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, June 28, 2023

Frustrating Neighbors and Lost Opportunities

The photo on the left shows potting soil on my deck gifted to me from my upstairs neighbor while re-potting some plants on her deck above mine. I cleaned it up and the next morning it looked the same. I cleaned it up again and two hours later---you know what’s coming. The forth time I found dirt on my deck I could see her moving around up there and I called out, “Rose, what are you doing? You’re making a mess down here!” 

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you want me to come down and clean it up?”

“No,” I replied. “I want you to quit doing what you’re doing because I’ve had to sweep my deck three times in two days and I’ll have to do it again.”

She’s in her mid-nineties and weighs about the same as her age and this isn’t the first time she’s annoyed me. She annoys me almost every day with her obsessive vacuuming and furniture moving. Her apartment has no carpeting; she had it all removed and put down vinyl flooring because, she says, it’s better for her allergies. Her allergies are why she vacuums daily as well. I swear a herd of wild horses would make less noise than her dragging that old canister vacuum around. 

And she falls out of bed often enough for it to be a 'Thing' which has me staying awake wondering if I should go up and check on her after it happens. “Nope,” you don’t need to check on me when I fall,” she told me. “I never get hurt.” Ya, sure there’s always a first time. If I fell out of bed on regular basis I'd get a little rail to prevent that. Heck, I have one on my bed and I haven't fallen out of bed since I was a kid. I got it after I broke my ribs and it helps me get in and out of bed. Best $27 I'd spent in a long time. I don't understand why some people resist getting the products that can help us old birds stay independent. Several women here asked management to remove the safety bars in the bathrooms because they don't like the way they look. Big deal! They look better than having blood from a concussion all over the floor.

Rose and I occasionally get seated at the same dinner table and wouldn’t you know it, the same day I had to sweep my deck several times we got paired up and I wasn’t quite sure I could pull off an act---pretend I wasn’t totally annoyed with her. My usual M.O. is to brood about something like that for a day or two before I’m ready to let it go. But by the time we walked back to our building after dinner I was over it and she promised she’d tell me the next time she re-pots her plants. “Better yet,” I snapped back, “put a drop clothe or plastic bag down before you begin.” It all started because a deck plant fell because its hanging bracket wasn’t screwed on tight enough and she thought as long as she had to put more dirt in that pot she might as well re-pot her house plants at the same time. It will probably fall again. How tight can a ninety something elf of a woman install a  bracket for a hanging basket? 

At least we had something new to talk about. At dinner Rose usually repeats the same story and when she starts I daydream about filling my ears up with wet cement. It’s about why she didn’t get her master’s degree in biology. Every time she tells the story of how her professor thought her experiment in the lab refrigerator was someone’s left-over lunch and he threw it out---thus she couldn’t finish her thesis---I want to point out that the accident was on her for not labeling the project. But that would be starkly on my part and I try really hard to keep my ‘snark’ inside and put it to use as blog fodder instead. Trying hard didn't help the one time when I did ask her if the experiment was labeled. She let her snarky out when she answered, "It was the only one in there and he knew it was mine!” I then I asked, "Wouldn't he let you do it over?" "Oh, he would have but I got married soon after and left the state" which kind of feeds into the stereotype back then that girls only went to college to get their M.R.S. degrees.

Enough about Rose. Let me tell you about another resident here in the Independent Living part of my continuum care complex. I’ve written about the college professor who taught art before. I’ve been fangirling her since I discovered what she did before retiring. She’s very busy with outside-the-complex friends and former students so I don’t see her often. But she’s in our book club and my Tuesday Discussion Group (Formerly known as the Secret Society of Liberal Ladies) so we do have some contact. A few days ago she asked me if I’d like to go on a day trip with her, to her cottage up north very near to where my folks once owned property that they gave to my brother. He built a cottage on it and it was sold to my great-nephew recently. 

Anyway, at first I was happy about the invitation to see the lake I hadn’t been to for nine-ten years, but the next day Ms. Professor asked me if I’d be comfortable driving her car---it’s a five hour round trip and she has macular degeneration. I don’t even like driving my own car more than 30 minutes and all the negatives about going were adding up including her cottage doesn’t get cell service---you have to climb up a hill behind the house. What are the odds that two 80-something year old women would need to call for medical attention? But the cherry on the top was the fact that she was proposing we go on the Forth of July. Anyone who lives in Michigan knows what the bumper-to-bumper traffic is like going up to the northern part of the state on a holiday weekend. I lied and told her I had plans for the Forth. Now I have to remember to lay low on the 4th. Note to self: Don't lie to people who live close enough to catch me in it.

We’d been carrying on this conversation about going up north through e-mail so my last reply was: “I was looking over the book club selections this afternoon and noticed that we'll be discussing Finding the Mother Tree in September---which was your book recommendation. I'm going to throw this out there: have you considered hosting the club up at your cottage that month like <so-and-so> did with at her cottage? Would it be practical or feasible? In early September the trees on the trip up north would be spectacular and everyone seemed to enjoy having an excuse for a road trip.” 

I’m really hoping Ms. Professor likes this idea because when we carpooled to Lake Michigan for our May book club all the 70-somethings (and presumably safer drivers) in the group drove. I'm turning into an old fuddy-duddy aren’t I and that mind-set lost me an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with someone I admire. But a road trip on the Forth and coming home after the fireworks when every hundredth car gets a dead deer for a hood ornament? Thanks but no thanks.

Until next Wednesday… ©

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Slumber Parties, Pedicures and Widows

Back when I was teenager in the ‘50s Slumber Parties were a common teenager activity at my school and presumably in the greater realm of the pop culture of the era. If you’re too young to know what a Slumber Party was, today they go by the names Sleepovers, Sweet Dreams Parties and Sleepover Glamping Parties. And judging by the party planner websites these modern day parties are a lot fancier than the ones of my youth. Did you know you can rent white party tents for your back yard then fill them with individual pup tents with matching bedding for the little princesses in your household? (I’m assuming based on what I saw on these website, Sleepovers are not something the opposite sex is engaged in hosting for their guy friends.) The party planners can even provide you with professionals to teach your preteens and teens all about make up. They also set up tables for catered food and fill up swag bags for the little guests to take home. 

Back when I was going to Slumber Parties we just showed up with our sleeping bags and  pajamas or nightgowns but prepared to stay up all night. We’d make Chef Boyardee pizzas from a box, pop popcorn or heap ice cream up for banana splits. We’d give each other pedicures and manicures or we’d wash and set each other’s hair. We might even puck a few uni-brows. If we were lucky, a few boys would come by and the hosting parents wouldn’t catch us sneaking out to the backyard to play a little kissy-face. Even better was when the girl had an older brother like I did. That always got you a better turn out for your party. Jerry was on the football team so he was a major draw, even though he had a steady girlfriend from out of town. Some girls at my school probably though she was a mythical girlfriend and some probably though they could charm their way past the absent girlfriend’s claim. But usually my mom made sure my brother was otherwise occupied when I had my Slumber Party.

What made me think about the Slumber Parties of my youth was the fact that I got a pedicure today, only the sixth professional pedicure in my life. I have a feeling a person either loves getting their fingers and toes pampered or they don’t. I’m in the latter category. I don’t like sitting that long and I really don’t like paying money for some thing I could do for myself before I got too old to be able to reach my toes without throwing my leg and hips bones out of alignment. I still do my own finger nails---only had two professional manicures in my life---and I get compliments on them, especially if I take the time to do the French style manicures. One of the professional manicures never made it home before one nail was ruined and I removed the rest of the polish when I got there. 

I thought about trying to organize a glam party here at the continuum care campus so we could do each others toes, but I don’t hear anyone complaining about getting them done professionally the way I grumbler about the indignity of someone other than a male in the heat of passion playing with their toes. Quite the opposite. The women here seem to enjoy going to nail and spa salons. Most of them go once a month. I’ve gone six times in ten years and most of them before an annual appointment with the dermatologist or foot doctor. I was never a girly-girly I guess. Or I’m just a cheap-skate.

And have I complained enough about the cost at FULL VOLUME yet? I’m still not over the sticker shock of paying up to $50 plus tips. I’ve paid $35, $40 twice, $42 and $50 twice plus tips. If the technicians get half of that I suppose that would be a fair amount for an hour’s work for a job requiring very little training. The last place I went was the cheapest place (for the basic, express) and it was mind-blowingly big with its sixteen pedicure chairs, twelve nail stations and eight drying chairs and most of them were in use. But my appointment was at 11:30 so I don’t know how many of the other women in there were on a lunch hour. The only person working in the whole place who spoke English was the cashier, greeter and person answering the phone. He also spoke what ever language it is that they speak in the Philippines. This is the place I will go in the future because not only is it the cheapest, its also the closest but I got the best pedicure there.

The only English speaking pedicurist ever had started out by telling me one of her clients was late for her appointment which is why she was late getting me in for mine. According to the pedicurist, who knew the woman’s family, the client was widow who had become a recluse widow and has done nothing but drink beer and get drunk in the year since her husband died. “Her family is worried.” Blah, blah, blah. Ten years into my widowhood and am I losing my ability to sympathize? At lunch here at the CCC a widow was complaining because no one at the Widow’s Support Group hugged her! This was last year when everyone was jumpy about getting Covid and I offered that as a possible reason why. And I added that everyone has different ideas of what they need in the way of support. “Well, I needed hugs,” she said, “and no one gave me one!” Several women then got up from the table and hugged her and she burst out crying and left. After she was gone, another woman said, “She just went to that group too early. She wasn’t ready for it yet.” I agreed. But I should start reading my blog from the beginning and see what kind of widow I was back at the beginning of the process, in a effort to refill my empathy and sympathy wells. As the years go by we humans---at least most of us---are equipped with a wonderful gift for minimizing the pain we've gone through and only remember with perfect clarity the good times.

Until Next Wednesday….  ©

 *The photo at the top is from the slumber party in the movie Grease which was set in the '50. And the photos below were napped off party websites that offer sleepover rentals. I just can't imagine my parents ever going to these extremes for little girls or teen parties.


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Busy Week of Firsts

I couldn’t decide what to write about for this week’s post. I had narrowed it down to two themes. 1) About all the ‘firsts’ that happened in my life since I last wrote or, 2) how busy my week was. After mulling it over in my mind I came to the conclusion that if I wrote about the ‘firsts’ that would, by nature, include a lot of the stuff that kept me so busy. I kid you not, every single day I had at least four things on my day planner. I don’t like being that busy but sometimes you have no choice.

I’ll start with a day when I drove a 40 mile round trip (which is a LOT for me to drive) up to the electronics recycling station near where I used to live to dispose of my old printer. There are closer places if you want to pay to drop electronics off but I was invited to have lunch with a couple of old friends at a place nearby, so it was easier to go up there where I know my way around than to cart printer through Best Buys or Staples, assuming I could wade through heavy traffic to find the places. I had boxed that old printer up in the new printer’s box and have been riding it around in my back seat for three weeks, hoping someone would steal it but either I shop in an honest part of town or car pirates of opportunity know that trick.

I used to have lunch with these women twice a month when I lived up in that neck of the woods. Long time readers might remember we called ourselves The Gathering Girls and it sure felt like old times being back at the Guyland Cafeteria. They and the place hadn't changed a bit. This was the first time since I moved that we all sat at the same table laughing like we used, we even ordered the same specials we always did in the past.

After lunch I swung around to the cemetery where my husband’s and my tombstone is located and half of his ashes are buried. I had come with a shovel, whisk broom, garbage bag and gallon water all prepared to dig out the quack grass that usually is attempting to cover over the inscription in the marble, but for the first time since Don died in 2012, it didn’t need my help. I couldn’t help wondering if it died out because the last time I was there, I sprinkled the ashes from my dog, Levi, closely to the footing of the stone. Maybe he killed the quack grass by marking the stone with magic, ghost urine.

Also close by was the house that I designed and had built in 2001 and was sold before moving to my continuum care campus. It was my first time seeing it since the day I moved out and I wish I hadn’t. When I lived there the lawn and yard was the best on the street and it was the best kept yard I’ve ever had in my life. But the new owners let the grass burn up and it looked like a kid with no clue for how to mow grass was doing the job. It’s never seen a weed wacker or an edger and the shrubbery hadn’t been trimmed since I left. I doubt they can even see out the library window anymore. And the back yard where my nature strip should be blooming with wild flowers is completely overwhelmed with invasive sumac. I had my lawn care guy take it out every year. I looked the house up on Zillow to see if it’s changed hands since I sold it but it hasn’t. They place a value on it that is $69,000 more than I sold it for! Anyway, it’s true that you can’t go home again. I’ll never drive by the place again.

Another day I had to take my car in for its thirty thousand mile servicing which included a tire rotation. The dealership is new to me and they had trouble getting a lung nut off because it was cross-threaded so they had to drill it out and replace some stuff on the wheel and it ended up costing me an extra $150. What was supposed to be an hour job ended up being  all afternoon because they didn’t have the part in stock, and they said it wasn’t safe to drive the was it was. So the next first time I have to write about was they gave me a loaner car to drive and it was the kind with a button to push instead of a key. Took me awhile to figure out how to start the silly thing and it beeped warnings and was a zippy little thing t drive. The service department manager told me to contact my old dealership to get reimbursed for the $150 and I’ll let you know how well that works out. 

Another day I had an appointment for my annual eye exam. I’m two years out from my cataract surgeries and I thought for sure I’d need the laser treatment to remove a new cataract forming over the fake lens they put in one of my eyes. Turns out that eye changed enough that I need a new prescription for the left lens while the other  eye remained the same. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in my life. I felt good leaving the office after ordering just one lens and more importantly, after hearing that my macular pucker hasn’t changed significantly. That sound you're hearing is a sigh of relief. I've been worried about that pucker.

And last but not least, the best first time of all makes me very happy. It was the first time an ex-president was indicted in a criminal court and on espionage charges and they look like they will stick.

 Until next Wednesday….  ©

 * The photo at the top is of my old back yard before the new owners let the sumac take over.