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 27, 2019

The Thankful Widow at Thanksgiving


It’s the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house not a creature is stirring except Levi, my four-legged spouse. I have no place to go tomorrow, no dish-to-pass to make in the kitchen. No problem. I’m a big girl and I am thankful that I have a warm house and food in the refrigerator. It might not be a turkey and all the trimmings but tomorrow I won't be down at a mission depending on the good deeds of strangers to get a warm meal and a hot cup of coffee. And after the last piece of pie is served and the coffee pot is drained dry I won't get dispersed back out on the freezing cold streets and I won't be standing in line by five o'clock to get one of the limited beds down at the shelter. I can’t imagine living that way. And I do think of them often---those homeless, lost souls. Call me a bleeding heart liberal. I won’t be offended.

I’m also thankful for decades worth of warm memories of holidays spent at my mom and dad’s cottage on a lake, then later at my brother and sister-in-law’s place in a grove of white pines. I don’t think I’m looking back through rose colored glasses when I say those holidays were filled with fun and laughter. But I can acknowledge, now, what I probably didn’t fully appreciate back then that I had it easy. I wasn’t expected to help with preparing the food. I was never known for my willingness to learn my way around the kitchen so by the time my nieces and nephew came along I was on official duty to keep the kids busy and out from under the feet of the true cooks in the family. I’m sorry, Mom and Melanie I should have helped more!
 
My favorite holiday memories are filled with snowmobiling, sledding and snowball fights with the kids or playing in their fort in the woods or just walking along country roads. There is no way to replicate those carefree times with my family and I’m content not to try. I have over four decades of good memories to draw on before my brother's divorce and my mom's death left no one to organize big holiday meals. I did have the family to my house in the city once, but it wasn't a great situation when they all had to travel so far and my house was too small. That was the year I tried to make cranberry relish and I put fresh berries in a blender but forgot to put the top on before turning it on. Aside from cleaning cranberries off the ceiling, when I think of my best family Thanksgivings I don’t remember the food as much as the bonding time with my nieces and nephew.

Fast forward to after my husband’s stroke when we moved even farther from my family to be closer to his and we spent the next fourteen years going to the only place that was wheelchair friendly…my sister-in-law’s house. Those were super-large family get-togethers where the accent was on the food, the more the better. The women are all great cooks and the men are big eaters. Me? An early mistake of making a pink salad of potatoes and beets earned me a reputation for being a joke in the kitchen. I didn’t care. It took the pressure off me to kitchen-compete with a family who knows all the secrets to making the best of the best. They never expected much out of my dishes to pass and I delivered on their low expectations. Then my sister-in-law passed away and that ended the big holiday meals at her house. The adult kids all took their celebrations to their own homes to build new traditions with their growing families. It’s a classic story that only the elderly are privileged enough to tell. As much as some of my peers would like to, we can’t freeze our holiday gatherings like a scene in a snow globe that never changes. The best we can do is shake up our memories from time to time and watch them flutter down like the glitter inside those snow globes. 

In a world so full of dark and scary things that seem beyond our control---gun violence in our schools, our climate crisis and the constitutional crisis our nation is facing to name a few things---it’s more important than ever for us to pause to be thankful for the big and small blessings in our lives. I am thankful that I’m relatively healthy, that I’ve been loved and loved back in my life, that I’ve lived a moral life with few regrets and that I have a plan for a new chapter in my life that will give me security as I age out of this world. And I am grateful for my annoyingly demanding dog, Levi, who still lacks the logic to understand that if it’s raining outside one door of the house that it’s raining outside the other two doors. He makes me prove it to him every time before he’ll finally go outside to answer nature’s call. I humor him because I still remember my reluctance to go outside to the outhouse when I was a kid spending my summers at the cottage. Have I mentioned I'm grateful for indoor plumbing and flush toilets? ©

40 comments:

  1. Lovely memories - I too have them and am not headed anywhere tomorrow. Enjoy your last Thanksgiving in you home and give Levi a special treat if he's allowed one.

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    1. Thanks, and you have a good day tomorrow too.

      It actually won't be my last. It will take 17 to 18 months to build the entire campus and my building will not be one of the first ready for occupancy first since the others have important infrastructure in them. The long time frame suits me perfectly because I have so many collectibles to sell first.

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  2. "The adult kids all took their celebrations to their own homes to build new traditions with their growing families. It’s a classic story that only the elderly are privileged enough to tell. As much as some of my peers would like to, we can’t freeze our holiday gatherings like a scene in a snow globe that never changes. The best we can do is shake up our memories from time to time and watch them flutter down like the glitter inside those snow globes." Jean, these words speak volumes to me. And with this privilege is the responsibility of letting the next generation build their traditions. Thanksgiving is long past here in Alberta but I'm anticipating Christmas day alone in my nest and like you, I'm a big girl; no problem. And like you, I am grateful for indoor plumbing and flush toilets.

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    1. Thank you for validating my thoughts on the changing nature of holiday traditions. I get annoyed when I hear people in my age bracket complain about changing traditions. I love what you said about "with this privilege is the RESPONSIBILITY of letting the next generation build their traditions."

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    2. There's were the days. But today is today and no matter what takes place, we still love, enjoy life and as you said Jean, grateful for indoor plumbing and flush toilets. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving my friend. You'll be on my mind tomorrow. We are close but not close enough to get together to enjoy dinner. How about Christmas? LOL See ya my friend.

      Cruisin Paul

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    3. Paul, Christmas will be harder to be alone but only because I'll probably be snowed out of going to family parties which are too far away for me to drive in the winter. You must have a cruise coming up soon. Where are you two going this year?

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    4. MaryLou & I are leaving on Jan, 20th on an 11 night cruise to Cartagena, Colombia, Aruba night & day, Curacao, Bonaire and Grand Caymen. We've already arranged an 12 Southern Cruise next year 2020 with two island added on, Grenada and St. Vincent & Grenadines. I'm just a crazy cruiser I guess. See ya Jean

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    5. What a great way to break up the cold Canadian month of January!

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  3. You really have some grand memories to shake up and enjoy. Had to smile at your normal Thanksgiving kitchen duties. Mine was doing the dishes for 16 people. Kind of think cooking would have been easier.
    Smiled at Levi. Same for Callie but can't blame anyone but myself for spoiling her senseless.
    Have a great day tomorrow.

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    1. I've always help clean up after holiday meals both at my family and Don's family parties so I don't feel too guilty.

      When Levi was a puppy I actually held an umbrella over him so he'd go outside---he hated the rain so much. When he got a little older I had one attached at the bottom on the deck steps so he could huddle under it until he had to actually go. No, we don't spoil our dogs, do we. LOL

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  4. This may be my favorite of your posts this year. My reaction is a warm smile, a few tears, some laughter, and just grateful for your long distance friendship and gift of writing the truth of your life in a way that informs, entertains, and provokes introspection about our own experiences at this age and stage of life.

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    1. Since this will be your first Thanksgiving where you passed the torch to your son and his wife, I can see why this post resonates with you. When I saw your Facebook post this morning I hoped you'd find your way over here. Thank you for the kind words.

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  5. I had many tears today thinking about better times and when I was not so alone and still had family. Not usual for me but just a bit sad today. I hope everyone has a nice day no matter where they are and weather with family or by themselves. I find these 2 months to always to be very hard. Looking forward to the start of a new year already!

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    1. Probably a lot of tears being shed today, Karen, and will be tomorrow too. This is not my favorite time of the year, either. I've gotten used to being alone on holidays but the fact is I could pick up the phone and invite myself to several places and I would be welcome for Thanksgiving or Christmas day but sometimes being alone with my memories is better.

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  6. I consider bleeding heart liberal the highest of compliments. I love your positive outlook. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Levi.

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    1. I sometimes go to a political website that is set up to debate the issues of the day and the people there use the "bleeding heart liberal" as an insult. So I call myself one before to beat them to the punch.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone reading this.

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  7. I love this post and your grateful attitude. I especially liked the fact that Levi has to be sure there's no way to go outside without getting wet. :D

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    1. I've even tried putting him in a doggie raincoat and he wants no part of that! Someday I'd like to hear the story about how you got your Cheerful Monk name.

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  8. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Levi! I wish we lived closer. You would be more than welcome to join us.

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    1. Levi would LOVE to meet Molly. Two black lab puppies moved in across the street and they have a fenced-in yard now and Levi is glued to the window watching them. He'd love a play date.

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  9. I love this post, Jean. Love it to the max. I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving! From one Liberal to another!

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    1. It already is a happy holiday for me and it isn't even 10:00 AM yet. I talked on the phone to my brother who wasn't feeling well last month but is doing great now, I texted back and forth yesterday with my oldest niece who is traveling out west and talked to the son-I-wish-I-had who was traveling and is coming over next week. A few days ago before my oldest friend---since grade school--left on her trip we exchanged e-mails. And I got so many great comments like yours about the holiday couldn't feel lonely if I tried. It's the modern age where we gather warm greetings where ever we can.

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  10. Happy Thanksgiving Jean. Lovely post. Our Thanksgiving is long past, and I am looking at another quiet Christmas Day alone (and looking forward to it, funny as that may sound, as I love this time of year for quiet reflection). As you beautifully wrote, a good time for counting blessings - and of course visiting with far-away family via technology!

    Deb

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    1. I think your Christmas alone---which will be your last where you live and has so many (mixed) memories in your building is only fitting. You'll be ending one chapter of your life and moving onward a whole new adventure. Happy belated Canadian Thanksgiving to you and any other readers from across the border!

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  11. What a wonderful and warm post. Wishing you more blessings and good food. Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Ohmygod, I got on the scales this morning! What a shock. I've been stopping by the restaurant that sells Thanksgiving dinners in a box so often over the past two weeks that I've gained five pounds! I've certainly had the blessings of good food. No more turkey for me until next year.

      Hope you and everyone reading this has a good day today either making or recounting good memories.

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  12. Oh no! You have broken the official Thanksgiving Rule! You are not supposed to weigh yourself until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Everyone knows that! ;)

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  13. There's just one thing I hope never to make into a new holiday tradition: moving, on one of those weekends. I wish you were here, just so you could sit and laugh at me trying to be organized and do what I have to do in the midst of such chaos. First, I couldn't find my rolling pin. Eventually, I found it in the bedroom closet. Don't ask me -- I don't know. Then, the hammer disappeared. I finally gave up looking for that, but when I finished my pie baking and was cleaning up, I found it in the dishwasher. Obviously, it's time for me to take my pies and go decompress over dinner with friends!

    I loved this post, and wish you a long, lovely day filled with good memories. Happy Thanksgiving to Levi, too. If he knows about Thanksgiving, I'm sure he's giving thanks that he has you to live with!

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    1. I'm laughing just trying to figure out why you needed a hammer during your pie making project, never mind how the rolling pin came to be in the bedroom closet. I'll bet if you were moving more than a couple of flights downstairs you would have been more organized.

      I apologize to Levi all the time that he has to live with someone too old and lazy to take him for more walks. But by the time I got him he was the last in his litter to go and was on sale, so maybe he is grateful to have a home.

      Have a great day!

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  14. What a wonderful post. And I love your description of the holidays and letting the next generations make their own traditions. We have a family dinner (brother's house) and I love not having to cook the whole meal, but the political discussions are on "silent mode" after a 2016 holiday blow up. Makes for some interesting undercurrents. And I'm never sure my DH won't throw in a few comments to tweak the Trump voters. I mean, really, we have no idea if they regret their vote or would even admit it if they did. Everyone is careful not to return to that ugly argument. Disingenuous? Maybe, but we value gathering, so I guess there is that. However, not all of my kids attend anymore, and my stepkids never. Everyone has other obligations to rotate or lives far enough away that it's not practical. Acceptance is key as we age. :)

    In other changes, I've been the pie baker for years, but this year, my niece is doing the work. I'm great with that...I'll show up with wine as requested. Easy peasy. (I am making pie at home so we don't go hungry tomorrow. lol)

    Happy Thanksgiving! I love your blog. Give Levi an ear scratch for me.

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    1. On my side of the family, we've never talked politics at parties even though we do have some Trump/republican supporters. On my husband's side there is a hardcore Trump supporter who likes to get things started but his wife and daughter are quick to shut him down so it's never been a problem. Family parties are not the right time too much goes into planning, cooking and cleaning up to have holidays ruined that way. Not saying a stray comment isn't thrown out there once in a while but rarely does anyone take the bait. Hope your "silent mode" works !

      I can't even remember the last time I made a pie but I might make cookies this weekend, if not today.

      Thanks for stopping! I count my blog and those who read and/or comment among my blessings.

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  15. Jean, what a lovely and thoughtful post. You are such a talented writer. Wishing you all the best. (Love the dog story - having to check the weather at ALL doors!

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    1. Thank you and welcome to my blog! I'll check yours out soon.

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  16. Jean - this is a lovely post. Thank you for understanding that the next generation will create their own traditions and it is a privilege and gift for us to see it happen. I was prepared to spend it alone and chose to volunteer with my dog, we’re a certified therapy team, to visit our local hospital. My niece invited me to her house several days ago and I was lucky to do both. We volunteered in the morning and then we went to a lovely dinner where our only contributions were a few dog treats for our dogs and wine for their human companions. It was a perfect day. But, like you, I know it would still have been lovely at home with memories and good food and my dog. I would have opened that very good bottle of red wine too.

    Like you, I also have a dog that is only a “little” spoiled. He hates the rain and will often start out the door and immediately back peddle back inside when he realizes it is raining. The dog has an enviable strong badder. He will often wait until it stops raining before asking to go outside again. There are also times when he dives through the door in the rain and does his business as soon as possible and dives back through the door waiting for the dry towel that awaits him. He’s a very old dog and to see him running at full throttle to get out of the rain always makes me smile. Did I say I am grateful he is so respectful of our house? No doggy surprises for me to clean up.

    I grew up in a house with no indoor plumbing, It made me smile to read that you too are grateful for indoor plumbing.

    Happy Thanksgiving a day late.



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    1. Being a certified therapy team to visit hospitals would be really rewarding. Levi isn't certified but we did have a dog who was cleared to go into a nursing home where Don's mother lived. It took forever to make our way to her room because so many of the residents wanted to pet out dog.

      Levi has a remarkable badder, too, so much so that I'm jealous he can hold it so long. Levi fights me drying him off with a towel, prefers the carpeting if I can't hold on to him long enough to get him dry. They all have their own special personalities, don't they.

      Your Thanksgiving sounds perfect to me. Thanks for sharing your dog stories. I never tire of hearing about our pets.

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  17. Drat! I obviously didn't post my thoughts on Weds ... after writing them up! Operator error!

    Once children become adults and have their own children, the timing for all holidays changes. I'm lucky to just have one daughter although they go to his side of the family ON the day, so we celebrate before or after. Just as tasty!

    Kate is wanting to NOT visit anyone on Christmas Day, and just stay home the five of us! His Mom puts a LOT of pressure on her three sons, which makes it hard on the wives who also have family here.

    UNTIL this year! She got married last summer and for the first time ever (holidays, birthdays, 4th of July, etc) she was not in Oregon for Thanksgiving! She was with her hubby and HIS side of the family in Montana.

    Life goe one!

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    1. Life does go on and isn't it interesting how some mother-in-laws understand the pressure put on young couples to be everywhere on THE Day, and others don't care as long as they get what they want. With you guys living together all the time it makes sense for you not to make a thing out of being together on The Day. Glad Kate got thanksgiving at home this year though. I think that helps some young couples feel more like grown ups.

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