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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Cemetery Run: Year Six


It was a bright, sunny day in the neighborhood when I got up and I had places to go and things to do including going to the cemetery to do some “housekeeping” around my husband’s gravestone before the Memorial Day weekend kicked into high gear. But first I needed to drop off my recycling at the transfer station what’s located along the way. I’ve been on a militant mission to recycle as much one-time use plastic, glass and metal as humanly possible. My recycling “come to Jesus” moment came after I posted the video back in April of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck all the way up inside his nose. I’ve always recycled newspapers, cardboard and pop cans but I didn’t think I was generating enough kitchen and household recyclables to make a difference. Boy, was I wrong. Before, I was going to the transfer station every 8-9 weeks but now I’ll probably need to go every 2-3 weeks and I’ve reduced the trash that goes out to the street for Monday pickup so much that it looks absolutely ridiculous in a tote big enough to hold 332.5 pounds. I’ve called around looking for a trash pickup service that offers smaller containers or once a month, rather than weekly pickups but they all seem to be using the same play book.

The cemetery was a busy place. Mowers and guys with weed whackers were working on the far side of the rolling, tree studded place and Boy Scouts were making their way down the rows of stones, looking for graves to put fresh American flags on. After I parked off to the side, careful not to encroach on any gravesites, I grabbed my long-handled shovel, a jug of water, scrub brush, plastic bag and garden gloves and I was surprised to see the tombstone looked better than it usually does when I do the spring the cleanup. Usually sod is attempting to take it over and the engraving in the marble is filled up with dirt. Others like me were parked here and there and as we worked the bees were buzzing, the birds were singing and the flowers were holding their faces up to the sun. A perfect day to be anywhere but where I was.

As I dug out the sod around the stone I thought about what I wrote in my blog last year---I had looked it up the night before. “This year,” it read, “is my fifth Memorial Day since Don’s passing and I could write exactly what I wrote last year: ‘I went to the cemetery on Saturday and had a talk with Don. I told him that I think of him often and that I’m doing okay even though he took a piece of me with him when he left.’” This weekend, my sixth Memorial Day of grooming his gravestone we didn’t seem to be on speaking terms and that may be because I had a half of jug of water left and I got side-tracked cleaning up a near-by grave of a veteran of the Korean War that looked pitiful and abandoned. I almost cleaned it along with Don’s last year but decided not to because I had just read another widow’s blog who had gone ballistic when she went to the cemetery to clean her husband’s grave and found it had already been done. She suspected his first wife did it and she was going to have a showdown over it. Dead and fighting over who gets to clean up after the guy! He must have been quite the prize. Anyway, I’m thinking if Don’s Korean War vet neighbor in the cemetery has a living widow around, I could take her down in a fist fight.

On the way home from the cemetery I got caught in a road construction maze. The street I usually go home on had been closed off permanently and the traffic light that used to be at that intersection was moved 200 feet down the road, at the exit ramp coming from the expressway. It’s not like we didn’t have a month of warnings. We did, but old habits are hard to break and thank goodness I didn’t make a left onto the exit ramp. (Someone's going to do it!) Turning around in the carpool lot so I could head back in the other direction, I found the brand new by-pass road that eventually connected to the road I needed. But on that road I ran into road block and had to turn around. AGAIN! I didn’t think I’d ever find my way home and I was running out of options. I ended up going way far out of my way but all’s well that ends well because that road took me to Starbucks and my Chevy Trax is programed to turn into their driveway.

As I jotted down notes for this blog entry I was sitting in their coffee shop, using the stainless steel straw I now carry in my purse---that’s how serious I am about doing my part to reduce was goes into the landfills and oceans. It was my first “granda Teavana shaken pineapple white ice tea lemonade sweeten infusion” of the season. They don’t tell you this, but ordering drinks at Starbucks is a senility test. If you get any one of those words out of order you have to start all over again. ©

30 comments:

  1. My rubbish bins go pretty much empty (some weeks don’t even bother putting it out). I bury my organic waste in the backyard. Just dig up a shallow hole, stuff my veggie peelings in it, and cover it up. No problems with that. However, I once similarly buried a cooked chicken (bought a roast chicken and it tasted AWFUL, just couldn’t eat it), and then put a heavy big stone on top. This was in the *front* garden, close to the street. Well, a few days later, I noticed a shallow hole in the ground, with a small rock nearby. It took me a few seconds to figure out that small rock = big stone. But no other sign of an animal’s digging/scavenging?! I now stick to burying only veggie peelings, etc.

    My husband was cremated, and his ashes scattered. So, no graveyard to tend. But, a sudden, unexpected memory jog and I still become weepy.

    I used to think Starbucks was a bit pretentious and exxy. But, after a long time visited one (didn’t like the other choices in a mall, and this place looked nice and welcoming) - it was great. I find that can happen with franchises (had opposite experience with another franchise). ~ Libby

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    1. The case of the missing chicken. LOL When I was a kid one of my jobs was to bury or burn organic material. Everyone in the neighbor had a burn barrel. We can actually have a burn pit were I live but I remember how awful it used to smell.

      Half my husband was scattered and in the grave. He wanted the latter and I wanted the former. I just heard about a family arguing over ashes and I thought that was the stupidest thing to argue over because can so easily be divided.

      I love Starbucks. We have five stand-alones in town and as lots of mini-starbucks within other businesses and they all seem to hire a good quality of employees.

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  2. My husband lies in an urn on my dresser, along with urns for my mother and my dog. At some point I have to do something with all these ashes. Hubs has almost been flushed down the toilet several times but a cooler head prevailed. Bits of my mom have been sprinkled in all her favourite places but there is still lots of Mom left. I'd better think of something at some point so that my kids aren't left with this mess to clean up also.
    Thanks for another great post, Jean.

    Deb

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    1. Someone I know had the urn ashes of her grandparents and parents under her bed when she died---don't know why that didn't creep her out, but it didn't. Anyway when she died her kids got one gravesite for all all those urns. Maybe your husband's could be given to his parents or a sibling? Or dare I say, the woman he was cheating with? That would be kind of fun for me to do but I could be warped. LOL

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    2. His parents are dead and the sibling doesn't know that he cheated on me. I just don't have the heart to take away her good memories of her brother like mine were destroyed. So that would be an awkward conversation trying to explain why I was giving her the ashes. The woman he cheated on me with was innocent also - she truly believed he was single. The only reason I didn't flush him away was I suspected he would clog the drain pipe. I suppose I could flush away a bit at a time until he was all gone...hmmmm...I'll have to give this some thought. ;-)

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    3. Life is complicated, isn't it. You are a good person to want to protect his sister's memories. Still, if you start having trouble living a lie, don't be afraid to revisit the topic. A husband who cheated is different than a brother who did because it doesn't change her own self image knowing the true like it does a wife's.

      When I put some of my husband's ashes in a river I was shocked that they sunk to the bottom instead of floating away. I buried some in the yard, on the beach in the sand, at the farm where Don grew up, threw some in winds by the Lake Michigan and, of course, had to save some for the cemetery. I Johnny Appleseeded him all over the place. (As a Canadian you might not know about our Johnny Appleseed lure of a guy who traveled the frontier planting apple trees.)Point is the ashes don't all have to go in one place.

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  3. I laughed so hard at your Starbucks senility test I woke up my cousin, who happened to be sleeping next to me in her very own queen-sized bed in the Bentonville, Arkansas La Quinta. I decided on a roadie to see my 93 year old aunt in Kansas City over Memorial Day, so that's what I did. I spent three days there, and now my cousin's coming back to Texas with me for a week or so. Today, we're going to Crystal Bridges to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit. After that? Who knows?

    Going to the cemeteries always was a big thing when I was growing up. Now, with the cemeteries four states away, it's not so easy. I did get to see the last of the peonies blooming in KCMO. That was one of the traditional flowers for graves -- in Iowa, at least. When I was very small, I'd watch the ants on the flowers while the big people worked. It was great fun.

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    1. I love peonies! We dip the heads in water to get rid of the ants. But I guess they are important in helping the flowers open up.

      I'm not fond of O'Keeffe's work as we've discussed before but I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to see her work in person. Sometimes that makes all the difference.

      I rarely get my Starbucks drink order right. They like getting the size first so they can start writing and marking on the side of the cup. But I have habit of giving it last. Then I have to repeat my order all over again. It does feel like a test. LOL

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  4. Great job on the rubbish reduction. Holy crow. We wonder what our waste management guys think when they see our recycle bin of wine bottle and tequila.
    Your straw idea is wonderful. I just was talking on the trip to the lake to Rick about the pushback that people are giving McDonalds for going to paper straws. I don't like them but they alone produce over 1m in plastic straws in landfills so it is good they are doing something about it. But I wish it were better than paper.
    I would never ever remember that drink you like. See? I already forgot the whole thing. I only drink water, wine and black coffee so I'm still safe. If I forget those, get the white coats and truck to take me away.

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    1. Other fast food places and Starbucks are studying how to make the change-over to paper straws. The people who complain about MacDonald's being ahead of the curve are in for a surprise.

      If you forget to tell them one element in the infusions, they'll ask. "White, black, Chi or spice tea?" Five favor choices and I don't care which one, they are all good.

      I wish I had your wine bottles for garden art. I have bought blue ones on eBay.

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  5. You know Jean, since that video about that poor turtle, it has bothered me so much. Everytime I see a plastic straw I just want pick it up and put it in my blue box.
    I bet Don loves the work that you do every time you go to the cemetery. My parents are in a mausoleum and I really don't have to much work except to change the flowers. I usually pull a chair close up to the photos of my parents and I just begin talking about how the kids are doing and the problems that I'm having with members of our family. Here I ask my parents to help me. I move over to see my Uncle Rocco who is with my aunt. Uncle Rocco, I really miss a great deal. After my parents passed away he was the main person that helped me with all the problems I was having with my brother & sister. You know, when I leave the mausoleum I feel so much better and ready to deal with any problems that I have.
    I don't really like Starbucks but I enjoy the coffee with MacDonald's. In fact my cousin Dan is picking me up at noon to enjoy lunch. Would you like to join us my friend? See ya Jean.


    Cruisin Paul

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    1. You have a nice tradition at the mausoleum. We do need to take time to honor those who came before us.

      It was important to my husband to tend cemetery graves all the years I knew him so I'm know he'd like that I'm doing his.

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  6. Laughed at the story about the angry wife. Really nice of you to clean up the Korean War veterans site. His wife just may be in urn somewhere herself or too sick to manage. Kudos.

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    1. Last year the grave was new in the spring and by fall it didn't look like anyone had done anything at all to it nor this spring either. So I guess I have a new job.

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  7. There's something that appeals to me about going to the cemetery in springtime to tidy up gravestones and refresh memories. As a child I remember communities had 'cemetery workings' with 'dinner on the ground.'

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    1. If you actually go on Memorial Day it's a real sense of community and dinner on the ground still happens in some small towns. It is comforting to know that people still care about those who passed.

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  8. I think it is nice (comforting) to have traditions. Poor Ralph. I still have not spread his ashes anywhere! I have a tiny urn on a shelf next to my pillow and Kate has the same. The rest is in his Maui turtle box in our storage unit.

    I don't think I could ever work as a barista ... every half caf skinny latte with sugar free hazelnut heavy foam would be delivered as black coffee. I wish they had a line for just coffee drinkers!!!!

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    1. Girl, you need to decide what to do with those ashes! It's been awhile and a storage unit is no place for them. I watch too many of those shows where they auction off the contents of storage units sight unseen when they are behind in rent and know ashes gave been found with no way to ID whose they were. Things happen. If you are debating about taking them to Maui you can contract a funeral home there who can probably handle them for you if you're not planning a trip soon.

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    2. I have a trip to Maui planned for next Feb. We are going to his favorite Oregon vacation spot in August. And I can take him to the Oregon Coast where we were married. Just gotta do it!

      He does need to be where he wanted to be ....

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    3. That sounds good, meaningful.

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  9. On our family plot, we all have slanted markers, which makes it a lot easier to clean. Fred's is flat and I manage to keep that in pretty good shape.

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    1. In the new section of the cemetery Don is in they don't allow anything but the flat stones. They don't allow much of anything in the way of flower unless you put an urn on top of the stone and I hate that, hate covering up the information. It's all the dead have left, for crying out aloud.

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  10. I like how this post shows that nothing keeps you from moving forward. You have embraced New Ways Of Living and are accepting and incorporating Change. Well done.

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    1. I thought it was a boring post so I'm glad you found a positive message/purpose to it. Thanks. :)

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  11. That line about the Starbucks senility test is fabulous!

    I miss visiting cemeteries. It was an annual ritual growing up. Now I've moved away from all my dead people. I remember them in thought, but there is something about visiting the grave, cleaning, and leaving flowers that feels deeply meaningful. Rituals heal.

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    1. Ritual healing. I like that phrase and it's really true. Cemeteries are places of peace and tranquility.

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  12. I like Starbucks, but most of the time I order the same thing. I think I'm intimidated. :/
    H and I are going for cremation: no gravesite or stone, etc. I hope my niece or son will sprinkle our ashes in the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks.

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    1. I like the idea of having a stone but I don't care if I'm not buried there. You can have it both ways. Put your wishes in writing and I'll bet they'll be honored.

      Ordering at Starbucks can be intimidating. I have a few standards I get but I also love to try all the new stuff they come up with. Especially the colorful summer drinks.

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  13. That lemonade sounds pretty darned good! I feel very content when I go to the cemetery -- it's a peaceful spot. I'm glad Rick goes with me, though. It makes him part of the family he never knew.

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    1. It is darn good and only 40 calories for a grande. You can get it with orange, strawberry, or pineapple if I'm remembering them all plus your choice of teas.

      I know what you mean about the cemetery. You can all rushed and up tight, then when you get there you feel that peacefulness come over you.

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