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, November 14, 2018

The Food was Great but…………

I haven’t been going to the monthly luncheons at the senior hall since my Gathering Girls group got organized and is giving me the kind of interaction with others that I was craving. In fact I haven’t been to one since last Thanksgiving but I found myself signing up for this year’s turkey dinner again. I figured if I don’t get any invitations for the holiday at least I’d have this one turkey dinner under my belt. I love turkey and it’s not like I can bake a whole bird all for myself. Well, I could but how depressing would that be? As many widows have no doubt experienced, in the first few years I got the ‘pity invitations’ for Thanksgiving Day which are well intended and do---in hindsight---help us more than we’d like to admit. In the beginning of widowhood that feeling of being alone in a celebrating group of people is not fun and what better way to walk through that fire for the first time than to be with people who would understand if our tears appear? So we find ourselves seated at a decked out table and it all looks so normal while the newly minted widows are anything but normal on the inside.

That was me six Thanksgivings ago and the pity invitations no longer come. Life go on after a spouse dies and I know a few widows who resent that those pity invitations don’t continue coming but, in my mind, that’s to be expected. Family sizes change---yadda, yadda, yadda---and new widows or widowers come along that need the pity invitations more than seasoned widows. Widows at a holiday table are like outfits in the fashion industry, you’re either in or you’re out. Very few become classics that return year after year. As Waylon Jennings used to sing, “Lawdy Lawd woe is me. Ain't a body would care I got a slow rollin' low…” coming into my head. 

Actually, any slow rollin’ low I might feel coming on is more seasonal related than holiday or widow related. We got our first snow over the weekend, a prelude to 3-4 months of never knowing from one day to the next if I’ll get sidelined at home by bad roads and cancellations. I know, I know, it’s time to get out the knitting needles or paint brushes or otherwise keep myself so busy being Suzie Homemaker that I don’t have time for the winter blues to settle in, not to mention that it’s way too early to let thoughts of pity parties dance around in my head like sugarplum fairies. 

By Monday the snow we got was nearly gone---just patches left in the shade and a sweet little snowman smiling at me from across the street---and I had things to do. One of those things was getting a haircut, $38 including tip and not for the first time I wish I could get my haircut at the dog’s foo-foo beauty spa. He gets a bath, haircut, pedicure and lots of loving hugs and kisses for $50. Such a bargain. Levi goes to a shop that has a 50-ish year old guy groomer who specializes in schnauzers and he tells me that Levi is the best natured and best mannered schnauzer he’s ever met. Put a feather in my dog mothering cap. Back in the day when we'd go "over the meadow and through the woods" to my mom's house for holiday dinners our dog was always as welcome as her grandkids.

Yesterday at the luncheon a guy about my age asked if he could sit next to me and the two of us started a free-wheeling and friendly conversation. As it turned out he was the after lunch entertainment and by the end of his act, he was crying like a baby and he wasn’t the only one in the room doing so. He’s a chalk artist who drew a mural of the bronze statue that memorializes the six Marines raising the U.S. flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 while the artist’s wife---ya, I was disappointed that he had one---read Veterans Day stories including one about those six particular Marines. Only two of them survived the battle and one---Ira Hayes, a full-blooded Pima Native American---was memorialized in a song that both Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan recorded. “When Ira started drinkin' hard, jail was often his home. They'd let him raise the flag and lower it like you'd throw a dog a bone! He died drunk early one mornin' alone in the land he fought to save, two inches of water in a lonely ditch was a grave for Ira Hayes.” 

The artist had been working in 'invisible' chalk that looks white until illuminated by a black light, all very boring to watch until the end when a panel of lights came on and made the statue and flag mural appear as if by magic while a burst of patriotic songs cane over the loud speakers. One by one the audience stood up until everyone was on their feet in a silence tribute, broken when the crying artist finally spoke a few words of apology for breaking up then everyone started clapping. I left the senior hall wishing I’d stayed home and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The food was great but that hour of patriotism-on-speed was emotionally draining.  ©

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Busy Week, Book Club and May-December Romances

This week has been a ballbuster if I had balls to bust. What a curious word ‘ballbuster’ is and after looking it up I’ve been ‘educated up’ on the fact that I don’t need balls or to be talking to anyone with them to be a ballbuster. The word has been around since the 1940s, a U.S. slang for “a person who is relentlessly aggressive, intimidating, or domineering” according to the Merriam Webster online dictionary and backed up by my yellowed and falling apart paperback dictionary of slangs and euphemisms. That book is an old-timers version of the online urban dictionary and I love it. I just checked at Amazon to see if it’s still in print. Jeez, I can get another used paperback for a mere $59.00! Time to get the Scotch Tape out and do some damage control. Wow, did I get off topic. Where was I and what was I planning to write about?

Oh, ya, it’s been a relentlessly busy week with too many activity, too many days in a row for my old bones. I’m worn out! Monday it was a movie followed by a LONG dessert date that I already wrote about a few days ago. Tuesday was the dog’s beauty spa day when I do a lot of errands while I wait for him to put a $50 dent in my checking account. One errand took me to Lowes. I had to get screws and a piece of wood to replace a handrail on my deck and I found a newbie worker to cut the rail for me. “I do this kind of thing for my grandma all the time,” the young guy told me. He was so new he didn’t even have a tape measure on him and after he searched in vain for something to measure with, I loaned him mine. I’ve been carrying that six foot tape in my purse so long the business it advertises had a four digit phone number. Tuesday I also screwed down some boards on my deck that had become trip hazards. Wednesday I went to recycling and to a Red Hat Society tea followed by a quick stop at the grocery store. 

And then came Thursday, the day of my first meeting with my new, monthly book club. The book under discussion was The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. In my opinion it’s one of those ‘palate cleaning’ fluffy books best read after a meatier book that taxed your brain. I made the mistake of reading it the first week that I got it and it wasn’t too fresh on my mind by the time book club rolled around, so I was nervous about jumping into the discussion. I wanted to make a good, first impression and you only get one chance to do that.

There was a character in the book who was the town Church Lady who was having an affair with a bi-sexual guy half her age but I wasn’t going to touch that topic in my first discussion with the club because in my old book group that topic probably would have prompted a few comments on the 'evils' of homosexuality. But just between you and me May-December romances are not my cup of tea when it’s the woman who is just a few years off from being a pedophile. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. He was in his early 20s and she was in her mid-40s but the affair was still planted firming in the land of yucky-dos as far as I was concerned. Is it sexist to accept the May-December thing if the guy is the older one smooching all over a younger woman, but not the other way around? One of the Readers Guide Questions that comes in the back of the book asks, “Why did they feel the need to hide their affair?” Are you kidding me? Small town, pillar in the church, May-December affair then throw in the bi-sexual element and that's a lot of red meat for any gossip mill. There’s a young guy who is often in the community room when we have our Red Hat Society teas. He’s like a puppy we adopted and we feed him whenever we have snacks. He’s a tall, dark and handsome cutie-pie who flirts with us all for free cake and ice cream but I can’t in a hundred years picture any of us having hot sex with the guy.

Surprise, surprise…when a question came up at book club about which character in the story do you most identify with, five ladies---one after another---said they wish they could have been the woman having an affair with the younger guy. God, we laughed so hard! For once, I was not the most liberal woman in the room and that felt great. One woman over-shared that she hadn’t had sex in 37 years and wasn’t sure she’d know how to do it anymore but others assured her it was like riding a bike and it would come back to her. Even though no one rated the book very high, the discussion was lively, funny, fun and clearly my brand of humor is going to fit right in with this group. Everyone laughed when I said, “If you ever have your grandson drop you off to book club, you’d better keep a close eye on him.”

And now I’m wondering if I should take a second look at the guy that my Red Hat sisters feeds ice cream and cake to. Nah. Not a chance. Nope. Out of the question, no siree! Not for all the tea in China. Not on your life. When pigs fly. Fat chance. You can take it to the bank that I will not become a Mrs. Robinson to Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin in The Graduate. ©

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Old Man with a Gun, Old Women with Pie

Is there any woman over seventy who didn’t at one time in her life have a crush on Robert Redford? Fest up, I can’t be the only one. Heck, even my husband had a crush on him since the days of Redford playing the ‘Kid’ in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Since that film was released in 1969 I must have seen it thirty times and I regret that I didn’t think to play our VCR tape for Don in his post stroke years. Anyway, Monday two of my Gathering Girls pals and I went to see The Old Man with a Gun, Redford’s newest flick. If you happen to see it, watch for a line where his character says he’s never ridden a horse. The close up of his twinkling eyes, according to one reviewer, is supposed to be an insiders’ joke to those of us who remember that wild horse ride Butch and The Kid took that ended with them going over a high cliff, plunging down into a river below and Paul Newman asking Robert Redford if he can swim as they were falling.

Imdb.com sums up the storyline of The Old Man with a Gun like this: “Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest's commitment to his craft, and a woman (Sissy Spacek), who loves him in spite of his chosen profession.” I must say Redford (82) looked a tad too old to be playing a 70 year old man. It's pretty obvious he hasn't spent a lot of time in surgeon's offices getting vanity procedures and I admire that in Hollywood stars. But when I get as wrinkled as he is in the photo up above I'll be sleeping with a Preparation H face mask.  

The review at RogerEbert.com calls The Old Man with a Gun “a love letter to a cinematic legend, serving as a perfect final film for someone who long ago surpassed mere actor status to become an icon.” At his age I guess Redford’s got the right to claim this will be his last movie. He doesn’t need to work to keep the wolves from his door and he’s always had a knack for picking films that fit his acting range and personality. Seven of his movies are on my list of 50 favorite films: All the President’s Men, Out of Africa, The Natural, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Way we Were and two movies that Redford directed: The Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith and Matt Damon and A River Runs Through it starring a young Brad Pitt. These last two are among my top five favorite movies of all time.

One of the Gathering Girls who didn’t go with us to see the movie saw it earlier and she didn’t like it. She thought it dragged too much but all the professional reviewers pretty much agreed that it was a 4 or 4 ½ star film. The three of us who went this week could see why B.L. thought it dragged but we all loved it despite this flaw in the last third. Not LOVE, loved it but more like a 'strong like' that made us glad we went. Redford often plays understated and subtle characters and this was that kind of role. The New York Times reviewer hinted along those lines when he wrote: “If you work a bit, you can persuade yourself of hidden depths and metaphysical sorrows. Mr. Affleck is so melancholy. Mr. Redford is so blithe. Surely the contrast in their temperaments means something.”

It’s a movie that wants you to believe the robberies weren’t done for the money but rather for the fun of doing them. The man whose life the movie was based on had robbed dozens of banks and broke out of prison 16 times. His life of crime was set at an early age when he escaped from an orphanage a couple of times. And two of my favorite lines in the movie went something like this: “Ten year old kids have hopes and dreams but they don’t understand time like you do when you’re old” and “You go along thinking you’re happy until you wake up one day and you’re not.”

If this truly is Redford’s last movie I'm glad I came full circle with him. Also, if we want Hollywood to keep making movies for an older audience, we have to support them at the box office. But the best part of going to the movie was the fact that the three of us met up with two other Gathering Girls afterwards for dessert, and over pie and coffee we laughed so hard that our sides hurt. We have such good chemistry together and I often wonder if we had met when we were younger if we’d have bonded like we are doing now. Probably not. It’s like the line from the movie about understanding that hopes and dreams get lost or edited as we come to understand the passing of time. Younger people tend to take friendships for granted and let them simmer on a back burner while pursuing individual dreams, but meeting as septuagenarians and octogenarians we've had to cut to the chase. We're totally in the moment when we’re together, knowing a health issue could take any one of us out of the game tomorrow. ©

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