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

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. ©

25 comments:

  1. I really do enjoy laughing! What fun that you all had the sillies at the same time. I watched a group of mah jong ladies who played for blood and would not accept a newbie. No talking and they would take a potty break every hour ... they played for three hours twice a week. I'm so happy you moved to this wonderful place!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At my old senior hall they had over a dozen who played Mahjong weekly and they'd only accept newbies once a year in January for training. Before they could even do that they have to observe for x number of weeks. I'd go by the room where they played and they never talked either. I've never watched our bridge players but they tell me they have an unspoken no talk rule because they can't contrary with talkers. They don't like watchers. I do like it here. It was a good decision to move.

      Delete
  2. It's just wonderful that you and your friends can have such a good time while playing Mahjong! Laughter changes us--for the better. And we all need to laugh at life and ourselves, because things can get real hard real fast. Jean, your last paragraph is absolutely true. Dementia can be debilitating. It must bring some peace of mind to families and mates of those victims who are living with dementia at your ccc. So glad you were able to help the woman find her way back home. None of us knows when we might need help finding our way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With only 55 apartments it's not hard to know where others here live and we all have an app to help us with that, if needed. I do think it's easier to live in a place like this if you're in a 'mixed couple' because others do look out for the one with dementia. I've never done it, but I know others here have been known to run errands for these couples or pick up take outs when they are having a bad day. And when it's time for the one to move into Memory Care the spouse only has to walk less than a block to visit.

      Most of us are understanding although there are exceptions to all rules of thumb. I had dinner with a woman a few nights ago who was complaining that the management doesn't "require" the people dementia to go into Memory Care sooner rather than later. She doesn't want the reminder around because SHE'S paying for Independent Living. She Ubers all over the city on a daily basis and doesn't take part in any of the activities here but meals.

      Delete
  3. This is so poignant, Jean. We wonder -- when will we be the wandering woman or fret about something that no longer exists. I prefer the laughter. And can relate to watching and trying to get the gist of something new as an observer. You have plenty of fodder there. How's the creative writing group going? Has anyone else come up with a story set in their environment are aren't they brave enough to say?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our creative writing group is starting a campaign to get a few more members. The others in it rave that the group has gotten them started in writing for the first time in decades and they are happy with what we do. Most of us are doing poetry and we just started a round-robin story that we're excited about. Sometimes we will read passages from books that speak to us. I'm guessing I'm the only one writing about the CCC but I'm not brave enough to share those essays with the group. I'm either sharing new poems I've written about growing old or sharing hand-picked blog posts that I characterize as walks down Memory Lane. Sometimes I'm sorry I started the group because I didn't realize how much I write about this place and I can't really share that without outing my blog.

      Delete
    2. Ah, there's a downside to everything! Have you ever done the exercise we used to do where everyone started out looking at the same picture -- it could be a painting or a photograph but with no explanation. And then they take it from there creatively -- they could write a literal poem, a story, move from a Constable painting to something dystopian... it's kind of fun to see what people come up with an how it varies, maybe just picking up on one element of the inspiration piece -- a road, a cart, a dog...

      Delete
    3. I've forgotten about that writing exercise. It is fun and I'm filing it away for my writing group. Thanks!

      Delete
  4. I have no idea how to play mahjong so that joke went right over my head. As long as you are having fun, that's what counts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasn't really a joke but rather a comment about lack of etiquette and the kind of comment you usually don't say out loud. It was only funny because we all took it as proof that we lose the filter in our brains as we age.

      Delete
  5. Wonderful post, Jean. I am currently hosting my mother for a week to give my brother a much-needed break. She has mid-stage Alzheimer's, and it's almost like having a stranger in my home. Sometimes I look at her and all I can think is, Please don't let this ever, ever be me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean when you look at your mom. Both my dad and my brother had/have dementia and so I'm always looking for signs in myself because I'm only 3 years younger than my brother.

      Delete
  6. I love those moments of silliness and laughter when they happen. They are like a cleanse for the soul, like a really hard cry...it resets you somehow.

    Your last paragraph was especially touching, Jean. It reminded me of caring for my late husband during his 6 month battle with lung cancer.

    Deb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good or bad our lives are so interwoven with our spouses and their declining health brings on the fear of the coming changes in our lives when they pass.

      There are a few people here who I always get the giggles and belly laughs with. Thankfully, I see them twice a week.

      Delete
  7. Laughter is good for the body and soul and I enjoy laughing it makes me feel good even if I wet my pants laughing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dementia is heartbreaking. šŸ˜Ÿ I’m glad you have people to laugh with so you can enjoy the present while it’s still here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sure is but it also has its sweet and poignant moments. We just need to learn to see and savory them when they come.

      Delete
  9. Shoot! That was from Cheerful Monk.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What an interesting perspective on dementia and the ways in which different people handle it. I wish to never go down that path, but am realistic enough to know it could happen. Coping with endings is always difficult.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These CCCs are a great way for spouses to handle dementia. They can stay together for as long as it can be managed and when it's time to move the one with dementia, the walk to visit is short. If they both need more care than you can get in Independent Living the couple can go back to living in one suite or get separate rooms in Assisted Living.

      Delete
  11. I don't know a thing about mahjong, but my folks were in a "social" bridge club that they enjoyed immensely. There were four couples, and they were so close they bought their cemetery plots together. When they played (twice a month) both talking and cocktails were part of the deal. You can't imagine the interesting conversations I eavesdropped on as a kid. My bedroom was on the second floor, but the stairs that led downstairs had a landing where I could lurk unnoticed and take it all in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great memory for you. My folks had close, life-long friends like that too. My best friend and my husband's both moved out of that state. Still keep in touch but it isn't the same.

      Delete
  12. I'm so glad you feel you've made the right decision to move there. Getting to know a small group well enough to meet regularly and laugh like that is a small miracle.. that you have worked for. Have you played mahjong in the past? Sound like a good game to learn. ..You have such great graphics at the beginning of each post. Are there a few sites you visit to find them, or do you just search to find free ones on your topic?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never played Mahjong before moving here. The senior hall were I used to live have quite a few players that met weekly but they didn't want to teach newbies but once a year and you had to watch something like 10 or 12 games first and not ask questions or talk. I always wanted to learn.

      The graphics on my posts are just free stuff I google in images. Once in awhile I use a photo from my past or present but not often.

      Delete

Thanks for taking the time to comment. If you are using ANONYMOUS please identify yourself by your first name as you might not be the only one. Comments containing links from spammers will not be published. All comments are moderated which means I might not see yours right away to publish through for public viewing as I don't sit at my computer 24/7.