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, March 29, 2023

What if Tomorrow Never Comes- the Geriatric Version

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m experiencing mild depression brought on by my recent fall and hospitalization. It was the first time I actually thought that I could die. In the back of my mind I’ve been living in the happy illusion that I wouldn’t/couldn’t die a minute before I am damn good and ready and I have/had things that needed doing first before I'm a candidate for that club. Yeah, I know I need to dust the glitter off my shoes, rip the rainbow ribbons out of my hair and leave my white unicorn in the barn because The Fall shattered that illusion and left me feeling disjointed. When it comes to thinking about my own demise I've spent my entire life living Scarlett O'Hara's infamous motto: "I'll think about tomorrow. I can stand it then. After all tomorrow is another day." 

But what if tomorrow never comes.... hey, that would make a great title for this post…except for the fact that I just googled the phrase and it came up with 270,000 links. Granted I’ll bet most of them are to Garth Brooks' schmaltzy love song with lyrics like, "If tomorrow never comes will she know how much I loved her?" But some of those links led to an old proverb about procrastination and google defines the phrase this way: “A goal or action which is postponed until a future day is often never accomplished...”

I grew up in a family that didn’t say the “L” word often. I don’t even remember a specific occasion when one of my my parents said it to me or to each other. Writing it in a greeting card came easier and we all did it. Yesterday on a visit I told my brother he needs to say it to his kids, that they need to hear it. I’m not sure if that’s true or if he’ll remember to do it but at the time he agreed that growing up we didn’t hear it as often as kids should. I’ve said it to my nieces and nephew in recent weeks, too. So I can check that off my list of Things I Shouldn’t Postpone. My husband and I didn’t say it often either but I’m quite sentimental over the fact that the very last thing I said to Don was “I love you” and his very last words on earth were,  “Love you.” 

Looking for memes or quotes to go with this post brought me one that made me laugh---the Woody Allen one at the top. Another one agitated me. It shows a young woman from the back in high heel shoes walking down the center of a snow covered, country road---no other signs of life around---and in bold black letters it said, “The life in front of you is far more important that the life behind you.” My first thought was, How many people over 80 feel that way? and my second thought was, That woman is going to die of hypothermia! I live in Michigan. Women don’t walk around in high heels in snow regardless of how often the Hallmark Christmas movies make it look normal.

Do you think God puts things in your path when you need them---something I often hear where I’m living. Or do you believe those things are always there but when you need them they register on you conscience mind? I believe the latter and that happened to me when I connected with a few lines in a book club choice. I shared it in a recent post but I’ll repeat it here. Fannie Flagg wrote the following: “Thanks to Dr. Sharpio she had learned that being a successful person is not necessarily defined by what you have achieved, but by what you have overcome.” When I read the book a couple of years ago that passage went right by me, but not this time. I’ve read and reread it a dozen times trying to decide which side I fall on. Have I achieved anything worthy of the 'success label' or did I overcome stuff that makes me a successful person? 

Quite by serendipity I had conversation a few days ago with another woman here and I shared that quote with her after she said she didn’t write a bio for the Women’s Day Tea. She said she’s not as accomplished as most of the women living here, not in the same class. (Sounds like an echo of what I wrote in a post recently, doesn’t it.) “Too blue collar to fit in is how I often feel!” I exclaimed. “Exactly,” she replied, “I’ve never had money to travel all over the world. I didn’t go to college or have time to join clubs and foundations. I had an unhappy first marriage and had to work to feed and raise my kids by myself.” I never would have guessed we both have what I’m nicknaming the Blue Collar Syndrome. I didn’t have kids to feed or an unhappy marriage but I sure could identify with her feeling inferior because she didn’t go to college. I felt that way for 25 years before I went back to finish up the degree I started after high school. Walking across that stage to get my diploma rates in the top three happiest days of my life.

At the risk of throwing negative thoughts out into the universe. I’d like to know exactly what others in their "twilight years" think is more important in their futures than stuff that's happened in our pasts. I can’t believe my health will improve or I’ll start traveling or that friends and family won’t start dropping like confetti thrown in the air. The fun activities here I do somethings feels like I’m just marking time until I die.

Like I said at the beginning, I think I’m experiencing a mild depression which is not something I've experienced much in my life. I’d better figure it out soon because I have the Medicare, annual wellness test in mid April and we all know there are questions on it about our mental health. Will I tell the truth about my ambiguous feelings or will I lie? Without missing a beat I'll answer my own question using my best Mary Sunshine voice and say, I'll think about it tomorrow. I can stand it then. After all tomorrow is another day. ©


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fashion Police on Duty

A shirt-tail relative on my husband’s side of the family got married. I’ve only met his bride once but I’ve seen plenty of photos of the couple online and in all of them she looked like a pretty and wholesome young lady. But as a bride she put her porn star sized breasts on full display in her wedding gown…if you could call it a wedding gown. It looked like it was the sheer lace outer layer of a wedding dress meant to be worn over a silk under layer. Underneath she wore black bikini panties and barely there, black self-adhesive pads for a bra. I don’t shock easily and I’m not a prude but that choice for a wedding dress to be worn in a Catholic church in front to 200 guests made me feel cringe. What was she thinking!

Being in the wedding business for twenty years, I’ve seen a ton of bridal gowns but never one like this. Granted they were all in the past century and I expect fashions to change, but is sexy the new look girls are going for these days on the presumably most important day of their lives? She is a college student, responsible for her own choices but you would have thought someone with influence over her would have knocked some sense into her. Her bridesmaids worn black velvet formal gowns that covered all but their arms as did both mothers of the bride and groom. The men in the wedding party were in black tuxes and black bow ties. All very formal and tasteful until your eyes catch the outline of the bride's underpants and black nipple pads. Had I gone through the receiving line I would not have been able to tell the bride she looked beautiful. Would you have? Am I getting too old and judgmental in my Fashion Police uniform?

The last time I donned my Fashion Police uniform was a few years ago at a high school graduation party. Before the party I couldn’t have picked the graduate out of a line up but her grandmother said the girl is “sweet inside and out.” At one point during the party she was standing with a group of friends, looking pretty with her long black hair falling half way down her backless-to-the-waist dress, the hemline of its circle skirt hitting her mid-thigh when a breeze came up and exposed her entire buttock, as bare as the day she was born. My mouth dropped up and I looked at the people sitting near me for validation that I was seeing what I saw. My shock must have shown on my face because without me saying a single word her aunt said, “I saw it earlier. She’s wearing a thong made out of dental floss.” It must have been nude colored dental floss because I couldn’t see it that time or during the other opportunities that came up later to look. (It was a windy day.) Another one of her aunts said she wouldn’t let her daughter wear a thong like that and I was having a hard time reconciling the label of “sweet inside and out” with a girl who must have felt the hot sun and wind on her bare butt and didn’t have enough decorum to go inside to put on some proper underwear. 

Fashions sure have changed since my young adulthood. We had tiny pins we used to make sure our bra and slip straps didn’t slide down our arms to show. We didn't worry about our pantie lines showing because we didn't wear skirts and trousers as tight as a second layer of skin . Hems lines on skirts had to be mid-calf and we weren’t allows to wear slacks to classes in either high school in the fifties or to college in the early ‘60s. Then the Sexual Revolution came long, thanks to the invention of The Pill, and chastity and modesty took a sucker punch. 

Fast forward to 2023 and I found an article in The A Magazine about a survey on the sexualization of clothing and one of the women replied with: “The problem isn’t what we are wearing, it’s how we are perceived because of it…it’s just not an invitation to treat them any differently. What we wear doesn’t define how much respect we deserve.” In another part of the article it says, Many of the women answering the survey "shared that they have been told by older men and even family members that they are ‘asking for it’ because of certain clothing items.” The article goes on to say, “Clothing is a way of expressing yourself and feeling confident, it’s not fair that women should feel they have to dress a certain way to feel safe around people.” 

Rant on: And here's the difference in attitude between myself and the young women who think that way and go around showing their nearly bare butts and breasts in public. They don’t seem to understand that their fashion choices ARE sexy as hell so why are they surprised when they are perceived as sexy and looking for that kind of attention? Half naked young women need to acknowledge that if they choose to prance around showing their lady parts they should be prepared to be judged a certain way, just as they’d be judged a certain way if they wore a nun’s habit. If you wear a cute little tennis outfit and walk around with a racket in your hand, people are going to assume you play tennis. If you wear a tailored suit and heels they're going to assume you're upper management in an office. See how that works? After all, to quote their mantra, “Clothing is a way of expressing yourself.”  Rant off. © 

Disclaimer: I know sexual harassment is a real thing. So please don't tell me that women should have the right to flaunt their wares however and wherever she wants. I'm not saying that they don't. I'm saying women have the right BUT along with that right should come some common sense to dress for the occasion.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Eavesdropping and Destiny

I like to imagine fiction writers are like sponges. Everywhere they go they are eavesdropping on the conversations around them, soaking them up and filing them away. As a family member to an author you’d have to be careful what you share because you’d never know when your Word Soup will feed one of their characters and words you've said will appear in print. If you read enough author interviews you’ll see the ubiquitous question of what inspired such and such a character or storyline and they’ll confess to what I’m saying. The elements of fiction can come from anywhere and everywhere. The book I just finished about the all girls filling station was inspired by one sentence the author's aunt said ten years before Ms Flagg started writing it.

No one would ever get inspired by my conversations. Yesterday on the phone with my brother (who lives in the memory care building of my continuum care campus) he asked me if I’d give him a ride downtown to buy some stamps. “I’ve got stamps,” I said. “How many do you need?” “I don’t know,” he replied. Then he served me a word salad and long story short I put my dementia decoder ring on and figured out that he didn’t want a ride to the post office, he wanted a ride to the Secretary of State’s office to buy new license plate stickers for his truck. He remembered his birthday is coming up and that’s the yearly marker when people in my state have to renew our license plates.

I wasn’t sure if my brother knew or not that his truck was sold so I played along and told him now days you have renew your stickers online and one of his daughters would have to help him with that. I did ask at one point, “I thought your truck got sold,” and he replied the lawyers were holding that up.” Sometimes he’s totally lucid with the bits of information people give him and the next minute he’s back to worrying about his truck that, in his mind, is “sitting in the street” waiting for a cop to ticket it the minute his birthday comes around. Trying to transition to a new topic I told him his birthday is nearly a month away, and he's got lots of time. “It will take a month,” he raised his voice to say, “before I get someone to take me to the post office!”

That same day at Mahjong our conversation was so fast moving and silly a person would have to had recorded it to get the belly laugh benefit of eavesdropping on it. But I’m pretty sure the humor of it is one of those things you’d have to have been there to understand. For example, at one point our wall of titles was short and across the table from me and when I went to pick one up I could barely reach it. “I suppose I could push that wall out more,” the woman across from me said, and without missing a beat I replied, “You could have but you didn’t.” And that as all it took for the four of us to laugh so hard and for so long that I was red faced and couldn't talk, another woman confessed to peeing her pants and a third had to walk away to get her composure back. When we finally gained control of ourselves, someone said, “I don’t even remember what we were laughing about” and that started us laughing all over again.

The rest of the game was full of silliness, of calling each other out for breaking rules and others offering to let it slide if they'd slip bribes under the table. We could never play in other Mahjong venues, especially in places where they play for money, because they take their games seriously and don’t talk while it’s going on. Thankfully the woman who introduced us to the game and trained us all has a great sense of humor and I’m pretty sure she wished she’d had been playing at our table that afternoon instead of with a table of newbie players. Some of the newbies are so slow, it’s like watching the proverbial paint dry. 

A woman I know from going to the monthly dementia support group happened to be observing that day---people do that when they think they want to learn the game---and I felt sorry for her. She was so confused. She and her husband live here in Independent Living as do at least four other couples where the one with dementia couldn’t stay if she/he were living alone. Yesterday I found one of the ladies with dementia in the lobby of my building, lost and clearly panicked because she couldn't find her apartment. So I took her up the elevator to her floor and delivered her to her husband. He’d been taking a nap and he didn’t know she left. 

The spouses in these “mixed couples’ remind me of my caregiver days…in the last year or two before Don died. There's a certain kind of desperation that sets in as you try to hold onto the threads still left of your loved one’s mental or physical health. In the back of your mind, you know it’s hopeless but you’re too scared to admit that out loud. So you put on your caregiver track shoes and run yourself ragged trying to out-pace your destiny. Most of us do the best we can for as long as we can even though practicing the Golden Rule takes its toll. ©