Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Love and Laughter Memories...

For most of January I've had three posts in my blog scheduler at any given time. I was on a writing jag which has its good and bad sides. Good because I like it when words freely flow down from my brain to my fingertips and magically appear on my computer screen to send out into the world. That a human can do that is a miracle, isn’t it, and it started back in ancient civilizations when they developed language followed by the written word. The miracle continued with the invention of the typewriter and computers followed by the development cyberspace and the blog platforms that I love. Having spent 12 ½ years watching my husband struggle with language disorders after his massive stroke makes me truly appreciate what a complex thing it is to communicate in any form. I won’t get too deep in the weeds regarding the damage the stroke did to the communication center of his brain but for anyone new to my blog I'll just say that his aphasia, agraphia and apraxia speech issues were comparable to a car that has a functioning motor (the brain) and wheels that work (the lips and tongue) but the transmission in between the two is shot thus the car can’t go/the speech and written words can’t flow.

A new month is beginning soon but I'm ending January by torturing myself with CDs. The impeachment trial in the Senate has been on my TV but for large parts of my days the volume as been turned down so low I can’t hear it. I’d listened to every minute of the impeachment inquiry in the House and was pretty sure I wouldn’t be hearing anything I didn’t already know. Still, I wanted to be counted by the powers that be as a household that is ‘keenly interested’ in the coverage. The decision to listen to CDs came with complications. It had been so long since I've done it that I had to google my Sony player to figure out how to use it. But before I could do that I had to get out the magnifying glass and a flashlight to find the model name and number. But before that, I had dug through my downsized folder of small appliance manuals and I couldn’t find the one for the CD/cassette and radio. It must have gotten accidentally thrown out during my filing cabinet purge and I blame that evil Marie Kondo for that! Ever do that? Decide you want to do something and it turns into a big chain of steps that makes you wonder if you really want to do what you thought you did in the first place? 

My husband was into music more than I ever was and one of his favorite recording artists was Joe Cocker. So the torture part of my day came when I put on one of his albums. Unchain my Heart: track one. Then it came, track two, the one that never fails to bring back sweet memories of a playful romp in the hay, as they say. “Baby take off your coat. Real slow. And take off your shoes, I'll take off your shoes. Baby take off your dress. Yes yes yes. You can leave your hat on.” I had come into the house one afternoon just as those words came blasting out of Don’s office and as I took off my coat, he sang along with Joe, “You can leave your hat on.” Our eyes locked and the slow striptease began as the song's chorus repeated and it ended next door in the bedroom. And, yes, I kept my hat on the entire time.

I have no idea how often a couple who’d been together for 42 years has sex or makes love but my memory often picks out four times to replay in my head from time to time, right down to the minute detail. If I’m being honest here I’d admit there are more times I could recount down to the nitty-gritty if I set my mind to it but I’ve got too many things to do and places to go and day-dreaming won’t get them done. And I question if I should even be sharing the top four in a public forum but here it goes, fresh out of their lock box. One of those top four memories I already wrote about up above. Another was outside under the stars at Lookout Park…memorable because we both got covered with poison ivy that we passed back and forth the entire long, hot summer. We both ended up regretting that romp au naturale but it was wickedly fun at the time. The third memory I take out of its place of honor from time to time happened on the evening of the day I label the happiest day in my life. It also happened under the stars but on the bed of our pickup truck out west. Our mamas didn't raise any fools. No more rolling around in unknown vegetation for us after Lookout Park.

The fourth time was actually the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh time all rolled into one night and it was straight out of a romance novel. The kind of love scene/s that starts out hot and sexy and leaves you breathless and spent, then after a while to recover it progresses into deep, passionate sex that leave you in awe of how deeply it makes you feel, followed by a bonding and wordless kind of love making that leaves you both with tears in your eyes, and ending the night with a slow and gentle pairing that comes with whispered words when you both know you've found THE ONE. 

I once read a book on how to writing romance novels that said couples who don’t have those four different kinds of experiences over a short time span might stay together happily but they aren’t bonded together for life in the same way as couples who do experience that kind four-for-the-price-of-one kind of "imprinting" on one another and I suppose that explains why some widows and widowers can jump back into another relationship after their spouse dies and, others like me, find that idea laugh out-loud funny or repulsive, depending on the mood I’m in. ©

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Snow Plowing Memories at the Guy-Land Cafteria

When I drove up to the Guy-Land Cafeteria I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Parked out front was a line of snowplows, reminding me of all the years my husband’s crew did the same after a hard night behind the wheel. It was 11:30 in the morning so these guys were running very late. Most snowplow contracts state, “Plowing is done between midnight and 7:00 AM. The 2” trigger depth must be met by midnight to ensure service by 7:00 AM.” Some people don’t seem to read those contracts and they’ll be on the phone complaining at 6:00 if there’s an inch of snow on their driveway. The later the snow comes the bigger the chance that the plow drivers will be sitting in rush hour traffic not able to get around their route. That’s why they don’t promise/contract daytime plowing. That’s not to say they don’t plow in the daytime. They do, especially if there’s a major blizzard with no end in sight when they’ll plow around the clock. 

Snowplowing is a business that is extremely hard on human bodies and trucks. But there wasn’t a single aspect of plowing that Don didn’t like except maybe the lack of sleep. Even on the nights when we didn’t have to plow we were either up checking lots for that 2” trigger point or to tidying up the edges of our lots or cleaning up where a car or semi had been parked overnight. Even if there was no snow for several days in a row we couldn’t sleep because our days and nights got twisted around.

After going through the cafeteria line to put in my order and pay, I picked a table near the snowplowers hoping to hear about their night. I already knew they weren’t county or city plowers, but I wanted to know if they were they driveway plowers or commercial contractors like we were. Each class of plowers has a different kind of tale to tell. My favorite story is about playing what we called rat hockey. Once in a while a rat would venture out on a parking lot of a large multiplex movie theater where we had just freshly plowed and it was escorted across the lot with two or three trucks chasing him, turning our plows blades back and forth to make the rat fly across the icy surface. We’d “steal” the rat from each other when it was sliding to flick it again until he was at the edge of the lot and he’d run on top of a snow bank. As far as we could tell no rat ever got hurt but it’s a wonder none of us never collided. But the drivers at the Guy-Land cafeteria were driveway plowers who were more apt to tell stories about half naked woman standing in front of windows without the drapery pulled. 

I just got nicely settled at my table ready to relish the eavesdropping opportunity when the snowplowers left, a huge disappointment. If I was a gutsy person and I’d had more time I might have asked if I could do a ride-along sometime. People asked us that often enough to call it a ‘thing’ and I used to ball my husband out for letting strangers into his truck in the middle of the night. One guy in particular was a frequent ride-a-long. He slept in a dumpster at the movie theater and Don was a sucker for giving him a chance to warm up. Me? There were aspects of plowing that I liked but for the most part I wasn’t a fan of leaving a warm house to go out in the worst weather. Cold. Dark. At times dangerous. And I wouldn’t have worked for anyone else. I got privileges the other plowers never enjoyed. For example, I was never sent to the smaller lots we contracted because I didn’t want to be plowing alone. I stayed on the theater or mall where help was near-by if a hydraulic line broke or the bolts holding the cutting blade snapped. The guys could deal with this stuff but I’d call Don to fix my woes.

I plowed snow for seventeen years and even before that I was a ride-long on nights when they’d been plowing non-stop and Don needed a distraction to help keep him awake. It was on one of those nights when I ended up behind the wheel and I don’t mind saying I was a natural at it. I knew plow patterns and techniques from watching him, of course, but it also takes a certain amount of logic to do commercial lots because the conditions of the snow, the time of the day, the number of cars parked overnight, etc., all factored into to the plow patterns. Don always bragged that I was the best plower he’d ever had and he wasn’t puffing me up. I was good and I’d seen my share of guys who actually caused more work on the lots than they needed to do just by the way they went about things. People are usually surprised when I say I’ve lost my confidence driving in the winter and to that I say, “Give me a heavy pickup truck with a flashing yellow light on top and put me on the road in the middle of the night when few other drivers are out there and I’d get my confidence back.” 

Back in my day of plowing women snow plowers were extremely rare---I may have been the first in the city---and I used to love the expression on people’s faces when I’d climb out of my truck to go inside the Guy-Land Cafeteria with our crew. A woman plower doesn't even turn a head in this century. In 2018 a woman in town even won the annual snowplow rodeo. The crew I saw at the cafeteria? They had one woman and a half dozen guys, just like we had. ©

NOTE: Photo at the top is of Don and me in front of the smallest of three front-end loaders that we used to stack snow on the malls and theater where we plowed. We called them Poppa, Mamma and Baby.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Trash Reading on Cold Winter Nights

I’ve gone into avoidance mode…avoiding the woes around the world, in my house and in my head. I’m pigging out on trash books not to be confused with trashy books. Although at Christmas I accidentally got one of those when I was searching for free reads on Kindle. It was supposed to be an anthology of twelve holiday romances but two stories into the book I ended up removing it from my device because it was two rungs below ‘erotica’---just rude, crude and raw sex scenes strung together. I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. I could list two dozen alternative names for the body parts most of us hide behind our underwear but just because you have your characters “do it” in front of a Christmas tree doesn’t make it a holiday romance. It ticks me out when book sellers miss-represent genre fiction. I don’t like getting snooker like that. And yes, I'm complaining about a free book which isn't fair, but we're not slicing pie for Boy Scouts here where fairness really counts.

Not wanting to take a chance on another so-called romance genre book I picked a free mystery from Amazon, called Honeymoon Cottage by Barbara Cool Lee. It was okay if you’re looking for mindless fodder to keep you from thinking about your personal woes. And that’s exactly what I was looking for. But it bugged that heck out of me that the author had the living room of the cottage facing the road, the kitchen facing the ocean and she called the beach side of the cottage the back yard. Any realtor who sells property on water will tell you that the road side of cottages are always the back and the water sides are the fronts. But when you get the cheap books at Amazon you’re often getting self-published stuff with no editors to point out annoying errors like that.

After that book I found myself at the dollar store standing in front of a rack of books and the author Julie Garwood caught my attention. I used to read her years ago, she was one of my favorite romance authors but the book in front of me, Wired, was classified as a “sexy, suspense novel.” It was about an FBI agent who was protecting a computer geek who ended up working in the cyber crime unit after they solved a few crimes together and fell in love. Julie still writes in a fashion that pleases me and the book turned me on to reading another FBI themed book titled Perilous Trust by Barbara Feethy which reminded me that in my caregiver days I loved reading ‘witness protection’ themed books, especially if the witness was relocated to an Amish community or a Cape Cod cottage. Ya, I know what you’re thinking. I should be reading the classics or something on the Times Best Sellers list. In my defense, when my problems build up to the point that I daydream about running away from home I want the kind of predictable plots you only get from genre fiction. On the outside I may have been Caregiver Extraordinaire but on the inside I was day-dreaming about someone taking care of me for a change, and I'm still attracted to the idea of someone watching my back if I ever get to milk cows or paint at the seashore. I want my very own U.S. Marshall from WITSEC, damn it! Is that too much to ask for? Well, ya, it is since I haven't personally witnessed a mob hit or a high crime or misdemeanor. 

I finished Barbara’s book and was back on Amazon looking for another cheap read and this time I was attracted to a $.99 book in the Sci-Fi genre by Ken Lozito. I looked up the publishing company to see if his nine space-themed books are self-published. They are and he owns the company. But book one in his ‘first colony’ series had 1,759 reviews with an average of 4 ½ stars so what did I have to lose? I’ve never read a ‘first colony’ genre book before so I had nothing to compare it to, but I liked it well enough to order the second book in the series for $4.99. I had to push myself to finish reading that book and by the time I was done my head was swimming in computer coding geek talk and military tactics. I can now safely say that wars fought in space are not my thing. I can also say if our world comes to an end in my lifetime I will not hop on an airship to go start a colony on another planet. Try as we might, human nature is human nature and we can’t leave it behind like a jackknife that the airport won’t let get past security. We've proven this point over and over again since Biblical times. Human beings will always be capable of love or hate, of petty jealousy or selfless generosity, and being a predator or a protector.

I shouldn’t be reading at all, it’s keeping me up too late and I can’t avoid the elephant-in-the-room that stalks around in my Januaries much longer anyway…the sadiversary of my husband’s passing. But I call tell you one book I won’t be reading---a book self-published by a woman who gave a lecture at the senior hall. She labeled her lecture a “Tribute to Detroit” and advertised it as “a photo journey through the Motor City now and then.” But what it really was was a marketing ploy to sell her book which was set in Detroit in the 1930s. All her photos related to the locations in various scenes in her book---a bait-and-switch book author talk. A cleaver way to lead people into her web and, heck, I was even thinking about buying her book until the very end when she read the description on her book's back cover revealing that the main characters are vampires. I don’t care how much I need a distraction I'd count the scales on a dead mackerel before I'd ever read a vampire book! The author's job before she retired was in the marketing department at Amway, my favorite locally based, international company to badmouth. She learned deception from the best.

After the lecture I went out for lunch with a couple of friends. We were all disappointed in the lecture for different reasons but we had a lively conversation which helped me begin the ascension out of my funk. One more week of trash books for me and I'll officially push the reset button in my head. ©