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, May 1, 2021

Come In! Come In!

What do you do when friends or relatives you’re not expecting come to your door? Same question only change the person standing on your doorstep to a neighbor. Or what about a stranger who may be looking for help or a donation? My husband and I never agreed on what was the proper protocol in these situations. He thought my way was wrong, I thought the same about his way. He believed in saying, “Come in! Come in” to nearly everyone. I’m more the wait-and-see-what-they-want-first type.

Don was raised in the country on a farm with no close neighbors and he was brought up in a family that apparently believed that if someone came all that way out to see you or to buy eggs or to sell you something or talk religion that you welcomed them into your home. Even if you didn’t want to, you’d drop what you’re doing and let them monopolize your time. He and his dad also genuinely loved talking to people or to use Don’s words, they loved "shooting the shit.” Side note here: I’ve never liked that phase and it surprised me that it's been in use longer than I though. According to Dictionary.com shoot the shit comes down from 'shoot the breeze' which was first "recorded in a poem written during World War I by a US private, who described his corporals as sociable men who were much better at ‘breeze-shooting’ than fighting or doing actual work. It doesn’t require much skill or effort to hit the wind with a gun, so the expression goes. Shoot the shit emerged in the 1940s, notably found in a letter by the author Norman Mailer.”

Coming up from the 'shoot the shit' rabbit hole, I’m back on topic again to the days when Don and I both had our own houses. Don would drive me crazy by allowing all his bored neighbors to walk in his front door to “shoot the shit” any old time they wanted, eating up a bunch of time that would put him in a bad mood because then he’d be behind on things he needed to do or they'd make him late for something. He was notoriously late. He had several neighbors who’d head over to his house the minute he’d drive in, not even giving him enough time to pee before he’d be expecting him to answer the door and let them in. They all knew he worked nights but they couldn't seem to grasp the concept of him needing to sleep in during the day. Once I suggested he post a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door when he went to bed. He couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead, when he was really sleep deprived he'd come to my house straight from work to hop in my bed with my dog curled under his arm like a teddy bear.

I was raised differently. When someone showed up on my doorstep (or at his and I was the one opening the door) I never stood back and let just anyone walk in. Family and close friends, sure, but they generally knew enough to call and ask if I was up to company and they rarely dropped by unannounced. My catch phase has always been, “Stop over sometime, just call first and give me a fifteen minute warning." I say it in a joking manner but I'm dead serious. And I always make sure I give others the same notice if I want to stop by their place, so they could take their choice of tidying up the house or their appearance or to tell me it isn’t a good time for one reason or another. For me, it was usually the house that gets picked up rather than fuss with my looks in front of a mirror. This whole topic ran through my head today because a person buying something on Facebook Market Place sent a text asking if they could come over Right Now. I lied and asked if they could give me a half hour, that I was just getting lunch on the table. There was no lunch. I wasn’t dressed yet.

But when neighbors came to the door in the old neighborhood I’d waited to see what they wanted before allowing them inside. It used to drive my husband crazy when I'd be in "guard dog mode." I just couldn’t see letting bored people come inside and park them selves in the living room for the long haul if we were getting ready to go out. If they only came over to borrow something, no problem. A cup of sugar? “Sure let me get that for your.” Borrow the vacuum for the fifth Tuesday in a row? “Last time, lady. It’s time you buy your own.” (They never did, they'd just hit up another neighbor.) We had minimalists living next door before they even had a name for people who penny-pinched then bragged about how cheaply they can live. They didn’t own any of their own necessities for keeping a home or car clean and maintained. Nothing. Ya, I would let anyone use my clothes dryer if theirs broke in the middle of doing laundry but don’t expect to use my washer/dryer routinely week after week. Minimalists neighbors will eat up the life of your appliances and power tools if you let them.

One of my future neighbors is apparently worried about living in such close contact with others. She made a comment at a meeting we had recently about hoping we can all use the public areas for our visiting and "not drop in on each other at all hours of the day and night. I like my privacy!” That made me laugh. My husband would have blown a gasket if I had made that statement. I suspect my future neighbors are going to give me plenty of blog fodder. The bigger question to ponder, though, is when someone knocks on my door will I throw it wide open and issue a good ol' country-boy "Come in, come in!" or will I stay true to my city-girl roots and wait to see why they are there first before inviting someone inside? Want to make an educated guess? Okay, that was a rhetorical question, no need to weigh in on whether I'd lick a neighbor's face or bite it off if they stopped by some evening with a bottle of wine or a bunch of gossip up their sleeve. ©

36 comments:

  1. Can't remember the last drop in I have had. Covid has stopped that. Actually I did have a gent in yesterday. My computer was giving me fits and my provider sent a repairman to see if it was them or me. He had to come in and it really unsettled me--Covid wise.

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    1. I had to have an electrician come in and we both wore masks. Did especially bother me but we kept our distance from one another. Since you're posting a comment I assume you got your computer issues worked out? They are our life-line!

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  2. You would have had a time of it in Liberia. There's a tradition there called 'spending time.' The first time it happened, I was more puzzled than unnerved, but still: it was odd. A group of women showed up at the door, all smiling and saying "We've come to spend time." The came in, took chairs, smiled some more, and then said, "We have spent time." And off they went.

    I learned that I should have offered them water, but they cut me a little slack because I was new and clearly didn't know any better. But every now and then, that would happen. People who'd come to spend time didn't require entertainment or conversation; it was just a way of showing respect and bonding. After a while, I took up the practice myself, as did most of the expats. I liked it. It reminded me of the days when no one locked their doors, and neighbors felt free to come in for a cup of sugar or milk even if you weren't home.

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    1. Wow, that tradition of "spending time" doesn't appeal to me and maybe that's because I spent ten years running a business out of my house and had deadlines to keep and a full appointment calendar of people coming to order their wedding flowers.

      The idea of neighbors just walking in my house would totally freak me out. I get startled really easily---comes with living in my creative head too much---and have been know to scream even when I knew someone else was in the house, if they break my concentration.

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  3. I'm on a "smile and wave" basis with my neighbors and since most of them are Trumpists I can't imagine having anything to chit chat about if they did come to my door and wanted to visit. The neighbors next door are Dems (I know this because in the primaries they had a "Bernie" sign in their yard and the wife said she listens to NPR) but they usually communicate anything important to me via email. Which is fine with me. After twenty years in dentistry and another three working for an ophthalmologist, I've had my fill of small talk!

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    1. I'll bet you have. My hair dresser and I were just talking about how hard it is to do small talk with some people.

      I have a 'wave and smile' relationship with my neighbors too and sometimes we'll talk a few minutes over the property line. I like knowing who my neighbors are but they all work and don't have chit-chat time like people did in the past century were more women were home during the day.

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  4. Coincidentally, there was this article in the NYT about learning to do small talk again:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/01/opinion/sunday/covid-lockdown-social-small-talk.html?smid=url-share

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  5. So many points of this hit home for me! We had minimalist neighbors who borrowed everything! Even asked Mr. Ralph to get a chain saw!!! We had to start locking our front door as they would just walk in. We also had to put up fencing from house to perimeter fence and then put locks on the inside of the gates as they would come and use Kate's swing set while we were working!

    I never answer my door ... Maui or condo. Any one I'd want to see would know to text or call first!

    Wave and Smile relationships are just perfect for me!

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    1. I don't get why people think it's okay to walk into someone's house. What if they're doing private things or taking a nap or bubble bath? Now days with texting it takes just seconds to ask if it's okay to come over for a bit.

      My husband used to cut wood of money on their family farm from 14 to 22. Later in life people would ask to borrow his chainsaw and he'd always end up doing their job because he was afraid they cut off their own leg or fall a tree on the house.

      Your minimalist neighbors and ours would have made a great pair.

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  6. I've never understood people just dropping by, unannounced, unless there's an emergency. I grew up on the farm, but family and very close friends were the only ones I remember stopping by and most of them did call first. Neighbors would come up to the porch to visit if we were sitting out there, and we had lovely neighbors, but we didn't go inside one another's homes unless it was to lend a helping hand or deliver a meal to someone who was ill. It sure will be interesting to see how things go when you move to the campus!

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    1. Me neither on the dropping by unannounced. I think neighborhoods that have porches kind of have an unspoken rule that if you're on the porch it's okay to come sit with them awhile. My deck will invite conversations, I'm thinking because I'll be right near the entry way to the building...chosen for gone-bu-not-forgotten Levi.

      I'm kind of guessing with everyone moving in at one time that there might be some borrowing going on at first after I get moved...cooking ingredients.

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  7. I don't care to "drop in" or have people just "drop in" either but in the last year or two a now rather "interfering person (once was good friend) drops in unexpectedly and I haven't had the heart yet to say "go away"...and if I'm not here she will email me to say "I came but you are obviously better as you weren't there" ... I'm not sure how I'm expected to reply and it gets to be very annoying as often I would rather just be "alone" and not have her "tell me what I should or shouldn't be doing"

    Everyone else at least gives me the option by message or phone...including tradespeople who make an appointment.

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    1. I'm the last one who should be giving advice on this topic but sometimes people force us into being direct. Maybe say something like, "I don't do well with unexpected visitors anymore. Please contact me before coming over so we can set up a time that works for both of us."

      From what you're saying is sounds like she's appointed herself to check up on you for health or safety reasons. That sort thing can be a two-edge sword. Sometimes it's nice (and needed) to have friends that are looking out for us but it's also too easy for some to cross that line where they want to take over which just makes us feel old and disrespected.

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    2. Her advice isn't always practical at all, she has some fairly crazy notions, and I've certainly disengaged with her more and more via email/phone. Much of her advice/ideas come from her "assuming" a lot of things including monetary and of course my living alone...

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    3. Following your instincts to "disengage" makes good sense.

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  8. I do not like unexpected or univited guests just like my parents,who at times when seeing a certain neighbourapproaching would walk out get in the car and go out just to avoid them.

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  9. Well, Pandemic may have Solved the dilemma of Inviting people randomly inside our Homes? If someone knocks on my Door now, I have a Basket of Clean Masks right there and put one on, then don't open the Door all the way and so far it works Fine. *LOL* I'm a lot more Sociable than The Man, I don't mind Company if it's someone I know well and have an inkling of their habits and a comfort level of being 100% with them should the Timing be limited for me to Host a Guest. I've been Fortunate that those who used to come by regularly always were very respectful of our Time and we were considerate to one another when being each other's Guests. The conflict with us was that living in a State that attracts Tourism, seemed a lot of folks just thought they could 'Vacation' at your House rather than booking Reservations somewhere. That got Old about as fast as Owning a Truck and having people ask if you'd help them Move. *Yes, I own a Truck, No, I won't Help you Move". *Winks* I finally put the kibosh on the Hotel Boheme' being available... it just got to be too much, even at the McManse, which was big enough that Hosting someone wasn't cramped, but it does interrupt your Privacy and regular Routine all the same... and is Expensive if everything is on your Dime. I personally would think someone asking regularly to borrow Appliances/Tools so they didn't have to buy and own/upkeep their own would be so Rude I just wouldn't be Down for allowing it at all. I discourage Moochers and Freeloaders.

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    1. People borrowing trucks to move or pick up something was common since we always had multi-trucks and my husband was generally glad to help close friends and family. But it's interesting that few people offered money for gas/time, but there was often pizza involved so fun was involved afterward. That kind of borrowing is different than the weekly vacuum cleaner that sometimes didn't get returned afterward so you'd have to walk across the street to get it when you needed it.

      I can see how living in a tourist area would get you lots of week long house guests. I have friend who lives in the D.C. area. Over the years she has hosted many house guests, myself included. Some people thrive on entertaining though, so I guess you have to know yourself and your limits. It can be fun when it's someone you really want to see but it still made me a nervous wretch the few times I've had house guests because of my lack of cooking skills.

      I have a storm door that has a top section that lowers you can do that to talk through the screen to someone at your door, without having to open it up. I will miss that when I move, but then in an apartment building without public access I won't be getting cold canvas salespeople at the door. I keep a mask there too, just in case I need or want to invite someone in.

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  10. Even family doesn't drop in without a text or phone call. It's common courtesy. I had a neighbor who simply did not answer her door if she wasn't expecting anyone. She didn't care if they could see her car there or her through the window. I miss her. She had a lot of sass.

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    1. My husband had a neighbor who would walk around the house looking in windows if he didn't answer the door. There was no hiding out or privacy when they knew he was home. Takes all kinds and I'd like your neighbor, too.

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  11. I am a waver - always have been. All of our old family movies have us walking towards the camera, and I am always grinning and waving! But I don't invite a lot of people inside.

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    1. That's the kind of neighbors I like...the wave and smile with an occasional talk outside.

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  12. I think we are much alike. Even if it is short notice, these days it seems like a call ahead is always a possibility. And especially in times of Virus. I don't mind so much going to the door and it's a neighbor who needs something. But I rarely invite in unless I'm as bored as the person who stopped by. I can see why in the case of a communal living situation, that would be a challenge. Good luck with that one!

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    1. It's going to be interesting and because we'll all be new in the building we'll be setting the standard for the future, I suspect.

      Cell phones do make it easy to call ahead, even if you want to stop by on a whim.

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  13. If it was me, I would stay in guard dog mode, Jean. The majority of people seem to only think of getting their own needs met rather than considering other's thoughts, feelings and schedules first. At least that's how I see it. In fact one of my first "tests" in meeting new people is how considerate they are. If they are more like the former than the latter, they proceed no further down the friendship road with me. It has served me well. I have a core group of very good friends who can drop in on me anytime as I know they would probably never do so...HAH!

    Deb

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    1. That does seem like prudent advice, since I'll be living in closer proximity to others than I ever had since living in dorm at college. Having a core group of friends is such a treasure. I'm happy that you have that.

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  14. No one drops in on anyone else around here. I mean, since we moved here 20+ years ago that hasn't happened. It's not the done thing. I'll admit that I like your soon-to-be neighbors preemptive approach to making sure people don't bother her. She's onto something.

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    1. She's right about having a lot of public places to go when we want to find someone to chit-chat with. Every floor has a game room plus there is a large outdoor open area overlooking the lake that will have winter heaters, two restaurants and an area around the mailboxes. The the sales office will be turned into a places for groups and classes to meet and, of course the gym.

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  15. I don't like when people just drop in. But most people know this who know me and will call first.

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    1. Where I live now drops ins have not been an issue and then the pandemic came along and none of us are getting visitors I'm guessing.

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  16. The times were different, and in the country quite different from the city, those years ago when your husband was growing up.

    I think clearly stating you need advance contact and don’t welcome unexpected drop-ins could be a good move right from the get-go. You can always loosen that in the future with some should you choose, but having to tighten a loose beginning could be much more difficult. You seem like the kind of person who can set that boundary in a friendly sociable unoffensive way without people feeling insulted.

    I’ve not had many unwelcome drop-in issues and only a few welcome ones. Guess I’ve been lucky with friends, neighbors and even most relatives that we've mutually observed the courtesy of checking in with each other first about coming by. Even before digital, social phone calls would be prefaced with a, “Is it convenient to talk now?” Sometimes it wasn't, but nobody got offended — just be honest. Sometimes it was just one or the other of us wasn't in the mood.

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    1. Times WERE different in the last century both growing up and as young adults. Plus I realize now much I depended on the dogs in my life to give me a 'character assessment' of the people standing at my door.

      To this day when I call someone I usually ask if they have a few minutes or is this a bad time. I've never been offended if someone says, "Can I call you back?" I think text messages gives people that time lapse now that people sometimes need before talking/texting someone back.

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  17. My worst nightmare is unexpected people at my door! Even if they are friends (slight exception for relatives). My home is my retreat and unless I know you are coming, don't. I know that sounds just awful, but we introverts have to have some preparation for socializing and some idea how long the socializing will last. I have two neighbors (married) who will talk ALL DAY LONG and I endure it out in the yard, where I just continue on with my weeding or whatever (they follow us around!) but not in my house! My other neighbors are like me. We wave and smile and leave each other mostly alone. I like it that way.

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    1. I especially hate the chit-chatting neighbors outside. A short conversation is fine but usually when I have an opportunity to go outside, I want to experience nature.

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