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, May 23, 2020

Memoral Day Hindsight and Ice Cream Cones


Memorial Day is fast approaching and I need to plan a trip to the cemetery to tend my husband’s gravesite which isn’t really a gravesite since he isn’t actually buried there. Part of his ashes are there and a stone that shows both our names and his birth and expiration dates. Expiration date, yup, if you have read the very first post I wrote in this blog you’d know why I’m using that word instead of saying the date he died. I can use it tongue-in-cheek now but back when he died this is what I wrote:

“Widowhood: Day one after the funeral. I made some calls today to notify people about Don’s passing. One was to the medical supply company that rented us his oxygen machine and the backup oxygen tanks to use during power outages that never happened. And the woman on the phone says, ‘And when was your husband’s expiration date?’

Expiration date? I thought. We’re not boxes of cereal with expiration dates stamped on our bottoms! If that were true we could have planned our lives better! And that thought got me to laughing and visualizing poor Don's bare butt with an expiration date tattooed on one cheek. No doubt Ms. Medical Supply Lady thought I was entirely too happy, given the nature of my call. I wasn't happy, of course, but I'd already used up my daily crying quota by noon and it was 2:00 in the afternoon.” 

I have since come to understand that no matter how a person talks to a newly minted widow they can’t win the wordage war. “When did you husband die?” “When was your husband’s expiration date?” Tomato tomahto. Emotions are raw. Tears are close at hand and we’re on the lookout for targets to aim our pain and anger. My target came in the form of an old friend who wrote in a condolence card words to the effect that now I was free to go have fun. Say what? She was lucky she didn’t say that to me in person and I’m proud of myself that I didn’t write that in a condolence card to her five years later when her husband died. I’m not proud to admit, however, that I thought about doing it but tit-for-tat is for children I finally decided. And I’m not proud of how much space that single sentence took up in my head. It festered and grew until I finally came to the conclusion that as inept as her words were she looked at my 12 ½ years of caregiving my husband as a long suffering burden---which wasn't the way I defined that period of my life---and in my new widow's shoes she’d want to go on a Caribbean cruise as soon as the ink dried on the life insurance check. Did I mention that’s exactly what she did after her husband died?

If we did come with expiration dates tattooed on butts, what date would I pick? I’m not a proponent of the Death with Dignity Movement by any stretch of the imagination. It’s too draconian for my tastes and ripe for misuse and murder. Nope, I’m not going under that bus with a little push from God knows who including someone with selfish reasons to want to me out of the way. Also not going to ride an iceberg off into an icy sea in a noble gesture to save the tribe from caring for the elderly. Who goes next, the disabled? The unemployed? But if I could whisper a hint in ear of the universe I’d pick my expiration date to be the day after my 100th birthday. How’s that for having a lofty goal for a Septuagenarian? 

Speaking of lofty goals, ohmygod I just did the math and if I’m going to finish reading War and Peace before I die I’ll need to read 73 words a day for the next twenty-two years! That’s so do-able if I could just get past the fact that I don’t care about Russian society or Napoleon’s invasion. If the main theme of Tolstoy’s tome is supposed to be that “family happiness is the ultimate reward for spiritual suffering” as one summary states why couldn't Leo have gotten that point across in less than 587,287 words? What I’m beginning to question why I'm still holding on to that grueling reading goal when another long-time, fun-filled goal gets overlooked. That one involves balancing an ice cream cone on the end of my nose before it drops on my chest and ends up on the sidewalk. (I was thirty going on twelve so don’t judge, but I still think I can do it even if I failed my first time out.) I’ve had the War and Peace goal for so long that I don’t remember how it came about but I’m guessing it has something to do with my dyslexia and coming to the doors of the library later than most---figuratively speaking. I should get real, admit that it’s a futile goal and model myself after a character in one of Pippa Grant’s romantic comedies who chants to herself: “Accept it and let it go. You are a river, constantly in motion, leave the past behind.” Never let it be said that you can’t find nudges of inspirational thought in trashy fiction. ©

47 comments:

  1. Hi Jean. I so relate to your opening "memorial day is fast approaching". The memorial days of my two eldest daughters are close to Easter and Christmas, as though I needed anything to remind me. Your goal to read 73 words of War and Peace a day reminded me of Charles Schulz's Snoopy from the Peanuts gang. His War and Peace reading schedule was a word a day. I've only just become interested in blogging. I'm glad to have discovered your Misadventures of Widowhood.

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    1. Welcome to the blogging community! I love having visitors from half way around the world. I've added you to my sidebar to help others find you.

      That is so funny about the Peanuts War and Peace reading schedule. I either didn't know it or had forgotten it. My husband was a huge Peanuts fan and had the coffee cups and tee-shirts to prove it.

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  2. Hi Jean. I read War and Peace a couple of years ago and loved it. I only read in bed before falling asleep and somehow finished it, so I say go for it. Truly a magnificent and majestic read and worth every hour of my time. Maybe you'll love it as well and if not, no big deal. Keep us posted. I love your blog. Thanks for keeping on.

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    1. Oh! My! Gosh! I have never met a single person who read War and Peace. You made my day! Thank you so much for sharing your 'review' and for the encouragement not to let go of my goal quite so soon.

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  3. Hi Jean, I have to admit that I have been bad at knowing what to say to people at memorials for their loved ones. I've made some blunders for sure but I do hope that my presence at the memorial lets them know that I care. Fortunately I'm much better at writing condolences.

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    1. I'm the same way, always better at writing my thoughts than saying them. That's be benefit of being able to edit and reword. I've decided that just a hug and "I'm so sorry you have to go through this" is my go-to words at funerals.

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    2. I so agree with you on the above advice.

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  4. So I used to tell my kids that when I got old and if I was terribly ill or senile, that they should take me to a favorite spot in a lovely park high above the river and push me off the cliff there. As I fell to my death, they would yell, "I love you, Mom!" in a long echoing voice. We would laugh about it then. As I have gotten older, I think, well that is not as funny now but I still don't want to live too long. I have had a good life and my parents suffered before they finally died so that is probably why I feel this way. Of course it is easy to talk this way when I am not dying, I wonder how I will feel when I am dying... You always get me thinking! Thanks for posting!

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    1. ya, but if your kids actually did that someone would see and they'd go to jail for murder. LOL

      I will probably be the one who begs for drugs if I have a lingering death march. But if it's just dementia I'm dealing with I've already made my wished known that I want my nieces read my blog posts to me so I'll remember who I was. Or maybe I should pick out someone else's blog, who lives a more interesting life, and have them read those to me instead. Little white lies don't hurt when you're dying. LOL

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  5. Ok now you have me interested in reading War and Peace. Kind of wish you hadn't done it but will add it to the list of to dos.
    Condolences are so hard yet so easy to do wrong. I try to do mine in writing so I can let it sit a day or so to see how it ages. I would have been so tempted to tag back to your friend her thoughtless one but like you said, that is what she planned to do so it would have been welcome to her.
    I only want to live long enough that I am still comfortable. If pain and misery set in, Ellen has a wonderful solution. That made me smile.

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    1. I'm kind of thinking maybe I should alter my goal and LISTON to War and Peace instead of reading it. Best of both worlds.

      Letting your condolence message marinate a day or two is a great idea. They are one of the hardest things we have to communicate in life. A month or so ago reread the cards I got when Don died eight years ago intending to finally throw them out and I ended up keeping 3-4 because they were so touching. I read a blog once of a widow who didn't read a single card, tossed them all unopened. Still don't understand that...

      I don't like heights so I'd die of fright long before anyone could push me off Ellen's cliff. LOL

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  6. I suspect trashing fiction probably has way more entertainment value and inspiration than dry reading that would be torturous to endure to the end. I remember the rave reviews and numerous Awards of even Movies I could not sit thru for more than the first 10 Minutes before Zoning out or walking out of the Theater. Of coarse I have an Attention Span about the length of your average Two Year Old, so what do I know!? As for appropriate condolences, there really are no Words, so I used to just give a compassionate Huge to the bereft. There really is no way to screw that up or offend during a Raw time that the individual is trying to cope with. As a Caregiver I do understand how many who've never done it tend to view it. As for the Widow who couldn't wait to go have Fun, perhaps the Relationship was a lot to do with that... from either her end, his end or both their ends I suspect? Some people go thru the Motions in relationships, some do have that Love Story... so I imagine Grief is influenced by the depth of the Love and Pain involved

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    1. I've been to movies that I wanted to walk out on but I've only done it once. It was foreign with subtitles and had I known that going in I wouldn't have. I fell for the chatter about how good it was without checking details.

      Yup, you get the whole caregiver/misconception thing. All marriages are different going into that caregiver/care percipient mode of a marriage and all the flaws that were there befprjamd get amplified is my take on the subject. Aside from the widow mentioned in my post, she got knocked up in high school and always wondered if the grass was greener on the other side of the street. Wore the pants in her family and she never could figure out what made Don and I tick. I know another widow who did the cruise ship within a few months of her husband dying. He her case they did have the Love Story but he made her promise to do all the things that his long illness got in the way of. So she kept going on cruises until all the insurance money was gone. Now she lives near poverty and can barely makes ends meet without working part time at nearly 80. I've often wondered if her husband would extracted that death bed wish promise out of her if he'd known how it turned out. People are so interesting in all our quirky forms!

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    2. God my typos were terrible, sorry, it was 3 in the Morning! *LOL*

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    3. Not to worry. I read in dyslexia mode and didn't see a single one. LOL

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  7. I'm amazed that you could write so humorously the day after your husband's funeral. Of COURSE you spent the morning crying....and found laughter too. I think that's the only way we survive the worst.

    Ive been craving ice cream so much lately, I'd never risk it falling to the sidewalk!

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    1. I tried to hone writing with humor with my caregiver blog that I started a couple of years after Don's stroke. I started out doing a gratitude journal just looking for five things a day that made me smile because life was so stressful back then. My posts on a caregiver site seemed to resonate with others and the rest is blogger history.

      I carve ice cream too and so far I haven't bought any during the pandemic. I know if I do I'll get it in one sitting. I miss Starbucks and their ice cream drinks.

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  8. Sorry, but I laughed at the expiration date before. It’s still funny; I should know since my husband also had one, although nobody called it s
    that.

    I read WaP many years ago, at least that’s what I am saying; it may be that I saw the film and only read half the book. I also never finished In Search of Lost Time which has
    4215 pages and runs to 1,267,069 words.

    Life’s too short and soon nobody will care what I’ve read or not read. Including me myself.

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    1. I still think it's an odd way to ask someone about the date someone died.

      You are a pragmatic woman. I get obsessed with goals I set for myself and don't achieve.

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  9. what happened to my comment?

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  10. ok, I forgot, visible after approval

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    1. I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten that comments disappear before approval. On one blog I embarrassed myself by writing at least six of the same comment before I finally read the screen to see the message about 'visible after approval.'

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  11. Well - one of the definitions of expire is "to die" so I guess it's not too much of a stretch to say expiration.

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    1. LOL Nope, not a stretch. Saying someone expired just sounds so much different to me than saying someone has an expiration date.

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  12. I like the term expiration date! There are so many ways to inform people that my hubby is dead ... but I try to keep the smart aleck responses in my head.

    I am totally FOR Death with Dignity. In Oregon (and we were first so I bet all states do) you have to get two doctors to determine you have less than 6 months to live. YOU get the medicine and you have to administer it. I'm a total baby about pain so I want the choice. Mr. Ralph could have used it but he refused to leave Maui because he didn't want to die in the rain! Good on him!

    My mentor advised me what to say at funerals ... just a simple "I'm sorry for your loss". I haven't been to a funeral in in 20 years! If I send a note it is a personalized brief note: "I’m so sorry for the loss of your _____husband_______, ___Ralph_____. I know there aren’t words available to make you feel better, but I hope and know that your feelings and memories of the good times you shared will last a lifetime." And it was written to Kate upon the death of her horse. But it says it all! Human or otherwise.

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    1. I like your condolence message for cards. I can't believe you haven't been to t funeral in 20 years! I go to 1 or 2 a year, I never avoid them. Don worked at a funeral home for a couple of years and he was stuck a stickler about going that I guess it's rubbed off on me.

      I knew you support the Death with Dignity Movement.

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  13. The loss of a loved one is hard and we describe their death in many ways

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    1. You've got that right. Even when you see it coming over a long period of time.

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  14. I'm afraid I like the phrase, "When in doubt, snuff me out." My job right now is to be as happy and healthy as I can be so our daughter doesn't have to worry about us. But it can't last forever so no ventilators, etc. to keep me going when it's time for my body to go.

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    1. You make me laugh with your 'when in doubt, snuff me out.' Of course, when I say I want to live to a 100 I'm summing I'll be walking around and living on my own just like three of my aunts who did live over 100 and even worked running a business at their ripe old ages.

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  15. I have a puzzle on the kitchen table that may take me as long to finish as War and Peace will take you. My eyes are not what they once were, but what is. I only read Anna Karenina a few years ago. Now I'm back to mysteries and thrillers and fun reads. My lit teacher, Mrs. Gay, would be disappointed in me. She used to say, "Read all the good books first or you'll never get to them."

    People say the most foolish things sometimes. Your "friend" who sent the condolence card was definitely seeing through her own eyes what she imagined she would have felt if in your shoes. I'm copying JB's condolence message and saving it for future reference.

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    1. I miss doing puzzles! This past winter was the first time in 20 years I didn't do a massively, hard puzzle going on my table.

      Anna Karenina. Maybe I should try that Tolstoy novel instead of War and Peace. It actually looks easier to follow with less characters to keep track of? I'm impressed that you've read it without a lit teacher standing over you with a whip. LOL

      JB's condolence message is a good one. I really don't have trouble writing them, though. One thing I've picked up along the way when talking to someone who is grieving is to use the person's name...not husband, father, mother, sister, etc.

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    2. More about reading Big Books. I only read for pleasure, so if it doesn't please me, I put it down. No guilt about it. I find that I have a preference for big, juicy books. I enjoy being immersed in a story, a place, and characters that I'll be sad to leave once it's over. But that's just me. The last time I read something as an "assignment" was when I was a kid. When I allow myself to read for pleasure, I almost always go for a long book and have enjoyed Dickens, Tolstoy and a lot of contemporary novels that are long ones. I sprinkle in shorter ones for sure. Just depends on my mood. Bottom line is that there's no need to give yourself an assignment. Maybe try one of those big honkers, but if you don't enjoy it, adios!

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    3. I wish my Kindle was loud enough because if it was I'd listen to War and Peace...I really do like to understand why certain books (and movies) have the reputation they have.

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  16. I thought about War and Peace during quarantine. Then I decided life is (or could be) too short and I'd rather watch the mini-series. (Netflix) I'm not short of books! And life is too short for required reading,unless you're under the age of 21. It's noble, but not essential!

    The expiration date is an interesting thought. Mine will be "Good till it's not." Which is probably better than "When product smells, discard."

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  17. People say the most insane things when trying to comfort the bereaved. I think as we age, provided we gain a bit of experience and wisdom, we find the simplest expressions are the best. Because, really, there is nothing we can say that will make it better and having someone acknowledge our pain is all there is.

    I haven't taken on War & Peace and I can't say I intend to. Right now, I am reading things that really grab me or I wouldn't stick with them for a minute. I've started packing boxes, although DH refuses to pack anything that is visible in the house until it closes. He keeps saying until it's final, it could fall through and we could have to show the house again. I'm more optimistic than that, so I am packing cupboards and filling the garbage can weekly - mostly with things no one would care about or notice. And we have less than two weeks to the close, and then only 20 days to get out. YIKES.

    As for end of life, one of my brothers lives on acreage, and during deer hunting season one year, he saw a deer down near his pool. He went upstairs, opened the window and that was his buck that year. DH keeps saying when he gets "to that point" (whatever that point is...LOL), he is going down by my brother's pool wearing Christmas antlers and he wants my brother to take him out. It's ridiculous, but one of his favorite dumb jokes. Insert eyeroll.

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    1. Your brother's deer antlers isn't any crazy than my husband's death joke. He had quit drinking in 1972 and quit smoking in 1980-ish and said if he found out he was dying he'd buy a bottle of whiskey and a carton cigarette. Makes me kind of sad now that I'm just remembering that and I didn't help him go out with a drink and a smoke.

      I'd feel same way has your husband about not packing until the sale is finished. When I sold a house 20 years ago I got to the closing to find out the buyer wasn't going to show and what's worse he never wrote the earnest check and both realtors covered that up until then when I confronted them about it.

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    2. Oh lordy. That is a horror story! And I was upset by the previous buyers who went under contract and back out within three days. We do have earnest money and all the inspections are passed, so I am hoping for the best. I do admit to being a cockeyed optimist most days. LOL.

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  18. The etymology of 'expire' is interesting. It's rooted in from ex --'out'-- and spirare, 'to breathe.' So: to breathe out. Of course, there's also 'inspire,' to breathe in. So in that sense, we're expiring every time we breathe. The trick is to inspire, too!

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    1. I learn so much from you. I would still never use the term 'expiration date' to refer to a human but if now longer drives me crazy like it did when I first heard after my husband died.

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  19. The only funeral I've ever gone to is my father's. I hated it; it was a terrible strain on all of us. I think funerals are an awful custom, to be honest. Instead, I send food to the family, or if that is not appropriate, provide another service, like child care, cleaning, or driving. Of course, I also send a personal letter of condolence.

    I've told my own family that I would rather they not have a funeral for me, but since I'll be dead, they should do whatever comforts them. I won't be there anyway.

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    1. What you do to makeup for not going to funerals is more than enough. But my husband would have told you they are all about closure for family and friends. I've been to a ton of funerals and many of them do that because you get to hear a lot of people share stories of a side of the deceased you've never heard or about a part of their lives you didn't know about. My mom and I were close, for example, but I really didn't know how many people how many people she quietly helped out of tough situations. My husband's funeral had us all laughing so hard it was comforting to know he wouldn't be easily forgotten. Stuffy religion, by the book funeral with no reference to the deceased are the worst. I don't really like the whole 'don't have anything' because people need to connect at times like that.

      What you told your family is spot on because no matter what the do or don't do they will not feel guilty for their choices. I myself really needed to focus on the planning for my husband's to get through those first few days.

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  20. I think you would enjoy The Last Station, a film about Tolstoy starring Helen Mirren. I confess I have tried and failed to read War and Peace.
    People can say the most thoughtless things. It still irritated the Crap outta me that people would say We'll pray for ya" after my accident. I don't know why people cannot say someone died. "We lost ****" is another. What, did you take him to the park and he just wandered off?
    Everyone should have a living will. I have a DNR. I told a friend that if I get sent to another nursing home I hope he would take me out for the day and have a little hunting accident. There won't be anyone reading to you if you get dementia. There won't be any visits from concerned relatives. Unless they visit your attorney to check on the will.
    I have read a lot about children and others who have died and then came back. It's not at all scary on the other side. I worry more about suffering on this side. The surgeon told me I died three times after my accident but I have no memory of it. I was in a coma for over two weeks. I do remember waking up and the ordeal of getting back on my feet.

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    1. I may have seen The Last Station, now that you mention it. I have a really bad memory for some things.

      Laughing out loud at 'taking a loved one to the park and he just wandered off.'

      I have a living will for health care and POA for finances. Anyone who doesn't is living in denial that could cause so much trouble and stress for family if something happens.Like you accident. Sounds like you must have had unfinished business here on earth to have fought so hard and won your way back to getting back on your feet again.

      I know plenty people---myself included who regularly visited people with dementia in nursing homes. My two of attorneys are a good bet that they will visit because I've seen them do it with others elderly people they loved. My mother-in-law had dementia and was in a nursing home for 7 years and we went every week all those years and we did read to her once in a while. All families are different. One of my sister-in-laws never visited because she "wanted to remember our M-I-L the way she was."

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  21. I think I did not express what I meant by people not coming to see us in care homes. I meant that with Covid being more prevalent in nursing homes people would be reluctant to spend any time hanging out. I think this virus is pretty much here to stay and will continue to be a big problem in nursing homes. I didn't mean to imply your relatives don't care for you.

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    1. Now, see I don't expect to be in a nursing home for at least 10 years---yes and unicorns fart glitter bombs---so I didn't connect your words with the here and now. And you are right about no one is wanting to or being allowed to visit nursing homes now in the age of Covid-19.

      You and I...we're still good. LOL

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