s who live directly behind us have come outside to play. This time of the year we can’t see them but Levi knows when they are happily running around ignoring his whining and barking pleas for me to let him join in their games. Please mom, let me go over there! “No, Levi those big boys could eat you for a snack and still be hunger.” Tonight was different. He wasn’t happy on the deck. Levi wanted to go inside the house, then when he’d get there he’d want to come back outside. Back and forth he went until I finally got tired of being his personal Jack-in-the-box, popping in and out of my chair like a wind-up toy and I went inside with him. Levi wasn’t finished annoying me. He made me follow him into the kitchen where I’d forgotten to feed him. He’s the perfect dog for an old person because there isn’t anything he’ll let slide. Food, water, potty breaks, dental sticks and bed time---he’s very vocal about all these things until he gets through to me that he’s got a schedule fixed in his head and I'm messing with that.

I had a good excuse for forgetting the kibble. I spent the weekend in a lot of pain---not the urinary tract infection kind, that’s gone---and I wasn't even feeding myself. This time it was shoulder and neck pain. I’m not fond of chiropractors, in fact they scare me, having known several people who ended up having a stroke on their tables. But I could feel something was out of place so I called Monday morning and by the time my afternoon appointment was over I was feeling 60% better. I left with instructions to come back if I wasn’t 100% by Wednesday. She thinks I pinched a nerve while sleeping on my side and we had the don’t-crack-my-neck conversation. “Sorry,” she said, “I’m going to have to do it.” She contends that anyone who has a stroke on a chiropractor’s table would have had one within a few hours anyway and having it then, where it’s recognized for what it is, could possibility save a person’s life. She used the example being home alone so you wouldn’t/couldn’t get to the hospital within the four hour window to get the drug to reverse a stroke. I’d rather not get my neck cracked, thank you very much, but I didn’t see a shotgun sitting in the corner to put me out of my misery. She did the dirty deed---without my permission---when I wasn’t expecting it, then she promised that was the worst thing she’d do to me. As I write this on Tuesday night, I can tell I’ll be calling back tomorrow for another treatment. Pain is still a melody playing softly underneath my every move. If I don’t post a blog on Saturday you’ll know the chiropractor killed me. ©

Saturday, July 22, 2017

No Cardboard Box under a Bridge for me!

Don’t leap to conclusions on what I’m about to tell you but I had an appointment with a person whose business card says he’s “a specialist in home care and assisted living placements.” I met him in March on a bus tour of independent and assisted living facilities and I was impressed with him enough to want to take advantage of a free service where he can estimate how long your money and assets will last in places like. I’m nowhere near wanting or needing to move into a facility but I wanted to get some footwork done for someday maybe. And don’t we all worry about whether or not we’ll end up in a fleabag Medicaid dumping ground or worse yet, get loaded up in a shopping cart and set loose at the top of a hill. Bye bye, there’s cardboard condo community down there under the bridge that you can afford.
He said I have enough assets to qualify to get me into most continuing care places---the kind where you start out in independent living and as needed they move you up in care levels plus they won’t kick you out if your money runs out. Not that he’s recommending that for me (far from it) but he said---and this is the important part---qualifying for those kinds of places is an great indicator that a person has enough assets to private-pay at nice/r places, with lower monthly fees for the rest of your life. (Continuing care places cost more up front in exchange for that life care guarantee and no one gets anything back if you die long before using up all your own money.) Of course, no one knows how long any of us will live but it’s the same principle as buying extended warranties---the companies selling them are betting you won’t need to use them i.e. continuing care facilities have developed extensive mathematical formulas and they are gambling you’ll die before it starts costing them money. And they are factoring into their calculations a two year stretch at the highest cost level at the end. I didn’t tell him this but the dark side of me wonders if when your money runs low if that's when you have a "tragic accident” like my sister-in-law did, chocking on a pill because no one was around who was certified to do the Heimlich in a timely manner?

The guy was here for nearly two hours and by the time he left I felt so much better---no eating cat kibble to save money for me! If there’s anything he doesn’t know about the various facilities around town, it isn’t worth knowing. For example, he asked if a religious affiliation was important to me and I said, “Quite the opposite” and I told him I didn’t like one of the places we toured on the bus trip because it felt “too churchy.” He replied that it’s common in this town for places to boast that they do prayers, devotions and Bible readings daily with their meals. “Not a good fit of me!” I said emphatically. And he named some places in my target area that don’t let religion bleed all over their mission statements. We covered the dog-friendly places, the view out the unit window, the ideal location for family support, the food and activities, etc., etc. Three pages of questions and answers and it will all be on file for my nieces when/if they need it. He’d take me and/or them on a tour of his top three recommendations when the time comes, or even next week if I wanted. I’m not ready for that. I hope I’m never ready but we all know our health can change in a heartbeat so when ‘hope’ fails it helps to have a plan. 

Change of topic to something else I’ve never done before: I had my first e-visit with my doctor’s office. I got diagnosed online for ‘acute cystitis’ otherwise known as a UTI to the ladies out there. I filled out the questionnaire at 9:00 Monday and by 11:00 I had the promise of an antibiotic called in to the pharmacy and orders left for a urine test. By Wednesday morning the lab order still had not shown up on my patient portal and I thought, well, maybe e-visits don’t do it the same way as office calls, so I went to the lab. No order was on file and I had to wait for them to call the doctor’s office. Finally, I got to pee in a specimen bottle.

I made three trips to the same medical building that day. One of those trips was for a mammogram and we all know how much fun that can be. I was getting pulled, stretched and pressed at the exact same time a lab technician two rooms down was leaving a message on my home phone that I’d failed at giving an adequate urine sample and I needed to come back and do another. Great! I’ve been peeing a million times a day and the one time it counted, I did a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am quickie that only satisfied one of us. The bummer part is the e-visit doctor told me not to start the antibiotics until after I’d taken the urine test so I had to spend over 48 hours lusting after the promised relief sitting in a medicine bottle on the kitchen counter-top. ©