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, October 6, 2018

From the Land of Never Ending Memories


My audiologist called to reschedule my appointment which means I got an unexpected day off from the being on the go every day this week. Honestly, I don’t understand why age has to slow us down so much. There was a time when I could work 10-12 hour days and still have energy enough to do fun things at night. Now, if I have three-four stops on an errand list, I come home and need a nap during ‘Judge Judy.’ Wednesday was a perfect example. I stopped at the store to return a fleece zip-up shirt then I got my flu shot followed by spending an hour in the cemetery digging sod up around two tombstones while admiring a four foot cement rabbit and wishing I could figure out how I could get one of those delivered to Don’s and my grave. I may be downsizing at home but no said I couldn’t upsize at the cemetery. 

After leaving the cemetery I had lunch at a place a half block away that Don and I used to go to often, a mama/papa place that has great onion rings and, yes, I ordered some. We could never go inside because it was not wheelchair friendly so we’d take our food to a place near-by where we could look out over a busy intersection. But nothing stays the same, does it. I parked there Wednesday but the trees have grown up since Don died six years ago and I could no longer see the traffic below. I won’t do that again because, as Mr. Wolfe so elegantly took 743 pages to say, you really can’t go back again.

It’s funny how our moods can change so fast. At the art lecture on Tuesday I was enjoying the slide show when the lecturer told about an entry called ‘Dare to Dream Big’ and it consisted of a statue of a cat at one end and a mirror with lion’s head inside at the other end. In between was a chalk board where people were encourage to write down their dreams. The lecturer told about a stroke survivor in a wheelchair who came by and wrote that he wanted to walk again. His daughter said, “Then let's do it right now” and she helped him stand up and take three steps. And just as quickly as the words were spoken a tear spilled down my cheek. The cynic in me knew that ‘faith healer moment’ was probably not the miracle they were attributing to the art instillation. Been there, done that and know that hard work and determination does not necessarily turn those 'three steps miracles' into a walking human being---I saw Don take them many times before his sheer will power and tone in his leg gave out. At the lecture I couldn’t keep my mind from remembering some x-friends who wanted Don to go to a faith healer at their church and go on stage "to get cured" of his right-side paralysis. At that point in his physical therapies he could have taken those three steps with a lot of help and the whole mega church would have gone wild. When our friends were trying to bully him into agreeing to go, I thought Don would have another stroke, he was so mad but since he’d also lost his language it was up to me to stop them from wheeling him off to their church that Sunday morning. 

I don’t know whether or not I envy widows who say they never get flash-backs to their past lives. I do know most widows quit talking about them to their friends and families after a year or so. We don’t want to be perceived as living in the past and that’s crazy, isn’t it. We can talk about things that happened in our childhoods, in high school and college. We can talk about things that happened in our work lives that are long gone but if a widow talks too much about a shared history then "she isn’t moving on." An art instillation triggers a memory. What are we supposed to do to stop something like that from happening? Is there a Jedi Mind Trick for that?

Switching gears: The store I made the return at is a huge box store with only two dressing rooms for men, women and children. I don’t know whose stupid idea it was to cut the dressing rooms down from twelve to two during last summer’s remodeling but he should be fired. (A woman wouldn’t make that design mistake.) Thank goodness their returns department never gives you any flack. Still, when I was there I had to whine to the clerk about the lack of dressing rooms and she was suitably sympathetic. That made me happy. No one likes to whine to an inattentive audience. I had to pee before leaving the store so I use the handicapped stall which meant when I didn’t properly lock the door and it drifted open, I was sitting too far away to close it. Oops. I wouldn’t call that a misadventure of widowhood, but it sure was a misadventure of aging.  ©

32 comments:

  1. +1 to less energy/ageing. I miss that old me that could work all day, sleep/get up and do it all again.

    I steer clear of the overly religious of all persuasions, and the faith healers.

    I try and not talk about the past, full stop, because kids not interested - can see their eyes glazing over.

    +1 to whining before an audience of one that agrees!! I really appreciate it when someone lets me vent my grievance.

    I've done that toilet trick, and more than once! ~ Libby

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    1. I think service counter people are trained to listen with sympathy.

      That was my first (and hopefully last) time doing that trick with the bathroom door in a public place. It sure makes you feel both horrified and comical at the same time.

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  2. I laughed at the thought of you upsizing the cemetery. For one thing, I can't remember anyone using that particular word ('upsizing') even though it's a natural opposite to the downsizing that we all mutter about and know would be good for us, even if it's just a matter of finally getting rid of all those 'good' cardboard boxes and stacks of old magazines we swore we were going to read some day.

    Aren't memories interesting? I'm always intrigued by the way the strangest cues can bring one to the surface. And I think you're right that memories of shared history are wholly appropriate. There are some times in my life that never come back to me -- I guess when I said "Begone!" they got up and went. But your years with Don were somewhat like my years of sailing. They're gone, but that doesn't mean they're not satisfying to recall.

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    1. I've never hear anyone else use the word upsizing before either, but it's a big world so I'm sure I'm not the first.

      Sometimes I'll be driving down the road and something will remind me of another time and place---something good, and I think about how hard it must be to be divorced from an abuser or nasty guy. Those same memory triggers would be out there but the memories would not be good ones. I don't have a good recall for memories without object or place to trigger them. My husband, on the other hand, never forgot anything.

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  3. Smells or songs can bring a loved one racing back into my life if only briefly. That is good and welcome.
    How did your flu shot go? I got my first one in 40 years and I was miserable for two and a half days. 100.4 temp, chilled and could not get warm, ached from my shoulder to my waist and steady headaches. Think it will be another 40 years before I get my next one.

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    1. So true about songs and smells!

      I get a flu shot every year and have for years and this year it itched a little at the site but that's the most I've ever reacted. 40 years ago they used to use live viruses in the mix but they stopped doing that a long time ago and they claim it's impossible to get the flu from the shots now. Still, every so often someone will claim they did get it from the shot and to that doctors and nurses say they probably had the flu coming on before they got the shot thus the reason they ask you screening questions about how you feel. I don't know. A good question to ask is how do they know that 100% of the viruses are dead? What is the process for killing them?

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    2. Sorry for butting in, but over the age of 60 or 65 they give double-dose flu shots because we are supposed to have weakened immunes. Last year, when I found out, I had to work extra-hard to get the 'normal' shot since I typically react so strongly, I wasn't about to literally double down. This year, I'm going to pass. I normally have a sore arm for a week, feel out of sorts for 2-3 days...certainly don't want double of that. I have only had the non-stomach-flu/flu twice in my life, and since I'm retiring 10/30....I'm just NOT this year. I do need my pneumonia shot though.

      Re re-telling memories, I think maybe it's the sadness factor re widows retelling stories, were there isn't that sadness factor with childhood memories. Or, that's my guess.

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    3. Learn something new every day. I knew flu shots were different for seniors but silly me, I thought they were weaker, not stronger. Interesting.

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  4. I've had that handicap toilet stall incident happen to me too often.
    It still amazes me how a simple word or conversation can bring back memories and distracts my mind away from what the person is saying.
    Faith Healer? Did they have snakes they passed around? I shouldn't be flippant, but I used to see them on TV and it all looked a bit fake to me. I would rather pray for God to give me strength to get through whatever happens, then depend on some "human" to heal me.

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    1. I don't think they had snakes. The faith healer was the traveling kind who was only in town 3-4 times a year. The mega church has several thousand members. Our x-friends went full-out indoctrinated from being non-church goers to quitting their jobs to work for the church and covered their bodies with religious tattoos.

      I think my heavy purse made the door come open. LOL

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  5. HI JEAN! I'm back! I have so many of your posts to catch up on! Starting here and will slowly try to work backward.

    Upsizing the cemetery -- love that! I notice someone else commented it made them laugh and me too. :)

    Memories come unbidden for sure. Many are bittersweet. I say, talk away! I think it's ridiculous that people judge anyone for talking about a spouse and not 'moving on'. Screw that. Keeping those stories and memories alive honors the love that's still there. That should be encouraged and celebrated!

    Bathroom stalls befuddle me at times, and I've had doors drift open too. Yikes! But now that I've visited every public restroom in Great Britain, I have to say, theirs are far, far more user friendly, clean, and private than ours. No chance of door drift. Weird person that I am, the restrooms are one of my best trip memories....I feel blog post coming on. LOL (And don't call them "restrooms" -- people will think you want a room with a bed to rest upon.)

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    1. Oh, please do write blog about the bathrooms on your trip. Restrooms--or rather the fear of not finding ones I can use---is one of the biggest hold-up I have about signing up for a trip aboard.

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    2. One woman our age who I saw in a British public toilet told me she uses her collapsible hiking poles everyone she goes to steady herself on uneven walking surfaces (cobblestones!) and to help lift herself from seated positions. Brilliant, right?

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    3. That is a wonderful tip! I'm so glad you passed it on. I'd even do this for day trips.

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  6. I say Go For It--put the huge cement bunnies on your gravesites now, when you can enjoy the effect. Far more personal and pleasant than stuffy granite markers.

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    1. I seriously thought about it but our double stone takes up the whole width of our gravesite---one grave for two cremations. I'd have to buy the site next door to do it. But I love that rabbit near-by. He makes me smile and think of Alice in Wonderland going underground.

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  7. Hi Jean. Sorry I would love to spend more time with you and your blog but I'm not well at the moment. Once you're into my blog you'll know. I'm so exhausted at the moment. Hard to breathe at the moment. Once I'm feeling better I'll get back to your blog.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Tale good care of yourself. Hope you are feeling better soon. You and your wife need to get cruise ready before you know it.

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  8. As a kid, I loved it when my elders talked about the past. Now that I am becoming an elder, I have fewer and fewer stories coming my way as the storytellers are all...er...moving on. So I guess it's my turn.
    I've never had anyone accuse me of not moving on, but it's probably only a matter of time as I will speak of any and all memories that come to mind, as the conversation dictates. I wonder if those that say that to you are really talking about themselves instead. There are no end of people that tell me I shouldn't be alone and that I am lonely when I am 100% sure they are actually speaking about themselves!

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    1. Yup, that's the way it works. The listeners become the family storytellers. :)

      I was speaking in general about widows in the first year or two, not about me specifically being accused of not moving on. But I think your point is well taken. A lot of people project how they would feel after losing a spouse and it scares them. I lived alone a lot of years before getting married, so it's not a new thing for me. Living without a dog, though, scares me. I've had one or two in my life since my playpen days.

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  9. Poor Mr. Ralph. He has no one spot to visit or care for. He's part of the Pacific Ocean and Oregon. And a tiny urn for Kate and me.

    I find it awesome when I feel him or think of him or something reminds me of him. Not sure how the afterlife works, but I do think there is one.

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    1. I put ashes in so many places that I can visit but having 1/2 of them in the cemetery meant something to Don, so I go. But I know what you mean about feeling Mr. Ralph around you. I did with Don often in the first few years but less so now, a great feeling of comfort when it happens.

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  10. I wonder why people are so intolerant of widows (and widowers?) talking about their loved ones. I tell stories about my dead parents all the time; it's what keeps them alive in my memory. No one has ever suggested that I need to let go of them and move on.

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    1. The Bad Ass Widow (above) puts forth a creditable theory that the people who are bothered about widows are really talking about themselves. They see us alone automatically think we are lonely and need to find someone else (the move on).

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  11. I collect poems, sayings and short essays and thought you might like these.

    There's a point in which life stops giving you things and starts to take them away.

    ...............

    The trickery of time visits me frequently, and I too, can taste and smell the moments long past. Some men far more intelligent than I, have proposed that time is relative; that it exists all at once and we have only divided it into sections for our own ease of organization. Perhaps when the "trickery" happens, we are caught in a time warp for a moment, and we really ARE in that moment again. It is an interesting concept, don't you think?

    ................

    Have we talked about the beautiful sadness of old age? The part that remembers life many years ago, remembers people we loved laughing, who are ghosts now. We walk among ghosts always, happy and sad, that others cannot see or hear.

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    1. I love those! Especially the middle one. Thanks for sharing them.

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  12. So many things going through my head after reading this. How do they not have flashbacks if that was their life? I know I would all the damn time and I also know I shouldn't but would. Up sizing at the cemetery also cracked me up. I'll be cremated so no chance of that for me. So get that big ole Harvey rabbit!!

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    1. Don was cremated and still had half his ashes buried there. My dad, too, has a plot where his ashes were buried. If I were to get a big "Harvey rabbit" I would have him placed to look longingly across over to the other rabbit who is decidedly female. Now that would crack me up.

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  13. btw, I can't get into Pauls blog again. You having an issue?

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    1. Last I heard he quite blogging because of the issues so I took him out of my feed. But I just tried to get in and got the wiglet feeder again. He's got some coding in there that he probably picked up from all the jokes he posts...that's my uneducated guess.

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  14. I just read your reply and I almost lost my coffee, that made me laugh. And my laugh always sounds louder when one is all alone. :-)

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    1. I'm assuming you were laughing at the rabbits and not Paul's blogging issues. :) I'd have buy the plot next to us to have a rabbit because anything placed as to be in line with the headstone and not in front or behind it. We only have one grave site for both Don's and my ashes. Having no kids who'd want the ashes or would scatter mine, putting them in the cemetery is an insurance policy of sorts to keep them from get dumped in the trash.

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