Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. 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. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Friends who Read Blogs and the Mom I Still Miss


I have a curious friend who knows I have a blog but she isn’t very computer literate which translates to she can’t find it and she’s tried. Several times when the topic has come up I’ve jokingly said, “If I told you how to find it, I’d have to kill you.” I debate in my head whether or not I should just give her the web address. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people in my off-line life who read my blog and I like it that way because it frees me to write without the temptation to white wash my words to square with the filtered person I frequently show to the world away from my keyboard. I trust these five people to still like me even after reading my deepest thoughts. And more importantly, I trust them not to tattle on me if I write about someone we both know.

The year that Don died, I did put the web address in my Christmas letter but to my knowledge only three out of all the people on my mailing list ever stopped by. I get that. I really do. Mostly, it’s other widows who are interested in how newbie widows are handling that first year. And by the time I turned into a seasoned widow who was no longer fluctuating between crying in my beer and being the brave little trooper I came to appreciate the advantages of keeping my online and offline lives separate. That probably explains why my petty inner child is not keen on inviting my curious friend to my blog. My inner child can be quite bullheaded, a word my mother used often to describe me when I was growing up. Bullheadedness in childhood can turn into a useful tool in adulthood. If Mom were here now I’d point out that being bullheaded/persistent, if channeled in the right direction, gets things done. Sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words can never hurt you---unless it’s your mom drilling them into you head.

I don’t write about my mother often. She was a complicated person and I’m afraid I won’t be able to do her justice. She could be a tough disciplinarian and if I lingered too long on that point you’d get the impression she was a hard woman. For example, if I didn’t do the dishes before rushing out to have fun I’d find them piled in my bed to do before I could go to sleep at night. But if I told you she was affectionate with her family and compassionate with others in bad situations, you’d rightly get the impression she had a warm and loving nature. Case in point: whenever my uncle drank too much and gambled away his paycheck my mom slipped her sister money to help feed their kids. At Mom’s funeral I heard similar stories of her quietly helping others. But if I told you my mother was always squirreling money away for rainy days you’d get the impression she was a miser. When she died we had to check the pockets in all her clothes before donating them.

To understand my mom it helps to know that her own mother died after giving birth to my mom’s sixth sibling. She was ten years old and after that all the kids got shuffled off to live with other families across several counties. Mom, being the second born and deemed old enough to work, was sent off to earn her keep at her grandmother’s boarding house. She would tell a story about how all the tablespoons in the house would disappear when meals were made because her grandmother would taste something on the stove, then drop the spoon into the pot. She’d repeat that over and over again and all the spoons would come clinking out when the food was plated. By her early teens Mom had dropped out of school and was working first as a live-in housekeeper, then as a waitress living on her own in a rented room. Her dad would stop by the restaurant regularly to ask her for money. He drank away his widower’s grief until he drank so much he turned into an alcoholic. 

Mom married my dad when she was twenty-six years old and she didn’t talk much about those years when she was out on her own. But I do know that all that time working as a waitress turned her militantly against the system of tipping in restaurants. She thought if we did away with tipping the restaurants would have to pay fair wages. A woman could work her fingers to the bones taking care of a lot of customers, she said, but it was the flirty waitresses with big breasts who made the most money. A couple of times I saw Mom sneak part of the tip money off the table that my dad would leave behind. Bad service? Flirty waitresses? Rainy day fund running low? Your guess is as good as mine.

Mothers and daughters have unique relationships and I leave it to others who knew us both to decide if I’m anything like my mom. One thing I know for sure is she did her best to see that my brother and I had the opportunity to pursue whatever after school activity that we showed an interest in. She was the leader of my Blue Birds, Camp Fire and Horizon Clubs, she volunteered to help on school field trips and was determined I would get a college education. My mom also knitted and crotcheted beautifully and played records when she was home alone. The only “mother thing” she didn’t accomplish was to teach me how to cook and that we can chalk up to me being too bullheaded to learn. She died on an Easter Day in the early ‘80s and while Easter changes dates every year I associate the holiday with losing and still missing her. And it should be noted here that my brother and I still argue over who Mom loved the best.  © 

Photo at the top: My mom in her early 20's I'm guessing. The one below was taken on the day Mom and I was released from the hospital after I was born.

34 comments:

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    1. Thank you. I've wanted to write about my mom for a long time but didn't really know where to start.

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  2. Mom always loved the other sibling best. :)
    The thing about mothers is that they are only people. It takes us a while to realize that. I like this remembrance of your mother. We are so close to our mothers and have such need for them when we're young, it's almost impossible to see them in their totality. We can so easily see them as bad or perfect, lacking nuance. This was lovely. It sounds to me like she had to be tough to survive her youth, and all the things she had to cope with far too early in life, but she was fair and cared about the circumstances of others. We are all a mix of what life does to us and our DNA. It sounds like she worked it out pretty well. And I love that she - one who had scant opportunity for education - wanted very much for her daughter to go to college. You fulfilled that dream for her.

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    1. That seeing a parent as nuanced is what makes it hard to write about them. My dad would be simpler to describe because he hung the moon and and the stars, and to this day I can't find anything but glowing things to say about him. (And I don't think I'm wearing rose-colored glasses.)He had a hard childhood too, lost his mom around the same age as my mom lost her's. But he had a loving dad and siblings who remained in his life so he didn't come away from childhood with the same insecurities as mom did.

      I did fulfill Mom's dream of me graduating from college but that last year wasn't completed until two years after she died and I was in my 40s. Her death influenced me to finish and that day was the proudest day of my life.

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  3. This is a very sympathetic and honest tribute to your mother. You loved her for exactly who she was. That's the best thing we can do for anyone.

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    1. Thank you! You words means a lot, given you're a retired teacher who taught English and writing.

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  4. Not sure how many friends or family read my blog, if at all. I've given out the url, but nobody ever says anything. I had thought it would be nice to not have to repeat myself.

    Your mother sounds a lot like the way I did things ...

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    1. In the beginning of this blog I thought the same thing as you did.

      Either my mother or my father had long-lasting role models on mothers should do things. The nicest part of that is they didn't assign my brother and I gender specific chores. We both had to do everything around the house.

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  5. My mother's situation was different from yours, but her mother died when Mom was sixteen, and she had the task of raising her younger sisters. She stuck with it until her baby sister (now my 93 year old aunt)graduated from high school, and then she moved on. But the experience certainly shaped her. For the rest of her life, she wanted someone to take care of her, and when my dad died -- thirty years before she did! -- it was really hard for her. Despite her reluctance to move away from Iowa, having that same baby sister care for her for a few years, and then having me around for the rest of her life, was a great relief.

    I think you're exactly right: move one step to the left or right, and everything looks different. Beyond that, people not only are complex, they do change. Characteristics that stick in our minds are only a part of the picture, and they might have been barely noticed by others. I suppose that's neither good nor bad, but it does make for interesting conversation at family reunions!

    I was really interested in your comments about keeping your online life separate from the rest of life. I've spent a decade seeking to integrate online and offline; my goal always has been to write and present myself in such a way that there isn't one person here and another over there. I simply am who I am. Of course there are certain things I don't write about publicly, just as there are things I don't share with co-workers or casual acquaintances. But I write what I write, and don't worry about what the co-workers, or relatives, or neighbors think about any of it.

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    1. I love how we can get a certain and look back at what our parents went through, what we went through, and see how their younger years and difficulties form who we all became later in life.

      I love what you said in the second paragraph and that's one of the reasons I haven't written about my mom before. The way I see/saw my mom is probably different than what my nieces and nephew saw. She grew and soften over time. My niece did read this blog entry and loved it. She says she hears her grandmother's voice come out of her sometimes when she's caring for her grandson.

      With your blog in makes perfect sense not to separate your off and online lives. What you write about are topics of general interest to history and nature bluffs and not the bare-your-soul kind of blog. I think of you as a cross between Mark Twain (folksy story telling about real places and past events) and Mary Oliver (poetry) and Ansel Adams (getting us to look at nature in different way).

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  6. Loved how you covered the many sides of your Mother in a most loving way. She sounded like an amazing woman with a caring heart.
    I only have one sister who reads my blog. The rest know of it, just don't visit and that is OK.

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    1. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that more of our family don't read our blogs. 1)only a small percentage of people even read anything, and 2) our families probably think they know everything there is to know about us. LOL

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  7. None of my family know this blog exists and that's the way I want to keep it. LOL We don't ever get over missing our Mom's, do we?

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    1. After what happened with your first one, I can sure understand why you want to keep it that way.

      Yup, are mom's are always in our heads. LOL

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  8. I thought it was beautiful and complex, just as your mom must have been. You don't seem to have any doubt she loved you unconditionally and at the end of the day, that's really all that matters. The rest are just interesting layers. I think the fact you and your brother still argue over who she loved best says it all (since you both know it's you) ;-)

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    1. Great observations, Pippa. I don't have any doubts that she loved me unconditionally. But when you're a kid and you're being punished you have your doubts. I still think my brother got away with more stuff than I did. LOL

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  9. Such a thoughtful portrayal of your Mom. I'm glad you shared her with us. That generation sure had a lot of tough lives and stories ... and didn't seem to turn to drugs! Well, maybe alcohol for some!

    One year for Mother's Day, my sister found the PERFECT card. She bought six of them and sent each of us the same card to mail for Mother's Day. Kind and thoughtful and the last line inside said "I know you always liked me best". Mom got the mail one day and two exactly the same envelopes showed up. She told Dad "wouldn't it be funny if I got the same card?" and the next day four more showed up. She took them to work and lined them up on her desk. She then sent each of us a letter ... ending with "and don't tell the others, but I really did like you the best" She was the FUNNEST Mom ever!

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    1. My gosh, that's a great story and it had me laughing. You all inherited her wonderful sense of humor, it looks like.

      That generation did have a lot of hardships and did build their lives with very little if any help from the generation before them.

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  10. What a lovely tribute to your mother! We are, after all, ALL human. Good features and not-so-good. You recognized them but counter-balanced them. Your mother was no doubt proud of you alive, and would be proud of you now.

    And I've learned, for the same reasons as you, it's best to keep blogging world away from 'real life' world. For freedom of writing and lack of retribution. ;)

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    1. Thanks! She was and would be.

      You've said it best...why keeping blogging away for 'real life' makes sense. Most people I know off-line have no clue how I feel about hot button topics.

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  11. Dear Jean, I'm coming to our blog after you so kindly came to mine when you read Arkansas Patti's review of my convent memoir. I've never married and so never been a widow, but one of the blogs I follow is by an English blogger whose husband (Beloved) died a year ago. Her grief is palpable. Just as yours must have been. And I am so glad to have read the intro at the very top of your blog to discover that life went on for you. It will for her, too, I know, but oh, she is so sad now.

    This posting about your mother is lovely. Our lives are always so entangled with our parents that separating out the threads that weave us together can be difficult, but you truly have painted with words a picture of her that brings home to me her great compassion. thank you. Peace.

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    1. Thank's for stopping by. I am intrigued by your memoir about your time spent in the convent, "Prayer Wasn't Enough." You have an interesting and unusual life-story and the memoir of your decade after leaving the convent will be just, if not more, interesting as the first. Good luck with the books.

      My mom was compassionate, helped where she could in ways that she kept to herself.

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  12. I love this post for a lot of reasons, Jean. I especially love your honest and beautiful portrait of your mother. I think we all go through life carrying baggage and stories and memories good, bad and in-between. And when you add a few (or more than a few) years to us, coupled with life experience, we better realize what went into decisions, choices, arguments and glory times. Just as we carry our pasts into our present and future lives, we are reminded that they, too, did that -- something that is hard to see until we've chalked up a few notches on our own belts!

    This is thoughtful, insightful and beautiful. She sounds like a remarkable woman who did well by her children and the fact that you still argue over whom she loved best tells me she loved you both greatly and left an equally large mark.

    Holiday deaths are extra hard, don't you think? Even when the holidays move around, like Thanksgiving and Easter, well, sometimes you deal with it twice in short succession. Years later.

    Online and off. Pretty much I never put anything online I wouldn't want to see on the front page of the New York Times. But that said, I will write about most anything. My more thoughtful, in-depth stuff is at Modern Creative Life, Gypsy is more fun, for the most part. But then, that's primarily my life -- more fun than pain. No, that's not true. Trying to find the light in the dark -- and usually, not always, but usually -- I can.

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    1. Thank you! Yours (and other commenters) have given me reasons to believe I did justice to my mom when writing this "memorial post."

      Mom died on Easter and Dad died on Christmas and if anything positive can be said about my husband's death at least he didn't die on Thanksgiving. You never lose that holiday/sadiversary thing.

      I only know your 'Gypsy' blog. I'll have check out your other one. The New York Times test is a good one. I have never written anything I'm ashamed of. It's mostly my views on politics and religion that I wouldn't particularly like people in my offline life to find out because life has taught me that changes relationships and who has enough friends that they want to lose any?

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    2. Modern Creative Life (moderncreativelife.com) isn't just me -- it's a collaborative, to which I'm a contributor. Lots of inspiring articles and they are always looking for submissions -- there's a link on the site for that. But I do have a second blog called The Leatherman Tree. No one really comes to that except my family (it's my family history blog) and a few who are either interested in genealogy or happen onto it by mistake. As with many families, there is always the perceived neglected child, which reminds me I haven't posted on it for awhile!

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    3. I have a family history blog too! I keep forgetting to check on it as people do occasionally leave comments.

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  13. Jean, I loved this blog about your mother. It seems that she had a difficult life growing up but did amazing for you and your brother. I bet she loved you the most. Mothers & daughters have a special bond.
    On Saturday while working on my computer I was attacked and I could do anything with my computer. I was to call this number which I did. These people stated that a foreign people or people were now taking my name using it for porno reason. THey said that they could get rid of the problems. I was so upset I listened to them until they asked for $500. I called my computer friend and he told me don't pay anything. It was a scam. He came over and clean out all the messy things and I should be OK. Today I called the police and spoke to an officer. These people probably came from India or Somalia. He said that it has been taking place often now and these people try to get money from older people like me. The officer said that they probably moved on realizing that they didn't get any money from me. It's so scary and I'm still shaking. Thank God I have my computer friend. Be careful and if it happens to you my computer friend told me to just close off your machine and have your best computer friend to check your machine.
    See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. LOL on Mom loving me the most.

      I got one of those warnings on my computer last summer and it wouldn't let you shut them down until I cut off the power. I didn't call them because I had seen a scam alert on TV. But like you, I still took it to my computer guy to have it cleaned...just in case. Glad you didn't pay anyone anything!!!!

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  14. What a great and balanced portrait of your mom! Thank you for sharing.

    Deb

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  15. The story of the dirty dishes piled in the bed made me chuckle. While our mothers' generation may not have heard the term "tough love," they were experts at it. -JeanP

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    1. Isn't that the truth. So is the term, "If they knew better, they would have done better." I love the fact that my mom and dad---both didn't have gender specific roles fixed in their minds when raising my brother and me. I am what I am because of that.

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  16. Beautiful tribute. Tears in my eyes. Mothers/Daughters relationships are fraught with complexity. I can relate to that....and to how much you miss her. I miss my mom too, more so as I grow older.

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    1. Probably we can all relate to our moms more as we age because we've share a better understanding of what made them tick, how it feels to go through menopause, sibling and spousal relationships.

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