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, December 21, 2019

At Peace with a Quiet Christmas Alone


Typing the projected date for publishing this blog post I realized how close Christmas is. I went to a party earlier this week but I’ve got nowhere to go to celebrate on the 25th so the holiday is essentially over for me...unless I want to go to my family’s annual Christmas Eve party which involves a long drive out to the boondocks and back again---one way in the dark in what may or may not be snowy, foggy or icy weather. Last year I was able to stay overnight at one of my niece’s houses so I could make both trips in the daylight, but she’s spending the holiday out of state this year. She offered to let me and Levi use her house while they’re away. But she lives in an isolated log cabin in the woods and the first thing that popped in my head was Jack Nicholson axing his way through the door, calling out, “Here’s Johnny.” To quote one of my favorite book titles, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear me Scream. In reality, my niece’s postcard pretty house is more like the ones people go over the river and through the woods to visit grandmother's house on Thanksgivings but like they say, “You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl.” I can't image staying there alone.

My last, above mentioned holiday party was with my Gathering Girls pals and the weather was perfect for us seven senior ladies to get out and about. We have such a great time laughing and poking fun at ourselves and even after four and a half hours it was hard to break the party up and go home. Except for one annoying thing that happened, it was just what I needed. “What happened?” you ask. A little back story first: Ranging in age from 76 to 89 we really don’t need more stuff to clutter our houses, closets and jewelry boxes so we set a rule to only give gifts that are consumable. The party e-mail reminder even defined a consumable gift as “anything that get used up over time” but the same woman two years in a row now gave something ceramic and definitely not consumable. 

I don’t know why her passive aggressiveness to the consumable rule bothered me so much, but it did. I’m guessing because the Christmas bric-a-brac she gave would have star-crossed with my downsizing marathon and gone directly in my box to donate to Goodwill if I’d been the one to get it. “You broke the rule," I said and she replied that she didn’t know what a consumable gift is which I didn’t believe for a second but I reminded myself that no one appointed me the Rules Monitor. I was dangerously close to acting like a pouty toddler when in fact I needed to put my big girl pants on and accept this foible in my friend. Life is too short to be so rules ridge---Yup, I repeated that inside my head a few times before moving on. Can I at least get a gold star here for my honesty, for painting myself with the well-deserved petty brush?

I do have a possible plan left for the holiday. In the last decade of my husband’s life we’d often go up to his home town---a quaint destination tourist town seven miles away---on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. If the sidewalks were cleared enough for his wheelchair we’d spend the afternoon doing some last minute window shopping and going into the few stores that are wheelchair friendly. Don's memories of the town go way back and he appreciated the opportunity savor memories like of his dad bringing their team of horses into town the week of Christmas to give the city kids a ride in their sleigh. We’d end our Christmas Eve afternoon tradition by buying hot dogs at the same window on the square where he bought them in his teens and we'd take them to the top of the damn to eat them. I've been back to town on the 24th of December just a couple of times since Don died but I think this year I'll go again. The Christmas mark downs will be in the stores so it will test my will power to see if I can come home with only consumable gifts for myself and the dog. ©

49 comments:

  1. That sounds like a good idea, a trip full of meaning. I hope the weather is good for you, and good luck Christmas Day. We don't celebrate, but I can imagine it's hard to be alone when you're used to celebrating with others.

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    1. My niece-in from my husband's side of the family often have me over for holidays, too. They live here in town but they're on a Disney cruise this year. I'll be fine. It's been a good year though because I didn't get snowed out on any of my other parties.

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  2. I think it is important for all to abide by the gift rules. I think consumables were a great idea.

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    1. Consumables really is a wide field from bath and beauty products to office/writing supplies to eatable foods and drinks. Our senior hall has that rule about all the door prizes they hand out.

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  3. There's always someone who ignores the rules, no matter what. I get irked, too. Especially when it's another adult. But at that age, forget trying to change her, I guess.

    Do enjoy your Me Time Christmas, Jean. Make it a good one.

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    1. Thanks, I plan to because I know the winter is sure to snow me in at some point, so I will get out while I can.

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  4. Jean, I admire your ability to stand alone. It seems that spending Christmas alone makes people uncomfortable, like refusing alcohol at a party. My Christmas celebration starts today when my son & granddaughters come for the w/e. For me, there's more reason to celebrate the winter solstice so it's timely. I will be alone on Christmas day. It's amazing how many invitations are generated when I respond that I will be spending Christmas alone. I've enjoyed a month of celebration leading up to this holiday with concerts, dinner theater, dinners, and gatherings. Rather than focus on "being alone" I will focus on the quiet solitude. Merry Christmas, Jean.

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    1. You are sure right about invitations being generated when people find out you're going to be alone. Didn't happened this year but I've got plenty of examples from past years. I don't think alone times bothers me as much as it does a lot of other people---I can entertain myself---but what I miss the most is physical hugs.

      I don't like winter enough to celebrate the solstice but its often quiet beauty is worth celebrating. Enjoy your holiday!

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  5. It sounds like your Christmas Eve afternoon plans are perfect! We are alone too this year and are going out to a really nice dinner at a new to us restaurant on Christmas Eve as our gift to ourselves. I do think it is important to make new "traditions" or modify old ones as our family lives change. Enjoy the season.

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    1. I totally agree with you about making new traditions. Lives change. Enjoy your gift to yourselves. I love that idea.

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  6. Alone at Christmas does set off the red flags for many. I get invitations that I just can't see doing. Christmas is family time and it should be our own family--not someone else's. My family are all at least 1000 miles away and we burn up the phone lines on the day. Like you, I have no problem with my own company. Enjoy your day Jean, your way.

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    1. I want to learn how to do FaceTime someday. Burning up the 'phone lines' is a great way to keep in touch.

      I too get invitations to join other people's family and can't see doing it, BUT I do think it's important to get (and give) those invitations because they reminds us all that people do care....

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  7. Why do I have tears in my eyes reading this? I just got a big hit of "I just love Jean!" You write with such humor, honesty, and detail I feel like I'm right there with you. And I can totally identify with being the Queen of Rules....I get so annoyed by the very thing you describe! And I was brought up short when you mentioned the Gathering Girls age range. I just told friends the other day about your blog and said you were, like, 73 I thought. That's my math and I'm sticking to it! :)

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    1. I wish I was 73 again! I purposely don't blog my age, exact birthday or location or my last name which gives me a false sense of security. LOL

      Glad there is another member in the Queen of Rules Club! It really does bug me when people do things like not stop for stop signs or break other some-would-call petty rules. I think next year we Gathering Girls need to have a better discussion about the consumable rule instead of just assuming we all agree with it. But I also kind of go by the rule "her house her rules" and the person who hosted likes the consumable rule as much as I do.

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    2. I’m a rule follower also. What bothers me is we KNOW the person knows the rules ... I just wonder why they feel they don’t have to abide?

      WLLO has had a holiday dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. No one opted in for Thanksgiving and 5 have signed up for Christmas. Host is doing ham and roast beef, guests will bring sides.

      I skipped a party last night due to darkness and RAIN. Kids are going to Grandma Laura’s at 3 and kids are invited to spend the night. Little guy has never spent the night ... not sure he will tonight either.

      Christmas is at home sweet home!!

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    3. In think a person who doesn't follow rules like this don't agree with them but they don't want to confront anyone with their objection at the time things like that are planned. I'm just guessing because I'm a rule follower. Or they want to regift something and not buy new. LOL It shouldn't matter in our group, given at least three of us have serious medical issues and might not be around for next year.

      WILLO is working well for the community.

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  8. I would also be annoyed by the person who doesn't follow the gift rules. Grrr. It's just not that hard. Hopefully next year someone has the discussion ahead of time so you all know she's doing it intentionally. (And I would be double annoyed in the year of downsizing...like you, it would be in my next Goodwill run.) Ok, now that I've sufficiently outed myself as Scrooge, I can sit down. Haha.

    I love your Christmas Eve plans and, although it's going to be crazy here, I am also looking forward to the peace that follows the holidays when everyone leaves. It's just insane at my house right now, and while it's fun, it's definitely exhausting. I am sleeping well - but only from 11 until about 6AM when the little one wakes up. Daily. We aren't used to this anymore. :-)

    Have a hot dog for me. It's so nice that they rebuilt the Corner Bar! Merry Christmas!

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    1. The gift from the party is virtually the only gift I will get from anyone this year and call me Scrooge, too, but if I had had to pass it on to Goodwill it would have made me feel cheated. Can't we be petty about the stupidest stuff! She went through serious chemo treatments this year and we are lucky to have her looking healthy and happy again. But I blog my true feelings---the good, bad and the ugly. LOL

      I don't like the rebuilt building as much as old one. It's pretty inside and out but the high ceilings makes the noise level hard to hear for conversations across the table. They need to fix that with some sound adsorbing materials.

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    2. We are finding that in more and more restaurants. It's just so noisy, it's not an enjoyable experience. Maybe it's the trend re: decor, but it's not practical, especially those of us with aging ears. :)

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  9. I loved, "At Least in the City Someone Would Hear me Scream" - thought it was hilarious. Merry Christmas to you.

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    1. I loved the book, too. It a true story written by a gay guy who moved with his partner from the city to a rural county in West Michigan.

      Merry Christmas back at you Kim!

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  10. I am celebrating the solstice in the sense that I am looking forward to lengthening days from tomorrow. It is dark but from tomorrow we can look for the gift of light, a little bit each day.
    I know it’s a bit of a stretch as some of us have at least 3 more months of winter ahead of us, but I have really come to appreciate the gradual lightening of the day.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I love the gradual push for more sunlight too. That really is a gift, isn't it. Happy Solstice, Leze!

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  11. Happy Solstice! I love that photo and sounds as though you have many good memories to keep you company.
    I hope you know that all who answer your wonderful blogs will be thinking of you on Christmas Day, so you won't truly be alone.
    I won't have family here this year but will have dinner with friends.
    I hope you can find some yummy lemon pie or bismarks.

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    1. Happy Solstice back at you! Now you've gone and put the lemon bismark in my brain and I'll be going right past the donut shop on Monday or Tuesday.

      I truly don't mind being alone on Christmas Day but I do appreciate the kind thoughts from you and other blog readers.

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  12. I do admire you for being able to enjoy yourself without needing others to make your life enjoyable. I have a husband, 2 adult children and 5 grandchildren but last year they were all away for Christmas and I realised that I need people around me, so I have tried this year to do a few things on my own so that if or when I am on my own I will be able to cope better. I do hope you go out on Christmas Eve to the place where you have good memories. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and thank you for your blog as I have enjoyed it very much and wish you all the best when you move into your new home.

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    1. Thank you! You are wise to get out and do a few things on your own now. It's giving you confidence, I think. We all need others but our families do change and we have to change with them.

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  13. Have a wonderful MERRY CHRISTMAS my friend Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Merry Christmas to you, too, Paul...and to everyone reading this!

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  14. Right there with you in staying in a cabin alone.
    Happy Holidays! Enjoy the city and all that it brings!
    Maybe the ceramic giver is just trying to downsize--lol. We do "if you cannot eat it, don't bring it"

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    1. The ceramic giver downsized all last year and moved. I like your "if you cannot eat it, don't bring it" which is a lot more militant than ours. LOL But I also don't mind getting the soaps, lotions and paper goods that come with the consumable rule.

      When we were house hunting years ago we looked at a lot of isolated places and probably would have liked living that way at the time, but I need to at lease see people in the distance now.

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  15. I’m alone this year (again) for Christmas too. I have a bunch of invitations to go to peoples’ places - like someone said, they pour in when they hear you are going to be alone. However, I am turning everyone down, again. I quite enjoyed it last year, and am looking forward to a quiet day again this year. Such a contrast to Christmases of old, which were so jam-packed and stressful I spent every Boxing Day in a darkened room wrestling with a migraine. I have a deep appreciation for a stress less holiday, as you might imagine.
    Wishing you a joyful and peaceful day with Levi, Jean! All the best for 2020 too...hugs, Deb

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    1. Thank you Deb. You've got an exciting year ahead of you and I can't wait to follow your journey along via your blog.

      Big holiday parties can be stressful while being fun at that same time. Have another migraine free Christmas this year.

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  16. I don't know why, but this time of year most everything annoys me. I probably would have told the woman.."Consumable means something to eat or perhaps a gift card to Meijer." Then I would have brought her tacky ceramic home and put it in the Goodwill box. But then again--I am turning into a cranky old woman!! Have fun on Christmas Eve--it sounds perfect to me and since I will be alone that day, I wish I lived closer and I would tag along with you!

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    1. "Consumables" really is a broader category than just eatable goods. One woman did give some homemade breads and other goodies. I would have loved getting that since I don't cook or bake much. I should say the woman who got the ceramic, light-up ceramic, Christmas decoration loved it. But call me a cranky old woman, too, because I would have hated getting that. LOL

      I'll take you along in spirit, Judy. The town is beautiful and easy to walk and the afternoon of Christmas Eve is festive without the big lines of shoppers you get earlier in the season.

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  17. NOTE to BL: If you are reading this saga and wondering if I liked the gift I got at our party, I really did. The chocolate is gone, the holiday napkins were used the next day when my in-laws came over and the rest are sitting on my table to use daily, the liquid hand soap will go next to the sink when the current bottle is gone, note cards are always handy to have on hand and the decorative soap will get saved for my new home. And that's a true consumable gift, ladies. LOL

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  18. I love your idea of going to Don's home town. It could be quite lovely and sounds charming and now I'm wondering which burg it is near GR! Yes, I think so. I wouldn't mind going to see Little Women on Christmas but life has other plans so soon after.

    Yeah, that's weird about not following the rules. Ï didn't know what a consummable was? Well, IF that's true (which I, too, doubt) then ask! I digress.

    We're off to the toddler twosome shortly so if I don't get online much do have a Merry Christmas however you spend it. I have a feeling I'll wish for a little quiet after those two!

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    1. Those toddlers will grow up fast. Enjoy them while you can.

      Maybe you'll get to see Little Women when you need a break from taking down all your beautiful Christmas decor? I still can't get that hot pink tree out of my head and I've been back a couple of times to look at it. It makes me smile every time.

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  19. I would bet you anything the non rule-follower saw an opportunity to declutter and regift and threw rules to the wind! I love that you called her on it. Rules is rules, my dad always said.

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    1. I called her on it last year too and it didn't do any good. LOL

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  20. Well, the way I figure it, only two of the three Wise Men brought consumables, so I guess I would have cut the woman a little slack. Of course, I tend to lump a lot of behavior into the category of 'quirky,' and let it go.

    I'm going to be alone and not alone this year. I was going to head to the hill country and spend the holiday with friends, but the couple who always baby-sat Dixie Rose are heading to Denver to celebrate with their kids, and they needed someone to tend their cat. So, until the 28th or 29th, I'll be checking in on the old lady feline a couple of times a day -- it's the least I can do. I just hope she doesn't hide under the bed all the time. If I'm going to cat-sit, I want a cat to play with, doggone it!
    Here's to a Merry Christmas for us both -- and for the critters, too. Does Levi get a Christmas present? I guess I'll get one for the kitty -- just because.

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    1. I think the non-consumable gift got blown up to be a bigger deal than it was as everyone here weighted in on it. "Quirky" covers a lot of people I know.

      Enjoy your cat sitting. I hope you get some cuddle time in with your charge. No, Levi isn't getting a gift this year. In the past I'd take him down to the pet store for a photo and to pick out a toy but I missed the party date this year. Have a good Christmas!

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  21. Her defiance at breaking the rule must have some back story she isn't telling... that's what I imagine for her inability to comply? At least you didn't get the tchotchke! *LOL* I think it is a great Idea for you to do that Tradition you always did with your Dear Husband, since it has poignant meaning to you. The Son is coming over for Christmas, which is unexpected... they are having a tough time in their relationship and I just try to stay Neutral since I Love them both and understand their particular struggle, which is a tough row to hoe. Christmas here was way dialed back due to The Move and expense of it all. I'm concerned I'll run out of money before I get it all squared away... so this current Offer NEEDS to play out satisfactorily with no more hidden expenses in the Sale of this concluding or the purchase of that? Insert Nail biting on my part! I went out after a long Shift last Night with two co-workers, I never get to have Social time like that, so it was nice after a brutal Sale Day to unwind and chat. We spent 2 hours there and like your gathering, it was difficult to call it a wrap but the restaurant was closing and I had to get Home to The Man... Princess T was spending the Night with a BFF and I worried about him being Home alone too long.

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    1. Interesting train of thought about the backstory of my friend and I think I might even know what that is!

      You've got so many balls in the air right now, you really deserved a night out with co-workers. But I understand the caregiver worry that was in the back of your mind.

      Have a good Christmas, Dawn, and hope you get good news about the house soon.

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    2. Yeah, if we don't deserve it, who does?! Winks

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  22. This reminded me that I also, on your recommendation, read "At Least In The City Someone Would Hear Me Scream" and really enjoyed it. So thanks for that recommendation!

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    1. Oh, good! I'm glad you liked it. I've been meaning to read one of his other books, but haven't gotten around to it. But I enjoy his sense of humor and the fact that he was writing about one of my favorite areas in the whole world.

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  23. Jean, I also spent Christmas alone, cooking and indulging in my "I'm worth it" Christmas feast for one. I seldom mention this because I know it makes others uncomfortable. But that day of quiet self-indulgence was just what I needed in a season when I've spent most of my time caring for a sick friend.

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    1. I've often cooked myself a special meal on holidays when I'm alone. We ARE worth it. Hope your friend is going better.

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