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, March 6, 2019

Bones, Books and Bathrobes


I’ve been a busy bee. I’ve had to because it’s March already and I still have winter goals that I haven’t accomplished. Snow is on the ground and its 19 degrees outside but Easter stuff is in the stores so that's a clear sign my window of time is closing. One of those goals was to get my husband’s speech therapy machine purged of all the personal stuff and out of the house. He died six years ago and I really should have done it long ago but after working on it this week---first to re-teach myself how to use the Lingraphica, then to purge over sixty storyboards I built for my husband---I can proudly say I’ve finally got the job done. Digging up bones is an emotionally task but all I have to do now it to wait for a nice spring day when I can take it out to the college’s speech pathology clinic where I’m donating it and they will pass it on to someone without insurance. The current version is smaller but the program itself hasn’t changed.

Storyboards consisted of pictures, words and voice-overs which my husband could use to practice saying words and doing speech class homework. Each storyboard illustrated sentences like: I had a stroke five years ago; I need to pee; my name is Don; can we go out to eat; I need the jock rash powder; I need help finding my wife; I don't feel well today; or Levi, Come! It’s a slick program with thousands, upon thousands of pictures in categories for everything and anything you can imagine. Purging storyboards one picture/word/voice-over at a time brought a few tears as I remembered my husband sitting at the dining room table parroting the machine while I made dinner. He never did get his unprompted vocabulary up above of a couple of dozen hard-earned nouns and the phrases, “Oh, boy!” and “Oh, Shit!” and “Oops!” But it wasn’t from lack of trying. Now, that particular section of Memory Lane no longer exists and there’s a sign posted where it used to begin that says, “He Never Gave up on Himself.” 

I just ordered a new book written by an author who is new to me but you might know him---Parker J. Palmer. He’s 80 years old and has written ten books. I found him by way of a Facebook meme with one of his poems. The poem was about reading one of his old journals and finding 50 blank pages followed by a page that said, “The void is filled with love.” When I got to that line in the poem, I had one of those moments that literally took my breath away. I’ve got journals like that where I abruptly quit writing and happy cycles explains the voids. One of the goals I had for this winter was to go through all those journals and diaries and finally let go of them. I haven’t done it yet but it’s moved up to second place on the list. Anyway, I went looking for information on Palmer and found he’s got a new book out ---On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old.

I don’t know about you but when I buy books on Amazon I read a lot of the reader reviews. In the case of Palmer’s above mentioned book there were 183 reviews and 80 percent gave it five stars and seven percent gave it one star. Apparently he wrote some less than favorable stuff about Trump near the end that upset some of his fans thus the one star reviews. A four star reviewer wrote: “This book is a great invitation to philosophical, psychological, and spiritual reflection as we enter our senior years. Loved the author's wise and insightful narratives, poems, and quotes, as well as the narrator's voice. I could have done without the constant hammering of Berkeleyesque political ideas such as diversity, community organizing, and Americans' so-called white supremacy...” Anyone who could use the phrases “so-called white supremacy” and “spiritual reflection” in the same review peaked my interest enough to buy the book. He needs to do more spiritual reflection if he doubts that White Supremacists exist in America.

On his Amazon page Parker J. Palmer was quoted: “I don’t want to fight the gravity of aging. It’s nature’s way. I want to collaborate with it as best I can, in hopes of going down with something like the loveliness of that sunset. For all the wrinkles and worry lines, it’s a beautiful thing simply to be one of those who’s lived long enough to say, ‘I’m getting old.”

Oh. My. God! I want to look at my life that way. I want that loveliness of a sunset image stuck in my head to give me a look that says: I'm-at-peace-with-the-universe. Have you ever met someone who has that kind of glow coming from deep within? The Dalai Lama is the most famous person I know who has it. And if I wanted to end this post with an irreverent twist I'd say he's glowing because he gets to hide his pudgy body under flowing robes. I’d be happy, too, if I could do that. Robes Rule! And the next time I’m caught by a surprise visitor when it’s almost noon and I’m still in my bathrobe I’m going to plaster the Dalai Lama’s sowing-happiness-and-wisdom look on my face and avoid making an excuse or apologizing for my attire. ©


Photo at the top by Miranda Penn Turin; Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

39 comments:

  1. well a new book has been added to my amazon cart.
    Thank you!

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    1. It's a small book---just got it last night---but it didn't cost much. I figure it would be one I'd like to underline in and quote from so I got the hardcopy instead of the Kindle.

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  2. That photo of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu is terrific.
    I can only imagine the range of emotions you experienced as you prepared your husband's Lingraphica for donation. It required such an intimate courage. Certainly that earned you a day in your robe...at least.

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    1. I like the idea of "earning" days in my bathrobe.

      When the topic of my husband's Lingraphica came up before it was suggested I just have a computer tech person wipe the program out of it...it's basically a Mac computer without it. But that seemed so wasteful because that program was really expensive and someone without insurance will be glad to get it. I'm glad I did it my way. Feels great!

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    2. I totally agree! I'm sure it wasn't an easy thing to do. Good for you!

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  3. Just a housekeeping note: I was suddenly confused about what day it was, since there wasn't a Wednesday post from you. When I finally went searching, I found it, but I didn't get an email this time. This may only be a wrinkle in the great fabric of the interwebz, but I thought I'd mention it.

    I confess I'll read reviews for things like cat water fountains and cookware, but I've never read a review for a book I wanted to purchase. For one thing, I buy very few books these days, and the ones I do buy usually have been recommended by someone I know. In truth, I could go for two years without buying another book and still might not have worked my way through the to-be-read pile, so it takes a really good recommend to get me to plunk out the money for another book.

    As for getting old -- well, sure. It's happening. Every now and then I think to myself, "Let's see. I might have ten years left, or twenty, or one. I'd best make good use of this day." And that's what I try to do.

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    1. It got posted later than usual so maybe the email is still coming? I know there is a delay.

      I love to read reviews. Some you can tell are friends of the author---probably from writing groups, but once you get past them you can get a good feel for the subject matter. I might buy one book for every ten I read about. I try to get more Kindles these days but that doesn't work when you think you might like to write in the margins.

      Living in the moment is the answer to making the most out of time, no matter our age. I think you've perfected that artform; I'm still a work in progress.

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  4. I think we will always get reminders of our men. I still get the occasional email or snail mail. Invitation to high school homecoming reunion. I went to print out the declaration page of my condo owner policy ... when I signed in it said "Hi Ralph" and I burst into tears.

    May you live long enough. That's a line from Time Goes By blog. And I love it. I want to live just long enough, on a safe and harmless journey.

    I feel guilty staying in jammies and robe also. But I do it anyway. Sometimes all day. They are so comfy! I need to get some cute comfortable sweat outfits to throw on. I was on my patio letting the dog out. Later I got a text from a neighbor asking if I was okay ... her husband saw me in my robe!!!!

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    1. You are right about those unexpected names that keep popping up. I got one just this week.

      I think it's stupid that we/people/anyone gets picky about being seen in bathrobes. Most of them cover more of our bodies than our street clothes. I hope your neighbor was being funny, if not she was telling you that it BOTHERED her that you were in your robe in front of her husband.




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    2. And my robe is floor length, navy blue plaid.

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    3. May you live long enough. That sure is a great line.

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  5. Be proud of cleaning up that Lingraphica and letting another who can't afford one use it. Ya done good.
    I do the same thing with reviews. I read a couple of the fives but check out the one stars just to see if I should beware. Usually they are unimportant to me and I get the book anyway though I seldom buy one. My library e books and Amazon free ones have me backlogged till at least 2025.

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    1. I'm really surprise at how stupid/unfair some of the one star reviews are on not just books but on other stuff. Some people just don't read descriptions well enough than blame the product.

      I used to get libraries books all the time but I'm having trouble holding them so if I can get a softcover, I will. Even the Kindle hurts my hand.

      I am pretty proud of myself for finally tackling that job.

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  6. This post brought tears to my eyes, especially the image of your husband diligently working on his speech therapy machine. And thank you for telling me about Parker J. Palmer.

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    1. It brought tears to my eye writing it, so it's only fair I spread the tears around. LOL

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  7. I pull on my jammies when I get out of bed. I sleep naked, so I put my night clothes on in the morning and stay in them for the 2 hours I am on FB. The neighbors just outta be glad I don't sit around the house in the same nothings I sleep in. HAH!

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    1. I sleep in a long flannel night gown but I'll bet you sleep better. Sometimes I get tangled up in my nightgown if I toss and turn too much.

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  8. Parker J. Palmer was quoted: “I don’t want to fight the gravity of aging. It’s nature’s way. I want to collaborate with it as best I can, in hopes of going down with something like the loveliness of that sunset. For all the wrinkles and worry lines, it’s a beautiful thing simply to be one of those who’s lived long enough to say, ‘I’m getting old.” This statement is amazing Jean.

    I was very interested in the story about your husband' speech therapy machine. I never needed one while I was being taught how to speak again. It was a challenge to learn again and many times I would get so angry all that came out of my mouth was shit or F**k which made my mother and wife laugh all the time.
    I still remember those days as if they were yesterday.

    I'm so happy seeing this blog today. I think checked into your blog this morning a little early, Sorry about that early comment. Good to see that you are feeling great. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. That Palmer quote would have a lot of meaning for someone like you who've been through so much health-wise. I love it. I hope the reason of the book has other soul-touching quotes.

      Back when Don had his massive stroke, the machines weren't common. For one they cost a lot and most insurance companies wouldn't pay for them. That may have changed since then but some how I doubt it. It didn't help Don much but I'm glad you got your speech back again.

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  9. Thank you so much for this post.

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  10. The poem at the end of your post exactly reflects my life and journals, over 30 years ago. Perhaps I too should take out the writings of the long-ago person, maybe reread, then discard. These journals are not meant to be read by anyone but me.

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    1. Every time I vow to discard my old journals I usually get lost reading them and then I decide to put off the discarding part because they still give me pleasure from time to time. I can laugh at the old me and marvel at how much I've grown. This year, I'm approaching the job in a different way and hope it helps. I'm going to take a highlighter pen and mark passages I might like to keep/transfer to a computer file to someday make into a book just for me. Four-five pages per year is my goal.

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  11. Congratulations on getting that big job done! You'll probably feel lighter after you donate that machine to a new owner.
    I hadn't heard of Parker Palmer until two weeks ago, when I signed up for a spring course at the Senior College called "Six Conversations About Aging," where we will be reading and discussing On the Brink of Everything. I haven't gotten the book yet, but the quote from Palmer's Amazon page made me look forward to it; it exactly captures my philosophy of aging.

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    1. After reading your comment I just realized our senior college catalog has a similar class listed. I need to check it out.

      It is a weight lifted off my shoulders to have that machine ready to give away. I hated having it go to waste when it could be giving someone hope.

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  12. Great blog Jean! "The void is filled with love" is quite a line. It made my heart leap a little when I read it. I sometimes write in my calendar the things I did that certain day but sometimes I go weeks without writing. This must be why. The book sounds good, think I'll take a look at it on Amazon too. I love the line "May you live long enough" that someone else posted. Really makes you think.
    What an emotional blog---you did good getting your donation ready---couldn't have been easy at all.

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    1. It wasn't easy which is why it took me so long to start.

      I do the same with my calendar! I'd forget my life if not for my calendar and life.

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    2. Glad you were finally able to clear your device to donate to Univ. Speech Path. Dept. Will be a beneficial teaching tool for trainees and clients, or they can provide it to a specific person. Augmentative aids to facilitate communication can mean a lot and are not always readily accessible for practice to students training to become Speech-Language Pathologists. Determining which clients seem most likely to benefit from using them is important, too, as cost is a factor for most.

      Must have been disappointing that your husband’s difficulty initiating speech kept him from acquiring some of those phrases and sentences, but, sounds like he made every effort to try to regain that ability. Sometimes only the spontaneous utterances emerge, often highly emotionally stimulated, including rare, even unacceptable ones to some. Certainly being able to cope with humor, when possible, makes all the trial and error efforts more palatable.

      We take our ability to produce speech so for-granted and may not fully appreciate how our lives can be affected if we experience difficulty communicating verbally — until it occurs. Speech Therapy can set individuals on the best route to maximize gains if there are problems, but the truly hard work depends on the affected person themself, since the actual speech work is an ongoing 24/7 effort continuing long after therapy sessions end. Caregivers can provide important support in this process and sounds like you provided significant amounts.

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    3. Every day, all day long becomes a speech therapy session with someone with aphasia, apraxia and agraphia all rolled into one. Humor and hard work are key ingredients for getting through it. I sat behind a one-way mirror while Don did all his therapies at the college for years. I learned a lot about how to queuing speech. He could parrot anything but not initiate anything. They kept inviting him back because he/we did work hard, never gave up and because the professors thought he taught the students a great deal about how a client can communicate their personality without words...that they are more than just their clinical diagnosis.

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  13. (((hugs))), on doing the emotionally hard but necessary work.

    Deb

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  14. I haven’t done journals, but save all kinds of articles and quotes and a few poems on grief, death, relationships and life in general. I like sayings best as they can say much in just a few words. I will check out this book.

    One thing I do enjoy about aging is introspection and reflection, not just my life, but life in general. Sometimes I just like to sit, outside preferably, and just think.

    If Palmer sees the negativity and folly of trump, then he is indeed a wise man.

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    1. I'm a clipper too. I put them in blank books. Those are the best kind of "journals" to keep.

      I know what you mean about the introspection that comes with aging. It's like seeing all the parts come together, all the influences and life experiences that make people the way they are.

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  15. We are getting older and older, which is a good thing. Right? We're still here. But sometimes I do think about how much time has passed and how little is left.

    When you asked, "Have you ever met someone who has that kind of glow coming from deep within?" it made me think of Goldie Hawn. Ha! I once read a book in which the protagonist said, "The only things worth living for are Guinness Stout and Goldie Hawn." Then he went on to explain that he did not mean Goldie Hawn literally, but the joy that she telegraphs. It gave him hope for its existence or the potential for its existence.

    Good on you for purging the info. on Don's Lingraphica and donating it. That could not have been easy. Someone will be grateful to get it.

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    1. I love your Goldie Hawn story. I never thought of her in those terms but I can see what the protagonist in the book meant. Certain people have the power to brighten our day, just by being themselves.

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  16. Your post is a reminder that mourning is a never-ending process as you dealt with the Lingraphica and revisited that time with your husband. You seem to manage this stage of your life with grace and humor. I have journaled off and on for years. I find it to be a safe and effective way of getting emotion out. I wonder what to do with them - discard? edit? leave for whoever's left behind to read or discard? They've served me well. I am one of the community that tends to my ageing mother. It's been a lesson at times of what not to do. I want to manage my ageing process and do it so it doesn't do me. I hear you about the morning bathrobe. I reckon that if the neighbors don't want to see that pink housecoat they can either call before they come to the door or wait until after 10 am!

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    1. Diaries have served me well too. What to do with them is a question that we diary keepers all must face. My husband kept his mother's diary but she never wrote about feelings, just life on the farm kind of stuff and I passed it on to Don's brother when Don died. Ordinarily days become interesting with the passing of so much time. Mine, on the other hand, are mostly about feelings so I need to do a lot of editing if I keep parts of my diaries.

      A few years back I wrote a long paper where I copied over pages and reference I made to my best friend growing up and I sent it to her. (She destroyed her diaries after she got married.) My paper turned out to a fun, iconic read about friendship in the 50s. I might see if I can do that again say with the themes of mother/daughter or me/my parents. If I take out the parts that speak of universal topics like that, it will be easier to discard the rest.

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  17. I can see why that task took so long. Good for you, finishing up with it. It sounds like a pretty fabulous program.

    What a fascinating sounding book -- I like his philosophy and may have to give it a try (though after spending $74 at a USED bookstore today -- I should refrain on books a bit!)

    Thank you for coming over and leaving such a great comment on the Windsor post. You write wonderuful comments and I really appreciated it!

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    1. Spending $74 at a USED bookstore would be quite a task...assuming they aren't rare books. I haven't even seen a used bookstore in years. I used to love haunting them.

      I love your blog, leaving comments is easy.

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