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, March 31, 2018

Two Restaurants and a Baby

I made a quick trip to see my new best friend---the nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. My Popeye’s elbow didn’t go down with the round of antibiotics---the one that came with a guarantee I’d get diarrhea. (It was not a fun week.) She repeatedly called me ‘sweetie’ and I didn’t even care because she kept a running dialogue going on what she was doing and her voice is like liquid sunshine. She took out a large hypodermic needle and drew 11 C.C. of thick grayish-red pus out of my bursa and put 7 C.C. of steroids back in it. My elbow looked smaller for a half day but now you can’t tell she even touched it except for the black and blue marks I didn’t have before. I’ve got such a busy couple of weeks coming up that I’m not sure when I can get back in but I suppose I should try. She mentioned they might have to schedule me with a specialist for minor surgery if the procedure she did doesn’t work. She also said the stuff she drew out usually looks different than mine did. Good grief, I hate being “special” when we’re talking random medical crap!

On the way home from the doctor’s office I took myself out to the Breakfast Only Café where I love the food and they offer the best opportunities for eavesdropping on my end of town. I hit the jackpot and got to hear a smug, twenty-something girl talk about the baby she’s expecting. She’s doing a home birth with a mid-wife. “I don’t see why I need a hospital or drugs. Women have been having babies for thousands of years.” If I had been her dining companion I would have said, “Hey, Chickie-poo, women have been dying in childbirth for thousands of years, too!” But her companion was a good little listener and she didn’t even laugh out loud like I did when the mother-to-be said her friends with babies tell her she needs to buy a rocking chair but she thinks rockers are “too unstable to trust.” She’s not afraid of having a baby without drugs but she’s scared of rocking chairs? That still cracks me up. 

She also said the baby will absolutely not sleep in the room with her and her husband like her friends with babies did in the first few weeks. Her companion said, “You can use a baby monitor” to which Ms. Mother-to-Be cut her off with, “Not in my house! I’m a light sleeper and I need my sleep.” She’s not going to raise a spoiled child! Yadda, yadda, yadda. One of her friends, she said, even had her baby hooked up to an alarm and the parents took turns sleeping on a futon in the baby’s room. “That’s just crazy,” she said and I’m thinking, Hey wait minute! There must have been a medical need for that alarm. Usually, when I eavesdrop I have no trouble acted disinterested and involved in my own little writing world but this time I was tempted to jump over the pony wall and give her the aunt Jean/Socrates treatment. Would you listen to me, the childless woman who used to say I won’t babysit anyone who can’t say, “My stomach hurts and I need to go the hospital.”

The next day I went downtown with two of my Gathering Girls friends and a bus load of others from the senior hall to the culinary college’s fancy-schmancy restaurant. It’s the 3rd year I’ve signed up and it was just as fun this time as the others. I ordered the “Salvadoran Style Pork and Cheese Pupusa Chismol, rice, platanos maduros, salsa roja, corn relish, curtido and lime crema” not knowing what half those words meant. I still don’t but it was wonderful. It came with a small salad that included steamed sweet potato slices, baby spinach and quinoa with a white salsa plus a three ounce sized bowl of pureed black bean soup and a bread basket to die for. If I were a panda bear I would have used the bread to anoint myself. If you’ve watched a panda cam you’ll know all about how they roll around on the enrichment treats they love better than sex. And for dessert I got a yummy, dark chocolate fix---a wedge of heaven topped with raspberry sauce and chocolate ‘candy paper squares’ and served with a dab of chocolate ice cream and a chocolate whoopie pie with raspberry filling. The five star style service makes you feel great but for half the cost you’d pay at a ritzy restaurant.

The culinary college outings always come with a mystery tour and this year our senior hall director took us to a 75,000 square feet warehouse called ‘The Store’ that is run by a mega church. They get shipments from World Mission of school supplies, hygiene products, diapers, cleaning supplies and overstock goods that could be anything from chairs to vacuums to boots. All brand new. The church opens the warehouse to people on a fixed income including college students, charity groups and school teachers who all pay a $50 fee for a year’s membership and members can go to ‘The Store’ twice a month and take whatever they need for free. Our tour guide told us a lot of stories about how they’d pray over a large shipment of say pillows and the next day someone would come in who was setting up a shelter. What a HUGE and curious place it was! ©

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Guy Jobs, Widows and Young Neighbors

I’ve had nothing on my day planner for six straight days and guess what, the end of this week I have three things scheduled back-to-back. In a perfect world my social life would alternate with days spent at home doing things like catching up with laundry, cleaning forgotten cubbyholes and other boring necessities of living on my own. 

One of the necessities I had to do this week was remove the license plate off the car and put a new one on. Here in Michigan they only let you go ten years just using the renewal tabs on old plates before you’re required to buy a whole new plate. And when that happened this year it occurred to me that in my entire life I’ve never had to swap a license plate. Either my dad or Don took on that once-labeled guy job and even with my last few vehicles, when Don was still alive but could no longer do anything that required two hands, we bought new vehicles often enough that the dealership changed the plates. How hard could it be? I am woman. I can do anything! 

Except I couldn’t get the screws off. Oil helps I remembered from the good old days but I couldn’t find any Lock-Ease or machine oil in the garage so I found an eye dropper and put some baby oil on the screws. After letting them soak awhile I tried turning them again. I was using a flat head screw driver because I couldn’t find a Phillips head large enough to do the job. I thought about asking a neighbor to turn the screws out because it was a struggle for my old hands with their thumbs that get stuck in positions they don’t belong. I am woman, captain of my own ship. I can do anything. Ya, Sure. 

Finally, I got them off but I ended up cracking the license plate holder that I didn’t like anyway. So I put the whole kitten caboodle back on and drove to the auto supply store to get another, one that won’t have me struggling to put the license tabs on in their proper place like I’ve been doing in past years with the old plate holder. I also bought new screws and at home I finished the job. The whole process took me two and a half hours including lunch at Taco Bell. I am woman. I can do anything! Right…but I wish I had thought to play the Aging-Old Woman Card when I was at the auto supply store and sweet-talked one of the guys there into swapping my plates. 

But the job wasn’t completely finished because now I had to get rid of the old plate in a manner that someone couldn’t find it in the trash and put it on another vehicle. With my luck the plate thief would kidnap a kid and a witness would report my license number resulting with the swat team storming my front door. My husband had nine vehicles and this was a common worry in April. He’d cut those plates up into a half dozen pieces. I doubt I still have the giant cutters he used and even if I did, I doubt I’d have the hand strength to use them. I thought about asking a neighbor guy if he could cut the plate but I’m sure my neighbors aren’t as paranoia as I am about what could happen if I just threw the plate in the trash. To save my reputation as a mildly sane person I spray painted the front of the plate, folded it in half and wrapped it in Duct tape. I am woman. I can do anything. Yeah!

Speaking of neighbors, a young couple moved in about two years ago. She's a physical therapist---very sweet and friendly. A few weeks ago we talked over our property line about the salsa garden she’s going to put in this summer. Last year was her first attempt at gardening and she said her whole family came over in the fall to help her can her garden’s bounty. I told she that brought back good memories of me and my mom making chili sauce. Long story short I must have said something that made her think I’m the classic, lonely widow on the block. On her next day off she appeared at my front door. I invited her in, gave her the grand tour and during our conversation she said she came over to give me her phone number in case I ever need help with anything, “Yard work. Walk your dog. Anything. I just want to start doing some charity work.” Did you catch that ‘charity work’?

The next week on her day off she called and said, “I wanted to check in on you and see if you'd like to go for a walk with me.” If you remember the first time someone called you Mam in a store instead of Miss you’ll know how I felt. Shocked. Amused. Sad. A half dozen emotions came with that phone call before I settled on thinking it might be nice to have a young woman on a mission living near-by who could be enlisted to help with jobs involving screws that don’t want to come off. I am woman but I’m not invincible. ©

Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Red Hat Society Dilemma

The first and third Wednesdays of the month are Red Hat Society teas or walk-abouts. I’ve been to zero meetings over the winter. Some events I missed because the roads were bad or the temperatures were too low. I’m choosy about venturing out of the house in the winters. Some would call me a chicken others might say I’m pragmatic. Other times I didn’t go because I was sick and didn’t want to spread my yuckies around. I do get the minutes to all the meetings via e-mail, so I keep up to speed. This week I decided I’d better go before the other ladies forget what I look like, otherwise I might as well drop my membership. 

In January I did try to go to a tea but I showed up on the wrong Wednesday and this Wednesday I showed up an hour early. No, I’m not getting old. Stop saying that! Normally being early would not be a problem because I always have a mini notebook and pen in my purse that I use in my struggling writer impersonations. But my 3 ½ by 4 ½ inches notebook only had ten pages left in it. I was panicked stricken. I don’t write well under the pressure of knowing I don’t have room for mistakes and revisions. So I decided to make a list of the pros and cons of dropping out of the Red Hat Society.

Pro #1: There is another writer in the group who I enjoy talking with. She’s a thousand times more talented than I am but I’m more prolific and disciplined than she is. We been known to inspire each other and we do that on Facebook. But face-to-face time is…well, face-to-face time---different and I like the fluidity of our conversations no matter the topic.

Con #1: Since changing leadership (which has only happened once in twelve years and not likely to change again anytime soon) I rarely want to do the walk-abouts that are planned because most of them are religion related. Case in point: In April they are going to a play called, The Old Rugged Cross which is billed as an event to “bring peace and gets you a little closer to the Holy Spirit.” It takes place several hours out of town and setting aside the forty dollar price tag, being an agnostic the conversation riding home would probably give me a headache and my tongue would be raw from biting it. The writer is the only one in the group who knows how I feel about religion. And I respect her right to believe in the teachings of her church which tells her I’m going to hell in a hand-basket. No brownie points for being a moral person, a person who lives a principled life.

Pro #2: I’m sentimental over the concept of the Red Hat Society and how it helped me through a hard point in my life. I was a charter member of the group (along with the writer) and it was started in the second year after my husband’s stroke. The group was my only contact with a life outside of his therapies and other caregiver chores. Back then we had a waiting list to get in the group, and the walk-abouts got to the point that they were all-day or even weekend events that I couldn’t manage while taking care of Don. It broke my heart when I dropped out but it wasn’t fair to hold a place when I wasn’t fully taking part in the activities. After Don died, I had the opportunity to drop back into the group but in the years in between whenever life would get tough I’d hold on to the mindset, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me…” which just means Red Hat Society women are freeing themselves to have fun with no regard for what society dictates as proper decorum for women of a certain age. We did our duties to our families and communities and red hat time is all about well-deserved play times and me-first times.

Con #2: Like I said, I’m sentimental about the mission statement of the Red Hat Society but the dynamics of our chapter has changed over the years and I find myself going through the motions when I go to a tea. I’m not close with any of the women. They’re all nice but many have known each other since grade school and they have their small town church families in common as well. My gathering girls group gives me the same feeling of inclusion, fun and laughter that I used to enjoy back when my husband was still alive and I’d go to the newly minted Red Hat Society events.

They say you can never have too many friends, and making them and keeping them is not something I take lightly. Still, life is short and I’m getting too old to just be going through the motions of doing anything that my heart isn’t fully committed to doing. And that is my Red Hat Society dilemma. ©