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, July 25, 2018

The Good Luck Charm


I am staring at a computer cabinet that is messy beyond my normal degree of messiness. And it’s all the plumber’s fault. He came to the house on Friday to: 1) swap out the guts of the toilet because it was taking forever for the bowl to refill after flushing; 2) replace the mixer on my shower so I no longer have to boil myself to get clean; 3) swap out the hoses on my washing machine because it’s better to do that before they leak causing the floor to rot and the machine to end up in the basement; and 4) to fix a leaky kitchen faucet that got completely replaced because a screw was too rusty to turn out to fix the old faucet. He also had to go down the basement to turn off the water and while he was down there I had him test my sump pump. I hate sump pumps. That’s where murderers hide bodies in bad books and movies and I’m afraid I’ll drop my eyeglasses inside when I look down in there. I had no idea until Friday what I was looking for when I do my sump pump checks. But now I know if the white float is under water, then it’s time to dial 911-emergency plumber and get the bugger swapped out before the next big rain storm.

So what does having the plumber literally all over my house have to do with my messy computer cabinet? A lot. He might only be a serviceman, but I don’t get much company and I like having my house look great for anyone who steps through the front door, especially now that I’m old enough to be reported to Social Services if I look like an old woman in need of a keeper. All the desk-type stuff I normally have on my kitchen table got piled inside my computer cabinet were it still remains, and all the normal junk in my shower and on bathroom counter top went inside my bathroom linen closet. I didn’t want the guy to read my bottles and jars and know I’m obsessing about my skin again. Why do I do that? I’ll go for months doing little more than washing my face at night and in my morning showers. Then something will set me off and I’ll be ‘sanding’ my skin, loading it up with masks and potions that promise to make my pores disappear. 

My husband had rental property for a time and one of the houses came with a tenant who was 93 years old when she became a problem; the utilities were included in the rent and they got so high they totaled up to more than she was paying in rent. (She probably kept her thermostat the same as her age.) Every month when Don would go down to collect the rent he’d vow he was going to raise her rent to the breakeven point. And every month he’d come home saying he couldn’t do it. She worshipped the ground he walked on and who wouldn’t when you have a landlord who’d pick up prescriptions or a few groceries whenever he stopped? She always had a little ‘errands list’ for him and she was so appreciative to the point that he couldn’t bring up the rent increase. 

Finally, he called her daughter and told the woman he was going to evict her mother if she (the daughter) didn’t take over one of the utilities bills. “She’s your mother, not mine! I shouldn’t have to supplement her living expenses.” The daughter was quite wealthy and did nothing to help out her mother but she caved into Don’s toothless threat and the gas bill was switched over to her account. He wouldn’t have evicted his “good luck charm” as he called her but he often said, “How much longer can she live?” And who would take her mangy dog if he did evict her? He'd already taken in his mom's nasty tempered cat when she went in a nursing home, he didn't need to make any more promises like that. When Mrs, Anderson finally died a few years short of 100, we had to gut all the flooring down to the floor joists in one room to get rid of the dog’s ‘bathroom’ and we repainted all the walls four times to get rid of the odor of her cigarette smoking. You could practically get lung cancer just opening the front door. 

Mrs. Anderson is the reason why I half-joke, half-fear someone calling Social Services on me in the future should I become a danger to myself; we were in a position where we debated which was the kinder thing to do----report her to Social Services so she’d be forced into a nursing home or her daughter’s fancy digs or let her live out her life in a house where she’d been a tenant for the better part of her life. We made the right choice but only because Mrs. Anderson died of natural causes. We always worried that she’d fall asleep with a cigarette in her hand, die in a nasty fire and we’d end up regretting not making that call. And talking to her daughter about the situation was like talking to a yard ornament. Yup, Don’s lucky charm is why I hide my kitchen table clutter in my computer cabinet when the plumber and other service people come calling. You can never be too careful around young people because you can’t tell which ones could be on a mission to save old people from themselves. ©

33 comments:

  1. Oh, I love that last sentence. When we did guardianship work we went in some very bad living situations. I dreaded finding weeks of Meals on Wheels stacked up. They forget to let their pets out. Yes we must work against appearing that we can no longer care for ourselves. Scary isn’t it?

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    1. It's both scary and comforting at the same time that people do care if seniors are safe.

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  2. It sounds like a sump pump's a house equivalent to a bilge pump on a boat. That little white thingie must be a float switch: yes? I know we had one in our house in Iowa, but I've not come across one since. Where there aren't any basements, sump pumps aren't so common.

    That practice of hiding stuff has a long and storied history. I think we all do it from time to time. It was my favored technique in high school when my mother told me to clean up my room, and when we were selling that house, my mother would shove a good bit under the bed before potential buyers showed up. She assumed -- rightly, as it turned out -- that people would snoop in closets, but under the bed probably was safe.

    Things got a little out of control around here the past three weeks or so, but only because it's been so hot that I haven't had energy for so much as shutting a cabinet door when I get home at night -- let alone unloading the dishwasher. But yesterday it only reached 90, and there were some clouds and a breeze. I could let the plumber in today.

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    1. All houses here don't have sump pumps. This is the first house I've lived in with one. I guess it matters what the water table is aka how much pressure is on the foundation. It collects the water along the outside of the foundation and pumps it out into the yard farther out. No sure were a bilge pump gets its water to pump out.

      Your mom's logic was probably correct. LOL

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  3. Your husband was a loveable person who would have never evicted that old woman. She probably loved him for all that he did for her. Her daughter sounded like a witch to me.
    Enjoy your day Jean. See ya.


    Cruisin Paul

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    1. He had a real soft spot for elderly women, especially if they reminded him of his mother. He was a good guy but too soft to be a landlord. LOL

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    2. Sounds just like me Jean. LOL See ya.

      Cruisin Paul

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  4. I have two women who are here every Saturday to play flute trios with me. I have told them many times that they keep my house in order because I spread out all week and then on Friday I re-sort and re-organize the mess. I’m not entirely sure if I’m making much progress in minimizing the clutter but I am trying. All progress is slow!!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I do the same thing a few days before my cleaning girl comes each month. After she leaves the house stays clutter free for almost two weeks before I get careless again.

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  5. I used to put my clutter in a laundry basket(s) then put a bit of clothes on top! Or in paper grocery bags and hide them in the laundry room. Especially before the cleaning crew came.

    Living with four other people has made me a lot more tolerant of clutter. We live here, it's not a museum. We have a large upright freezer in the dining area ... next to 12 cubbies of toys, puzzles, art supplies, etc. We don't entertain here, and I meet friends elsewhere. I used to be embarrassed when people came to the door ... but I'm over it!

    Things get picked up and put away every evening! By 9:00 am, life has taken over again.

    P.S. I never walk barefoot, always slippers. LEGOs!

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    1. Living with two little boys and the Legos would probably drive me nuts. Levi and his toys are bad enough, not to mention all my "toys."

      The closet basket is a great idea!

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    2. Maybe I AM nuts. 65 lbs of dog pushed into my room about 4 am to snuggle. I awoke at 8:30 to giggles of little boys and Mom letting them have a Breakfast Party (donut holes, fruit and straws in their milk). I can't even remember the quiet of day in and day out in Maui. Maybe it works because we all WANT it to work!!

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    3. You've been a mom and I haven't so you were primed for the roll of live-in grandmother. It doesn't matter why it works, just enjoy the fact that it does for you and your family.

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  6. I hate sump pumps, too. Just the idea of having an open pit of icky water in my basement seems terribly backward and uncivilized to me.

    I noted with a smile your terminology: "he had to go down the basement". That is dialectically significant. Other geographic areas would say "go down TO the basement", and some even totally elide the preposition and article and say, "go down basement." I love linguistic stuff like that.

    For the record, in our particular area of Northeastern Ohio, we too say "go down the basement" more often than not, but due to the influences of some other groups, there are the random variations.

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    1. I live close to a flood plain which is probably why the township requires sump pumps but you bring up an interesting point. Why does the water have to get pumped inside? Why can't there be a pit outside? I suppose it has to do with being in a snow belt where pumps might not work in the winter.

      That's interesting about the "go down basement" vs. "go down to the basement." I never would have guessed that to be a regional thing.

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  7. Well, my house isn't that bad but Rick does threaten the dumpster for the stuff when I'm no longer here. I tell him he'd do better off to do an estate sale. Last year I took so much receipted stuff to charity I could declare a deduction of $1100. Problem is, no one can tell. Lizzie's thinking outside the box again periodically and fortunately it's just in the basement but parts of that floor are cleaner than anywhere in the house!

    Thanks for coming by my blog today! Love your visits and comments!

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    1. If my heirs don't know enough to have an estate sale they'd be throwing out a ton of sleepers of value. It's crazy that people think dumpster first just because they don't understand the value of things that don't like or that have been around a long time.

      I love Michigan bloggers! It's fun to support each other.

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  8. It’s interesting, I’ve observed that if a younger person is messy or might have a period of what’s considered cluttering for a variety of reasons, that others observing this may be more tolerant, or overlook it, but at a certain age such situations can set off much less consideration. I certainly appreciate the need to insure oldsters safety, but there can be do-gooders and others who may over-react to what might be a temporary situation, or with inadequate information, when an older person is concerned. I think about this for myself since I’ve been sorting my “stuff” gradually for some time, often bringing it into my living area where I may simultaneously have TV on. I find myself feeling the need to apologize to the first time visitor repairman, then adding I’m in the process of downsizing.
    Afterward, I think, that’s crazy that I even think about that.

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    1. Lots of things are acceptable in young people that are used as "signs" in older people. And isn't that annoying. I need to start downsizing again. It's so hard!

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  9. First of all thank you for straightening up when a contractor is coming to your home. You know my stories. Second, your Don sounds like Rick. That is so something he would do and then name her his lucky charm. I would be nice to a point and he would go above and beyond. Last of a breed Jean. :-)

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    1. It can't be nice to work around someone's junk in a bathroom or kitchen. Even clean junk gets in the way of contractors like Rick.

      Don watched his mother work hard around a farm, raising four boys and washing clothes for them, a husband and two farm hands without any help or appreciation. She cooked for them all. She canned, kept a garden and sold eggs for extra cash. He had a real soft spot to help elderly women, when he could. I think you are right...that kind of man is a dying breed.

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  10. Thanks for the heads up, Jean! Now I know to keep my place looking tidy at all times lest people think I need to be institutionalized. I need to start saving for a cleaning lady in my dotage, I think! Great post, as always!

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    1. You've got a long way to go before your dotage years, so be as messy as you like while you still can. LOL

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  11. Much to do and no motivation to do it, around here!
    It took me 3 days just to empty the dishwasher.

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  12. My last house in Portland had a sump pump. It wasn't a problem after a good plumber installed a way to remove a defunct pump without laying on my stomach and reaching down into the pit, but I didn't like having that extra thing to worry about. Only had to replace it once in 17 years for $225.

    Mid-way through the build of the house I'm in now, the contractor told me I needed a sewage pump because the sewer pipe in the street had to run uphill to empty. I. Was. Furious! But the house was half built, making a big stink would only slow things down and add to the expense.

    Fast forward 6 years, and one of the pumps failed and shut down the motherboard (that's right...it's a high tech poo pump) because his cut rate electrician didn't set it up correctly. $1100 repair bill.

    And you can't tidy up a full sewage pump.

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    1. Wow, your sump pump failure story is far worst than mine, although mine cost me $3,000 to have the rain water pumped out of the basement, a new pump installed and a preventive mold treatment done.

      I've never heard of a sewage pump but I know someone who ended up with raw sewage in their basement that came in from the street.

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  13. My brother has several houses that he rents. He has a soft heart. He allowed one of his renters - a single mother - to move in without paying the security deposit. He told her she coulee pay a little extra on her rent every month until she caught up. As it turned out she paid the rent every month - not always on time - but she never could manage to pay a little extra for the deposit. He tried to talk to her once about it, but finally gave up and said, "Look, it'd be nice if you paid a little extra every month, but I guess you and I both know I'm not going to evict you. So do your best." LOL He keeps his rent prices a little low on his houses as long as he has good tenants. Your tenant was lucky to have Don as a landlord.

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    1. I think Don fell for that once, too, allowing someone to move in without a security deposit. Some people aren't cut out to be landlords. I was so happy when Don finally decided to sell out. It wasn't worth all the phone calls and work and getting involved in other people's sad stories. The last straw was a tenant with a giant bull constrictor (with a no pets lease) that he let crawl in a common hallway in Don's four family apartment house.

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  14. Jean, this one made me laugh out loud about the skin care stuff you hid from the plumber! OMG Funny! And we had a sump pump "room" in our old church that all the kids thought was haunted and whenever I had to go in there to retrieve a mop or something I sort of agreed with them. It's like a monster living in a hole! And to end, I was so moved by your story of the older tenant and Don's soft heart. What a guy.

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  15. Jean, Did you ever see the documentary film Killing Us Softly, about images of women in advertising? We used to show it to students when I was teaching Women's Studies. One of my favorite parts of the film is when the narrator points out that the only reason the the models in the cosmetic ads don't have any visible pores is that they've been air brushed out. (Actually, human skin without pores would be a serious case of organ failure.)
    I laughed about you cleaning up for the plumber. Don't you also clean before the housecleaner comes? ;-)

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    1. I'd get air brushed if I could. LOL I have the course skin of my Italian ancestors. That sounds like an interesting documentary.

      I pick up stuff and put it were it belongs...shoes, books, papers that need filing, art supplies, bathroom clutter that would be in her way. But I don't clean. I do my own dusting because I don't want to pay for something I can still do and because I'm arty-arty fussy about how my things are displayed. I have a cleaner mostly so I don't have to scrub floors, do windows, vacuum or clean all the surfaces and fixtures in the kitchen and bath. I don't like doing those things and as long as I can afford a service it's my only real luxury. I also put anything tempting like my credit cards, purse, cell phone, keys in the car.

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