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, December 29, 2021

Living in a Senior Apartment Complex


Living in an apartment building is different than anything I’ve experienced except for a year spent in a college dorm but that was so long ago I don’t remember much about it except we ate our meals off trays and my dorm room for half the year was an actually forth floor dormer with sloped ceilings that I adored and it overlooked the football field. Not that I liked football any better back then than I do now but I was still boy crazy at the time so there’s that.

I forgot where I was going in this post---oh ya, what it’s like to live in an apartment building after a lifetime of owning and living in single family homes. That’s not to say I didn’t have some inkling of what it was like to live in one. My husband owned a four family apartment for 10-15 years where sometimes the tenants got along and other times they were constantly complaining about one thing or another or each other. For a long while, we had a house full of single women living there who seemed to make up stuff to get my husband to go check out noises in the attic or a washing machine in the basement that quit working (because it mysteriously got unplugged). Finally, my husband started making me go with him to do any and all maintenance in the building and that put an end to the frivolous calls and the windows they couldn't open or shut. The power of the significant other.

Being a brand new building all the units here have a few things that any new construction needs to be addressed. An electrical outlet that doesn’t work, a spot of paint where it doesn’t belong---that sort of thing. We were given an inspection sheet to fill out for maintenance to come in and fix our woes, plus put up shelving we might want to add in closets, etc. One woman recently had a huge hissy-fit at the main office about how long she’s had to wait for her list to be addressed, and sure enough it worked. The maintenance cart was outside her door the next day. That night at dinner other hissy-fits were being planned and plotted and will no doubt spread like a virus across the campus.

Today was my day to get my inventory of stuff addressed and no hissy-fit was required to get the maintenance man to show up. I now have new shelves to dry my paintings on in my art corner, a new black-out shade in my bedroom, my ice maker is turned off because I hated that thing dropping cubes in the middle of the night and I got a lesson on how to use childproof electrical outlets. There’s also a future work order for me to get another electrical outlet put in the bathroom. Still on-going is the saga of the front door intercom that rings into mine and one other apartment. The company who installed them is waiting for a new part to come in that's on the proverbial slow boat from China. Also on-going is a streak of construction gunk still across my floor. They’ve tried power cleaning it off and now the maintenance man is saying the flooring people are going to be forced to replace the flooring in my living area. What a mess that will be. But that's not happening until after the holidays. He didn't say which holiday...oh, my!

Others here are losing patience but the two maintenance men are both working full time to resolve our Honey-Do Lists. Mr. and Mrs. Matchy-Match, for example, are on their case to paint the underside of their kitchen cabinets. They are a natural wood with a shiny sealer on them---same as mine and what's inside of the white cabinets---but they think they look unfinished. Mealtime discussions about things like this present an interesting study of human behavior. Everything from an individual who suggests they withhold their monthly payments until they get the service “they deserve” to those of us who understand the unique situation we’re in, having us all move in within a short time frame. Like I told the maintenance man once, he gets at my Honey-Do list quicker than my husband ever did so you can guess where I fall on the patience spectrum.

I didn’t mean to fill an entire post up about maintenance or lack there of so I’ll probably have to tackle this topic of living in an apartment again. Maybe several times. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve lived an isolated existence for so many years that I find this microcosm I’m living in to be so interesting or if it really IS interesting. I image it's the same in offices, schools and other workplaces where you get to know each other's sense of humor, sense of entitlement and foibles from the inside out.

Speaking of interesting things, last week was our Holiday Parade of Apartments. Fifteen people hosted walk-thou's for others to see their places. I didn’t open my mine up. Two people beat me out of the title for having the most knickknacks. One had so many things hanging on her walls---literally from floor to ceiling---it’s a wonder they didn’t cave in. The other must have two hundred blue bottles littering all the surfaces. Two others were mid-century minimalists in the true sense of the word and one of them had a to die-for original, 1940s molded plywood Herman Miller chair and coffee table. They were stained in my hated color of orange but I still loved those two pieces if that tells you anything about my level of lust over that set.

Lots of people had heavy, ornate furniture and the art work ranged from great original works of art to wall hangings from Home Goods. All the Christmas decor was pretty but looked like too much work to me. One guy even had a train set under his tree and several people had even set their tables with Christmas china. I managed to get a wreath on my hallway door and a large red bow on my deck door and my windup music box with Santa and his reindeer sets next to a pile of Christmas cards. A whole box of other holiday stuff never made it out of my storage cage. Maybe next year.

I’m probably near my word count for today so it’s time for me to stop and come up with my next topic to tackle. ©

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Alone but Not Lonely at Christmas

My first holiday season here at the continuum care campus has been busy and it included a bus tour billed as ‘See the Twinkling Christmas Lights.’ It was a lesson for me to read the fine print before adding my name to a list. Had I done so I would have recognized the tour guide’s name from 4-5 bus tours I went on through the senior hall. She spent two and a half hours going around and around the same streets of downtown, parking in front of various buildings to talk about their architecture and history. Some were decorated, some were not. In my head I thought we were going to parts of the city known for their over-the-top lighting displays. Not that kind of tour. And I'd taken this same architecture and history trip before only during the daytime when you could actually see the buildings. The lady in the next seat is new to the area and she loved it. I was cold, bored and wanted to go home after the first hour. 

It was cold, by the way, because 'someone' on the bus asked the driver to turn off the heat. Almost from the first day I met that someone I'd given her the nickname of The Mother because she’s quick to ask for changes around this campus. Very polite about it---but somehow aggressive at the same time, and she gets reactions from the staff. A fellow resident has pinned a less flattering label on her. I wonder what others here have nicknamed me. I’m the one who when I get served fries when I asked for mashed potatoes says, “That’s okay, I’m not that fussy” when they offered to make it right. The Mother would never accept anything but what she asked for.  “How else are they going to learn to pay attention?” Ya, we’ve had that discussion.

Before the bus tour, a tree decorating party kicked off the Christmas season and it came with hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies but I missed all but the last half hour due to an eye doctor appointment. Then on the 20th was our first real party which involved thirty of us gathering around the fireplace and piano to sing holiday songs---some religious, some the silly sort we've known since we were kids. They served a variety of tiny cakes and punch and Bing tried to pass out chocolates filled with 100 proof Irish whiskey but no one was taking any. I wanted to but I also didn't want to be the first one to do so and apparently I wasn't alone with that thought. He came to the party with a sealed box of 24 chocolate bottles and left with a sealed box of 24. Had he opened it before passing it around, there might have been a different outcome. I felt sorry for him, that his gift was so soundly rejected.

Then a Christmas buffet to die-for was the 23rd but no meals were served today, on Christmas. For those of us not going anywhere we could order a special boxed meal we picked up yesterday to warm up today. For those going to family parties they could order homemade pies, dinner rolls or mini loaves of bread to take along. Their bread is so good here I ordered a loaf to slice and another to put in my freezer. I certainly won’t starve to death over the next few days since I have peanut butter, bananas and a frying pan in the house to make an Elvis Special or two.

The kitchen, wait staff and practically everyone else around here has the day off but those of us with no place to go or no one visiting were encouraged to take our food down to the cafe` and eat together at noon today. I plan to take a thermos of coffee down to socialize but I'm not carrying my boxed, stuff chicken breast and trimmings down my carpeted hall, across to the other building and through the lobby. I will not risk being the first person to drop something that will stain the brand new floors. 

All and all I’m quite happy with the way the holiday season has been going here. Some of the residents are having their usually guests coming for their holiday festivities just the same as they’d had at their previous homes and some went to relatives houses for a day or two. Earlier this week my niece brought her Dad and husband up to visit and to tour the place, then they took me out to dinner. That was extra exciting for me and it wouldn't have happened had I still been living on the north end of the city.

Those of us with no place to go Christmas Eve were encouraged to gather on our own down at the fireplace to share stories of past holidays but I was afraid I’d bring the holiday spirits down. Christmas Eve always comes with memories of my dad dying in the wee minutes of Christmas morning. A few weeks before then I had broken my arm in three places and was in a turn-bucket cast that made it necessary for my brother and I to move Dad into a Hospice home. I was an emotional and physical mess and Dad had been unresponsive for several hours. We knew the end was near when his hard-of-hearing roommate turned on the televised Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. Pipe organ music filled the room and my dad opened his unfocused eyes and said, “Am I there yet?” I knew he was looking for the Pearly Gates of Heaven. In better days he'd described them to me, the way he thought they'd be. He died shortly after that and I was still laughing through my tears. I cherish that memory from my Dad’s last minutes on earth as much as a cherish the at-peace look on my husband’s face when he passed over. Being there when someone dies can actually give you a sense of comfort but they're not exactly stories to share in a place where we’re all trying to put a positive spin on our shiny, new lives. So I didn’t go to the fireplace meet-up. I thought about it several times but I was close to tears several times this afternoon so I was afraid they’d run down my cheeks at an inopportune time and I’d have to explain.

Merrily Christmas, my cyber friends! Let's hope all yours and my holiday get-togethers were safe from Covid. A few people here are not going to go to the New Year's Eve party because they think everyone who spent time with their families on Christmas are going to be incubating the virus. Fingers crossed that won't be happening here or at your place. ©

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Doing Nothing is Everything

Old people can be fun and funny. Sometimes intentional, other times it’s just because its the nature of beast. In case you're thinking I'm calling my fellow residents here at this continuum care complex  ‘beasts’ I should insert a side note here: The proverb ‘the nature of the beast’ has been around for centuries as noted in John Ray’s 1678 Collection of English Proverbs. Back then, when people dealt more closely with animals in their every day life it was more than just a metaphor. You wouldn’t, for example, get mad when a fox got into the hen house because that’s the nature of the beast. You’d just look for and patch the place where the fox got into the hen house. In this century the urban dictionary says the term means “…certain aspects a person or thing reveals themselves on a regular basis. ’It doesn’t really surprise me that she said that to you. Don’t take it personally.’” Yup, like I said old people can really be funny. It’s in our nature to laugh at nonsense---if not create it for others to laugh at---and google stuff no one really cares about. 

A couple of days ago I hit the jackpot at lunch and sat at a table of six others who all had similar senses of humor. We laughed so hard we had others coming over to tell us the old joke, “Keep it down. You’re having too much fun.” I was the last one to join the table and when I sat down I announced: “I will warn you all that I’ve never had soup in this place that I haven’t spilled it on myself.” And another woman confessed she never orders soup in public because she can’t not spill it either. The conversation evolved into us trying to figure out why we can eat soup at home and not spill it but we can’t carry that skill into public places and we determined its all in the posture and our willingness to get closer to our bowls at home. Someone came up with the idea of making a fortune designing sippy cups for soup. Starbucks got adults to drink coffee out of sippy cups, why not soup? It might not be the answer to world peace but we did prove that old people can still problem solve with the best of them.

We filled two hours up with conversations like the above. At one point someone noticed the farmhouse table got new chairs and we all had to try them out and rate the experience. No one thought they were comfortable and I said all restaurant chairs are sold according to how fast you want your customers to turn over. “There are chairs that make your butt hurt at one hour, a hour and a half or two.” I have no clue if that’s an urban legend or it's true but we were all on a roll of irreverent one liners and that was before we started critiquing the four ‘fat people’ chairs in the cafe` and the two faux leather chairs by the fireplace. Unless you’re brand new to the campus or you’re wearing Velcro pants no one sits in those leather chairs because they dump you on floor. 

Sitting here typing this I couldn’t tell you the names of all the people who sat around that table. I’m just not good at names and I never have been and I’ve concluded that’s because I’ve never made much of an effort in the past, especially when I didn’t think I’d cross paths with the person I was being introduced to in the moment. But a high percentage of the ladies here at the CCC spent their careers in the teaching profession and were discussing, one day, their tricks for remembering the names of their students. They find something about that person they can associate with their name. Ohmygod, I can’t do that or I’d be accidentally bellowing out stuff like, “Hi Squeaky Wheel!” or beautiful blouse, “Ms Tight-Ass.” 

Remember how I used to get so uptight about what others here wore and how out-classed I felt in the fashion department of senior living? Now, two months later I’m still out-classed by most of the women but it doesn’t bother me anymore. There are others here who, like me, wear sweatshirts and one lady who I really admired for her causal three piece sports outfits when we first met wears that same two outfits so often she probably has to stay home when they need to go in the laundry. I can picture her in nightgown doing the laundry. 

Another woman who has an expensive looking and well curated wardrobe wore an extra-large headless snowman pin the other day. She said she'd had it repaired several times but the poor guy’s head keeps breaking off. She named the jewelry designer who I didn’t and still don’t know but I couldn’t help myself from asking if the snowman was from the designer’s Stephen King collection. Thankfully she laughed along with everyone else. Anyone with the guts to wear a diamond encrusted, headless snowman because she “loves him so much” would have to have a sense of humor. ©

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Last Art Class


We had the last art class here at the continuum care complex and I came home with my ugly, blah brown barn painting that will never get signed or hung. I'm not sure if I can gesso over a painting done in oils to reuse the canvas for acrylics but even if it isn’t recommended I might do it anyway rather than waste a good piece of stretched canvas. I'll never produce anything good enough that needs to stand the test of centuries, so my under-priming and paint drying times don't really matter if they cause a future painting to flake over time. I have a tiny canvas my mom painted of a dog that I dearly love---both the painting and the dog---and it's flaking but it took 35 years.


I'm showing you guys a photo of my uninspiring barn because if you've been reading my blog you know how this 12"x 16" work of advanced paint-by-numbers came about. I say that but even though we all traced the same basic drawing, used paints from the same five tubes the oils and didn't have the freedom to do anything other than what the instructor told us to do, when she told us to do it, the paintings all came out different. "Pick up your number two flat brush and load it half way up the bristles with the paint we just mixed." That's how micro-taught this class was. 

The instructor asked us if it would be fun for us if she arranged a little art show over in the lobby and I was quick to say, "Not for me it wouldn't" which was followed by class laughter. Then the only guy in the class said, "I would like that a lot. I'm very proud of my painting." Seriously, who would want an art show of all brown barns? Is there a brown barn society out there? I wish I would have had the freedom to at least put a wash of red over parts of the barn, but it is what it is and it was a fun class despite the stern approach the instructor uses to teach it. In fact, once I got used to it that was an element of great amusement to me.


True to her word, the women who left the class for twenty minutes to let a delivery man into her apartment didn’t finish out the last two weeks. I had dinner with her and four others the night of my last class and she asked me if I brought my brown barn home. “I did,” I answered and she said she told the activities director to throw hers in the trash. “I wanted to do it in front of the instructor. No one hurts my feelings and gets away with it!”  To refresh your memory of what happen, when Ms Hurt got up to leave the instructor said, “This isn’t a good time to go, I’m teaching something important here!” Of course, she went anyway---who wouldn't---and when she came back the instructor ignored her for the rest of the class.


Me? I was surprised that two weeks after the incident Ms Hurt was still---well, so hurt. I couldn't hold a grudge that long over something that didn't involve a trip to ER. Ms Hurt spent the next ten minutes at dinner badmouthing the instructor while others who'd never met the Elf-on-a-Shelf like-woman jumped on the bandwagon about how she was “stifling creativity” and “that’s not art!” and "she should be fired" to the point I felt I needed to lower the temperature before the pitchforks and torches came out. 


“To be fair,” I finally spoke up, “We knew going into the class that it was for beginners and that we’d all be doing a brown barn. She has a militant style of teaching, that's for sure and it didn’t work for you or me and wouldn’t work for anyone looking for a serious course in painting. But several others in the class left very happy with what they learned.” When I finished channeling my dad, the peace maker, Ms Hurt then made the motion one does across her mouth to indicate a zipper shutting it up and looked at me like I’d lost my mind.


Lest you think I'm being a bit of a hypocrite towards Ms Hurt for bad-mouthing the Elf when I did my share of complaining about her teaching methods in this blog. In my defense I never discussed this class with anyone here on campus other than Ms Hurt. The instructor is not getting paid to teach and listening to the others rake her over the coals made me feel sorry for her. No one in their '90s deserves that when they are doing something to share their life's passion. And a light bulb just went on in my head making it clear why my bluntly worded email to the x-florist who asked me to join his Christmas decorating group gave me such guilty feelings. By me discounting my experience in the floral business I was discounting his as well. Like a lot of men, his whole identity is wrapped up in what he did for a living. To me it was just a job.


The next painting class starts in January and the instructor is going to be using a tracing of a vase of flowers and a color palette of six tubes of paint. She says flowers are harder than barns because "you have to see down inside them." Huh? I won't be taking that class but four others in the barn class are signing up. 


Oh and by the way, Ms Hurt kept a paint brush from the class supplies because, “I paid my $15 and I should get something for my money!” Say what? The canvas was supposed to be what she got for her $15, not a size 10 filbert brush. I don't understand that logic coming from an otherwise lovely church going woman. The 10-12 year old girl inside me who once stole a cheap trinket from a dime store wanted to tell her that she'll never enjoy using that paint brush. I'm not sure if that little girl was afraid of hurting Ms Hurt's feelings by mentioning the broken Commandment or if my penchant for channeling my dad kept me quiet. I'm quite sure he would have told me that in time she'll figure it out for herself and put the brush back where it came from.

So there you have it, another (fill in our own adjective) post from the Daydreamer’s Den. ©

P.S. I wrote an extra post this week but if you're a subscriber through Mailchimp you didn't get notice. You can find "Fangirling a Fellow Resident" by clicking on "older post" below.