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 27, 2019

The Grave Digger

I had a blog post due soon and I didn’t have a single idea rolling around in my head. I guess it was too early in the morning for inspiration to kick in from looking out the window at the dwindling patches of snow along the cattail bog and the unwelcome red squirrel munching my at woodpecker feeder. Still, I dutifully sat at the computer. I’m from the school of belief that if you want to call yourself a writer you have to spend a minimum of an hour a day writing. Others set their daily writing quota in terms of a word count but that seems like a rule tailor-made for cheating. I mean it’s really, really, really, really easy to cheat when you’re using a word count to judge your productivity. Having a propensity for redundancy or worse yet, powder-sugaring all your nouns with too many adjective might be tempting tools to use in college but I’m too old to step in that bull poop.

As I sat there I was totally wiped out physically from all the work and shopping I’ve been doing to redecorate my bath and bedroom. I was so thorough, I even used Bio-Clean on my toilet, shower and sink drains and I vacuumed out the heat ducts before putting the caps back on. And I waxed the drawer runners in my chest-of-drawers and I used toothpicks on the tiny crevices around the light switches before putting the plates back on. There isn’t a surface that hasn’t been painted, washed, shined or lemon oiled except the ceiling fixtures which I hope I can get my cleaning service girl to do next week. Obsessive? I think not. Those rooms haven’t been deep cleaned in a couple of years…since I started using the cleaning service. They just do a lick and a promise---looks nice when they leave if you don’t examine the corners and look under stuff. What gets me is they do offer a deep cleaning service but they charge ten dollars an hour more to their $32 an hour normal rate. I’ve done too many deep cleaning projects in my life to believe a low skill job like that is worth $42 an hour. Call me stubborn because I won’t pay that when in my daydreams I’m still willing and able. Well, willing for sure but the able part just might kill me. 

Later that day I ran some errands---one to return a blanket and another to get yarn to knit a sweater vest with a John Deere tractor on the front. On the way home I stopped at Culver’s, my favorite fast-food place. Usually I use the take-out window but I decided to go inside instead, thinking I might find someone to exchange a few words with. You know, like: “What can I get you?” “A North American cod sandwich and a small chocolate concrete mixer. Oh, and a cup for water.” “That will be $9.36.” “Put this number on your table. Have a nice day.” Yup, I got my conversation for the day…or so I thought.

A woman at drink dispenser machine was vexed because she couldn’t find the water. I showed her the lever and she said, “Jean! I’d know your voice anywhere!” I looked at her face, drew a blank and it must have shown. “You don’t know who I am, do you,” she stated. After an embarrassingly long pause I guessed ‘Sandy’ only because I knew she lived in that neighborhood but I hadn’t seen her since my husband’s funeral. She is the wife of a guy my husband went to high school with and at their class reunions we’d keep each other entertained. Sandy invited me to sit with her and her sister and I got the conversation I’d been craving. 

You’d think after knowing my husband for 42 years I’d know every detail of his life, especially a guy like Don who loved telling stories. But that afternoon I learned something new: my husband once dug a grave! It happened in his teens and it all started when three guys got in trouble for taking a picnic table from the riverside park and putting it in the river. Sandy’s husband was the fourth guy in the caper but he didn’t get caught and the other boys didn’t rat him out. The town judge sentenced the kids to cutting the grass at the cemetery for the entire summer. I knew that part. I didn’t know that one day their supervisor gave them some hand axes and told teens to cut down a couple of trees. Don---a farm boy who grew up cutting firewood in their sixty acre woods---went home, got his chainsaw and they had the work done in no time. When the supervisor found out they’d escaped the manual labor and had taken the easy route he made Don---the ring leader---dig a grave with a hand shovel.

If teenagers got in this same kind of trouble today, I wonder what a judge with do with that. Make the parents pay a fine? Listen to the parents make excuses? “It was just a silly prank!” Send the teens to juvenile detention? I don’t know but I have a new trinket to shop for and glue on my husband’s cemetery stone…a tiny shovel. I’ll bet some random kid won’t be as quick to steal that like they do every summer with the Snoopy trinkets I leave Don instead of Memorial Day flowers. But I’ll bet others passing by the stone will wonder if the shovel was there for the deceased to dig himself out. ©

 

24 comments:

  1. Jean :

    I love stories about your life, you had married quite a guy with all these fun stories you still find out about him after so many years, & putting shovel trinket on his grave is such a funny & smart idea. I bet people will wonder. I bet it will bring smile to Don's ace wherever he is watching you from.



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    1. Asha, the cemetery where his stone is at is the same one where he dug the grave. Lots of people who come and go from that place knew Don and I'm thinking the shovel will give them a smile. I know it will make me laugh to see it there.

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  2. Wow! A penalty like that for what I think was a harmless prank... a whole summer mowing the cemetery and to have to cut down a couple of trees. I don't know how many teenagers even know (I sure wouldn't know.) how to chop a tree these days. Poor Don, digging a grave by shovel. That would be extremely hard work. Builds character huh? ha!

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    1. It was a little more than the picnic table...but still harmless with no real property damage. The town's name was spelled out in rocks on a hillside and they rearranged the rocks to a swear word. The whole town knew about the two pranks done that night and I think they wanted to make examples out of them. But it was a common youth punishment to work for the city...cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, outside work. I was thinking today parents would fight a punishment like that.

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  3. Wow! What an amazing story. So exciting to TALK and about your love (what a rascal).

    Next time someone asks what you do all day ... I’m a published author, a twice weekly blogger, a home decorating designer, as well as a domestic engineer!!

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    1. Ya, I like being around people who knew Don because I think people who knew us as a couple better understand me as an individual if that makes any sense. It doesn't, does it.

      To explain to others, your last blog post was about how annoying it is to have people ask us "What do you do all day?" If I gave your answer, I'd be adding, "I'm a self-published author, a twice weekly blogger that I don't want you to red, a self acclaimed home decorating designer and the only domestic engineering I do is call the cleaning girl and pick up dinner on the fly." No, just staring off into space wondering what to say is working for me. LOL

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  4. Oh I love this. I bet that was nice to hear a new story about Don.
    And you are correct about today's kids. Sadly none would have a chainsaw because their parents don't do squat and they wouldn't know how to use any tools. :-)

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    1. Can you imagine what parents would say if their son was handed an axe and told to chop down a tree! The two other boys were city kids and probably didn't have a clue. Don was making money taking down trees and selling the fire wood before he could drive a car.

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    1. Anyone else who is having trouble posting here or elsewhere in Bloggers is welcome to do a test. I'll let them stand a week then delete them.

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  6. Jean, mike left a message on my blog in comments re: not being able to leave you a message.

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    1. Thanks Margaret. It's getting frustrating...all the changes going on. I'm hoping it will all be back to normal after the middle of April when the Google+ is totally gone. In the meantime, if anyone has trouble commenting please at least try to do a check mark in the 'reactions' box under the blog so those of who write will not feel so alone.

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  7. What a delightful story--unless you were Don and his buddies who had to do non-payment work all summer. I thought he showed ingenuity with the chain saw but it earned him the grave duty.Maybe Sandy has some more stories??
    Love the idea of the small shovel on his stone.

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    1. I thought so too. At any other job a boss would be happy to have time saved but the job was not so much to get the work done but to punish the guys. If I remember right, that summer Don and Sandy's husband's relationship kind of cooled? At least Don wasn't as close with him after high school as he was others who were life-long, good friends.

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  8. I love hearing stories from others about family members that have passed. Too often people won't bring up his/her name because they don't want you to be sad, to bring the conversation "down" to your loss. If only they knew you think about the loved one daily anyways, and it's a joy that they are remembered. It brings them back to life, even if only for a moment. I love the shovel idea! Someone left a necklace with JD's zodiac sign on it, on the side of the grave where some of my husband's ashes are interred with his mom and dad - oh great, another person he cheated on me with?!

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    1. You are so right! I don't live in the past...well, unless you include Victorian times or the Old West. But it really doesn't brighten your day to know that others still remember those who have passed.

      You made me laugh with your last sentence and remember another widow who got irate over someone else putting some flowers on her husband's gave. She didn't even know who it was. Really? Others aren't allowed to have memories of a person who is gone. "Flowers died. Get over it," is what I would have liked to say but of course, I didn't.

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  9. Jean, you might be interested in the creative sentences of Ohio judge Michael Cicconetti, who often makes the punishments fit the crimes, IF the defendants choose that alternative. I thought of him immediately when I read this post.

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    1. I just checked him out. Commonsense sentencing really does have a place in society and I can see why my post reminded you of him.

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  10. I love hearing stories about my husband too. Like Don, he was also a great story teller and the life of the party and loved “pranks.” He once placed a cat in the music teacher’s piano and when she began playing the piano, the cat expressed her objections. The teacher calmly asked my husband if he knew anything about this and to remove the cat. The cat was unharmed and years later my husband heard from the teacher how the teacher’s room erupted in laughter when they heard the story.

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    1. Oh my gosh, you had me laughing at that story. Teenagers used to be more creative in their pranks years ago, I think.

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  11. I’m all for making the punishment fit the crime, especially with young people. Sure wouldn’t like digging a grave. I, too, enjoyed hearing tales about my husband before I knew him Interesting you got this story so unexpectedly and so many years later.

    I can vouch first hand for the labor involved in downing tall pine trees with axe for notching so tree would fall in right place, then trimming and sawing up on one end of a crosscut saw, band saw on smaller branches. Then came splitting logs with a sledgehammer and wedge into sections to fit in wood-burning stove — one of my tasks from jr hi thru high school. Not a favorite undertaking but we learn to make the best of situations in which we find ourselves.

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    1. Just watching someone do what you've described wears me out. It's hard work, falling and cutting up trees. I'm glad I never had to do it. But I've got to hire it done next week.

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  12. Wow. That's tough.

    I have trouble digging holes deep enough for some of my plants! It's weird how when we've lived in the same place for a long time we run into people we can't remember, who know us but we don't know them. Sometimes it even turns out interesting. Sounds like this was one of those times!

    I'm so glad you are liking my England posts. And in answer to your question, why did I come home? Well, no one offered the option to stay! And Brexit probably wouldn't let me anyway!

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    1. I was shocked she said she remembered my voice. I've never thought I had a memorable voice. We were both so focused on finding and filling our water cups that we didn't really look at each other at first. I wonder how many others from our pasts that we just walk by. I'm rarely the first one to recognize someone else.

      Brexit is a real mess, isn't it.

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