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 14, 2019

Parties, Family Shames and Breaking Ground


It’s been a busy week here in the land of freezing temperatures and cold hands. On the calendar were two parties and my monthly cleaning service appointment. And since my house was super clean I called up my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to invite them over to look at some stuff that he might like to keep in my husband’s family. They’re coming on Tuesday. Up for grabs are things with no real value but once they’re gone, they’re gone. I have a business card, for example, and key tag from the bus line that my husband’s dad started in the mid '20s, just before the 1929 Stock Market Crash. He lost the company soon after with the Great Depression that followed on its heels.

My brother-in-law would probably be embarrassed if he knew I sold a 1929 letter on e-Bay addressed to his dad. A few years ago I had already given him a whole notebook of family papers from that time frame, including many letters from debt collectors. Together they documented the hardships of the Crash in a very human way that you don’t get out of history books. I urged him to donate the notebook to the museum but I’m not sure if he did and I don’t want to know if he destroyed it. He saw it as a family shame but I knew the county’s local history department welcomes and archives information on the beginning and ending of a local businesses. However, it wasn’t my place to donate a part of his family’s history. The letter missed getting into the notebook by an accident (?) of filing. I discovered the error when I was photographing colorful letterheads to list it on e-Bay when I noticed the person one letter was addressed to. (Yes, people collect antique letterheads. They only go for $5 to $15 but that’s better than throwing out something that is almost a 100 years old.) The letter writer, a gas station owner, filled the entire page with single spaced typing and his desperation was clear. My husband’s father owed $18.00 for gasoline sold to the bus line. The station owner ended by saying he had a family to feed, too, and “if you could just send a few dollars a week it will keep you out of collection.”

Changing gears: One of the Christmas parties/luncheons I went to was sponsored by the senior hall. As I sat there, it struck me funny that it was a fashion show of Christmas sweaters past and present---250 of them and I didn’t see any duplicates! I was wearing one I bought at least ten years ago. The senior luncheons always have the same agenda: Music follows a lunch that is served by high school students who get credit for community service for doing it. And after we finish eating the kids who serve us line up to tell us something about themselves. 

One student said she will go into political science and law with an eye towards being a politician. In all the years of hearing kids at monthly lunches talking about their goals I’ve never heard a single one say he/she wanted to be a politician and I made the mistake of saying that to my table mates. Everyone agreed but then one lady started in on how sick she was of all the hearings and investigations of the president. “What are they supposed to be doing that they aren’t doing while they’re wasting time and our tax dollars?” I couldn’t let that go so in what I hoped was a non-combatant voice I said, “In all fairness, there are 435 people in the House and only 15 House members are on the Intelligence Committee and 22 on Judiciary Committee that have been conducted the hearings. Committee work is part of their jobs.” The same lady replied back about how she had relatives who sit in front of the TV every day watching the news and “it’s disgusting,” I couldn’t tell if it was her relatives or the news that she labeled 'disgusting' but it didn’t matter. We were at a party so I zipped up my lips and we all went back to watching a large choir get set up to sing Christmas music.

The next party I went to was at the Continuum Care Campus where I plan to move. It was a combination Christmas and ground breaking party. Finally! Ground breaking was supposed to be in “late fall” and technically the first day of winter isn’t until December 21th but when I think fall, I don’t think of snow being on the ground. Even the mayor was there to welcome us. Ya, he's happy to add a 35 million dollar campus to their tax base. The press release called it "West Michigan’s first senior living community---blah, blah, blah---meant to cater to older adults in search of active, independent living, with an impressive assortment of modern-day amenities." Cool! We toasted with champagne, swapped downsizing stories and ate a wonderful lunch. In the spring when the CCC expects to have the outside construction completed they’ll have walk through tours with an engineer and we’ll get to pick out our finishes and ask specific questions about our units. Hopefully that's enough to keep me pumped up this winter. I need my trips out there to remind me of why I'm selling off and giving away my life. ©

32 comments:

  1. Do you really feel like you're "selling off and giving away" your life? I truly hope not.

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    1. Ya, in many ways I do. I worry I won't have any personality left when I move to a new place with a bare-bones section of my current possessions and no money or room to accumulate anything else. I'm a collector. I've always been a collector. On the other hand I'm glad to be selling many things, especially my husband's stuff, but at the same time I'm also selling off a lot of memories and knowledge that goes with them. I'm also glad to be selling stuff because if I kept drifting along as I was, the burden of it all would fall on my nieces someday and I don't want to do that to them.

      But saying "selling off and giving away my life" also feels right because, for me, downsizing is like an admission that I AM going to die. I can't get that out of my head; I'm not superwoman who can go on forever. I've always believed I had all the time in the world to grow up and narrow the scope of my what ifs. If I get another 10 years after I move on, that will be great, but that seems like such a short time to accomplish any new goals I'll set for myself. I've got a few in mind and even those will have to be downsized to fit the timeline of my life expectancy. God, I'm mourning myself and I'm not even sick!

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  2. I am still impressed how they are including all of you in just about every phase of the development. Downsizing to the extent you are must be soul shaking at times. I really need to at least begin. Interesting about your realizing that we are all going to die. I think for a long time we are convinced there will be a vaccine or cure for death before we have to face it. Go for those 10 years and likely more. Enjoy the heck out of them.

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    1. You'd think having a closeup seat to watching my dad and husband die that I would have faced my own morality before now, but it seemed to have had the opposite effect. I was the one who survives, who goes on no matter what. LOL

      The CCC really is an amazing foundation and getting in on the ground floor has a lot of perks. Being able to pick out our own finishes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when moving into an independent living unit that I couldn't pass up.

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  3. Ah, the classic existential crisis. Welcome to my world. I am certainly familiar with this and my heart goes out to you.
    Everyone who is self aware is hit hard by this. A lot of folks hit the bottle or get all the wrong drugs or the quit eating or can't stop eating.
    There are no easy fixes, but a profession therapist should be on your to do list, sooner rather than later. They can't 'fix it' but you can learn steps to cope as you transition to your next self with the least amount of damage.
    What I think is that you are a writer. A collector of stories. You have a true gift of expression. You are gaining valuable knowledge of the downsizing and transition process. I believe you can help so many people as you go from your cocoon to being a butterfly.

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    1. My blog is my therapist. LOL But seriously, if I was making this transition in, say, in a couple of months, I could see how a person couldn't cope on their own but my transition isn't that brutal and I know I'll self-adjust as needed. It also makes a difference that I'm making the transition by choice and not a physical or mental need at this point in time. The CCC has classes on this and other related topics should I need them but I've always found my way back to center through writing and I'm looking forward my butterfly stage after this l-o-n-g birthing is over.

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  4. P.S. I began using a Sun Touch Plus four years ago. For Seasonal Affectivness Disorder. About $75.00 of the best money I have ever spent. I also urged two other friends, plus my son, to give this a try and none of us has regretted the decision to use the light. I hope you will consider this, as well.

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    1. I'm really not depressed, sincerely I'm not and I know what that feels like because I did go through three months of depression after my husband's stroke before I was able to regroup myself. I'm made out of rubber, I bounce back from stuff very fast.

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  5. That does sound like a very nice place you will be moving to!

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    1. It takes a leap of faith to put money down on something that will be so long in the making, but all the companies involved have good track records and by law our deposits go into an escrow account they can't spend and are fully refundable if we change out minds when we see the finished campus and our units.

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  6. I downsized all my Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts. I'm just too hot wearing them! We keep our house cool (although not as cold as you do!) so everywhere else seems too warm. Maybe a holiday vest??

    I'm so glad we are your therapy.... So interesting to read about your many collections and all the thought and work that went into them. I don't know how you cope with finally letting so much stuff go. Except for the next exciting ten years (minimum) at your new home! Where everything will be your way!!

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    1. I've never seen a holiday vest but they do make Christmas scarves you might like. I looked at them last week and decided to get one next winter when I downsize the contents of my closet. I'm not big on holiday themed clothing but they are nice for people who work in certain professions.

      We shall see how I cope, won't we, over the ten months when I have a goal of having all the collectables gone. How's that for a blogger's cliff hanger. LOL

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  7. I have to agree that there is a certain finality to the move we are about to make as well. It might not be my last, but it's certainly close. I've moved a LOT during my lifetime (this will be home number 14 since leaving my parents' home), so I never say never. But I can't kid myself into thinking I'm young anymore and none of us live forever. (As an aside, I should have become a real estate agent...I love looking at homes, and they sometimes just make me want to start over. haha)

    Wow...I have never heard anyone say they wanted to be a politician either. One of my kids works in political campaigns and it's a real dog eat dog world - worse than it looks on TV if you can believe that's possible.

    Anyway, FWIW, I would have a hard time parting with a lot of the things you're writing about and I haven't started my 'real' purging yet. We have a few things that will get passed to the next generation and what they do with them after that, I don't suppose I want to know. My MIL has demetia and before she got bad, her home was parceled out. It's kind of gut wrenching.

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    1. I have only move one other time in my life...I bought the house I grew up in which is one of the reasons why I still have so many of my childhood toys that were stored in the attic. 14 times! You're an old pro at this.

      Some people like the dog eats dog world. Adrenaline and boardgame junkies I'm presuming.

      I wish I had some kids to pass things down to, but it's a different world now where they don't necessarily care about the same things as we did when our elders closed up their homes. Very sad. I don't mind selling antiques because if they are buying they like that sort of thing, but I worry I'll run out of time and I'll have to go to plan B. It's giving away stuff to Goodwill that hurts because it makes me feel guilty for having bought to much to begin with.

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  8. I'd love to hear those downsizing stories. The should be recorded in a book that covers the good ideas and the mistakes. I know how hard it has been for me over the years as I tried to downsize after I sold my house and moved into an apartment. Each move after that was to a smaller size living space as the neighborhood I live in has small pre-war housing. I found I could be happy in a very small space but had to have outdoor space. I think you have done so well with your downsizing but know there will always be a few more hard decisions when the final move comes. That's just the way it is.

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    1. Outdoor living space is something I've never really gotten into even though I have a huge deck and small patio I could be using. Maybe that will change after I move. I hope so.

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  9. I think it's perfectly natural and normal to think we won't die even though we know we will. I personally have no fear of death, and would certainly choose it over dementia or endless hospital visits and lingering. I'm quite sure when my (normally declining) health fails dramatically- I'll be ready.

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    1. I agree, unless a person has had a near-death experience we tend to take our lives for granted. I've never thought about dying in terms of fearing it or not or the way in which I die. I'm more fearful of having regrets for the things I didn't accomplish...and the knowledge that I'm running out of time.

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  10. You are definitely a party person this year! You're tiring me out! I love that the letter was donated -- it IS history, not shame. It gives a picture of life in a time that was pretty grim.

    Flying this morning. Hugs to you!

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    1. I didn't donate the letter I sold it on e-Bay but I agree the notebook full letters like it should go to a museum. It's been too long it's not a family thing but a sign of the times, especially since that period helped form the sons into hard workers and very successful men.

      YOU tire me out with all your decorating. So pretty!

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  11. I'm glad the CCC has regular affairs to remind you of why you have to go through the downsizing. I'm guessing you will do just fine when you get there. Bless blogging! You will still have that. I know it's an important part of my life.

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    1. Is is an important part of my life...blogging. I consider it to be mental exercise not only the writing challenges but to work out computer issues when they come up like today when I have to get my computer back on line.

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  12. The hardships of the Past hopefully make us pause enough we don't repeat them in the Future? I think it is important to preserve those things evident that aren't taught in the History Books, even if it is perhaps a Dark patch in personal Family History that can embarrass some relatives to be transparent about. I'm glad the ground breaking is giving you inspiration thruout the Winter about what direction you are heading for the next leg of Life's Journey. It is exciting... and makes us realize how worth it all of this is that we're doing right now in preparation for it, which isn't easy and after a while can be drudgery and so stressful. Not speaking up at that Party would have been hard for me too... tho' lately I've realized that for many people, there is no room for rational conversation or Fact Checking if their Mind is made up about the Political Scene. I'm still amazed at how many still support this Administration, it baffles me completely!

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    1. I know you get it, we are both collectors of history so to speak and are going through similar things with downsizing.

      I went to another party yesterday and someone brought up how they didn't see what all the fuss was about that Trump did. At least two said they'll vote for him again and those who spoke up (which I didn't this time) have not been watching the news or the hearings and just wish they'd go away. That's why they don't understand what the fuss is all about! How could you know how out of the norm and corrupt it was if you didn't hear the testimony of our career diplomats, the general and the scholars on the Constitution?

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    2. Honestly, I think they don't WANT to know and hear the Truth. As Jack Nicholson famously said in "A Few Good Men" in regards to the masses... "You can't handle the Truth!" *Winks*

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  13. How much fun to be able to pick out what you want in your apartment and to know that YOU will be the first person to live there! The first to use the shower and the toilet. LOL

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  14. Well, I must say that I'm happier with my new place than I ever imagined I would be. Even with some serious downsizing (read: getting rid of a lot of china and furniture) I have as much as this place will hold, and I'm already beginning to forget exactly what it was I got rid of. The Christmas trees are up, the decorations I'm most fond of are out and enjoyable, and life is beginning to settle a good bit. I even managed to get the gifts that needed to be mailed to the post office today, and the last set of shelves I put up in the living room are level and exactly in trim. Life's little victories!

    It's great that you're going to be able to choose the finishes you want. I was lucky with this one -- the gray and white color scheme is very nice, and the touches like crown molding are great. I love the plank flooring, too, although I've already figured out I need to get some of that stuff that goes under rugs to keep them from sliding around. I remember you talking about rugs as hazard in the past -- now I understand what you were talking about!

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    1. Don't buy the cheapest non-slip stuff you buy for under rugs. It wears down (flattens out) too fast. They make it in a wide price range but I go up a step or two from the bottom price and that works better.

      That's really great how fast you're getting used to your new place. I don't think I'll miss much either once I get what I keep in place and it fits without having room left over.

      My brother-in-law was here today and took a dozen things I set aside for him. That felt good. He's gotten more sentimental as he's aged and that would have pleased my husband. I only kept three items that came from their family. I did show them to his brother and told him he could have them if he had any strong feelings about the elephants, a small porcelain pot and a chicken pitcher. And now I can close that chapter of family heirlooms.

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  15. My friends and I had a discussion yesterday about our silly sense of immortality -- or at least a healthy dose of denial. One friend has another friend who's husband died unexpectedly and her life was turned upside down. She is contemplating a move to AZ to be closer to family and friends -- a HUGE change in what she had anticipated for herself. We all pondered our own future and "what would you do"? questions arose. It is wise to take stock. It is wise to plan. It is wise to downsize what we think we need in our lived before we are forced to do so. I am so impressed with your clear-eyed ability to let go of precious items and the memories they invoke. But the truly important and deep memories will live on within you even without the "thing" that prompts them.

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    1. It's also prudent when a loved one dies to wait a year before moving or selling or whatever your first impulse is.

      I'd let go faster if I didn't need to get the value out of some of the stuff I own like that coach in the last post. But I don't really have memories come up without the visual reminders.

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