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

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Weird Dinner Experience and Painting Class


I ran into weird situation that put me in a mini meltdown during dinner in the fine dining restaurant on campus. I’m getting used to having people invite themselves to sit with me or me with them but something happened last night that flustered me to the point I embarrassed myself, then tried to back-track so I didn’t hurt a woman’s feelings. But what about my feelings? Why don’t people listen to others when we say, "No thank you" so many times we sound like parrots in a pet shop? 

We were total strangers who ended up sitting across the table from each other and when her dinner came I remarked that I had ordered the cider chicken last week and it looked entirely different than what she was served. “How so?” she asked and I told her, “for one you got five times the amount of yams that I got and I didn’t get any of the dried apple embellishments on top.” 

I was wondering if the chef was reacting to complaints about not serving enough vegetables with his entrees or if someone else was plating stuff in the kitchen and I wish I’d said that out loud because the next thing I know she picked several of the dried apples rings off her chicken and was trying to hand them to me. “These are really good, try them” to which I politely rejected her more than five times before she handed them to her husband. Hey, I didn’t know where here fingers had been! For all I know she could have been expressing the anal glands on a gerbil before coming down to dinner.

Then she started spearing yams with her fork, a fork she’d had in her mouth already and she was putting them on my plate. “Take them. I can’t eat these all.” I panicked. “Please don’t do that! I don't want them," I said, my voice getting more demanding with each time I begged her to stop. She had eight cubes of yams on my plate before I took my spoon and started transferring them to my bread plate. I’d had enough of her pushing food at me. In my mind’s eye I could see cartoon-like germs about to jump off those cubes of yam and contaminate my sea bass.

“I can’t stand eating off other people’s plates or have them eat off mine!” I told her and everyone else within an eight foot radius. Call me a germaphobic if you want but swapping germs with a total stranger is not in my wheelhouse. Sure, if she had been a cute guy and it was 50 years ago and we were clearly headed toward a night of playing kissy-face I have shared food in that situation but that was then and this in now---whatever that means. I've even taken a few offered fries from someone I know well, but only if my fingers alone touched them. My husband and I never ate off each other’s plates---at least not after his stroke when I knew exactly where his one working hand had been and it wasn't under a water facet as often as it should have been---and this total stranger wanted me to stick food in my mouth that had her fork germs inside? During a world-wide pandemic no less!

Trying to explain my outburst I said, “It’s a childhood thing. I was punished at the dinner table for sharing food.” I didn’t mention it was the dog I was sharing foods with that I didn't want to eat and it was my brother who'd sneak food onto my plate that he knew I didn't like. I got caught, he never did. She snatched my bread plate full of yams off my side of the table and passed it her husband who then asked her if he could try a bite of her chicken. Shockingly she turned him down with a, “No, I like it too much.” 

There was a fourth person at our table. A woman from my painting class and we had a conversation about our last class before the couple joined us. She was upset with the teacher and says she’s not going back. When arriving at class she told the instructor she was expecting a call from a furniture delivery man, that she’d have to go let him in but would be right back to class after her new table was in place. When the call came and she got up to leave the instructor barked, “This is not a good time to leave! I’m teaching something important here.” She left anyway and who could blame her. 

When she came back the instructor ignored her and sat down at another student’s place and painted on her canvas for 15-20 minutes. I’d be livid if she done that to my canvas. That’s not teaching in my opinion. At one point she said, “It’s still your painting. I’m just moving the paints around.” Ya, sure.

When she critiqued my work, she said, “The side of your barn would be perfect if it was on other side of the building and not that one. It’s not dark enough. Remember the light ALWAYS comes from the right.” “Unless it comes from the left,” I said, not meaning to be antagonistic. It just rolled off my tongue. “No, remember the sun comes up from the east, so the light source is on the right side. Always.” “Maybe my light is coming from a sunset instead of a sunrise,” That time I did mean to poke the bear. She walked away shaking her head and I darken my barn's siding.  

To be fair, I'm not entirely sure if the instructor meant to say the east sun/right side "rule" applies to all paintings. It's more logical to think that she misspoke and meant just the canvases we were working. She did, however, plant doubt in my head about lighting rules so after class I looked through some art books and got reacquainted with the four basic light sources: back lighting, front lighting, form lighting and rim lighting.

That said, I need to once again post a disclaimer. I really do like this feisty Elf of a woman. She’s over 90 and speaks her “Truth” with conviction. Me? I have been known to panic with my Truth, letting my inner child's feelings get hurt (see top half of this blog entry). She also has me thinking art again and acting like a mouthy teenager and I like that. She’s also got what I don’t have---a great eye for mixing colors. It was amazing in an appalling sort of way to watch her turn my classmate's blue barn into a brown one. ©

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thanksgiving and the Week of Giving

It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving here on the continuum care campus. I mentioned but didn’t write about what the management called ‘A Week of Giving.’ I didn’t know what to expect of a something billed as “new opportunities to help the community every day” but I decided whatever they had lined up I was going to put my selfish tendency aside and pitch in and the gods of good deeds blessed me with easy stuff to do.

One day we volunteers spent the afternoon knitting loom hats for kids in need. Another day we decorated paper lunch bags that will get filled for weekend lunches for kids in need. A third day it was making small lap blankets for the Linus Project. Another giving day we were supposed to get bused over to the sister campus to help make lavender cuddle bunnies but that got canceled due to a Covid out break over there. It was wide-spread enough that the entire campus was in quarantine. 

The same core group of crafters took part in all the hand-on portion of 'A Week of Giving' including me, but there's no way of knowing who might have donated in other ways giving cash or supplies instead of time. There are plenty of people who live here who I've never seen who probably bought into the complex because it a nice place but who haven't immersed themselves into culture. The point being there was no shortage of donated yarn, crafting supplies and fabrics for us to work with and there's no pressure to take part in anything.

For Thanksgiving day I along with 20 others signed up for a buffet here on campus. They cooked a traditional meal with everything anyone could want on Thanksgiving and served it with pinot noir wine. We had carved turkey, shrimp scampi, ham, stuffing, buttermilk potatoes and gravy, roasted squash, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and eclairs. 'Gotta say I’ve never had eclairs for Thanksgiving but they might be my new favorite thing. It was a great meal and they even sent us home with left-overs. I haven’t had many traditional holidays meals in recent years so this was a real treat. Except for those two hours at dinner this place was like a ghost town and I spent the rest of the day binge-watching Outlander. I never got through all the books, but I can't seem to stop watching the series on my new Netflix account.

And you’re not going to believe this but I actually dressed up for the the buffet, even gave myself a French manicure, my all-time favorite nail look. I worn an old Pendleton wool jacket in a classic style with a silk blouse underneath paired with real slacks, not the pretend slacks with the elastic waistbands I usually wear. I pulled my ungodly expensive Israelian-made Mary Janes out of its place of honor in my closet to complete my non-caregiver look.

I also dug out my bling. Wore my diamond earrings---the larger ones of the two pairs I own---and wore them along with a silver locket that contains some of my husband’s ashes plus my wedding rings. When I was first widowed I wore that locket often when I was facing a new social situation. It gave me courage and a sense of not being so alone in the world because it reminds me that I was once loved. Jeez! I just had an epiphany! Is that one of the reasons why Christians wear their crosses? I always thought it was a declaration of their faith like wear a jersey to declare which team they support but maybe the symbolism go deeper than that? That's a rhetorical question, no need to answer.

If felt good to look nice, to be wearing quality-made clothing for a change but the bling all went back in their boxes afterward. The rings are too big and in danger of getting lost. In the past I never took off my smaller diamonds but I would swap them out for the larger stones for special occasions...until masks became part of our lives. Now with hearing aids, glasses, masks and earrings I was getting paranoid about something getting pulled off with the mask and lost. I had it happen with a hearing aid and an earring both and am not willing to risk it anymore. When I do wear all that crap on my ears I'm constantly checking to makes sure the earrings and hearing aids are still in place so I probably look like I've got a spasmodic tic.

I'll wear my bling soon enough though. A Christmas party is on the calendar and they're taking a poll to judge interest in a New Years Eve party plus a second poll to see if anyone wants to take part in an apartment tour to show off our holiday decorations and general furnishings. Other things in the works if Covid doesn't get them canceled are a bus trip to see the holiday lights downtown and a piano concert of Christmas music. Our county recently had the highest rate of hospitalizations for Covid in the nation. Oh, and that resulted in a get-your-booster shots event here on campus.  ©

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Farmhouse Table Talk: The Bing Edition


Do you remember Bea Author who played Dorothy on The Golden Girls and Maude, the antithesis to the Archie Bunker character on All in the Family? Lately I’ve been running into a woman here on campus who has the same voice as Bea Author only her personality is more Auntie Mame than Dorothy or Maude.  She’s loud, funny, out-going and friendly. But the thing I find the most fascinating about her is that she’s got this running joke going about how she wants to start a Scandals & Gossip Newspaper here on campus and shove them under our doors at night. Every time someone says or does something noteworthy---that I’m itching to write about in my blog---she pipes up with, “That could go in my newspaper!” Cracks me up every time and I’m sure I have a cat-that-swallowed-the-cannery look on my face knowing I’ll go back to my apartment and actually write about what we both find worth documenting.

I met our Auntie Mame by going to the cafe` a little later than usual and being invited to sit at the big farmhouse table with a core of 10-12 others who seem to eat together frequently. I’ve been invited to the table 4-5 times now and each time I’ve had more fun than the last. Mostly I listen but I’ll add a humor nugget once in a while to the mix. Last night they were teasing a woman and a guy when it came out that she’s visited him in his apartment, to listen to him sing. He had one of his songs recorded on his phone and we passed that phone around. Ohmygod, the guy sounds just like Bing Cosby. Between him and another guy who spontaneously started singing along with a piano player giving us a concert last week I can’t wait for Christmas Carole Night coming up. 

Our Bing Cosby is a Scottish guy with a cool accent and the gruffly look of a dock worker. He’s an interesting character who usually comes down to dinner with his daughter who stops after work almost every day. He’s having a hard time adjusting to not being “home” so she’s made it her mission to help him get to know everyone, assimilate into the culture here. Often times she has her dog with her so he hangs around the lobby, dragging his leash around while she’s busy glad-handing, introducing residents to one another and instigating conversations between us. I call her our Unofficial Ambassador, a title that she likes. One time age came up and she said she was 60 which shocked the pants off me. “I don’t believe it," I said, "you look more like 40!” She’s got a quick wit and replied, “You just said that because you want to be my best friend for life.” She gets her sense of humor from her crusty dad, only he tells bar jokes and likes his cocktails. One time someone asked him what his name was and he said, “It’s none of your business.”

Last night twelve of us were sitting at the farm house table including Bing, T-shirt Tom, Auntie Mame and a new woman I’d never seen before was sitting next to Bing when he was being teased about inviting the woman into his apartment. “Just to hear him sing!” the woman who been to Bing’s apartment defending herself. And someone else---okay, it was me---said, “that’s probably what he tells all the women he lures up there.” It was all good nurtured and only one person---the new woman---was not laughing and teasing the couple. 

After we broke up and were saying our ‘goodbyes’ New Woman came up to several of us and announced right out of the gate that she lived with Bing before he moved here. She was like a dog marking territory letting us know he was taken. I’m not sure he or his daughter believes that and if she thinks I’m going to spread that around campus she picked the wrong person. Auntie Mame, the pretend gossip columnist of Lady Land would have been a better choice to spill that pot of beans to. His daughter was not there that night but the impression she gives us is that her dad still misses her deceased mom and that didn’t jive with the impression New Woman gave. Our first campus mystery, oh my! (Oops, second mystery. Who was quarantined for two weeks was the first.)

Bing admitted to me when we were alone once that he cried himself to sleep his first night here. He puts on a brave front when his daughter is here but when she leaves the table for a few minutes he’ll ask questions like, “Do any of you miss your house?” “Does anyone feel at home here?” "Do you regret moving here?"

The daughter tries so hard to pave the way for Bing to make friends and feel comfortable here. Daughters on that slippery slope of dealing with a dad with declining physicals and/or mental health---and I include my nieces in this statement---sure can do some heroic things to help their dads when the role reversal is growing into a living, breathing part of their lives. As I told Bing, “You’re lucky you have such a caring and accomplished daughter" and then I asked, "Do you trust her?" He does. His face glows with affection when he talks about her. So I gave him the same speech I gave my brother about letting go of his fears and grabbing on to that trust, knowing his daughter has his back no matter what happens. He's slowly losing his eye-sight and his daughter wants him to learn his way around here, make friends before that happens. His story is only one version of the same tale about why people move to a place like this. ©