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, February 26, 2022

Three Old Coots

I was waiting for the elevator when the door opened and a man stepping off. “Darn it,” I said, “I forgot my mask!” “Do you have Covid?” he asked.  “No, but we’re supposed to have them on in the public areas.” Ignoring my statement he said, “Me neither.” Then he added “as soon as the Democrats are out of office, Covid will be gone.” “Do you really believe that?” I replied. “I sure do. It’s all a made up illusion.” Chalk him up on the list of people I don’t want to get to know better here. He was not wearing a mask and didn’t have one in his hand, the old coot! The Democrats sure have a lot of power if we can cause people around the globe to mask up and wait in lines for vaccinations and hold memorial services for people who voluntarily died to help make an illusion look real. Bless their hearts. Call me Hard-Hearted Hannah but I won’t care if he gets Covid as long as he doesn’t give to others here at the Continuum Care Campus. It’s people like him who have politicized the pandemic that have kept it going for so long. 

And, yes, I’m the same person who recently wrote about my sister-in-law who was as sweet and caring a person you could ever know but she, too, jumped on the Trump Train, designation: Conspiracy City. Doesn’t matter, Old Coot could be just like her but I’ll have to see that in an swore affidavit signed by a hundred of his closest family and friends that he’s a stellar person of sound mind and character before I’ll cut him any slack. Yes, the Hard-Hearted Hannah side of my personality is busting at the seams to get out and be heard today.

Speaking of old coots, Bing the Scottish singer got himself in a bit of trouble on a night when I was wasn’t down at the cafe' for dinner. I didn’t write about it when it happened a few weeks ago but last night I saw him repeat what he did so now I have a better understanding of why he got reported to the CEO with a demand that he be kicked out for trying to kiss one of the ladies who lives here. Last night the Art Professor did exactly what I’d been thinking should have been done in that situation. She turned her head deflected the incoming kiss so it ended up on the side of her head instead of on her mouth and she grabbed his hands and wished him a good night and they both went their merrier way. I’d seen the speech pathology professors at the college---where my husband was a guinea pig for the students---teach that grab-the-hands technique to redirect a hug or kiss from stroke survivors who often have to relearn impulse control. There were several in Don’s group class (including him) who had that issue of wanting to hug in inappropriate situations and when they did, it became a teachable moment for both client, student and us wives watching from behind the one-way window.

The first time Bing tried to kiss a fellow resident from all reports she went ballistic, made quite the scene and from her own lips I knew she’d filed a complaint to the CEO. I didn’t see it happen so I didn’t voice my opinion at the time but I was thinking that a woman in our age bracket should be able to deflect an unwanted kiss without running to a higher power. He walks at the speed of a two-toed sloth, How hard could be to get away from the guy? 

The CEO told her he couldn’t do anything about it. We all own our apartments, they can’t kick us out. His daughter got called, though, and the bar started limiting him to two drinks with dinner. The woman who reported him followed up her complaint with two weeks of "warning others of his bad behavior" and last night she stared daggers at him across the table. It’s a good thing she left before he tried to kiss the Art Professor or who knows what she might had done or said. The drama might have made good blog fodder but life is better without it. By the way, don’t mis-read me and think I believe it’s okay to hug and kiss a woman of any age if she doesn’t want it. I don’t. But blowing things out of all proportion happens, too.

In the movie, Queen Bees which Roger Ebert.com describes as “a gentle romantic comedy set in a retirement community that one character describes as ‘Mean Girls' with Medic-Alert bracelets’" there is a male character who spends his evenings with a different lady every night. It portrays several of the female characters as Blanche type sex-pots (Golden Girls) looking for Mr. Right Now. Ohmygod, there is nothing going on here on this campus that remotely looks like the way older people are showcased in that movie. 

At least that’s what I would have said before Saturday night when one of the guys living here had invited seven ladies to dinner at the fine dining restaurant, his treat. He made the reservation under the name of “The Magnificent Seven” and it was weird being asked by the host if you were apart of the Magnificent Seven. Five us were not and we were seated off to the side and we nicknamed ourselves the Fabulous Five. 

In the same time frame T-Shirt Tom was teasingly asked if he was going to treat a table of women to dinner and he said, “No, I’d be afraid I’d leave someone out and they’d get their feelings hurt.” Who said lawyers can’t be thoughtful. It was hard not to feel a little left out since those in the group of seven and the five other ladies usually all sit at one big singles table. If it hadn’t been for the guy making the reservation under such a pretentious name would it have been different? I think so. Both sets of woman looked like deer caught in headlights each time the host asked someone if they were part of the Magnificent Seven. 

Old Coots. Are they worth the trouble they cause just by being themselves? Why yes, yes they are---if for no other reason than their antics make good fodder for bloggers. ©

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Continuum Care Complex Tour Bus

The senior hall up where I used to live has long had outings where they take twenty-five people on a bus to various continuum care complexes for tours and lunch and, of course, the sales pitch. I’d been on quite a few of them when I was trying to decide if I wanted to buy a condo, a cottage on lake or a smaller house. All I knew for sure was it was chancy for me to stay in such a big, lonely house. It was time to downsize while I could still do it on my own and not wait until a medical issue forced me out and others would have to make the critical decision for me as to where I'd live out the rest of my life. I didn’t know much about the CCC concept of living but after touring most of them in town and following their newsletters online I warmed up to the idea. I just didn’t think I could afford to buy into one. 

The guy who takes these buses around has a business like the national chain “A Place for Mom”. These kinds of placement businesses are not unusual but we usually don’t hear about them until you’re in a situation where you have to find a place in a hurry after someone has a medical issue that makes it impossible to go back to their home and a hospital social worker puts you in contact with one. They get a flat fee of several thousand dollars per placement they arrange, no matter where you end up and it’s paid by the CCC, the nursing home or other facility where you end up in. The fee is regulated by law so the placement people have nothing personal to gain by directing someone to one place over another; they can base their recommendations on the best fit for your income and situation. 

I’ll call this guy DeWayne because that’s his name and I had a personal appointment with him before finding the CCC I’m in now and he went over my finances, picked five places that he knew I could afford and would have personally driven me around to see each of them had I been ready to do a serious search. Two came off the list right away when I told him I didn’t want a “churchy place” and a third one was located too inconvenient for my family should I start needing them to oversee me more. DeWaye spent his entire career in this field and knows the social  structure and everything else worth knowing about the senior living places in town. I found this CCC on my own through a TV ad so he didn’t get a finder's fee but it was because of him that I was able to recognize a good deal when I saw it. Being one of the first 25 people to sign up it saved me thousands of dollars. The moral of this tale is that if you use a service like this get someone whose been in the business more than a minute and a half. There's a lot to consider besides price and location. 

I had occasion to see DeWayne again this month when I got wind that my old senior hall was bringing a bus load of people down to tour this campus and have lunch and two of my old Gathering Girls pals were going to be on the tour. So I talked to the head of the marketing department and asked if there would be time for me to show my friends my place while they were on the campus and to make a long story short, my apartment became one of the units the entire bus load of people toured and I got to have lunch with my friends. 

It was fun! I knew seven or eight people who came on the tour and I was excited to show my apartment because so few people had actually seen it since I moved in. They broke the group up into smaller groups and I got to hear them remark about my decorating choices. Mine was one of three on the tour and the other two were models, setup with sleek, modern furniture so mine was really different. The marketing director wants to talk later about featuring my place in one of their advertisements because “it’s fantastic!” in her words.

The only down side to having my place on the tour was the cleaning guy was off his schedule so I ended up having to clean the place myself beforehand. And on the up side the CEO finally got to put a face to the three emails I’ve sent him because I was wearing my name badge and the two marketing gals during their sales pitch kept saying my name, using me as an example and asking me questions. I’d only had one, one-on-one conversation with the guy since I started this whole process with the CCC and that was two and a half years ago, while a few others here are constantly flagging the CEO down to “take their problems to the top.” 

The marketing department afterward also asked me if I’d be willing to tag along on future tour groups and have lunch with them. I don’t know how I feel about that but at least it’s an indication that I didn’t make a complete fool out of myself. I was bubbling over with excitement, seeing my old friends. Not sure if I could recreate that enthusiasm for a random group or if I'd even want to try. ©

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Not Just Another Saturday Night


Save me from picky old women! Three Saturday nights in a row I’ve been seated next to a woman who never married and another who divorced her husband back in the ‘60s and never remarried. I’m changing things up, doing my weekly trip to the fine dining restaurant on campus on a different day. The last straw was sitting through them both bad-mouthing the waiter---again--- and they weren’t just all talk. They’ve tried to get him fired. The poor seventeen year old can’t do anything right in their eyes. For example he asked if he could clear our plates from the table. “This is fine dining,” one of them said after he left “you’re not supposed to ask, you're supposed to just remove the plates.” Early on when the place first opened he wrote on the back of our receipts, “You are loved” and one of these ladies reported him, said in the business world he’d get fired for sexual harassment for doing that. She was highly offended by that note and as she was talking I’m thinking with all the crap going on in the world, why oh why can’t you let things like that go! He wrote the same thing on everyone’s receipt, it wasn't like he singling her out in stalker fashion, for crying out loud.

The kid is gay with half a head of long, orange hair and half a head of short black hair and recently he went to court to legally change his name. He lives in a house with 4-5 roommates and has had eleven surgeries so you know there’s got to be a sad or drama-filled back story here. And he talks too much---even I’ll admit that when put in a position where I feel I need to defend the kid. One of the big-bad sins he commits to tick off the Old Ladies is when we’re first seated he tells each of us at the table things like: That’s a pretty scarf; I love your pin; That color looks good on you; or You have a great smile (what he tells me often). I’ll bet if he was a cool, dimple-faced Brad Pitt-type waiter instead of a short kid who has a tummy that threatens to pop a few shirt buttons they wouldn’t be so offended by his attempts to connect. He normally works in the Memory Care and Assisted Living buildings and is pulled over to work on our part of the campus when they are shorthanded which is often in this climate of perpetual short staffing in the restaurant business. The cream-of-crop wait staff in town end up in the downtown places where they can make tips in the hundreds instead of here where they’re not allowed to accept them.

This particular Saturday I thought I’d explode listening to the same old broke record. Russia and the U.S. were having a pissing contest at the Ukrainian border and the anti-masks/anti-vaccines/anti-government truckers were blocking the ports between the U.S. and Canada which in turn shutdown some auto assembly factories and these ladies had nothing better to complain about than being asked if the waiter can clear the dishes off the table? We got into the 'service conversation' when I said I just let things like that roll off my back. "Life is too short," I said before being told “We are paying for fine dining service and we should get it.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying it was them, not the waiter, who was spoiling the fine dining experience. I wanted to shout, "It IS a pretty pin. You DO look good in that color and I DO have a great smile."

I’m so glad I still have a filter left in my brain that a lot of older people lose because I was thinking the woman who never married probably was so picky and prickly when she was in her prime that no one ever asked her. The other woman at least owns up to being as she herself says, “the biggest complainer on campus.” Her justification for being a complainer is, “How are they ever going to learn the right way of doing things if no one ever tells them?” Like her or not (and she has many likely qualities to off-set her pickiness) she’s up front about who she is while Old Maid---not to be confused with the delightful Never Married who I wrote about in another post---presents herself as a pious---well, I won't finish that thought because I need to go back to bed and get up on the other side.  

In order to not sound like a complaining, judgmental old woman myself I’m going to end this negative post with a bunch of things that make me smile: 

- Puppies trying to crawl up a flight of stairs

- A litter of kittens sleeping in a basket

- Long stem roses fully open

- Sun flowers standing in field  ©

Note on the Photos: The summer before the pandemic I got to drive by this field of sun flowers every time I left my house. It always put me in a good mood to see these guys standing facing the sun. For some odd ball reason one flower head never turned to follow the sun like all the other flowers. I spent way too much time trying to figure out why it didn't want to conform....

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Valentine’s Day at the Continuum Care Complex


First off let me say that because I’ve been a widow or a caregiver to a stroke survivor who couldn’t go anywhere by himself or handle money on his own, Valentine’s Days since 2000 have been whatever I thought up and bought myself. Which was usually just candy and flowers. Nice but not as nice as getting the “surprise” card and gift from someone who loves you. What I’m trying to say in a round-about way is I’ve grown accustom to thinking of the holiday as one for the young at heart and those who promote it.

 Valentine’s Day here at the CCC lasted several days starting off with a game called the No-So-Newly Weds which was a take off of the old TV game show named The Newly Weds. We were told there would be five mystery couples and, of course, it was the topic of a couple of meals who those couples would be. All but one couple were residents and the fifth couple was our CEO and is wife, who won the game by matching the most answers. They’d been married 40 years. One couple was married 70 years, another 60 and two at 50 years each. Two couples couldn’t match any of the ten questions they were asked. The questions were stuff like: Where did you go on your first date? Who would your spouse say is their celebrity crush? What would your spouse say is their most prized possession? and What would you spouse buy first if he/she won the lotto? What surprised me is how few of the guys could name two things correctly that their wives would have in their purses. It was a fun afternoon’s entertainment.

The weekend before the 14th T-shirt Tom had a large and very beautiful bouquet of roses of various colors sent to the concierge's desk with a card reading “for all the ladies.” (Found out recently that he is also the person who keeps a dish on the concierge’s desk supplied with tiny candy bars.) The bouquet looked like spring and made my heart happy and my head thinking about the days when I made bouquets like that for the flower shop where I worked. Only back then we didn’t have the high-bred colors they have now. It was quite amazing and must have cost a fortune. Another resident, Bing the Scottish singer, brought two dozen still-warm holiday decorated Crispy Crème donuts to our group dinner table that same weekend.

One day we all found a small Valentine’s Day card in our mailboxes from the management and for a week they’d been advertising a special meal that was served in the fine dining room on V Day. Surf and Turf, with asparagus, champagne and two to-die-for sounding chocolate desserts. I didn't go because I’m allergic to lobster and the meal was pricy, especially if you can’t eat half the entrée but I was able to score a box of chocolate covered strawberries made by one of our chefs.

Also in honor of the holiday the CCC had a guest speaker who has built a business for herself out of giving historical lectures and escorting bus, running and walking tours to various points of local interest. This presentation was on the “Great Romances” in our city. I’m kind of burned out on her, having heard her speak at my old senior hall many time plus I’d heard this talk before so I almost didn’t go. Then I decided I needed support the management when they bring in outside speakers so they’ll keep bringing them in. And really, what else did I have to do on the 14th that was so pressing that I couldn’t take an hour to walk 100 feet to the next building and hear her again?

Me? Her over-the-top (fake?) enthusiasm is starting to grade on me but I didn’t mention that to anyone here because I remember when she was a shiny-new penny on my life’s landscape, and I am duly impressed by how this young woman started off eight years ago just doing running tours in our downtown area for people in town for corporate conferences and now she’s got 33 programs on her menu of talks and full service tours she can give. I had a front row seat when our senior hall director mentored and helped her branch out from her small niche to what she does today. And Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate the power of women helping each other as well as remember those who we love or once loved. ©

My latest jigsaw puzzle. Another made by Bgraamiens named Retro Art Squares, 1,000 pieces bought at Amazon. I'm fast becoming a fan of this company. Not as hard as it looks but still took my three days of obsessing.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

When Good People Die

My favorite sister-in-law passed away this week. Her lungs had been compromised for the past few years, but recently she’d spend ten days in ICU and she died when they took her off a ventilator. An all too common story lately although I kind of doubt Covid was in the picture because her whole family was with her when they pulled the plug. Dianna didn’t smoke, ate healthy, exercised religiously and didn’t have an ounce of fat on her body. She was that person who took care of family or friends when their spouse or child was in the hospital. She’d bring her picnic basket fulled with fruits and healthy snacks and water bottles. She didn't just give you the line, "If I can do anything, let me know..." She'd follow that up with suggestions like letting your dog out or feeding your cat or bringing your mail inside, picking your kids up from school or doing your laundry. One time after Don’s massive stroke, she even showed up with her PJ's to stay overnight in the hospital with him and told me to go home and sleep in my own bed. He was in the hospital an entire month and she was my angel hovering in my peripheral, stopping by every 2-3 days to check on us. She was a pre-school teacher for over 25 years and she was also a Trump supporter, an enigma I’ve never been able to figure out. I didn’t try very hard because, well, she was such good person to her core and sometimes you have to accept the dark differences in those you love.

Don had three older brothers. The second oldest never understood or even pretended to have much respect for his kid brother. He was all about tennis shorts and cashmere sweaters and Don was all about denim jeans and cowboy boots. His oldest brother took on more of a mentor role who clashed heads with his sons and Don equally but their two-way love and respect always came through. The brother closest to Don’s age was still ten years older than Don and he was married to Dianna. They were also in the tennis shorts and cashmere stratosphere of life but they never forgot where they came from---lovely, classy people who didn’t judge Don for his blue collar life. And you could always count on them for certain things: gourmet dishes to pass at family parties, always looking like they stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine and sending Christmas cards with photos of the whole family dressed alike. Even after their grandchildren were college graduates, they still did the cards with the matchy-matchy outfits---ten people all lined up for a photo taken on a summer vacation. I didn’t get their Christmas card this year which sounded the first alarm bell that something serious was going on at their house.

I’m at that time in life when the lack of a Christmas card becomes a clue to something we’re really not ready to face. My best friend since kindergarten also didn’t send out cards this year. To make matters more ominous her email had been recently hacked and I didn’t have a current replacement address which has been our chief way of communicating. I tried calling but I kept getting a message that her voice box had not been set up and my text messages went unanswered. I’d even googled for her and her husband for obituaries that I gratefully I didn’t find.

For our entire adult lives Nancy and I touched bases every four to six weeks but I’d always get a sense when something was going on in her life and sure enough, we both have the same thoughts in the same time frame. Back when we did snail mail our letters often crossed at the post office. Explanations for Nancy’s missing Christmas card turned out better than for Dianna’s. This past week we finally were able to communicate after her husband contacted me with a new email address. They’d both had health issues over the holidays that included a hospitalization and they were just now getting back to normal. 

I’ve only had two blood-brothers-close friends in my life: Nancy and Don. Sometimes I think my lack of close friends has been because I haven’t been as good of a friend as others have been to me. I’ve never been that person, for example, who brings a picnic basket to the hospital. Other times I know it’s normal to have just a couple of people in a lifetime who you’re willing to bare your soul to, who you know will love you and you them no matter what. Or like the young people say today, a friend who if you asked them to help you bury a body would bring a shovel and not ask questions. (Nancy, if you're reading please note that the last sentence is a euphemism. Unless it's a small animal's body I won't literally help you bury a body. I will, however help you go to the police to confess a murder and empty out my bank account to get you a good lawyer.)

Back on topic: What do you do when good people die during a pandemic? The last time that happened in my family they had the funeral virtually. It was strange and cold and the equipment they live-streamed it on was so poor that it was impossible to view without feeling like a voyeur watching something on a hidden camera that I wasn’t meant to see. Who would have ever guessed a pandemic would have us wishing we could go to memorial services to dispense hugs and kind words! No matter what Dianna's daughters and husband plan, I’ll do what I always do and that’s to write…the personalized sympathy cards, the Facebook messages…and this blog post. She was such a good person and she will be missed.   

I just got word that my husband's second oldest brother also died this week. I'll be writing a lot of those cards and messages in the coming days....©

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Figuring out Our Purpose in Life

Recently I was googling the phrase ‘wise words about life’ looking for a topic to write about that didn’t involve telling tales about my fellow residents here at the continuum care complex. I’ve never been a gossip in my off-line life and I’m not sure I like this new me that has emerged since moving here. I could tell myself I’m just doing my weak imitation of John Steinbeck or Mark Twain or other writers who are known for drawing memorable characters with their words. The difference is---aside from their superior talent---that I’m not just passing through this place. If someone should find my descriptions of them they could get their feelings hurt and I could get ostracized out of the cool kid’s club, so to speak. 

I thought I’d hit on a topic I could get into when I found the following quote supposedly said by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Since it’s long been my worry that I’d die without figuring out why I was born or what I’ve contributed to the advancement of civilized society that quote spoke to me. But it only took one more google search to find out the phrase wasn’t Twain’s at all. It’s what a website called The Center for Mark Twain Studies calls an Apocryphal Twain quote. I guess there are a lot of them. If you want to know if Twain said this or that, just ask at this website and they’ll do a forensic search and figure it out. In this case, the phrase, “The two most important days in your life...” was first mis-attributed in 2011 when a stand-up comedian and radio personality, Steve Harvey, sent it out in a tweet.

Apparently a lot life coaches and people in cottage industries who make those cute little signs, memes, coffee cups, refrigerator magnets, and message pillows and other for-profit enterprises love to slap Twain quotes on their goods and they do so without first making sure they are attributing them to the right author. The Center for Mark Twain Studies says as a general rule: “If the aphorism in question indicates a sentimental, nostalgic, or otherwise optimistic attitude towards humanity, it probably didn’t come from Twain. As Louis Budd put is, Twain indulged a lifelong suspicion that the mass of mankind is venal, doltish, feckless, and tyrannical, that the damn fools make up a majority anywhere.'”

So I found the meme with the mis-attributed quote on it first---and trust me they are all over the internet---and I got excited about using it for the kind of theme post I occasionally wrote back in my caregiver days that I called (tongue-in-cheek) my Sunday Sermon Series. But the internet being what the internet is I just had to cross-check the source of the quote which blew the topic off my writing table. Boo-hoo! Or did it? No matter who said that about the two most important days of our lives the message is still just as valid. Is it not? I had that revelation while watching a montage of Olympic athletics at the winter games. At some point in their early lives they must have had that Ah, Ha Moment that I’ve never experienced in my almost eighty years---that moment that told them, “This is my passion and gift to the world.” (I’ll bet I just broke The Word Olympic record for using nine ‘thats’ in this short paragraph. Using too many of that word has always been a writing tic I can’t seem to break. If I wasn’t in a lazy mood I’d go back and edit a few of them out.)

What does it feel like to have that Ah, Ha Moment? And maybe my search for the answer is why I’ve always loved movies and books about sports figures at the same time, hating to watch or follow sports. That dichotomy never made sense to me. What comes first? Being good at something and then dedicating your life to it or dedicating your life to something and then becoming good at it? In some cases like Tiger Woods, for example, parents push and bully a kid at a very early age in a direction they may or may not have gone if the choice had been entirely their own. 

When my dad was under Hospice care in the last seven months of his life I read every Tiger Woods article and book I could get my hands on to my dad. That was before his fall from grace and my dad was so proud of that guy for essentially being the Jackie Robinson of the golf world. Since my dad passed I kept on reading books by and about Tiger. While fame gave him a place in sports history it also robbed him on the other end of the human existence. From all indications he’s finally made peace with himself and is living his best life and it all gets down to the second half of Twain’s mis-quote of knowing why we’re all here. The important take-away in Tiger's story? We have to find that purpose on our own, no matter how much we’ve been pushed or pulled in one direction or another we have to know the goals we set are our own. And once we know that, we'll find our purpose whether we ultimately make it to the top of the mountain or we just enjoy the journey through the foothills of life. ©