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, November 24, 2018

A Holiday with the In-Laws


Due to my own loose lips on Facebook, one of my great-nieces on my husband’s side of the family got wind of the fact that I was going to be alone on Thanksgiving. She told her mother and her mother called me and said: “I’m not taking ‘no’ for answer. You’re to be on my doorstep at twelve noon tomorrow.” I did try to say no, that I’d be fine alone but she repeated “Twelve sharp! You don’t have to bring anything” and I said, “Good, I don’t have anything in the house to make and the stores will be too busy tonight.” But her daughter had a request of all the guests. We were to bring one of our favorite things---something small we are grateful for. She was bringing, for example, Oreo cookies to hand out during the ‘favorite things’ game. 

Serendipity kicked in after I got off the phone when I remembered that Amazon had just delivered a box of Turkish Delight Pomegranate Pistachio jells. (A Christmas present for myself.) Oh-my-god are they good and with a 65% sugar content these small cubes of candy melt in your mouth. Supposedly they were developed in its current form in the 10th century by Arabic apothecaries and they are the great-granddaddy to our modern day jelly beans when a smart confectioner in Boston in the 1860s put a hard sugar shell on them instead of the classic powdered sugar. Turkish Delights are also known as “Lokum” named after the Sultan who helped to popularized them around the world. Who knew jelly beans came with such an interesting back story. Anyway, I got out some paper cups made to hold mini tarts and I filled fifteen of them up with Turkish Delights to pass around.

This exercise in sharing something we love was more fun than I expected it to be. Everyone told a story about why they brought what they brought. My niece-in-law handed out circus peanuts, one of her daughter’s brought chap sticks for everyone. Twinkies, Ding Dongs, beef jerky sticks, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, incense, Pepsi, new car scent tags for our cars----lots of laughter came with the stories. I told the history of the Turkish Delights and how one of my guilty pleasures is to occasionally try something new that’s made in another country. Several of the stories were so sentimental they came with tears as people told about the long-gone person who introduced them to their comfort food. And it was great hearing people talk about their Uncle Don (my husband). Everyone knew he would have brought coffee and our sister-in-law---the mother or grandmother of everyone in attendance---would have brought slices of Polish kielbasa. It’s kind of cool, really, how certain foods can bring back memories of certain people. My dad was the Fig Newton cookies guy and I can’t see Brach's Orange Slices candy without remembering my mom. 

Thanksgiving was a day of good food and fellowship and I came home with enough food for two more meals (plus a bag full of favorite things). No family in my life-long experience has ever had so many good cooks as in my husband’s. And no one had their noses buried in a cell phone. Being the oldest person in the room it was quite obvious---at least to me---that I crossed over ‘The Line’ a few times when I blurted out things I probably shouldn’t have, the way old people and young children do. For example, after my niece-in-law’s husband said, “I’m always careful” I blurted out “And yet you ended up with all these kids.” He was talking about carpentry but everyone laughed at my joke. It was one of those rare afternoons when I didn’t try to edit any of the words that passed over my lips. Unconsciously I knew that no matter what transgression I could make, I’d be forgiven. “That’s just Aunt Jean” and we love her flaws and all.

Why would they cut me slack when others might not get it? Because I came into the family 48 years ago as the barefoot, hippie girlfriend of the family’s baby brother. Don’s oldest brother---the deceased father or grandfather of everyone there on Thanksgiving---got a kick out of how much I shocked the uptight, next-in-line brother and how much I confused the ever elegant Cary Grant-like third-in-line brother. I was just as likely to sit down on the floor and play with the kids as I was to hang out with the adults. I didn’t drink or smoke but I could ride the pink elephant in the near-by park and I loved board games. They didn’t understand me but in their eyes I was a good influence on their baby brother. I only met Don’s father once because he died soon after but he sealed the deal for me when he told the family, “This is 'The One' Don needs to settle done with.” I remember that day as if it was yesterday. I was wearing a t-shirt with two giant foot prints on my chest and all the other ladies were dressed in their Sunday best---I didn’t know I was going to meet the family that day---and I sat on a footstool next to Don’s dad. He teased me unmercifully and I gave it right back at him. The rest is history. ©

32 comments:

  1. I really love the Favourite Things To Share game. It's inspired. It gives such a terrific opportunity for everyone to share memories and stories and, as you said, include the whole family while excluding cellphones.

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    1. It did inspire a lot of conversation, even the pre-teens took part and that's good training to stand up and talk to a group of people. One of my great-nieces had played it at an office party and even in that setting, I guess it was fun.

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  2. Sounds like a fabulous day!

    One of my Mom's sisters was single (with a female roommate ... but no one ever said the L word) and all of the other sisters made sure they were invited on holidays. We usually invited them to Thanksgiving. They were even poorer than we were (lived in a tiny trailer which all the kids LOVED because it had miniature appliances!) so they were always assigned to bring the dinner rolls. We provided the butter. GOOD MEMORIES for sure.

    Congrats on marrying into a wonderful family!! Sounds like lotsa fun.

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    1. Growing up I don't remember ever hearing about gay couples but there were several in the older generations in my family who lived with a same sex person and I often wonder, now, if they were.

      Each one of Don's brothers and their families have a totally different vibe at their houses. The brother's family we spent the most time with was the one where I spend Thanksgiving. There was enough difference in ages between the oldest and the baby (Don) that he was often enlisted to babysit his nieces and nephews so there is a close bond there.

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  3. Ha ha loved your "being careful" retort. Sounds like you had a perfect Thanksgiving. Bet you get an invite next year. That favorite things is really a great idea and could be used for a variety of get togethers.

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    1. Already got it but I like the last minute invitations better because I didn't have to worry about making a dish to pass. LOL

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  4. Dear Jean, this is an absolutely lovely Thanksgiving posting. You shared yourself with us. Your young self who delighted Don's father and your present self who is clearly much loved by the family. I'm always the oldest now at any gathering and I can see that the family had accepted what they consider my eccentricities. I'm sure they think, "That's just Aunt Dee!" and give me the benefit of the doubt at all occasions. I, of course, find myself thinking of who they remind me of from my past. Life--the journey we undertake at birth--is endlessly fascinating. As it the background of your Turkish Delights. I hope you have some left for yourself. Peace.

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    1. What a wonderful and sweet comment! Thank you, Dee.

      As for the Turkish Delights I have about a half a box left and I've decided to put them in the tart cups a second time to take to a much smaller holiday party. But let me tell, you when I first debated taking them to Thanksgiving the selfish side of me almost won out. I could have made some mini tarts instead. I always have those ingredients on hand to make in a last minute pitch.

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  5. Well, I loved this! Sounds like a great day and the Favorite things game is brilliant! Loved your memories of your first meeting of Don's family and how they became your own. Wonderful!

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    1. And the day was so unexpected which made it all the better.

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  6. Love this post and it sounds like a fun day and a fun family. Love thinking of you as that barefoot hippie! And I'm stealing that game! So cool!

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    1. The day practically wrote itself.

      My great-niece stole the game so help yourself. I would say that it helped that when she told me about it, that she mentioned the Oreo cookies in a snack bag so I'd have an idea the kind of 'favorite things' she was talking and don't forget the little kids. They had some of sweetish stories. She also gave us all an empty gift bag to fill up as the same progressed.

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  7. What a great idea! That kind of sharing is what should happen among adults on Christmas. Not terribly expensive and it's warm and wonderful to hear those kind of stories from people we care about. And yes indeed it did strike a chord!

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    1. No football, no cell phones and that favorite things game sure made a difference.

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  8. It sounds like you had a fun Thanksgiving. I like the sharing idea. When I read it, I thought about what I'd take. I thought of Mary Janes because I loved those when I was a kid, but they pull your fillings out, so maybe not such a good idea. My mother loved Almond Joys and Mounds.

    It's great that you feel so comfortable with Don's family. So glad you had a good time.

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    1. I love almond Joys too.

      This family is the brother's family we spent the most time with. Even after Don's stroke they had the on!y wheel accessible house we could visit.

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  9. I love the idea of the Favourite Things game! I may have to steal that for a holiday dinner party some day. A great conversation starter - one that can bring back wonderful memories and initiate deeper conversations - I love love love it. And I loved your story about being introduced to Don's family. I can just see you as a barefooted hippy chick! Thank you Jean.

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    1. Back in those days message and funky t-shirts were really brand new on the market. And that shirt was a shocker back in those days. I dressed like a hippie part of the time and like Audrey Hepburn the other.

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  10. I'm so happy that you enjoyed Thanksgiving. I hope you saved me some pumpkin pie?
    Well I put up my Christmas yesterday and Mary Lou is putting up the foyer staircase today. Today I place the nativity in the house and of course I'll be cooking dinner today. Well that's about it for today Jean. Have a great day my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I have a piece of pumpkin pie in the freezer waiting, Paul.
      I'll bet your foyer staircase looks great. They were always my favorite things to decorate for the holidays. So dramatic.

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    2. Thanks for saving my pumpkin pie but you might as well it my pie because Mary Lou has informed us that we are cutting down on the goodies. Oh my goodness, at Christmas time? See ya Jean.

      Cruisin Paul

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  11. What a great time you had!!!!!

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    1. All the more fun because I didn't expect to be going anywhere until the night before. Both my nieces were out of town but I didn't know it until the day after Thanksgiving when I found their holiday texts.

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  12. I am so glad you were with this delightful sounding gruop on Thanksgiving. It sounds so warm and welcoming and of course so comfy to be together. I love the sound of the My Favorite Things game! Really delightful.

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    1. Thank you. Hope you also had a good Thanksgiving as well.

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  13. Jean that was like a movie Thanksgiving. It was so nice. I am so happy for you that you could enjoy this day with family. That kind of family is best of all, the one you choose. :-)

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    1. It was. They aren't movie prefect but everyone was perfect that day. Lots of fun.

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  14. What a sweet story about you being "the one" for your hubby, and I like the bring a favorite thing to share tradition.

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    1. It is sweet, isn't it. It kind of bonded Don and me early on when his dad died so soon after we met.

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