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, October 30, 2019

October Job List Woes


Can you believe it’s almost November! I can’t. I don’t want it to be November because that means we’re getting closer and closer to snow season. I’m not ready for that. I still haven’t done a few things around the yard that I should---divide some plants, cover the A/C unit and what outdoor furniture I still have left, throw out my pots of perennials.. I sent a text to my lawn care guy to make sure I’m on his schedule for a fall cleanup and he’s coming tomorrow. At least that’s what he says. In the spirit of fairness it’s been so wet and rainy and the leaves aren’t all down off the trees yet. It’s just that he doesn’t inspire trust in me after the fiasco over my deck staining project last summer. At least with text communication I have a record of what the daffy-as-a-doorknob guy says. Judge Judy would be proud.

On the good side of fall jobs to check off my list, the furnace guy was here and mine passed inspection with flying colors. That’s always a good feeling with a unit that is almost two decades old. While we were down the basement I mentioned I needed to check my sump pump to make sure it was working and he did it for me. He said I probably need a new back flow flapper so in a week or so when my schedule gets less crowded I’ll call the plumber. I’m so afraid of falling into that sump pump pit and I should have tipped the furnace guy for checking it for me, but it didn’t occur to me until a minute ago. So who’s the daffy one now? 

At least my car is ready for winter. It sends me e-mails so I can’t neglect getting oil changes and the battery, tires, fluids and wiper blades checked. With only 21,000 miles on the Trax she still likes going to the dealership for her bi-annuals so she can say ‘hello’ to the guy who paired us up. I just have to remember to stay away from the new car showroom because the last time I "looked" I bought the Trax with no plans or forethought to replace my 2-3 year old car. It only took one question from the salesman, “How do you like your Chevy Cruze?” And I told him about how I couldn’t get my friend’s walker in it and I hated how low the trunk was and the fact that I missed having a cargo area and, “Oh, did I mention I hate the sick-baby-poop color? It didn't grow on my no matter how good of a deal you gave me when I bought it.”

One of the things I’ve had on my fall schedule was an appointment with my audiologist. My hearing aids are living on borrowed time and I think in the spring I might get new ones. I could afford new ones now but by ordering them in the late spring that will switch my yearly ‘ear checks’ to a time of the year when I’m less busy. I did the same thing with my Reclast infusion for my bones when I saw the internist two weeks ago. The infusion center is so busy that the doctor’s order for my infusion would have put it right at Christmas so we decided to cancel it and start ordering them with my April bi-annuals. I’ll be eating a lot of spinach in the meantime and popping calcium pills like they are candy. Just kidding. I don’t over-medicate but occasionally I don’t get my second calcium pill in for the day because it has to be taken with meals and sometimes I don’t eat after having a late lunch when I’m out and about. So I’m changing to the kind of calcium pills you don’t need to take with food which are big enough to qualify for horse suppositories. I hate them but I hate winter appointments more. 

About the only thing left on my fall job list is to check the expiration dates on my over-the-counter flu and cold stuff and restock my stash of Kleenex, frozen OJ and soup plus buy some foods for the freezer in case I get snowed in. I don’t like fall and how busy it keeps me, I think I’ve established that to everyone’s satisfaction. 

The auction house where Tim, the son-I-wish-I-had, took four loads of stuff of mine has not paid me for the last batch and I’ve been expecting a check for roughly $700. I tried calling a couple of times over a week’s time and got a recording that they “aren’t taking phone calls at this time” and I’ve tried e-mailing but they aren’t answering. So I’ve texted Tim and he’s going to drive out there and see what’s going on. If they’ve gone out of business it’s going to affect Tim’s business big time and it will force me to get another backup plan in the event that I don’t get all my downsizing done it time for my move. There are so many moving parts involved in moving and starting a new style of living and it will be a miracle if something doesn’t put a hitch in my giddy-up. 

One day I got obsessed with wondering where the heat ducts will be in the CCC unit I have a deposit on because it will make a difference on how many and where I can put bookcases when I move in. So I called them up to ask and was told I wasn’t the only one who wanted to know. The answer is they’re in the ceiling. In the ceiling? In the ceiling! Who does that? So now I’m obsessing about how I’m going to dry my mittens and boots in the winter with no register to put them on. Yes, I know, If I wasn’t obsessing about one thing or another I’d be obsessing about not having anything to obsess about.  ©

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Favorite Places and Widow's Tears

 
Saugatuck, 1895

I needed a mini vacation and I got one last weekend when my niece and I went over to Lake Michigan to my favorite town, Saugatuck, to spend the afternoon driving the road along the beach to see the “cottages” and the waves crashing on shore before window shopping the Main Street shops and having lunch at the oldest restaurant on the coastline. When we left the city, headed to the Big Lake, it was sunny and light jacket or sweater weather. The fall colors were starting to show and Saugatuck was busy with others also wanting to get one last walk-around in this tourist town before the shops close up until spring. A lot of the stores we walked by were selling their stock for 75% off but all I bought was a jar of American Spoon apple butter which as far as I can tell never goes on sale. You could spend a fortune at American Spoon with all their yummy preserves, butters and curds. It’s a small, Michigan artisan brand with a big reputation and a healthy mail order service.  

The town itself was the first one settled in the county but long before it was a town, the first white settle came there by boat to build a log cabin on the mouth of the Kalamazoo River in 1830 where Mr. Butler and his wife traded sugar and whisky for game and furs with the Indians. Three years later they were joined by another white settle who opened up a tannery near-by. Lumberjacks were the next to come along. The log cabin Mr. Butler built has been a bar and restaurant ever since those long ago days and it still bears his name although the log building itself has been rebuilt after a fire or two and no doubt has expanded its size. 

When we got to The Butler we had to wait at the bar before we could get a table. The Detroit Lions were playing the Minnesota Vikings on a large screen TV just over our shoulders and there were a dozen hardcore football fans cheering and jeering while looking in our direction. A couple of young ladies were bantering back and forth about taking their differences outside. I could care less about any sport but I thought if we sat there long enough I’d find some blogging fodder. It’s been a long time since I’ve been surrounded by sports fans watching a game and I loved their animation but it’s too bad they weren’t watching the University of Minnesota game. It would have been interesting to watch this gang react to seeing Casey O’Brien getting The Hug from his college coach after holding the ball for the kicker in Sunday’s game. He’s a four-time cancer survivor with a back story that makes the sports casters’ jobs easy. That hug and Casey's backstory was all over the media. 

A good share of the tables at The Butler over-look the mouth of the river and a marina which---along with their good food---keeps people coming back year after year. Like a lot of tourist towns, it’s hard to find many businesses open in the dead of winter, but The Butler is one that never closes for the season. My husband and I used to do this same little mini trip on clear, January nights when the town looks like something out of a Bing Cosby Classic Christmas movie with its left over holiday lights giving extra sparkle to the snow covered and empty streets. In the winter The Butler can be counted on to have a collection of hardy locals lined up along the bar and snowmobiles rather than cars parked outside.

The last time we were there, my niece had the special---liver and onions---which is something my mom used to make once a week. I hated liver and onion nights but my niece likes the yucky stuff and she joked about my mom being there with us. This year it was a spooky coincidence (or was it?) that the special happened to be another reminder of Mom---pot roast and mashed potatoes. She served it often and The Butler’s special tasted just like Mom's did, confirming its moniker as a ‘comfort food’ in our family.

I was listening to the radio while waiting to hook up with my niece the day we went to Lake Michigan when George Strait came through the speaker singing, “…It's time to say goodbye to yesterday. This is where the cowboy rides away…” and out of the blue tears trickled down my cheeks. I had my husband’s Stetson cowboy hat listed for sale at the time and I wasn’t sure I’d get hold of myself by the time my niece appeared. I did, but I ended up telling her about those lyrics making me cry anyway. The mini vacation turned out to be a great day for conversation between two people who trust one another with each other’s life struggles and joyful thoughts and all manner of human experiences in between. ©

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Reoccurring Dreams and Memory Queues


My dreams all have common themes, at least the ones that wake me up do. The most common one is of me searching for a bathroom and finding them in different states of grossness or the doors will be locked or don't have door knobs. In my dreams I’ll be in a near state of panic until I find a place to pee. Then I’ll wake up and scramble off to the bathroom. Just in time. It’s not hard to figure out why my unconscious self is inventing variations of this dream but last night there was a new twist that has me trying to play detective inside my head to figure out why I dreamed I had a bag of apples with me on my search for bathroom, one with a clean surface where I could put my bag of apples while I did my business. I don’t like apples, I’ll buy a small bag in the fall for emergency eating but they are usually still in the crisper in the spring when I’ll make them into apple sauce. Does the bag of apples symbolize something besides a backup plan for eating if I get snowed in? Maybe they're some burden or barnacle my daytime life has taken on?

Another common dream that’s been waking me up almost every night since I started downsizing is of my husband and I’m trying to find him but I can't. Sometimes I dream he left me for another woman and I blame my sister-in-law for that twist in the “lost dream” because a couple of weeks after he passed she told me Don was in heaven surrounded by women. “Thanks, I don't need that image in my head!" I told her and she said, “Don’t you want him to be happy?” and I replied/shouted, “Not that happy!” No matter why I can’t find him in my dreams I’ll wake up with a sense of loneliness that once in a while comes with tears. Like last night. After he died I had a lot of these “lost dreams” then they stretched farther and farther apart. Now they are back in full force. I’m guessing it’s because my daytime activities of downsizing are churning up so many memories.

The most recent downsizing sale is for a custom-made ring Don and I had made after his stroke that incorporated a 35 year service award pin he got from work. It cost a small fortunate for the workmanship but the gold value is pennies on the dollar. That didn’t matter as much as finding someone who collects Chevy memorabilia so it wouldn't get sold for scrap gold. Getting the ring made was my idea, a trade-off for Don agreeing to let me to sell off two vintage gas pumps. He loved those pumps but he loved that ring more. He’d show it to everyone he’d meet and would say one of the few words in his post-stroke vocabulary. “Two!” he’d say proudly. Of course that would confuse the person looking at the ring and I’d have to step in and explain that we sold two antique gas pumps to pay for the ring. I hated him showing that ring to every Tom, Dick and Harry that came along. I was always afraid one of those Toms, Dicks or Harrys would rob us of that ring. How easy that would have been to rob, an old man in a wheelchair and old women who can’t run past her own shadow. One of the guys who looked at the ring knew Don from work and he had such good stories to tell and once again I was reminded of how much of my own history ties in with his.

Minimalists fascinate me. Living with less is an easy goal when you’re just starting out and don’t have much to begin with but trying to downsize to be a minimalist after a lifetime of accumulating is a different can of worms. Stuff is no longer stuff, stuff come attached with memories. Stuff comes with guilt for having so much or spending so much or not wanting to get rid of it because you’ve become sentimentally attached when you shouldn’t. Stuff is just stuff. Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Some days that's easier to say than others. 

Books are one of hardest things for me to let go of. I loved having an entire room lined with bookshelves. Yesterday I packed up another load of roughly 100 books to drop off at the library for one of their sales. Some of the vintage books would sell on e-Bay for $50-$70 but out of all those books I packed in my car I couldn’t let go of two small 1880’s books, one on raising chickens and the other on trapping furbearers. I set them aside to list on e-Bay and I’ll be lucky to get $20 each for them. Why those two books out of all the others got the royal treatment, I can’t say. They probably have some lost memory attached about the day I found them at a flea market or garage sale or estate sale. When a librarian was helping unload my treasures she said they have a person who goes through all the donations looking for collectable books that they’ll sell on e-Bay which took the sting out of donating them. Knowing they won’t get destroyed for a cute, little DIY project and they’ll make the library more than a dollar a piece made my day. No one needs a shelf made out of a rare book cut in half or some of the other crazy things the crafters do! Don't show me those projects! They hurt my eyes.

On the way home a song came on the radio that confirms I’m not the only one who attaches memories to objects. Here’s the lyrics: “She kept the hotel key. Slipped it in her purse. I guess it makes her think of me, and that night we left our hearts on our sleeves and the clothes all over the floor.” It goes on to describe her as wearing his t-shirt and half-drunk smile. I love that expression---half-drunk smile. I remember them well from my far away younger days. I rarely drink anymore because I lost my designated driver when Don had his stroke. Hey, I could take it up again after I move and I'll be within walking distance from the campus restaurant! ©