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, July 4, 2020

Dew Drops and Tear Drops

I used to be a night owl before the pandemic. Going to bed at 3 AM was not unusual and a throwback to my working days…or I should say working nights. I did a lot of writing after midnight and I like the quietness of the neighborhood when everyone is tucked into their beds. No little kids dominating the sidewalks, no barking dogs. No lawn mowers or snow blowers filling the airwaves. You learn a lot about your neighbors in the middle of the night. The young couple across the street, for example, are afraid of the night. They leave their porch light on from dusk to dawn. The neighbors next door are very trusting. They leave their garage door up all night, confident no one will come along to steal the guy’s fancy tools and medieval gear---they run renaissance festivals across three-four states. And, yes, I’ve seen more than a couple of sword fights out my bedroom window. They’re interesting people and if you want to weave your own fabric, spin your own yarn or make your own chainmail, they’re your go-to couple. 

When the pandemic first started I couldn’t fall asleep and when I did I’d wake up an hour or so later then worry would take over my mind and not let go. So I got into the habit of taking sleeping pills and sometimes even that didn’t work. Long story short now I’m falling asleep at midnight and waking up at seven and I’ve almost weaned myself from taking the Ambien bottle out of the drawer except on full moon night which is why it was prescribed in the first place. Seven o’clock in the morning has a lot in common with the middle of the night. For the first hour anyway and I have to admit it’s a pretty time of the day. The dew on the lawn before the sun tops the trees to burn it off is the stuff poets write about. 

"How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity
under roses and violets and morning dew!"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.”
Rabindranath Tagore

When I was in my twenties I wanted to be poet when I grew up. I never felt like a grown up until my husband had his stroke. I had adult responsibilities—the job, the house, the car---but not having kids made me feel like a kid looking for the next great learning experience as I waited for my ‘real’ life to begin. I can’t say I didn’t go through a mourning period for what never happened, but it was short lived on the missing parenthood front. Of course, the dream of being a poet had no medical excuse holding me back. I held on to that dream a lot longer although now I acknowledge if I have any writing talent at all it’s not in the poetry genre. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe as Lord Byron once hinted at, maybe I can make my wordsmithing mark without having to rhyme. 

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."

We might not all want to reach thousands with our words but the desire to communicate with our fellow man, to be understood and to understand others, is rooted in our prehistoric past. How exciting it must have been to develop a language when there was none. I visualize a caveman grunting out the word ‘hunt’ and being understood for the first time like Helen Keller at the well when she first made the connection between the letters w-a-t-e-r being spelled out on her hand to the water running through her fingers. As she wrote in her autobiography years later, “That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away."  

If you’ve read the introduction at the top of this blog you know my husband lost his ability to speak and write after his stroke. When you lose that connection with someone you love you mourn a part of your relationship. Family caregivers know all too well you let go in stages until the final moment comes and you mourn one last time. I went to the cemetery to visit my husband’s grave this week. The pandemic lock-down prevented me from going in April when I’d normally go to dig up the quackgrass around the stone and for the first time ever, I sat in my car crying. I cried for him. I cried for me. I cried for the whole bloody world. I cried like I haven’t cried since 1983 when my mother died. And I cried because I really, REALLY wanted a Little Miss Debbie Swiss Cake Roll to fill the emptiness I felt. ©

Ordered this tee shirt the next day, figured I needed the reminder. Thanks to the Boomer Girl's Guide blog for the link.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Here Comes Summer

I can’t believe its July already. I’d like to say I’m happy, healthy and full of bright ideas and laugh-out-loud stories to tell. But I’m sitting here like a toad on a log hoping a snail will magically appear in my mouth because I’m too lazy to go forage for my dinner. I don’t have far to go. My well stocked refrigerator is only eight feet away and if I was really ambitious I could grab my car keys, be to my car in sixteen steps and take off to find a place to pick up dinner. But I’m still not embracing the pandemic-born curbside pickup concept or going to restaurants that are operated with social distancing inside. However, after three-and-a-half months of my own boring cutlery skills---or lack thereof---I’m almost desperate enough to try some oven baked chicken with peas dog chews followed by some pumpkin and apple dog fruitables for dessert.

At least the grocery store has started selling mixed boxes of fruit again so I can have an assortment of berries on my morning cereal or start making protein drinks again. I’ve missed raspberries and black berries. My life that revolves around the grocery store supply chains is returning to near normal again. Still no disinfecting wipes, barista Sweet Foam or liquid hand soap but at least I’m not going to die from missing my coffee additive. It just feels that way. The wipes are an easy work around but it took me a while to come up with my secret solution for an alternate for liquid hand soap. Dawn dish soap in my hand pumps. If you can wash wild life in the stuff to get oil spills off the poor critters it must be safe for humans and they say to kill the covid-19 virus you don’t need anti-bacterial soap, you only need something to break up the oils in the virus. By the way, don’t spread my secret solution around! If it gets scarce I’m blaming you guys. 

I spent the entire mandatory stay-at-home orders living off comfort foods, baking too much and moving too little, gaining too many pounds. Last week I gave up sugar. Hard because I would shoot liquid sugar up my veins when I'm stressed out, if I could. This week I’m (trying to) add walks to my routine. One day---hopefully soon---I’ll get totally disgusted with myself and then I’ll be ready to start a warp-speed approach to dieting which for me, involves two liquid meal replacement meals a day and one sensible real food meal. First I have to finish kicking myself in the head for allowing pandemic induced stress and food insecurities to rule my life. I hate that my pantry is filled to the brim with panic buying. I’ve been here before at the Self-Loathing Station waiting to step off the platform. I'll get there but it's hard.

The fact that my state is (carefully) easing back into something short of normal commerce is helping me get my bad habits under control. Goodwill is accepting donations again with changes when you pull up to their door---you sort your own stuff into big boxes sitting outside and only one person is allowed under their canopy at a time. I was able to get to recycling today and was not surprised that I had to wait in line to pull into one of their twelve parking places in front of the roll-off recycling bins even though they've been open for a few weeks. The bottle return across the street is open, too, with every other machine blocked off and there were at least twenty people waiting in line with overflowing shopping carts full of bottles and cans. There was a one cart per person rule but I don’t drink much pop so I didn’t need that line. (I have maybe 30 mini sized cans since January and they can wait until a kid comes along doing a can drive to fund a school event.) Had the hazardous waste station been open, though, I would have gladly waited in that line. I go through a lot of printer ink cartridges while printing e-Bay labels, packing slips and listing forms and the longer they hang around the house the more I’m tempted to throw them in the trash. But I don't. We’ve abused Mother Nature enough and she is fighting back. Seriously, she just brought a 4,000-mile-long dust storm from the Sahara Desert to America! Haven’t we had enough drama for one year? 

I hadn’t been to the bank since early March... I’m not fond of using drive-up windows but their lobby still isn't open and I was getting desperate. I don’t like those the pneumatic tubes that sends your business flying overhead then drops the tubes in the teller area. People think that technology a fairly recent invention (in old-people speak 'recent' is 30-35 years) but the first patent for a system for delivering items by air pressure and vacuum was issued in 1854 and they’ve been in use ever since. They were used extensively at the stock exchange and the post office even before the 1900s. The turn-of-the-century brought them into large department stores and by mid-century they were in big-time use in buildings through out Washington D.C. I don’t like using them because I can’t reach them without unfastening my seat belt and opening the car door which bangs against the stupid cement posts, if I'm not careful.

I asked the teller when they expect the lobby to be open again and she said as soon as all the branches have their Plexiglas in place. “I’ll bet they'll be with us for a long time” I replied and she wrinkled up her nose and said, “Waste of money. The virus is totally over-blown.” That night I decided that when I run errands I’m going to make notations on my day planner of the times I was at the places I go. Why? Contact tracing. The local news had just listed the names of five area restaurants and said if anyone was at them between such-and-such of time on such-and-such day they need to call the health department and self-quarantine because they’d been exposed to Covid-19. One place alone was responsible for over two dozen people getting sick. And idiots like the bank teller who think the virus is a media hoax are going to keep spreading it. Ready or not, here comes summer in Pandemic Land. ©

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Picking Out New Eyeglass Frames

Picking out eye wear in the age of Covid-19 was complicated in a shop full of signs that all read, "Do not touch the frames." There is something about signs like that that makes some of us want to do the opposite of what they're warning against, but for the sake of preventing mass extinction of the human race I kept my hands to myself. Hundreds of off-limit frames in that place and they all looked the same anyway. If you read my last post you'll know I went into the place lusting for either gaudy rainbow colored glasses or big, horn-rimmed librarian style frames that I could hide behind. Be still my heart, while looking for a picture of my dream glasses online I found a pair on James Bond that he wore in A View to Kill.

Over the past twenty years I’ve often fantasized about being an international spy. (Family caregivers gotta have a fantasy in place for when the medical community swallows you up while endlessly making you waiting for tests, appointments and therapies.) Being in the spy business, James Bond’s horn-rimmed glasses were tricked out so he could see through tinted windows which could be quite useful if you’re trying to shoot someone in a moving car. I won’t need that upgrade but I do like spy gadgets. Have I mentioned that I still have my Captain Midnight secret decoder ring that I got by sending cereal box tops into the Great Giver of Tiny Toys? I also have a ring with a signal mirror. Spy gear has come a long way since my youth and I’d be hard pressed to find a use for one of Bond’s classic cigarette and toothpaste bombs but you’ve got to admit a Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine would be pretty cool.

Back on topic: At my appointment to pick out new frames masks were required, my temperature was taken and I had to stay in my car until they came to escort me into the place. (Same procedure for the blood lab, eye doctors' office and the hair salon.) "But how on earth do you pick out eyeglass frames while wearing a mask?" you ask. I was wondering the same thing. Turns out I'd point to ones I liked and they put them in a box. Then I took the box into a room all by myself where I was allowed to take the mask off. Supposedly they sanitized the room in between appointments.

I didn’t mind being in the room alone because the last time I tried to pick out frames the salesperson was pushy, trying to talk me into a particular pair with gold frames. I never shop well with a Helpful Hannah on my heels and even telling her I never, ever wear gold jewelry didn’t penetrate her sales pitch. I hated her guts by the time I left. Remember the Color me Beautiful fad that was going around where you got 'colorized' at a party or department store by a person who draped you with a bunch of fabrics, then told you what season your skin tone is based on the four seasons? I still have my book of winter color swatches and I still use it as a guideline. No gold accessories for winter women! Thank you very much.

I don’t like the frames I got this time as well as the frames I came into the shop wearing. At first glance they look like they should have a piece of masking tape holding them together while some kid finishes playing the basketball game where the bridge got broken. On second glance you notice they’re a dark plum, not black, and they flash plum, lavender and turquoise as the light catches them. When they come in I’m getting new prescriptions put in my old glasses so I’ll have a choice of eye wear. Can you believe it will take between two to five weeks for them to make the glasses. Covid-19 supply chain issues. Or so I was told.

The day I got a haircut I was belly aching about all the junk my ears had to hold up---glasses, hearing aids, earrings, mask and headband. No, I didn’t forget I wrote about that in last blog post but I didn’t tell you that the stylist asked me if I had contact lens that I could wear. Do you ever have the perfect answer to questions two hours later---or is it just me? Either way, I should have told her I can barely find my glasses when I’m not wearing them, how would I ever find my eyes to plop contacts in? But I gave her a one word, boring “No.” 

Sometimes I wish I could hook a tape recorder up to my brain so all my best thoughts didn’t get lost in the inertia of going through my daily routines. If I had that recorder back in my caregiver days I probably would have had spy thriller novel listed on Amazon by now. I wish a lot and I also wish I still had the quick wit and easy come backs of my carefree youth. But in the past five years I can’t always trust what comes out of my mouth. I’ll be planning to say one thing and something else pop out. Full disclosure: it big-time ticks me off because I’ve worked so hard to overcome dyslexic when I read and write only to develop another tick in my communications skills? And if you’re thinking somewhere along the line I probably had a TIA in the speech and language hemisphere of my brain, that’s my theory too.

One time when I was talking to my husband’s neurologist about the stroke damage in his brain and I asked the doctor what happens to a person who is dyslexic and has a stroke since our wiring is half-assed backward to begin with. His eyes lit up and he said, “That’s an interesting question!” Don’t you just hate non-answering answers like that? Actually, he did add a few more blab, blab, blab sentences that scared the crap out of me so I promptly erased them from my memory bank because he might as well have said, “Your brain is going to be a pile of runny scrambled eggs.” Fortunately, I like scrambled eggs so maybe I can work it, rock it and own it. ©

New frames -colors hard to photograph
Old frames - stainless steel also hard to photograph