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

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Sexy Hair and Pickup Lines

A couple of weeks ago I had tea with a friend I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic and she couldn’t get over how much my hair has changed. She said, “You’re going to get a new man with that sexy hair after you move” and I laughed if off. 1) I don’t want a new man, and 2) there are 52 two women moving into the complex and 10 men and other women in the group with “sexy hair” have faces, bodies and better wardrobes to match their pile of silver waves and bangs that you can hide behind.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I stopped at the Guy Land Cafeteria to get a bowl of soup and a piece of chocolate pie. There were at least two dozen empty tables in the place but a guy picked a table adjoining mine with a short pony wall in between them and after getting seated he was only two-three feet away, with both of us facing the same direction. Not a bad looking guy for an old duffer. Sandy-gray hair, blue eyes, a well-trimmed mustache but thin where I am not. He commented on the weather. I replied in a friendly manner then went back to writing in my notebook which clearly he didn’t take as a hint that I wasn’t up for mindless chit-chat. 

He asked if I’d ever seen the magazine Reminisce. Target audience, older than dirt---my words, not his. Yes, of course I had. It’s filled with photos, short stories and recipes from the 1940s, through the 70s. I had even submitted a few stories that never got printed but I didn’t tell him that. He started reading an article to me about household cures our parents used when we were growing up while I tried to figure out if this guy was just lonely and any warm body to sit near would do or---drum roll, please---was it my sexy hair? I had just washed it that morning and it was all over the place, each wave having a mind of its own and extra silvery shiny because I’m trying to use up a bottle of conditioner before I move. 

It’s been so long since I’ve had to decide if someone was flirting with me or just a talkative stranger. Either way he thought I’d be a kindred spirit who likes stories about curing warts and boiling bullets to make a tea to drink to cure something soldiers picked up during the war which I’m assuming wasn’t VD because I’d have remember that. He was having such a good time while I was woofing down my pie and probably leaving a brown ring around my mouth from the speed I was going. I wasn't going to leave that pie behind but I wanted to escape after he asked, “Do you come here often?” which was reminiscence of my barhopping days, a popular pick up line back then right up with “What’s your sign?” and "If I told you that you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" I’d have been happier if I’d been eavesdropped on our conversation because it’s hard to record notes and think of good comebacks at the same time. My chocolate pie finished, I wasted no time in leaving him with my classic goodbye line to just about everyone---man, woman or child: “Nice talking with you.” “You, too,” he replied.

I was out running errands that day picking up more packing boxes and stopping at a place that buys gold and silver. I sold a Ziploc bag of stuff I never wear for $464.00. Some was jewelry I made in college using the lost wax process, the only art class I didn't get an A in so I wasn't sad to see these pieces go. My husband’s class ring, souvenir spoons and some old gifts Don gave me before he finally got the message I don’t like gold are also now on their way to The Great Melting Pot to get reborn.

Sexy hair. And now that my friend planted that phrase in my head she had me wondering if a guy at a future residence meeting yesterday sought me out for my hot hair or if he really did just want to tell me that his wife passed away since I saw him last. Just kidding. The guy was devoted to his wife. She was in the beginning stages of dementia and I always made a point to talk to her about the centerpieces on the tables because she, her husband and I all had extensive experience in the floral industry. 

He showed me photos of floral arrangements he’d made for his new unit out of silk flowers. He's a great designer but a few decades out of style unless the sleek, lineal lines are back in style again and I'm the one out of touch. He showed me his new area rug and couch and his decorating style couldn't be more different than mine. I'm all whites to the point of boring if I'm not careful with decorative touches. He's got a red couch and a rug full of primary colored flowers over a black background. He gave me something new thing to shop for though. He found covers for throw pillows for under $10 and I had six throw pillows waiting for my next trip to Goodwill. I pulled three back out of the bag. Amazon's got the best selection but I'm forcing myself to wait until after I move to buy some.

I told him about how hard it was to downsize my collection of flower vases which may prove to be a mistake now that he knows my intention is to have fresh flowers in my apartment as often as possible. If this guy by some twist of cosmic humor starts bringing me flowers to put in my many vases he’d better be bringing them to all the other ladies around us as well or I’ll be pooping canary features and cutting my hair boy short again.  

I need to come up with nicknames for my fellow residents starting with him. The Florist is too obvious. Since there are so few guys on campus maybe I'll number them and he can be Guy Two. Guy One has already named himself but that's a story for another day. 

Another newbie I met yesterday I may name N.E.F (negative energy field). She's leaving another CCC against her children's strong objections to move into my CCC, probably lowing their inheritance substantially to do so. She no doubt kissed $250,000 away that is non-refundable in places like this. When I asked her what was wrong with the place, she said, "If you're not Dutch, you're not much." Having heard that phrase my entire life, I laughed. I should have had sympathy for her since growing up I experienced the prejudices firsthand from the Dutch Christian Reformers in the area, but I didn't. I felt smug because I did my homework when clearly she didn't. Does that make me a bad person? Hint: When picking out a new community, read their freaking newsletters and mission statements. I made a mental note to avoid her in the future because her Negative Energy Field was draining the sassy-ass, Sexy Hair attitude right out of me.   ©

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

How Doing Stupid Things is Part of a Vast right Wing Conspiracy

“Stupid is what stupid does.” is an idiom popularized by the movie, Forest Gump and according to the Urban Dictionary it means, “an intelligent person who does stupid things is still stupid. You are what you do.” Go ahead, call me stupid. It won’t be the first time that label has been pinned on me. The first time that I remember hearing it was when I was trying to learn to tie my shoes. My mother tried to teach me. My dad tried to teach me. My brother tried to teach me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mailman, milkman and the baker down the street tried to teach me. It wasn’t until some where a long the line another left-handed person got in the act and got the job done and now, at nearly eighty, I still show off my shoe tying skills by double knotting my laces.

The last time someone called me stupid was this morning when I berated myself for forgetting the Cardinal Rules for fixing all computer related boo-boos: 1) When all else failed restart your machine. 2) Restart your wi-fi. 3) Go to your bedroom, lay down a few minutes then get back up and restart your whole freaking day if you have to and by some miracle it all helps. But why does it take me a hour or two of frustration trying to get my printer to work before---Lo and Behold---the Cardinal Rules pop into my head? Someone needs to embroider those rules on throw pillow. I’ll bet they’d make a lot of money and I would be first in line to buy one.

I’ve been packing boxes and I’m up to 76 now. I have a handwritten inventory sheet that I finally typed into a word document and I wanted to print it off. Thus I was given the keys to Frustration City. Losing my printer was a frequent occurrence with my old computer and I got so I could download new drivers and get it back online in less than ten minutes. But with my new computer everything I tried including getting new drivers wasn’t working. Until I remembered to apply the freaking magic rules. 

After I move I wouldn’t even need a printer if I didn’t want one. They’ll have a IT room like in hotels where you can walk in with your laptop and send your documents to one of their printers.They’ll also have an IT guy at our beck-and-call too which I was excited about until I learned he gave us bad information when he spoke at a future residence meeting and told us we could keep our Charter e-mails forever when the company says otherwise.

In case you’re wondering about how the vast right wing made me do these stupid things, it didn’t. I got that title from a title generator that I found through another blogger, The Spectacled Bean. I put ‘doing stupid things’ into the generator and laughed out loud when it came up with the title at top of this post. I’m not sure if 'Portent's Content Idea Generator' will become a part of my blogging MO but if you’ve been reading me for very long you’ll be able to tell those spoof titles from the ones my brains works so hard at churning out. It’s no secret that coming up with titles is my least favorite part about blogging. I had the same issue coming up with titles for art work back in the olden days when I needed to name paintings for exhibits. Screw the naming question. The bigger cliffhangers in my future according to the Gospel of Me is will I be able to paint again or did the years take away any talent I might have had?

My new phone got shipped and delivered in record time but I was ready for it. For some obscure reason it ported contacts from an older version that included a bunch of contacts for Levi that I had deleted when he died. No worries. I deleted them again and put the hard copy list I made in my emergency ‘Go Bag’ for a power outrage or the apocalypse, which ever comes first. 

Next step was to start the porting process for transferring my landline number to the my new cell and if you read the comments section on my last post you know that is not going well. The saga continued for two mornings spent on hold and getting passed around Spectrum with different departments contradicting each other. Finally, I was given a phone number for Great Calls to call to find out why the rejection happened. Twice. Great Calls conferenced me in on the call to Spectrum and fingers crossed I'll know by Monday if the third port request works. If not, Great Calls was told by Spectrum to do the 4th request "manually" whatever that means. I'm so glad I didn't wait until closer to the move to go through this.

The house closing took place today but with hitch I wasn't expecting. Because my buyers were from out-of-state the title company couldn't issue me a check for my house until they get electronic copies of the buyer's notarized signatures. They didn't spring that twist on until the very end. Essentially, I signed my house over and had to walk out with a PROMISE the check would get hand delivered this afternoon. With so many moving parts, I feared something would go wrong. But it didn't. Got the check as promised but the bank says there's a two day hold on it which means I have to go back to get a cashier's check to make the final payment for my new place.

Since my husband’s (and my) grave marker is nearby the place where we closed I swung around to the cemetery so I could dig a hole for Levi’s ashes without getting caught. I was like Johnny Appleseed when I spread my husband’s ashes in two counties and at six places and that’s not counting the half a box of ashes buried at the cemetery, an ash locket I used to wear a lot and a four inch tall ash urn kept in a velvet box on my book shelve. Did I shed tears planting Levi's ashes into the ground? Yes, but not many and they were more about closure than the pain of loss. And for the fact that I probably won't get back up to this end of the county until my ashes are interred.

The day we interred my husband's ashes the sexton asked me if I wanted to be at the foot or head of the gravesite because Don’s ashes would be placed at the opposite end and it struck me that these three guys---two sextons and the funeral director---would probably judge our entire marriage dynamics by the answer I gave. I went back and forth trying to figure out a logical choice and finally I decided dead is dead and what difference could it possibly make what I picked or what these strangers thought. As hard as that decision was that day I don't remember what I decided nine years ago. Levi's ashes went as close to the stone as I could get them because I didn't want to accidentally dig up husband. That would be hard to explain.

Jeez, how did I get from vast right wing conspiracies making a person do stupid things to burying my dog’s ashes? If you can figure that out maybe you can help me step away from the computer and go find me some breakfast. My stomach is growling. ©

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Ambien, and Moving E-mails and Landlines

I knew it wouldn’t last. It’s been nearly a month since I accepted an offer on the house and during most of that time I was able to wean myself off from taking Ambien every night to get some sleep. That auspicious occasion evidently re-set my internal clock so that I was getting six hours of sleep the natural way which for me means my dreams are back. Usually I like my dreams but ever since I got a firm appointment for the closing on my house my dreams have not been the fun kind that wake me up wishing I could go back to that wrinkling-of-time-and-space land of my subconscious mind. Nope. Two nights in a row I kept waking myself up dreaming that I was at an auction and my house was what was being auctioned off. “No, no! I can’t do this!” During the daylight hours I do want to do this---move---but all of sudden it looks like too much work. Like an avalanche is headed my way and I can't outrun it. In other words, panic mode is trying its best to sink in.

After two nights of falling asleep around midnight but waking back up near 3:00 with no more sleep in sight I was hauling out the Ambien bottle again. Before the pandemic I’d taken the drug for years but I limited its usage to several nights around the full moon and my doctor was fine with that. With all the stress in my life now he’s temporarily okay with me taking it every night but would be happier if I didn’t. Apparently, people in my age bracket are more sensitive to the negative effects of the drug than younger people. If you google Ambien you’ll find stuff like this: “Due to the association noted with other sleeping medications like diphenhydramine and benzodiazepines, there is some concern that Ambien could affect long-term memory and contribute to the development of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.” Yikes!

On the moving front: I’ve been doing things that don’t show up except as check marks on a To Do List. My landline and e-mail address are both tied in with my cable company and I won’t have the same cable company after I move causing me to set up a new e-mail account and I've been updating that info at places where it matters----financial and health related mostly. I got conflicting information on whether or not you can keep using an e-mail address from a cable company once you leave that company. Evidently, many of them do let you do that. However, at the cable company I use its written out in plan English but buried in the fine print on their website that your e-mail address will only be good for 30 days after you cancel your cable service. The moral of that story is to get your information from the horse’s mouth. Hint: Tech gurus don’t know everything and I’m grateful I figured that out before moving rather than after I move when I'll be distracted with settling into my dollhouse-sized new digs.

My landline number is one I’ve had for decades. It’s only the second phone number I’ve had in my entire life. Can you believe that! (I don’t count my cell number because I rarely use it except for texting and I couldn’t pick it out in a lineup of phone numbers if I tried.) But I do remember when the phone company put the telephone poles down the street for the first time and we neighbors all had sequential numbers when I was a kid. My last digits were 9042 and our neighbors were 9041 and 9043. That number issued back then stayed with the house I grew up when I bought the place from my parents.

I cannot take my landline number with me when I move because the continuum care campus has their own internal phone system we have to use if you want a landline and they don't port numbers. Finally, after weeks of thinking and scheming about how to keep that number I decided to upgrade to a brand new cell phone, have the landline number ported over to it and after that's all squared away, then get my contacts ported over to the new cell before canceling the service on the other two phones. My cell carrier assures me it will all work out. Since I always have a back up plan, I printed out a hard copy of my contacts in case I have to enter them manually. The new phone is due to be delivered any day now and then I'll have to work up the courage to start the porting process. I have a bit of a phone phobia. I have to be in the right mood to dial anyone.

I hate using cell phones in particular. They are too small and awkward to hold, but I’m vowing to take the time to learn the ins and outs to getting the most out of my new cell. By the time I've settled into my new place I hope not to give in to the temptation to add a landline phone bill into my budget. On the other side of the coin I don’t want to become one of those people who are surgically attached to their cell phones. I will, however need to work on getting better at checking for messages a couple of times a day. Woe is me and my First World "issues". Soon I’ll only have one cell as opposed to one cell and three landline extensions. You can't not hear three extensions going off at once. Unless I’m sitting right on top of the new cell, I’ll never hear a phone ringing for me for the rest of my life. Maybe I'll have to rethink that surgically attached option.

Next Saturday's Blog Saga will no doubt be about a future residence orientation meeting at my new place that is supposed to cover things like making our final payments and the other paperwork---a 14 page form!---we'll need to provide them. We'll only have until October 4th to back out and get a full refund but if I did that where would I live? There will be no second guessing this late in the game. From here on in I have to trust that I was of sound mind and body when I made the decision to sign the dotted line on my next big adventure in life. ©

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Mother of all my Other Pivotal Moments

 I got a call from a woman who likes to talk which is fine, I’m a good listener. Or at least I used to be. I kept wishing we were doing a Zoom call so she could see me giving her the classic hand signal to wrap it up. I haven’t had the urge to do that since my husband had his stroke in 2000. He was long-winded but she takes too many 35-40 second pauses in between her words stretching her short, boring stories into epic novels. Her story about a trip the store, for example, was as long as the recorded version of Melville’s whopping fish tale and it could have been written on a grocery list. I think at one point she was reading me her grocery list. I don’t know for sure because I was giving myself a manicure and got distracted by how strong my nails have gotten lately. She’s always had that same speech pattern but on that particular day it was driving me to Crazyville. I had the same problem with her monologue holding my interest as I did when I first tried to read Moby Dick and Melville had the sub-text of good vs. evil within his 752 pages. Her sub-text was the price of eggs and milk went up.

“Call me Ishmael,” Herman Melville wrote on page one of his epic novel. “Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”  Okay, why would anyone call him anything but ‘Ishmael’ if that was his real name? Why didn't he just say, "My name is Ishmael" inquiring minds want to know? And yet American Book Review rates “Call me Ishmael” as number one on the '100 Best First Lines in Novels’. 

My favorite opening line is rated at number nine:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...."  Charles Dickens wrote that sentence in 1859 for his A Tale of Two Cities. If he had been in my high school English class back in the 1950s the teacher would have been up his butt about his “lack of proper punctuation” and would have made him change some of those commas to periods. Run-on sentences were my specialty back then. I still write a lot of them, but my reading habits and tastes have changed since the days when I struggled (and usually failed) to read the classics from start to finish. Now, an opening line that holds my interest goes something like: “He was so hot my panties melted." Just kidding! I'm not that shallow although one peek at my Kindle library might argue otherwise.

Did you learn how to diagram a sentence when you were taking English grammar in high school? I nearly flunked all my English classes back then but when I had to take a zero credit class that we students affectionately called “Dumbbell English” in my first semester at college it all clicked in place and I got an A out of that class. I learned how to diagram the stuffings out of sentences and it was fun. I don’t know if it was the enthusiastic instructor that made the difference or if my dyslexia was on the verge of sorting itself out or a combination of both, but I loved that class. My ‘composition workbooks' from the class survived the drastic purges this past year. The covers are torn and heavily taped, one has a barely readable spine, but I still love them.

In everyone’s life there are pivotal moments that change the trajectory of our lives and looking back I can see clearly that that class was a pivotal highlight in my life. I could write as many crazy-long sentences as I liked and not get disapproving red marks on my pages as long as I kept my subjects and verbs and dependent clauses where they belonged. Diagramming became like auto-correct to me, showing me the errors of my ways.

Some might ask how I got into college if my grades in anything that required reading and writing were so bad. Simple. I got straight A’s in the art classes and in classes like mechanical drawing. I was the very first girl to take mechanical drawing classes in our high school district and it had an instructor who (along with my mom) fought for me to be allowed in the previously all boys classes because, he said, I had a raw talent. What he didn’t know is it wasn’t so raw. My dad had taught me how to draw blueprints and schematics since I was old enough to hold a pencil and I wanted to know what he was drawing. I had four semesters of mechanical drawing and the instructor even had my drafting table taken down to the wood shop to get it sanded smooth because it was always giving me runs in my nylons and it's just now dawning on me to wonder how he knew that. I suppose my legs were more interesting to look at than the boys he'd been teaching since Columbus departing Spain in 1492.

In my first three years of college I continued getting mostly A’s in art but before my third semester when I went to my adviser to get approval for classes that would lead me to a career in architecture he flatly refused to okay them. “You girls are only here to get a Mrs. Degree,” he told me, “and I can’t allow you to take up a seat in a class a guy will need to earn a living.” I was young and dumb back in those days and didn’t fight for myself like I would have in the post Feminine Mystique era that came shortly after those days. I let him put me on a path toward a teaching art degree. But I never made past that third year.

…Until twenty-five years later when I finally went back to college and got a degree in fine arts. Walking across that stage to collect my diploma was the mother of all the other pivotal moments in my life. It didn’t lead to a career change. That ship had sailed with the invention of computers taking over the lower level drafting jobs and the projection for jobs in the field of architecture showing a decline for the foreseeable future, but finishing collage gave me a special kind of pride in myself, that after all those years I wasn't a failure anymore. I was a college graduate! To this day it ranks in the top three of my proudest accomplishments. 

My other two proudest accomplishments? The way I handled the twelve and a half years after my husband's stroke counts for one. The other is me finally getting to have a house built starting with a plan in my head to watching it get built. Oh, yes, it's going to be hard to leave here but houses should work for your life-style and my life-style needs to change.

The next paragraph was written just to prove I could condense my greatest accomplishment down to one 88 word, run-on sentence. (Okay, I admit it doesn't take much to amuse me these days.)

Call Me Jean. Some years ago—never mind precisely how many—having no upcoming wedding plans on the horizon like all the other girls in my high school I put myself through three years of college, then dropped out and spent the next twenty-five years feeling like a failure until I returned and two years later walked proudly across a stage to collect my diploma, with no thoughts whatever of sailing about the watery parts of the world that I finally did finish reading about in Melville's epic novel. ©

Saturday, August 14, 2021

My Not so Common Cataract Surgery

At the eye doctor’s office I was moved from room to room to sit in front of an assortment of machines to measure crap that will lead up to getting cataract surgery in October, after I move. Those of you who’ve had yours removed know the drill. “Put your chin here, your forehead there. Look right. Your other right.” Red dots. Orange circles. Green crosses. Jeez, could you wrap this up before I pee my pants, I thought a one point. One day when my brain's filter is shot I’ll vocalize thoughts like that but this was not that day. I was more concerned with my 3” x 5” notebook that I pretty much have with me everywhere I go. The technician kept taking it out of my hand to plop down on a side desk. At one point I did say, “You really don’t want me to have that do you,” and she replied, “I don’t want you to drop it on the floor.” Like that would ever happen.

I always have a death grip on my notebook when I have it out in public. Its not like I have the nuclear codes or the passwords to my bank accounts inside but I don’t want anyone around me to see the words I may have written about them to use for blog fodder later on. Not that anyone could read my written-in-haste scribbling. Half the time I can’t even do that. I have been practicing my penmanship lately, though, ever since I found a pad of calligraphy paper I didn’t want to throw out. Everyday I fill up a sheet and I figure it will be all used up by moving day. Loosening my hold on the pen and slowing down has done wonders to restore my once beautiful handwriting. I still can’t believe they don’t teach cursive in schools anymore. When we're all 90 we can pass notes gossiping about the staff at the nursing home and if they intercept a note they won’t have a clue what we’re saying about them. This fact was driven home to me 3-4 years ago when the mom-to-be at a baby shower had to have messages written inside cards read to her if they were written in cursive.

The eye doctor did not have the best news for me regarding my upcoming cataract surgery. I have a condition on my left eye called a macular pucker which is like wrinkles on your macular and not to be confused with macular degeneration. Only 5% of the population has one. Lucky me. I’ve known about it for a long time because it leaves a blank spot in the middle of an eye chart and makes straight lines look broken. I’m pretty sure it was caused when I Crazy Glued my eye ball to the inside of my eye lid, but the eye doctor says eye injuries aren't the only cause of macular puckers. Still, nothing else on the short list of known causes fits my history.

The condition not only limits the choice of lens the doctor can use to replace the cataract but my eye will be in danger of swelling four weeks out from the surgery. Isn’t that timing weird? If that happens I’ll have to have shots in my eye and the doctor couldn’t tell me if those shots are a one-and-done thing or if I'd be in for a lifetime of shots in the eyeball. In addition to the normal drops one gets after cataracts are removed, I'll be doing extra eye drops a week before the surgery and "several" weeks after in that eye.

I asked her if I could let the left eye I go and just have the right eye cataract removed and she said if I let it will be hard to get the cataract separated from the pucker and I’d end up going blind. The fancier lens that let you see without glasses, she also said, "would be a waste of money for you." "I don’t care if I have to wear glasses,” I told her. “Glasses hide my mis-matched eyebrows.” I’ll bet she’s never heard that one before in her sixteen years of practice. I also have an astigmatism which are common so I'd still be wearing glasses after my surgery even without the pucker.

This is the first time I’ve met this doctor. She inherited me from my long-time doctor who collects paintings done by obvious-to-him artists with eye diseases and conditions. He retired early because of the pandemic. The last time I saw him he said he'd hand me off to the surgeon I'm getting when my cataracts were 'ripe' but I feel bad that I didn't get to say goodbye and wish him well. We had a great rapport. I loved talking art with him and seeing his art on the walls of his office.

In these modern times of handheld devices the ophthalmology office made me view videos of all the wonderful things I can expect during and after surgery and then they followed that up with a folder full of papers to take home of all the scary things that can go wrong that a patient is to read before signing the consent forms. I hate this! I’m only going to tell people I'm getting the surgery on a need to know basis so I don't have to listen to all the piece-of-cake stories and how I'm going to love the results because I'll be tipsy-toeing around for four weeks waiting to see if I get to joint that piece-of-cake club or not. I'm glad I’ll have lots of moving related things to think about in the meantime so I won’t obsess about someone cutting into my eye, sucking out the cataract and hoping she gets all the pieces hiding in the pucker so I don’t get an infection. She's only seen "3 or 4" macular puckers and my old doctor had only seen five and mine counts as one for both of them.

On the good side if things do go horribly wrong maybe I can create my old doctor a painting for his collection. I could be the artist who specializes in portraits of people who have faces with misaligned features. Oh wait, I could that now! I miss his fatherly reassurances and humor. I'll bet he would have thrown me a line from the Hunger Games after giving me the pre-OPT workup: "May the odds be ever in your favor." I would have laughed away some of my apprehensions and he would have followed that up with a warm smile while adding, "Doctor Lady Pants is one of the best in the city. You'll do fine." (Note: Lady Pants is not her real last name but I bet you figured that out already.) 

I didn't want Doctor Art Lover to retire until after I die. Same with my with dermatologist. He also retired early because of the pandemic and his son is taking over his practice. But getting naked in front of a strange man is a worry for next summer and there's always the off chance that's I'll be skinny by then. If that happens, I'd probably strip with a little too much glee.  ©

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Spilling Secrets: An Old Woman’s Diaries


Three times in the past I’ve written posts about and have tried to purge over 45 years worth of diaries out of my life. I was twelve when I wrote in my first diary: “Today we had a spelling test and I funked it.” It was a black faux leather, five year diary and after that I had a one year, green book that I filled with movie playbills and boy crushes. Then I discarded the idea of using official diaries and I switched to using red and black books with blank pages from the office supply store. I was able to buy that same style from the mid ‘50s through to the new century. With some of the earlier, boy crazy volumes it took two books to get through a year. Later volumes compressed 3-4 years in each book. By the time I’d discovered blogging as my new form of diary keeping my last red and black book had only yearly entries for entire decade of the 2000s.

The fact that I’m back here writing about my old diaries again is all the proof you need that my three attempts to finally let go of them were dismal failures. I kept getting sentimental over reading through them and I'd decide the purging could wait until another day that never came. Until this week. Well sort of---I compromised with myself. Half are gone, half will get moved with me. I kept the ‘50s through 1960 when I was still an innocent kid. A boy crazy kid to the core if you can believe the ramblings of a teenage virgin who thought she was destine to never find true love. (Didn't give up my V-Card until I was twenty-five, in case anyone is asking,) Not much was on those pages that could hurt anyone’s feelings should family read them after I’m gone, not much of anything is in them which begs the question: Why can’t I let them go? I’m thinking maybe it’s because they show how much I’ve grown, expanded my mind, my writing abilities and interests in life? As a side note, do you find it as curious as I do that I’m back to looking for true love again, only this time I'm looking in the pages of romance books? The more things change the more they stay the same.

I also shredded the travel journal I blogged about not long ago, but I kept one later diary volume, 1970, the year I met my husband. Trust me, it was not filled with hearts and flowers and puppy dog tales. We had a rocky beginning to our relationship. I was more interested in his friend---we all met at the same time---who I was also dating and it was 4-5 months before Don and I got around to being exclusive. I think I kept that volume to remind myself of how much our relationship grew over the decades to come. We'd both been in serious relationships before we met that, for me, ended badly and took me to dark places. Don was fighting demons of his own. Eventually it won't be hard to shred that diary like I managed to do with the rest of the ‘60s through the ‘90s. Just not this year. I still have some lessons to learn from that tumultuous year.

One of the reasons people keep old diaries is an attempt to understand our pasts and how they influence our present. And I'm proud of myself for purging the diaries documenting the year I fell head over heels in love with the guy I dated before Don and the dark year after we broke up when the phrase "one-night stands" could have applied a few too many times. I thought he was my forever guy and for a while he thought the same way about me and it broke my heart into million pieces when it was over. Since my last attempt to purge that era of diaries I did a deep dive into a collection of letters written back and forth to Vietnam and I found the understanding I needed, of how much the Vietnam War played a heavy hand in our break up. We met through those letters and he serviced five tours of duty over there before we started dating. Looking back with an old woman's wisdom I finally realized the breakup was not about me...or him. It never was, and just like that I made peace with the hurt and found the healing I needed. At last, it was easier than I thought it would be to tear those two books apart and put the pages through the shredder.

In 1999 I had gone back to using a one year diary that documented my last year out of five of share-caring my dad and his dementia and trying to balance the time spent with him, working and my life with Don. It was not a pretty picture. I was always sleep deprived and stressed out and that diary was filled with tensions and arguments with my brother. And imagined or not, I felt like my share-caring---being away from home three days and two nights a week to be with my dad---was pulling Don and I apart emotionally. He was still there for me when ever I needed his help with Dad or whatever but our time for fun and recreation fell by the weigh-side and was being filled in his life by a neighbor couple. I was jealous. 

This week as I read through that 1999 book it became the first one to hit the shredder. I didn’t want my nieces to one day find it and see their father and me in a bad light. And I’ve never been that person who talked negatively about a significant-other or spouse. That’s what diaries are for and I didn't want my nieces to see me doing The Snitty Dance just because Don essentially had time to laugh and play with the neighbors when I didn't. Those neighbors, by the way, turned out to be good time Charlies because after Don's massive stroke they rarely came to visit and that really hurt Don.

Crazy to say this but those five years of share-caring my dad are what I'm most proud of. I met a hard challenge and helped give Dad the best life a guy with lung cancer and dementia could have and yet you'd never know that, reading that one year diary. Some of my best memories of my dad happened that year but I never wrote a word about them in real time. The diary had to go so the a glossy "re-write" of my personal history doesn't get contradicted by a book filled with the writings of a woman who was clearly holding on by her fingernails to her world spinning out of control. To my nieces my caregiver crown will still be a shiny example for the same challenge they've recently taken on for their dad.

Marie Kondi in one of her books on downsizing said no one should own more than 30 books and we’re to keep them in a box in a closet. Ideally she thinks we should just tear out the pages we like in a book and throw out the rest. (Clearly she's not a reader.) I really dislike that woman but I actually followed her advice during my diary purging project. Mostly I kept some of the preambles that I wrote each year. God, some of them are so pretentious that they make me laugh. They would have been great preambles if I’d turned out to be famous. Just goes to show that teenagers and twenty-somethings don’t know squat. But of all the pages I want to save---and there were less than a dozen---the diary entry I love the most after a reading marathon that covered so many years of my life is still my “I took a spelling test today and I funked it” written in 1955. If I every purge that diary I will frame that page and hang it near my computer because I am still a notoriously bad speller. ©

Note: Sorry this post is long. I couldn't decide what 300 words to cut to keep within my self-imposed 1,000 word quota. It was also somewhat liberating to spill all my secrets at once and let the chips fall where they may.

The diary box before the purge. The notebooks on the right are filled with bad poetry I wrote .

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Birds, Diuretics, Anti-Vaxxers and Fan-Girling Baseball

 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday went by with a good deal of guilt tagging along behind me. Guilt because I feel like I’m wasting time. I’m in a holding pattern where I don’t want to start packing or selling and giving away art and furniture I used for staging the house because I still don’t have a firm appointment for a closing. (We are one step closer though, the appraisal came back $2,000 higher than the offer I accepted.)  

And I’m worried I might spill my morning coffee on the carpeting or break something now that the house presumptuously will belong to someone else soon and I’ll be like a squatter living rent free for up to 60 days while someone else is making mortgage payments. I asked the realtor what happens if, say, a tree falls down? Do I just have it cut up and hauled away? "They'd notice it missing." He said I’d need to call the new owners and ask them how they wanted to handle anything that gets broken or damaged during the 60 days possession period. "It’s their house, their decision."

I’ve started a mental list of all the things I’m going to miss about this house. Birds ranked in the top ten---added on the list when a white-breasted nuthatch landed on my deck railing and he brought with him a wave of sentimental attachment for all the birds that are attracted to my yard. Over the years I’ve cataloged twenty-five species of birds that hang around this place. In the early evening if I sit on the deck wearing my hearing aids their songs and calls drown out all thoughts and it’s almost effortless to live in the moment. I’m taking my bird call with me but I don’t expect it will get me into the same Man-Bird “conversations” I’ve come to enjoy here. But I might trick the neighbors into thinking their eyesight is getting bad when they can’t spot the ‘bird’ calling its mate.

Did I mention I’m sitting at the Guy Land Cafeteria right now, another high ranking thing I will miss after I move? I stopped on the way home from a doctor’s appointment because it was 3:00 and I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch. I was trying to fool his scales into believing I’d lost a few pounds in the two months since I saw him last. But both my blood pressure and my weight were exactly the same causing me to curse the fact that I’ve given up oriental food, salty snacks and cookies for absolutely nothing. The doctor decided it's time to add another drug to the mix to lower my blood pressure---oh, God a diuretic. Could I pee anymore often than I already do? I know where every single restroom is between home and every place I go. If reincarnation is real I want to come back as a man just so I can pee in a bottle.

My house cleaners were here this week but the house was pretty much still spotless from the showings so I had one of them clean the oven for the new owners. They came to the door carrying their masks and asked if they needed to wear them. I replied, “The Delta variation of the virus is in our county now, so, ya, I’d like you to wear them.” They are anti-vaxxers to the core. “We don’t like the government telling us what to do.” One of them said her uncle just got vaccinated and sent her a picture of a magnet stuck to his vaccination spot. Rather than believe the obvious, that her uncle was poking fun at her anti-vaxxer miss-information, she’d rather believe the government is involved in a vast conspiracy to make us all tractable with magnetic chips. You can’t argue with stupid and I didn’t even try.

Apparently, they’d just lost a large job of cleaning rooms in a motel because the owner only wanted vaccinated cleaners and the cleaning service owner (who was one of my cleaners that day) told the motel owner that she refuses to ask her workers if they’ve gotten vaccinated. "It's none of my business what they do with their bodies," she told me and her former client. Then she said her sister-in-law who works for an OBGYN is “being forced to quit her job of 30 years because she won’t get vaccinated. What an outrage!" I kept my mouth shut because one does not disagree with someone on a rant who could use your tooth brush to clean your toilet.

I’ve written seven hundred and thirty words to here. What can I add to get my writing quota up to 1,000? I could list a few more things I will miss after I move but I don’t want to dwell on that aspect of moving. I’m way past the point where a pros-and-cons list serves a useful purpose. I’ve already caught myself on the verge of crying once while thinking about all the memories associated with this house.

How about I report on my project to teach myself about major league baseball? I’ve watched a game just about every night since I made that declaration. The basics of the game I pretty already knew but I’m still trying to sort out the different kinds of pitches and I’ve printed out a list of baseball slang so when an announcer says things like, “He threw a cookie” I'll have a clue what’s going on. I'm also still trying to figure out why runners throw themselves on the ground and slide to a base instead of just keep running to get there. And are some of those guys wearing man-thongs because they don't all have the telltale underwear lines. And can we talk about the germs they pass around in baseball? What's with all the spitting? One guy even rubbed his spit all over his bat and I doubt he washed his hands before he was out in the field catching a ball in the next inning.

But the most interesting thing I’ve learned about baseball is how easy it is to fall asleep during a game. It makes me smile every time I catch myself waking up when the crowd gets loud because it brings back warm memories of my dad doing the same thing while nestled in his sleepy hollow, red leather chair. He could be snoring but would wake up if we tried to change the channel or turn the volume down and I'm starting to fan-girl those crowd sounds playing in the background of my life. ©