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. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Grocery Store and the Grumpy Woman

Before the pandemic I was the woman who loved to go grocery shopping. I loved reading labels and browsing the international aisle where it was my mission to bring home something I’ve never tried before. Of course, now we’re encouraged not to stick around inside the store any longer than necessary and to not touch stuff we’re not going to purchase. The Covid-19 cases and deaths have been spiking again in my state, probably---I'm guessing---from people getting careless around family and friends or getting pandemic fatigue so yesterday when I went shopping I was on high alert.

I was shocked to see so many shelves empty again…like they were at the beginning of the pandemic. Only instead of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, peanut butter and flour being in short supply it was canned goods, creamers and hand soaps among other things. There was so much open space in the canned vegetable section that I panicked and bought a two cans of Lima beans. I haven’t eaten Lima beans since the Carter administration. But I heard the voices in my head of my parents talking about the hardships and shortages they lived with during WWII and I ended up pandemic buying things I don't need in brands I've never used.

It’s just so weird shopping now, mask in place while trying to stay six feet from others wearing masks. And for the very few not wearing masks I try to hold my breath when passing by them. Most of them give off such negative vibes that I bristle at the sight of those unmasked faces. Yes, yes, I know some people have health issues that prevent them from wearing a mask but when I tried to look up what health conditions we’re talking about I found out that no U.S. health agency has specified any particular health issue where exemptions should apply other than being unconscious or otherwise not be able to remove a mask on your own. Each state has their own ambiguous or vague mask exemption clause if they mandate wearing them at all.

I was in a checkout line when I got irritated with the young guy in front of me who had his nose buried so far in his phone that he wasn’t moving forward when the line ahead of him moved. There was easily fifteen feet between him and the next shopper. He was either playing Candy Crush or sexting with his girlfriend and since I’ve been reading a lot of romance books lately I opted to believe that he was doing the latter. So I cut him some lack and allowed his chuckles to add fuel to my imagination, giving me more patience while I wished I was tall enough to read over his shoulder. And it was a good thing I did put on my serenity hat because his eyes barely left his phone as he got checked out and he pushed his cart out of the lane. He’s probably still sexting at the front of the store, where I last saw him. He had beer in his cart, chips and condoms. (Okay, I made the condoms up but he really was still in the store with his phone when I left.)

There were eight lanes open at the store and I got the one where a deaf mute guy was working the cash register. I pitched a mini-fit inside my head because since the pandemic began my social life depends on getting a little friendly conversation from store personal and this guy wouldn't even make eye contact. I’ve been through his lane before but this time I was a Needy Nellie and he wasn’t going to be the one to serve me a heaping of much needed but meaningless chit-chat. And apparently I had used up all my patience on lover-boy and his phone so when the cashier took all my frozen food out of the store-provided clear plastic bags to keep them cold and he didn’t bother to put them back in after scanning them---he just chucked them into a paper bag---I was super-sized annoyed. But even if I had complained and he could read lips there was no way he could have done it through a mask. When I bag my frozen stuff I line up all the codes so they can easily be seen and scanned with a hand scanner and in all the years I’ve been doing that, no one have ever taken my frozen food out of those clear plastic bags. I truly understand why the guy avoided making eye contact. He probably sees a lot of annoyed and angry faces and has no idea why. And don't remind me that I need to make allowances for the possibility that his hand scanner didn't work; I'm holding on to my grumpy mode for a little while longer.

For a while the store had a cashier who had no arm from the elbow down. I had gone through her line a couple of times before I realized she was scanning and bagging groceries one-handed and was doing it more efficiently that many two handed workers. She was fast and had a friendly persona and I wished she’d stayed around. She was inspirational. Back in those days, I had a book on how to do things one-handed because I was trying to learn how so I could teach my husband those skills after his stroke. It took a lot practice to do what she accomplished. 

Back then (and maybe now) the store took part in a program that helps physically and mentally disabled people train for various jobs around the community, trying to find them a good fit. The program, rather than the employer insures, pays and manages any issues that come up with their charges. I used to know a twenty-something girl with Down Syndrome in the program and she got a permanent job offer putting parts in plastic bags. She absolutely loved her job. The deaf-mute guy, if he's in that program, will get his work evaluated after x-number of weeks and be written up as needing to learn to make eye contact. If he can't do it, then they'd move him to a job that doesn't put him face-to-face with the public. And if I was in a program  like that I’d have to work on being less grumpy while shopping during a pandemic. 

There I did it, I wrote my grumpy mood away. I found my empathy and reminded myself that the world does not revolve around my wants and needs. And for the bonus round, with any luck I might discover that I actually like Lima beans. ©

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

God, Religion and Growing up Without a Church

 

When I was a kid, my parents didn't go to church but we lived within walking distance to four-five different denominations of Christian churches and for a couple of years my brother and I were required to walk down to which ever church we wanted to on Sundays until we turned 10 or 12. We tried them all and we also went to some summer day camps sponsored by churches and I still have a silhouette of praying children I made at one of them. I'm not sure if my folks ever found out but there came a point when we'd sometimes go up to the Indian mounds instead going to a church where we spent the time looking for arrowheads, which I count as part of my spiritual growth. You can't walk on those mass graves sites without thinking about the cycle of life, other cultures and our places in the world.

Back in those days the town I grew up in was called the City of Churches and when it comes to religion it was a source of anxiety for me whenever the topic came up. My earliest memory of religion being a hurtful thing was on a playground when a pigtailed little girl told me she could no longer play with me because my parents didn’t go to church. I’d been to her house after school the day before and I guess her mom determined my family was unfit. In high school I had the same thing happen when a boy I dated took me home and his parents made him quit dating me after they found out I wasn’t tied to a church of their liking. In between those two incidents I worked at honing the skill of ducking all questions and conversations that involved religion and I kept that going until just a few years ago when I flat out told a Red Hat Society sister that I didn't go to church, when asked that dreaded question. She was kinder than the little girl with pigtails of my youth but the shoulder she gave me after that had cooled. Or could it have been my pre-programed imagination working overtime? Some childhood scars never really heal.

In college I took three classes on comparative world religions, one was at a large university, two were at a small Catholic college. They made it clear---at least to me---that at their core all religions have the same basic values. And when on a debate website two years ago this question came up: 'Is the world better or worse off because religions were established' this is what I wrote, “The evolution of morality was well on its way thanks to the Great Philosophies before the major religions were founded so I believe the world would have been just fine without the introduction of religion. However, Christianity tends to translate the messages taught by its founder into a worship of its founder and I have a real problem with that. Jesus, like the founders of other world religions, was a link in the evolutionary progress of societies trying to develop their sense of right and wrong. He just had better a 'press corp' than other founders of the major religions preaching with similar creation stories and parables. Religion is a living entity, changing and growing in acceptance. Some are just farther along in that process than others, but they all have there dark moments in history."

The way I was treated growing up by ‘good' Christians, makes it hard for me to respect any Christian denomination that claims that a belief in Jesus is the only path to finding God or salvation. I also have a hard time with the personification of God, even calling him/it the Supreme Being which is inclusive of other cultures and religions is too super-sized humanizing to me. I prefer to call it the God-Power which takes away the image of a man in the sky controlling everything like I was taught in those early years at Sunday school. I was in my mid-twenties when these thoughts jelled for me after a minister at a church where I was setting up flowers for a wedding told me, "The secret to understanding God is there is no secret. God is love and love is God. It's as simple as that." After our conversation is when I started using the term the God-Power. The power of love can save the world.

Up until the Great Book Purge last summer I had an unread book on my shelf titled, The God Delusion. I don't know much about Hitchens other than he also wrote, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. But I know enough about finding new friends to know I shouldn’t have that book sitting on my shelf when I move to the continuum care campus. The place is a non-profit supported by a deeply entrenched denomination here in town. So I know that I’ll have to go back to my lifetime ways of not being completely open about my views on religion, of avoiding conversations about churches.

Rightly or wrongly, I label myself an agnostic because I don't believe in a heaven or hell---we make our own heaven or hell right here on earth by the way we live our lives. And I define God as the combined goodness of mankind (love) and the devil as the combined evil of mankind (hate)---I got that definition from my dad. I see God more as an internal force, a power that drives us all to try to do good in our lives. If people need to go to church to be prompted to do good things, fine. I can respect that, even admire that as long as they don’t in turn look down on me because they think I need saving or educating. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the Bible quoted as if the quote was a slam-dunk ending all logical debate no matter the topic under discussion followed by the words, "Read your Bible!" Thank you very much but Charles Heston read it to me during my search-for-the-meaning-of-life era.

My parents were good people with good reasons for not going to church and while my dad and I had many “God and religion” conversations I never had any with my mom. When I asked my niece, this week, if she ever did she replied, among other things, “Whenever I read John Wesley’s famous quote, I think of Grandma. ‘Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can.’” I didn't really appreciated all the good things Mom quietly did for others until her funeral when I heard story after story from people she’d helped. I had hoped my niece could shed some light on which of my parents thought it was important for my brother and I to walk up to the churches. She couldn’t. But after our talk I'm guessing it was my Mom's doing. I'm guessing it was after the playground incident when I cried about it at my mom's knee when my brother and I started our Sunday mornings routine. Either way I’m glad they did send us. The Bibles stories and parables are so much a part of our western culture it would be hard not to know the references/code words. Eve and her apple. Noah and his ark. The speck and the log. And, yes, thanks to my parents I know that Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were not a '70s rock band. ©