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, November 3, 2021

Threading the Needle of Making New Friendships

I might have to start blogging three times a week just to keep up with a diary style dialogue of what I’m doing here at my new place. I’m averaging one class a day (tai chi, chair yoga or seated stretching and soon to start book club, painting and handicrafts social hour) plus one meal out among the living per day which seems weird after the isolation of the past two years with the pandemic and me concentrating on making this move possible.

Finally I made it to a Sunday brunch here at the campus restaurant and it was a wonderful spread of food. If I had eaten alone I would have gone back to the buffet a second time and most certainly I would have taken a photo of the artful display of goodies. But I had no more than gotten inside the door when another women invited me over to sit with her and I wasn’t about to pig out in front of a stranger. I’d talked to her once before and it would have been rude to refuse her invitation although it crossed my mind to do so. That’s something I’m finding out about myself and restaurants, I really don’t mind eating alone. Trying to make conversation with strangers over a meal is awkward...kind of like going on a blind date. You want them to like you but you don't want to reveal too much too soon in case you don't gel. But the people here are quick to invite you to their table or invite themselves to yours. Shortly after I sat down two skinny Minnie women came in and asked to sit with us.

At one point Woman One asked me if I was a widow and after I answered I asked, “How about the rest of you ladies, are you widows as well?” Woman One chimed right up, ”Well, I wanted to be a widow but the State of Virginia takes a dark view of murder so I divorced the guy instead of killing him.” We all laughed. You could tell it was a practiced line she’d used often. We all have them and talking with these women I realized I need to retire the expression, "Oh, wow!" Can you tell I was easily impressed by their accomplishments?

As our four-way conversation progressed it came out that the Skinny Minnie Twins met in college and they pooled their money to buy a lake view apartment where their cats have a room of their own. Neither has had children or been married which leads me to assume I’d just met my first gay couple on campus. One of these ladies was super friendly and upbeat, has her own weaving loom taking up a corner window like my painting easel does and they both volunteer at the library guild. 

I have yet to meet a blue collar person living here other than me. All the women I’ve met had interesting careers and a high percentage of them "love to do volunteer work." Except for my caregiving years, I’ve spent most of my life indulgence my every whim and only lasted in the volunteer world for a couple of years when I was in a service sorority in my 20s which I quit as soon as I acquired an active dating life. The phrase 'chicks before dicks' hadn't been coined back then aka I thought it was my job to find a husband and times spent with other women was just killing time until that happened.

Two times since the Sunday brunch Woman One and I have eaten together. The first time she again invited me to sit at her table and the second time I saw her coming down the lobby and I quick took a table in the corner with my back to the dining area hoping if she saw me writing like a mad hatter she’s take a table by herself. No such luck. She came over and sat down across the table from me like it was a given. Then t-Shirt Tom came in and she flagged him over, practically coerced him into joining us. t-Tom and I actually have common ground in the fact that we both spent a lot of time in the same lake recreational area in our younger years. He’s more down to earth than I first through and what a small world it is, Woman One was a social worker decades ago and brought child welfare cases before the same small town, county court as he often defended his corporate client. He was an in-house lawyer with only the one client.

She and t-Tom both agreed that they visualized lunch and dinners at this place to be the main times to socialize and I said I thought classes were going to be mine. I went on to say that I’ve eaten my meals alone or without conversation due to my husband’s language disorders for twenty-one years and that I’m having a hard time adjusting to that change at meal time. Hint, hint. Figuring out how not to get locked into having all my main meals with the same few people for the rest of my life is my latest puzzle to solve. Get my food to go? Get it delivered? Change up the times I eat? A combination of all three? But, hey, this and the fact that UPS, Amazon and Fedex don’t have a clue where to deliver packages are my biggest problems so far and they'll get it ironed out. 

Friday we have a Residents Dialogue Meeting with the CEO which will be a monthly talk about things that need improving. Getting blackout shades is high on my list---the parking lot lights are bothering a lot of us at bedtime---and Woman One says she’s going to complain about them taking the pork loin off the menu. Okay then. Should be an interesting meeting.  ©

49 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great community, the kind of community this complex used to be when I first moved in, before they sold the place and a new management group came in.

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    1. This is a non-profit place that's been in business for over 100 years so knock on wood I don't think that could happen here.

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  2. Loved the comment of the woman wanting to be a widow:) I hadn't thought of it but the possibility of being stuck with boring or annoying dinner mates could happen. Good idea to change up your meal times. Still the idea of having someone prepare my meals and clean up is so enticing to me, I'd put up with a lot.

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    1. I do love that I can just walk over to the other building to get a great meal. Being new to all of us I'm going to be careful not getting locked into a pattern I may come to regret later.

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  3. I'm impressed with all those activities you're involved with. Gotta be good for a person to branch out and try new things. I do feel for you, though, when it comes to navigating the dining area. Sometimes a person wants company--other times, not so much. Keep us posted on the pork loin saga (made me smile).

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    1. I had occasion to be at a table with her again===this time with 7 others and she ordered the pork loin even though it wasn't on the menu...didn't get it of course but after the waiter left she said she'll order it every day until they put it back on. Her theory is if we ask even they'll bring it back before their normal rotation. She's quite the character.

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  4. That's a tough call. A little dining together is nice but too much is -- too much. That would bug me, too. They need an area called "I feel like eating alone today" and no one bugs people! The blackout shades are a good idea. I think all that socializing would be very stressful for me -- like going back to high school or college again.

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    1. They have a giant table specifically designated for singles who want to talk and socialize with others but so far the only ones using it is when someone has their family join them for dinner or lunch.

      I walked all the halls a few days ago and realized how many people live here who I haven't met yet which tells me they aren't interested in socializing. We all have to find our own balance, I think.

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  5. I had to smile at your comment about not getting locked in to eating with the same people for the rest of your life. As more people move in and people who are new make closer friendships it will probably sort itself out. You could try sitting down with someone you don’t know before this crew shows up but then you would still have to chat lol. Probably changing your conclusion about meals being solitary is the only path that will work out as people are hungry to connect but as someone who like to read at meals I feel your pain.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head...it's me that needs to change my attitude about eating along. I will get there but I blog my thought processes for most things and this one will take time for me to get used to. I loved lunches with my old Gathering Girls pal so it's a matter of finding the right people to hang out with here.

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  6. OMG, that line by the woman from Virginia made me laugh so hard. Even my DH thought it was hilarious. But I can see that it would be a well used line when she meets others...makes the whole subject of divorce less loaded in a room full of strangers.

    I can understand your not wanting to eat with the same people (or any people) every day. Overall, I am really enjoying your blogs and would welcome any extra posts. :-)

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    1. Her line really did spark up the conversation and no on asked for details like "How long were you married?" etc. and she didn't feel the need to provide any like a lot of divorced people who will say something like "...but we get along great now" or ""he's a good father" etc.

      Good to know on the extra posts.

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    2. Ha! I couldn't say either of those things with straight face, so I just don't go there. ;-)

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    3. Divorce is one life experience I'm really glad bypassed me.

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  7. Glad you are finding your way around. You will work out a routine that fits you. I imagine it evolves as time goes by. Hope you enjoy your classes!

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    1. I was surprised at home much I like tai chi and I even designated a place in my bedroom for to do it here.

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  8. It sounds to me like they need a few single tables so that sometimes the residents can eat alone, although I suppose the reasoning is that if you desire that, you'd take your food back to your apartment.

    I have to have an absolutely pitch black room at night for good sleep. Getting a sleep mask is not preferred, but I have used one when we travel. My bedroom windows all have blackout shades.

    A continuum care facility like yours is costly. Few "blue collar" people have the savings cushion/saleable assets you did to buy into a place like that. You're not going to meet many, I'd predict.

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    1. I never thought about your take on meeting other 'blue collar' people here. Think you're right! I had them go over my financials three times because I didn't think I would qualify.

      I do know there are people getting food delivered to their rooms---seen the boxes lined up waiting for the runner. Costs $2 to have them do that but I don't want to be a hermit and will only use that if I'm sick.

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    2. I know the continuum care facility here in AZ are super expensive, huge entrance fee and the monthly cost is more than most two income Families would ever earn while still working full time. So I don't think many Blue Collar Seniors could swing it, I know it's way out of my range, we looked into it since I do think it's a good idea and provides so much for long term Senior Security and Care.

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    3. That's something I never thought about until Nance brought it up. I keep thinking I shouldn't be here and that someone made a mistake in their math that I got accepted.

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  9. I am the same way: "I really don’t mind eating alone." I've done so more often than not in my life. I hadn't thought about how in your new living situation you'll have to talk with people while eating. Not sure how you adapt to that

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    1. With the right people it will work out. I just don't want to be locked into to eating with the very first people I meet here when there could be others who are more on the same page as me humor wise and interest wise.

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  10. You may have to accept that meal times will be social, Jean. As a card-carrying introvert I too like eating alone, and have a low tolerance for banal, superficial conversation. Maybe when you get to know people better, you can set a boundary that when you are in the dining room with your notebook, it means "alone time"...or some such signifier. Varying your meal times will probably help too.

    Deb

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    1. I know. Could be worse. I could be in prison having to sit next a guy named spike how makes me give him my dessert or in a nursing home with assigned seats.

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  11. Gosh you ARE keeping busy! I'm not sure I could commit to a class/event every day!! As well as a meal among the masses.

    Maybe you could anonymously suggest a NON talking table ....

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    1. Na, I'll adjust. I'm observing and writing about my new world, not necessarily complaining about it.

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  12. I am all over the place and not with it this morning, so no comment from me

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  13. I know that I've had a problem with moving from a home in the woods to a condo. I moved in 11/19 then the pandemic hit...looking back a perfect storm for me. Earlier in 2021, I was asked why I wasn't attending the "inside brunch" and I said that it was because of Covid. I am very careful and wear a mask in public places. Had Covid in March. Don't want it again....hopefully...

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    1. We've all be Covid tested and had to have a vaccination card to move and all the employees do too. But there are lots of guests walking around. I'm starting to wear my mask again...more for the flu that for Covid at this point in time.

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  14. Better you than me. I start to feel claustrophobic just reading about all this. Who knows? Some of those boxed meals may be headed toward people who prefer to dine alone from time to time! With a kitchen, I'd be doing my own cooking from time to time, and that would take care of it.

    However! I do have something that may amuse you. This morning, I was sleeping when my phone dinged, as it does when I have a text message. I looked, and saw it was from Citibank. The message was, "Glad to see you made it home."

    What the what? The URL seemed strange. It only said Citibank, with the .com attached. I laid there for several minutes, wondering: How did Citibank know I was home? Why did they care? Was the text based on my last gas purchase? Was I being stalked?

    Then, I woke up. I checked my phone, and sure enough: no text messages. I'd dreamed the whole thing!

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    1. That did make me laugh. My niece and I were just talking about that very topic of how we get tracked with our phones everywhere we go.

      I just got back from a piano concert on campus and I saw a lot of people I'd never seen before, many with walkers. I am assuming some of them get meals sent up to their apartments.

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  15. Jean :

    this is such a great place with all he classes & what not, I am sure with all your activity classes you will find your gathering gals kind tribe to hang out with. I agree with another commentator you are not going to find any blue collar people, all these people worked hard & saved for their retirement days, enjoy

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    1. I guess it kind of shocked me because I know other blue collar workers who invested wisely who could afford to live here. Of course, I haven't met everyone here yet either. But you are right, I will find my tribe in time. My plan is to jump into everything that looks interesting and then edit back my choices by spring. Give everything a fair chance.

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  16. Uninvited socializing is a huge issue for me! I would be hiding out and then resenting that I "can't" eat in peace. I guess it's hard to set a boundary in a community like that cuz if you speak up, you are likely pegged rude or anti social. That would be sad for me. My mom had the same issue when she went into assisted living. She didn't like eating with a table full of people. But she got used to it. I think she mostly sat and listened, and when finished eating, got up and left. LOL

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    1. Exactly! Speaking up about my discomfort over eating with others could easily get me pegged as rude and antisocial and I suppose it's not fair to prejudge others by doing so. No one HAS to eat in the cafe` or restaurant either, but people watching and gathering blog fodder is hard when staying in your own apartment. LOL

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  17. Your reports on life in the new circumstances are fascinating. My sister-in-law just moved into a similar place, but one that is many years old. She's challenged by finding a place in the social order there! I enjoyed reading about your husband's job as a die maker for auto-body stamping. I worked on developing the CAD system that replaced the hand-work system. It was fascinating to learn from the skilled tradesmen.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. There is definitely a social order developing. It would not be easy to step into a place where it's already established.

      Small world! I remember my husband using the words CAD system. But that's really all I remember. I went on a tour of the plant once and couldn't get over how big those blueprints were that they worked on or from.

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  18. Honest to God, I wait for your posts like a 5 year old waiting for the mailman. Couldn't get your post to open in my phone yesterday where I volunteer (they have lousy phone service), so had to wait til today. I enjoy the posts so much. I forwarded one to my daughter as she's living in Seattle by herself and is having trouble making (as you put it "new and the right kind of") friends. Thanks and keep them coming.

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    1. That's probably because you're only one of three people who read my blog who actually knew me before I had a blog. LOL If your daughter figures out the making friends thing before I do, let me know her secret. It really is hard!

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  19. I'm fine eating alone too. I really hate making small talk.
    It sounds like they have a lot there to keep you busy though, which is good.

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    1. Small talk with people you are going to see often is worse that small talk you might have with, say, a stranger on a bus. But on the other hand, how are we going to make friends if we don't put ourselves out there? It's a real catch 22 for me.

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  20. I'm fine eating alone too, unless I was already close to someone, it can be awkward to Dine with Strangers and an interrogation during Mealtime wouldn't be enjoyable to me. I thought when you said the Skinny Minnie's pooled resources to buy a Unit together that they were a Lesbian Couple, especially since the Cats have the other Bedroom. *LOL* I don't know how I'd feel about the dilemma of enjoying the Cafeteria on your own terms without intrusion, so I do hope it works out agreeably for you Jean. Right now it seems everyone is settling in, and wanting to meet the Neighbors, but my own Nature is such that I do always have concerns someone will be too clingy and I can't shake them without being hurtful about it, so that's always a very delicate balance. Some folks monopolize your time and others are standoffish so it's hard to tell which will be the ones you'd prefer to become close to and know you'll Gel in personality and habits. The Son and I were Laughing the other Day about random people appearing to be seeking Friends and him saying, Nope, all Friended Up. *Bwahahahahaha* That might become my own fav new phrase tho' I doubt I'd use it, but he's bold about that, he said he's got all the Friends in the World he'll ever need now and he just isn't invested in sorting out who he'd rather not want latching on. *LOL* I'm glad you're enjoying the Classes, that would be a better way to actually find Kindred Spirits I think... everyone Eats, not everyone might be taking Goat Yoga, ya know? *Winks*

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    1. That's a good phrase---all Friended Up. Having someone clingy latch on to me is my biggest fear but I don't think that is going to happen except for one woman who will be easily avoided---I can walk faster than her. LOL

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  21. About the dilemma for blue collar people: ever since my youngest daughter, now in her early forties, found off-campus housing she shared with her cousin and one other friend, I've wondered why the formula used there can't be used for single retired people. The spiffy apartments have a shared kitchen and living room, but individual en-suite bedrooms. Being together is possible. Isolating in your room is, too. Tasks can be shared. The workout room is available to all as is the pool. Her daughter is now in similar apartment housing where her monthly rent share is much, much lower than the typical cost for a studio or one-bedroom. So many of my female friends worked all their lives but at low-paying jobs and are now trying to live on very little SS. One worked as a medical records clerk in a hospital where she was the go-to person to help a surgeon or newly-released patient access records. She never made much money and supported her two children, one who dealt with disabilities and multiple hospitalizations, so saving was beyond her ability. Why aren't there such places dedicated to seniors, and not just seniors in college!

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    1. That really would be a good concept for senior living/retirement communities wouldn't it. And you're right about so many women having worked all their lives at low paying jobs and high responsibilities and through no fault of their own can't afford many of the senior living options out there.

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  22. Jean, One of my concerns about moving to a retirement community is that it will be too aggressively social for me; I'm a person with high needs for solitude. I always ask about this when I visit places, sometimes using a "Could I go for a walk in the morning without someone insisting on joining me?" example. I think you're right that this is threading a needle -- how to be open to socializing and new friendships while still protecting time and space to be alone.

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    1. I've always enjoyed my alone time too. Need it to distill ideas and thoughts. It is doable in a place like this but it will take time to process all the personalities and find the tribe we best fit in. The ones who come on fast and hard are like they are all through our lives---most like to be the shallow ones. At least that's my take on it so far. There are a core group that seems to be the most social at mealtimes but there are tons of people here I never seen at mealtime or even met.

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