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. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, November 5, 2022

When a Childhood Friend Dies


A guy I’ve known my entire life died. I didn’t know the adult he’d become as well as I knew the childhood we shared in the first seventeen summers of my life. But this will be the first Christmas when we don’t exchange Christmas cards. Neither one of us just send a card from a box with our names scribbled inside. He would fill every blank space on a hand selected Hallmark card with a memory of our years spent playing together at the cottages our folks both built and I would fill up a type-written Christmas letter. The kind some people make fun of getting and others seem to enjoy. 

My brother was a year old than Allen. I was two years younger and his sister is my junior by a year. I don’t remember any of us ever having a fight. We were too busy playing cowboy and Indian, building forts and digging sand pits. We swam, fished and canoed together. We walked nearly ever day a couple of miles either to a grocery store to get ice cream and Orange Crush or we’d packed a lunch and walk around the lake where at the time had no other cottages. Most nights we had a Monopoly or poker game going at his house where they had a huge table with chairs that came out of an old school and the number of players around that table sometimes was as high as ten but never below the four assorted cottage kids. The first 15-16 New Year's Eves and days of my life were spent with a sleepover at one of our parent's winter houses while they partied at the other.

When I got the text message that he had died, I was sitting in the car waiting to go inside to get my hair cut. So I had to buck it up and not let the tear or two flow down my cheek that threaten my composure. Selfish me, I wasn’t so much sad on his or his family's account as I was sad for the loss of a piece of my past. 

His family and mine kept the cottages in the families all these years since 1943 and whenever I visited my niece, who now owns the cottage of my youth, I’d walk down to see the siblings and nine times out of ten Allen would be there and we’d chat a little but as adults we didn’t have a lot in common. In my twenties I dated a friend of his for a year but we never talked about him or the fact that another friend of Allen's was the first boy I ever kissed or that the two of them once flashed their penises at me, his sister and a few other girls when they were 14 or 15. If laughing at a kid's penis could give him complex they would have had them because we girls laughed so hard I'm thinking there was a little pants peeing involved. 

Another great memory we shared involved five or six Holstein cows that got out of their field and I, Allen and our siblings ended up in a tree to get away from them. We were up there so long that Allen had to poop. Yup, he did it, hung his bare butt over the branch of the tree and dropped his "logs” down to the ground to the delight of the cows who all took turns smelling what fell from the sky. I thought we’d die up there in that tree but eventually, as all cows apparently do, they did go home at milking time. 

That tree is still there as well as the dairy farm and the cows. I’m no longer afraid of the cows---consider them my spirit animal--and I often stop when I’m out there to take their photos. They are so curious all you have to do is stand by the fence long enough they’ll come up to visit. I milked my first cow at that farm along side Allen. We shared a lot of firsts together. I saw my very first TV show with Allen and his sister and we learned to pick blueberries together.

One thing we never shared was a coming of age story and I guess I’m grateful for that because most coming of age stories involve a traumatic event like in the movie Stand By Me. Written by Stephen King, directed by Rob Reiner, you probably remember it’s a story of four boys who find a dead body along a railroad track and as in all coming of age stories it marked the lose of their childhood innocence. I was a late bloomer when it came to my own coming of age experience. I was in my mid-twenties and it involved the friend of Allen’s who I dated. It’s not that I hadn’t heard stories of the darker side of life by then, but hearing them and experiencing them first hand are two different balls of wax. 

The obituary for my childhood friend was very long and for the most part I knew everything in it except for one line about him being very happy when Trump beat Hillary. That had me scratching my head, wondering why in our current political climate would anyone put that in an obituary that will follow a person for centuries…assuming the world goes on for centuries and genealogy research is still a thing in the future. My niece thinks he wrote it himself and I'm guessing she's right. All these years we've been cancelling each other out at the polls. I'm not surprised, really. Our parents did as well and they'd managed to stay life-long friends.

Allen's not the first person in my age bracket to die, but we had known each other since my birth and now I'm down to just my brother who I can say that about. That's when you know you're really as old as you feel. ©

40 comments:

  1. I'm sorry about your friend. šŸ˜Ÿ

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  2. I am so sorry you lost such an important piece of your life. The good thing is that you have so many wonderful memories of Allen. Was a bit surprised about the Trump reference in an obituary but that evidently was an important part of his life.

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    1. It feels strange accepting condolences when I'm not so much mourning the loss of a long-ago friend as I am mourning a piece of me. It was a surprise that he was a Trump supporter but of course, I'm judging that being in an OB from my lens as if it's a thing of shame but it's not shameful if you are one...even after January 6th and I find that very sad.

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  3. Oh wow. I am so very sorry for your loss. What a history the two of you shared! So very hard to lose someone you've known for that long. It's like losing a close family member. Wow... Life really sucks at times, doesn't it? I agree about the obituary comment about Trump... what a strange comment to make, but it must have been important to him that people knew that about him. Healing hugs to you and thanks for sharing your memories with me. I could just picture you kids in that tree with the cows down below! LOL

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    1. The more I read his OB the more I'm sure my niece is right about him writing it himself. He was a bite of a history buff and it read in his voice. I didn't know the Trump supporter side of him but apparently it caused some strain in the family.

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  4. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I am glad you have lots of fun memories to comfort you.

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    1. We knew each other well when we were both kids but as adults we didn't socialize other than friendly chit-chat for a few minutes here and there. But judging by the X-mas cards we exchanged for decades I'm sure he felt the same way about our shared childhood experiences. We had a great childhood at the lake and we appreciated that.

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  5. Ahh, I'm sorry to hear about your lifelong friend. Those kind of relationships/memories can't be replaced. So glad you have kept the cottage in the family. As to the obit, I have no words. For me, it's best not to taint the memories with that kind of reference if possible, but also be glad you didn't discuss politics and ruin those memories. :-)

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    1. That's exactly what I thought...that I'm glad I didn't know he was a Trump supporter these past years. I knew he was a Republican, though. Doesn't really change anything because our friendship was forged so long ago and set in amber so to speak by the time I was 25.

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  6. Reading this was the prompt I needed to pick up the phone and call two of my childhood friends. Neither answered, but at least they’ll know I thought of them. So thank you.

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    1. Hope you connect with your childhood friend. I need to touch bases with mine, too.

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  7. These losses become more and more common as we age, and each of us handles them as best we can. His politics were only one part of him and had nothing to do with the childhood memories you have of him, which are a gift. He likely found a bubble to insulate himself from the reality of what’s happening in this country and truly didn’t understand how a statement like that in his obit might be puzzling. This is a good example of when practicing tolerance is the wisest and kindest approach, because it is clear to me that most on the far right truly believe we’re losing the America we all knew in our youth. Embracing the policies most of us in the center find just as frightening, is the only way they know to cope.
    Tell us more about your childhood memories. They are a surprise and a delight!

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    1. You said: "It is clear to me that most on the far right truly believe we’re losing the America we all knew in our youth." I totally agree but the America the white middle class people like my childhood friend remembers was only good for a certain segment of society. Each generation must make room for change, for growth in our humanity. I see Trump supporters as racists and anti-women at their core. But knowing his political leanings really doesn't effect my memories other than I'm constantly trying to understand why/how people become so devoted to Trump that they are willing to overlook core values in our society.

      I can't believe over the past twenty years of me keeping a blog that I haven't already written about my childhood. I know for sure the paragraph above the cows chasing us up a tree was copied word-for-word from a ten year old blog post. I often use the search box in this blog to check to see if I've already written about a topic before. I'm running out of stories. LoL

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  8. Thanks for sharing so many good memories from your youth. My family moved several times and then when I grew up, I moved quite a bit. I did not stay in touch with any childhood friends, and that's kind of sad, I guess. Your honesty about mourning the loss of a piece of your past has made me think.

    Jean, are you still healing well? Hope so!

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    1. Thanks and yes, I am healing well. I get the stitches out of my hand on Tuesday and can't wait. I'm so over trying to keep them dry. I'm still tired a lot, probably from not sleeping well through the UTI but that's going to change soon, too. My black out shade broke under warranty and I'm waiting for Maintenance to swap the new one out with the old. It's like daylight in my bedroom without it, under the parking lot lights.

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  9. It may seem odd, but this story triggered an emotion of envy in me. We moved so often while I was growing up I never had the childhood friends or bonds that you formed. There is no one from my childhood or teen years that I would remember as fondly as you did with Allen, and that is sad.

    As we age, our circle of relationships tends to shrink, often due to death or simply forgetting. You are so lucky that you had this bond and these memories to enrich your life.

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    1. It is pretty special isn't it to have life-long contact with a childhood friend. Even if we weren't close as adults, we followed each other's lives. I have a lot of good memories of cousins, too, who visited our cottage every summer.

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  10. What a joy to have a lifelong friend! You can always relive those precious times and remember his part in your life. Those kinds of friendships are rare, and you were very fortunate, as was he.

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    1. We played hard in those days at the lake. It is good to remember.

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  11. So sad for the loss of such a long term memorable friend. Thanks for sharing all those stories with us, too. I also need to make a few phone calls or emails. Congrats on making it through the surgeries and UTI finally!

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    1. He was a victim of that Camp Lejeune water contamination that's been in the media lately.

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  12. Not good to lose an old friend, sad news

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    1. Guess it's unrealistic to think we can keep them all, isn't it.

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  13. Sorry for the loss of a lifelong friend and a keeper of the memories of your shared childhood, Jean.

    Deb

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  14. So many memories, but great to hear that you remember those early years

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  15. Oh Jean - that's a tough one. The people we've known practically forever. That's where the memories are, in those stories of times past. It will be hard this year when that holiday card doesn't come. It will happen more and more, I fear -- but those long-ago contacts are special ones. Yes, shed tears.

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    1. It's hard on families to lose someone so close to the holidays. I guess he was sick for awhile so they were prepared. Still never easy...

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  16. Once I graduated from high school, I began moving around, and moved so often that many of those early ties simply dissolved. It wasn't just distance; it's that when you're in a place for only two or three years, it's nearly impossible to forge the same kind of bonds. As someone said, in our latter years we can't make a new life-long friend. On the other hand, there's always a possiblity of a new friendship, and depth can be as satisfying as length.

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    1. I like what you said about "new friendships and depth can be as satisfying as length." I haven't experienced that but it does make me happy that others can achieve it.

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  17. So sorry to hear of the Loss of the Lifelong Friend, that kind of History is Priceless with people and can never be replicated as we continue Aging. If I meet someone Today I'll never Share the same History with them as I have with those I've known a Lifetime. I remember Christmas Letters, I used to Create them and put them with a Christmas Card Exchange, with Pictures... I went all out. *Ha ha ha Imagine that* I'd make an Original, tape relevant Photos to the content so that it was like a mini Book, then Xerox them to give out. Nobody does that anymore, nor do they exchange Letters, I miss that more than I like to admit... I was the last of the Dinosaurs that even did it. I know eventually all our Friends will Cross Over, or we will first, depending on the Timing of when your Time is just up. So few of mine are left now, that by the time I hit 80, if I'm allowed the privilege of getting that far along, I suspect none will be left?

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    1. Being in the military I would image letters exchanges were a big deal in some points in you life. Can you believe it, I still do the Christmas letters. Thought about quitting last year, then I moved and wanted people to know it. But my card/letter list is down to 20,

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  18. Beautiful memorial to your friend and a vivid portrayal in words of a time and place that lives on in your re-telling of it. Lovely.

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  19. It is indeed sad when we have to realise that others from our age group die and leave us the poorer for their leaving us. Nothing selfish about it. Isn't that what old people so often regret, that they are the only ones left?
    I have been thinking back myself recently, the people who can share in my reminiscences are getting fewer and fewer. Having moved to a different country makes it even lonelier.

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    1. The last one standing when it comes to age really would be a lonely place wouldn't it. I'm glad my brother is close now so we can get swap stories while be both can remember them. I read him Allen's OB. and that lead to a wonderful conversation.

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  20. It's begun for me so I understand. I am sorry for this loss. But those memories are warm and wonderful. Keep 'em close. ((hugs))

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    1. I had a good childhood and my cottage neighbors were a big part of that. Our parent had been good friends since before they were married and often too vacations together back then.

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