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, September 29, 2018

October with Mickey Mouse

It’s October already. Cider and donuts. Cooler nights. Birds in flight, the south calling them to their winter homes. I see their flocks swooping in the sky above the river and it makes me sad. Sad that summer is ending. I hate fall. I know that’s almost sacrilegious to say and I do get the whole attraction to the colorful display of Mother Nature changing her dress from a palette of greens to a palette of rusts, oranges and yellows. But then she makes us work to get ready for winter. Those leaves that were so pretty while still attached to the trees have to be raked up. Those cool nights bringing frost to the pumpkins and killing the last of the perennials means our flower beds need to be worked to prepare them for winter. And while I no longer have to take window screens down and put up storm windows here or at the houses of the elderly people we helped in our journey through life, the idea that fall brings too much work is imprinted deeply within me. 

It occurred to me this week that I’ve got too many irons in the pot, so to speak, but as a bi-product of being too busy I haven’t had time to feel that illusive loneliness and discontent that plagues me from time to time. If you could see my calendar you’d discover every day filled in. The Handyman Connection guy filled up a couple of hours this week, here to put new seals around two exhaust vents on the roof. Now I have two ceilings that need repainting because those vents were leaking although not long enough to do any serious damage. But painting those ceilings will have to wait because: 1) I want to make sure the repairs solved the issue and those ceiling stains don’t grow over the next few months, and 2) I’m thinking of changing the wall color in my master bedroom and bath since I’ll have to hire a painter and I doubt he'll be able to match what's on my bathroom walls. In my rush to purge stuff over the past few months I got rid of the paint I could have used to touch up my bathroom and porch ceilings. Isn’t that always the way. The minute you let go of something, you need it. 

Another afternoon this past week was spent at my car’s service department because of a recall that “has to be done sooner rather than later” but no one could tell me what the recall fixed except for it involved a computer update that took an hour. Great. Computer updates at home mean changes that aren’t always welcome. Now we have to do the same with our vehicles? I like to pretend computers aren’t controlling what goes on underneath the hood of my Chevy Trax. Recalls like this give me visions of the car freezing up and the screen on the dashboard flashing a warning telling me to call a (scam) phone number. “Don’t turn off your car!”---let it sit there in traffic until you can wire us some money. 

My husband collected Mickey Mouse watches. I got them out this week to get them ready to put on e-Bay. Sounds simple but it’s not. We’re talking a dozen watches that have to have the stainless steel break-away bands removed (he worked around too many machines and heavy equipment to safely wear regular watchbands or rings) and the original bands and boxes needed to be matched up plus they’ll have to be tested to make sure the watches still work. His oldest Mickey Mouse watch is from the ‘40s but most are from the ‘70s and ‘80s. They were not the cheap, gift shop variety watches but only three will be well worth the effort to sell. Anyone who says selling on e-Bay is easy has never sold collectibles. The process goes like this: Clean an item, research it, photograph it, pack and weigh it, write up a description, list it and answer emails from people who don’t believe it when you write in the listings, “No Buy-it-Now Option!” When the auction ends you wait for payment then print a label and take the package to the post office.

I took two of the watches to a jewelry store today to get the backs off because I didn’t have the finger dexterity to do it. The closest place is a high-end store that sells Rolex’s and diamonds and they used to get robbed on a regular basis. Now, they trap you in between two doors for a photo opt before they buzz you into the store. So I put on what I call my ‘understated rich girl outfit’ because I was afraid they wouldn’t buzz me in if I was wearing my normal Kmart grade clothing. I’d been to the place a few years ago to sell some gold and before I got out of the place I spent the money they paid me on a pair of diamond studs. Those earrings were part of my rich girl outfit along with a brand-new coat I’ve dubbed my Steve Bannon hunting jacket paired with my only cashmere sweater. (Old but not much of it showed under the coat.) They let me in. They charged three times more than the local box store would have to put in new batteries, but I didn’t have to worry about some snot-nosed clerk messing up the watches by prying when they should have been twisting. While I was there I spotted a pair of white gold and pearl earrings, asked the price---nothing in the place is marked---and I made a mental note to come back and buy them after a couple of watches sell. In the meantime, Mickey Mouse and I will be spending time together this October. ©

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When the Past Becomes Part of the Present

I spent two afternoons this weekend cleaning, purging and organizing my garage and I ended up with two boxes of stuff to take to Goodwill, a large bag and cardboard to take to recycling and other stuff to throw out. It doesn’t sound like much but I was proud of myself. It was messy out there in the land of e-Bay shipping and empty boxes. One of those boxes I took to Goodwill contained 20-25 books about the Vietnam War and, yes, I’d read every one of them back in days when I was trying to understand what our soldiers went through over there. Things happened in that phase of my life that to this day I have never talked or written about, but I am at peace with letting those secrets stay buried. Letting go of that box was an acknowledgement that old and deep wounds have finally healed. However, it wasn’t lost on me that while I was ceremonially letting go of another piece of my past, Mr. Trump was tweeting: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.” The Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief doesn’t have a clue about why and for how long women keep secrets about ‘he said/she said’ situations---even when (and maybe especially because) they thought their lives were in danger. 

Another box that I sorted and mostly threw out were photographs that were my husband’s---of his friends before we met and from GM, of his collections and heavy equipment and a mishmash of landscapes. He took a lot of photos and I only kept five-six including one of his favorite childhood cow (above). I hate the fact that photographs can’t go in paper recycling bins, so I ended up filling a 13 gallon kitchen trash bag up so they didn’t have to get mixed in with the nasty stuff that ends up in the garbage collection truck. Ya, I know I’m fooling myself because that bag of photos probably got busted before the truck got to the end of the block. If I had a fireplace, I would have burned them and found out afterward that there’s some kind of toxic fumes released by doing so. Oops. And did you know, you can’t put shredded paper in with your paper recycling? The pieces are too small for their machines to process. And while I’m sharing what I learned recently, you can’t put photo slides, CDs or floppy disks in recycling bins either unless they are specially designated bins for video equipment. 

Something else I kept from that box of photos, what I still can’t get rid of, was my husband’s report cards from kindergarten through high school. Silly, I know, but the envelope doesn’t take up much room and I find the teacher remarks both sweet and funny because they show that Don’s core personality hadn’t changed since he was a little boy until he died. “Don is friendly boy.” Don has good manners.” “Don talks too much in class.” “Don is bright.” “Don constantly needs to be reminded to remove his hat when he comes inside.” Can you imagine a teacher today making a notation on a report card that as parents you need to work on getting your son to take his hat off when he’s inside buildings? I still haven’t been able to get rid of Don’s favorite hat, either, his Stetson cowboy hat that he wore out West and whenever he was totally happy with his world. Does a widow’s work ever end? Not for overly sentimental types like me. If I had been a Native American Indian in the Old West I would have had a heavy pouch full of pebbles, feathers, hair and other reminders of people or places that I didn’t want to forget. I don’t travel ‘light’ through life. 

I’ve got one more afternoon to spend in the garage before I’ll be satisfied with leaving it behind for the winter. I’ve got cabinets that I want to sort and downsize. One is full of yard and garden stuff, another is full of floral vases and seasonal decorations, another is full of kitchen appliances, etc, and one cabinet contains stuff I've identified as things to sell on e-Bay. I dread sorting the vases most of all. I love flowers. They were a part of my working years for twenty years. Love having the perfect vase for all sorts of flowers from wild violets to sunflowers, from a single flower to a bouquet of several dozen stems. None of the vases have monetary value. So I can’t sell them on e-Bay to soften the loss. But of the 50-60 vases in the cabinet, I’m hoping to pare them down to eight or ten. Wish me luck.

Sometimes the past becomes part of the present like it did this weekend when our ‘esteemed’ president couldn’t resist voicing his nonsense about women keeping secrets. Apparently, if we don’t run our mouths shortly after whatever we claim took place happened, then it doesn’t count. I know my reaction to Mr. Trump's obtuseness was not unusual, though, judging by how many women tweeted their stories with the hashtag “why I didn’t report.” Life is messy. People are complicated. Our president is an ass who ruined my weekend. ©

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Recyling and Junk Yards Now and Then

What do you do on an afternoon in September when the clouds in the sky are whiny and can’t make up their minds if they want to move on by to dump their sorrow elsewhere? You hop on a bus down at the senior hall and head to a recycling center that covers 65 acres where we got to watch a machine shred cars. This place isn’t your standard recycling center where the neighborhood moms and dads conjugate on Saturdays to drop off their newspapers, tin cans, glass bottles and plastic trash. This place is like a modernized junk yard of olden days that, when you think about it, have been recycling long before it became cool. 

I’ve got a long history of going to junk yards. When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to go with my dad when he’d take a load of stuff to the junk yard. Back in those days they let you pick through what other people left behind until they got smart and had one of their workers set aside any useable goods and they started selling them out of a building they put up on the property. That place is still there. In its current form it’s a popular place for people restoring old homes to find architectural savage.

Then along came my husband and his three front-end loaders and street sweeper and I was introduced to specialized heavy equipment recycling centers---bone yards. If a part broke on one of those secondhand ‘beasts’ off we went to spend an afternoon out of town at one of the three bone yards in the state where similar equipment could be found. The rule, back in those days, was customers had to disassemble whatever needed to come apart to get at the part they wanted to buy. Unless an extra set of hands was needed, I’d usually be in our pickup truck near-by with the dog, reading a book. People who own places like that were always down to earth and pretty interesting when you got to know them. One guy in particular stands out in my memory. He once charged my husband $60 for a part, then handed one of the twenties to me and said, “Have this guy take you out to dinner tonight. No reason why you should have to cook after keeping him company all afternoon.” You should have seen the look on Don’s face. “Hey, that’s my twenty!” he said. “Not anymore,” the bone yard owner said. “It’s hers now.” He was a sweet guy with a beach front “cottage” in Hawaii. When he died he had a large, marble bulldozer on his grave and, of course, Don and I had to go see it. 

And then there was the junk yard for cars out by Lake Michigan that we always had to stop at on our way to the Big Lake. Not that we needed to buy anything there, but my husband had met the owner at a gas & oil memorabilia swap meet and he had a private museum that you couldn’t get into without an invitation. Don, being a likeable storyteller, finally got the invitation. Come to find out the guy had a one piece glass gas globe that was highly sought after and that knowledge started “the dance.” It took two years but eventually Don talked the guy into to selling him the globe for $6,500. Let me tell, I about had a cow at that price and for something so fragile, having been responsible already for breaking a lesser quality globe. But that hand-painted gas globe was his pride and joy for several decades and when I sold it after he died, I got three times what Don paid for it. The man who bought it, just died and his gas globe collection is up in the air because the out-of-state daughter in charge of the estate is an idiot. I passed along the contact information for the leading appraiser in the field but she'll probably have a junk dealer haul it all away---all 300 globes.

Back on topic: The recycling place we toured today has a set of scales that all the trucks coming into the place have to drive over and it can weigh up to 200,000 pounds per vehicle and trucks never stopped coming and going the whole 2 ½ hours we were there. The place employs over 650 people and 75% of their business is shredding cars. They had mountains of mixed metal including vehicles and every conceivable thing you can name waiting to go through their giant shredder. All that stuff comes out the other side sorted and melted and ready to be sold to industries that use the aluminum, copper, brass, bronze and steel to build new stuff. We got to walk up the 75 steps to the glass tower where a person controlling the shredder works. He monitors 5-6 screens and a computer keyboard making sure everything is working as it should be. While we watched the machine in action we got to see a couple air bags go off as cars got crushed, sending up a cloud white gas. Once in a rare while, he said, if they haven’t gotten all the liquids drained out of a car properly, a fire will start but the machine puts it out quickly. “It’s pretty cool to watch,” he said. “I’m surrounded by flames.” The tour cost a whole six bucks for our transportation. Quite a bargain, don’t you think and the tour also brought back some priceless junk yard memories. ©

NOTE: The photo at the top is what the junk looks like before going through the shredder and next two photos is what the sorted and smelted metal looks like when it comes out the other side of the shredder. And the third photo shows a pile of wiring that somehow in the process of shredding mixed junk gets separated out from rest. Oh, and this place has other areas where they process paper, plastic and electronic equipment into a form that can be used in manufacturing more stuff. This place is where all the community recycling centers and pickup services bring their stuff after they've sorted and bundled it on their sites.

photos off their website