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, September 29, 2021

Funeral Crashing Aphasia Style

This is last of the scheduled, rerun posts from my caregiver days and if you're reading it you'll know my one-track brain is on another train of thought. I didn't earn the nickname "One Track" for my ability to multi-task. Just sayin' I'm in moving mode big time. By this time next week I'll still be surrounded by moving boxes but those boxes will be sitting in my new place. But Saturday's post is half written, my last one to go out from this house. Blog fodder after that should come easy as I settle into my new life. In the meantime, here's one of my favorite memories from my life living with a husband who for 12 1/2 years could parrot any word anyone said to him but could only initiate a 25 word vocabulary all on his own...

 My husband, Don, is an obituary clipper. It’s not a hobby that he picked up since becoming a ‘certain age’ like most people would assume of old people who have a box full of newspaper announcements of this sort. He’s been doing this for at least thirty-five years. Don has a memory like an elephant and he also knew a lot of people, so his collection of clippings was huge at the time of his massive stroke when the collection got thrown out with our move to a wheelchair accessible house. For several years after the stroke he couldn't read but when his reading returned the obituary clipper part of his personality did too.

In Don’s distance past he worked at a funeral home as an after school job while he was in high school. He did various things like take the hearse to the hospital to pick up bodies, put flags on cars on funeral days and wash black vehicles. They liked him so much they wanted to pay his way into undertaking school but he wasn’t buying that as a career choice. The experience did give my husband a special reverence for the importance of funerals and he never looked for excuses not to go to one. In Don’s book, it’s a duty to honor the dead and comfort the living and he’s not about to close that book now that he uses a wheelchair and he can’t talk due to his severe stroke related language disorders, aphasia and apraxia.

In the past, of course, there were many funerals that he went to that I didn’t have to attend because I had no history with the dearly departed. I don’t have that privilege any more and Friday was such an occasion. Don had a clipping and the funeral was to be held at the mortuary where he had once worked. A double header, I presumed on the Planet Aphasia. The name of the dead guy sounded vaguely familiar but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it out Don how he knew the gentlemen. Oh, but he was animate! This was a funeral where just sending a card would not do. He was going---no ifs, ands or buts about it. Don’s aphasic brain couldn’t say the words: “If you won’t drive me, I’m taking my wheelchair all the way into town” but the determined look on his face sure got that message across. So, off we went in our somber clothing. We’re there doing our funeral thing. Greeting people who spoke to us, signing the guest book and still I couldn’t figure out where this dead guy fit into Don’s life. People would ask us how we knew the guy but, of course, neither Don nor I could tell them. I was doing my standard he-can’t-talk-and-I-don’t-know routine and feeling like I’d like to melt into the floor boards when Don finally got out the word, “Four.” So we started doing the aphasic polka.

“Four that---months, years, days, hours, seconds, people, places, or things?” I asked.

“Years!” Don beamed like that’s going to tell me the entire story. He was so proud of himself for getting out that clue to the mystery. Four years. Okay. We started the aphasic polka all over again.

To make a long story short, just as the grieving family was getting seated so the service could begin my aphasia decoder ring finally broke the code. The only person Don knew in the dead dude's family was only four years old the last time he saw him, and that was way back when Don was in high school, working at that funeral home forty-seven years! Don kept the four year old busy at the funeral home when his parents visited their friend, the undertaker. So I’m sitting there in one of those little wooden chairs that are always too close together for comfort, listening to a bad version of “Precious Memories” and trying my best not to laugh up a cow. It was not easy, let me tell you. Even a few people near-by who had over heard our aphasic polka exchange were cracking up.

After the service, we didn’t stay for cake and coffee although I’m sure Don would have liked to have done so---there are no strangers in his world but I was too embarrassed. And thus ended another wonderful experience on the Planet Aphasia where every day brings something new to laugh about. We have now officially crashed the funeral of an almost total stranger. ©

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The week of Screw Ups

It was bound to happen. I had to unpack a box that was sealed and ready for the move. A box that was full of the obscure things we keep under the kitchen sink. At least that’s where I keep my Goo Gone and Dawn dish soap. I don’t actually use Dawn to wash dishes but when it’s not used to remove oil from wildlife it does a great job on my indoor electric grill. To be clear I haven’t washed any wildlife yet unless we’re talking about stink bugs, an invasive species that came to Michigan a decade ago and every fall hundreds of them take up residence on the south side of houses to winter under our siding. In the past I’ve sprayed the stink bugs with soapy Dawn dish water and it wasn’t an act of kindness to clean them. It renders them unable to fly and then they die. I’ve also vacuumed them off the house then vacuumed up insecticide. There is no humane way to kill stink bugs but fortunately for me they are slow and dime-sized so they can’t escape me when I put on my assassinator’s  hat. A hat that will be retired as of now. Yeah!

But my screw up and need for Dawn and Goo Gone had nothing to do with bugs and everything to do with me being clumpy. I had a mirror with an antique, gold leafed frame that I wanted to turn into a silver leafed frame. But first I had to spray paint it black. Easy job. After all, I’m the one who gold leafed it back in 1960. I know this because I wrote it on the back along with I what I paid for the mirror, who I bought it from and the fact that the “old woman” was 80. Eighty doesn’t seem so old now that I’m trying out the age for size. Yes, I tell people I’m 80 when I’m not quite there yet. People overlook stuff when you’re 80 that they don’t dismiss when you’re younger. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I was in the yard spray painting the frame and just as I finished up I accidentally dropped it, fresh paint side down on the grass. I’d been holding it by the wire on the back and I moved so fast to pick it back up again its a wonder I didn’t get whiplash. What I did get was almost worse. I got black paint up my arm, all over my hands, my watch, on the fence gate and deck railing as I made my way back into the house. Before I took a load paint solvents to hazardous waste recycling the paint all over where it didn’t belong wouldn’t have been the problem it was. I ended up cutting the box open to fish out the Dawn and Goo Gone and went to work. After a good 40 minutes of panicked work you’d never know I screwed up as badly as I did. This was a mirror I didn’t think I’d be able to use but with my recent tour of my future home I discovered the intercom by my door was low enough so I could put the mirror above it. It’s going to look fantastic with my stainless steel appliances with their black accents  near by. And I’m so grateful I didn’t attempt this project after moving. I’m also glad I didn’t leave it in the Goodwill donation box.

I used to be good at crafts of all kinds when I was younger. I used to be good at lots of things like walking through my kitchen but the day after my painting disaster I tripped on a box and fell on my bad hip and my bad arm. Talk about scaring myself to death. I had visions of breaking the arm that had already been broken in three places and still gives me trouble. (My bone doctor and I are babying that arm to try to keep me from going back under the knife.) I managed to get myself up with the help of my footstool in the living and to prove where my head was at I remember thinking, This is why I need a footstool in front of my settee instead of the small coffee table. I’d been debating that decorating choice for weeks. I woke up the next day sore with a few bruises but I dodged the bullet and have vowed to slow down when I walk through the Box Canyon formerly known as my house.

Then came the day I had scheduled to do all my change of addresses. I got them all done but I swear Social Security purposely tries to make you crazy. The automated system asks you a bunch of questions but when it asked for my mother’s maiden name I felt like I was playing a video, trying to get to the next level where one wrong answer puts you out of the game. After saying and spelling my mom's maiden name the system would announce that their information didn’t match and then they’d disconnect. I finally looked up my mom’s obituary online to be sure I was spelling her name correctly which I was. On the seventh try I managed to get to a live person but it got crazy around here while we were on the phone. Wouldn’t you know that’s when my irrigation guy showed up to shut the system down. He was new with the company and I had to show him where to find the  control box, the turn off valve in the yard and the way to the basement all while I was trying to give the lady at Social Security what she needed to be sure I was who I said I was.

Nine days to go before the move and guess what! I finally got my old landline number ported to my cell phone. We'd been working on it since August 20th. ©