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, May 15, 2024

Old People, the Gossip Edition


Do you ever wonder what others think about your foibles and quirks? We all have them. Those little things we often do without forethought or because we've mimicked a mannerism from someone so far in our pasts that we wouldn't know how to break the habit if we tried. Hair tossing is a common foible for teens and young women these days as is the habit of posing for photos with a hand on an outwardly turned hip. Key the fashion model scouts who might see them on the internet and say, "That's the next Kendall Jenner! Another American Mannequin!" Me with my fatty-fatty-two-by-four stature I pose for photos standing behind someone else. That's one of my foibles and I'm owning it.

I had these thoughts while sucking up coffee at our cafe too early in the morning for me to be up and be social at the same time. I was hiding out from my cleaning woman who causes me to get up with an alarm clock the first Monday of every month. I don't like it but I can't change it; I'm in building one, the first apartment on the first floor and she' cleans on a grid, down one hall and up another. She's a nice young woman of color who will talk your ear off if you give her a chance. I usually give her ten minutes then I excuse myself and walk over to the other building to grab some coffee. 

I was alone when I got to the cafe but soon after five others showed up and sat down at another table but they asked what I was doing there; its rare for me to be out in public in the mornings. When I told them, our resident Trumpette said, "Oh, you don't stay around and watch her like a hawk? I do!" Then she shook her head and laughed, presumably at my perceived nativity. Aside from her politics that often gives me blog fodder I like many things about this woman. She's generous, funny, bold and sure of her self and her convictions. But I do wish she didn't turn a blind eye toward the x-president's lack of a moral compass and his many transgressions. Talk about foibles and quirks. I'd be here all week, glued to my keyboard if I tried to gossip-write about his.

Soon after another woman I like to write about showed up---Ms Social Worker. One of her many quirks is she takes an Uber 3-4 times a week to go to Starbucks for coffee. She's constantly falling---well, not daily but sometimes it seems like it. The fire department always comes pick her off the floor and sometime she gets hauled off to the hospital to check her out. In the 25+ times she's fallen since she moved in she's never broken a bone or broke her skin. Me, I've fallen once and broke several ribs. 

The art professor I fan-girled when I first heard about her living here on the continuum care campus told Ms. Social Worker that doesn't get hurt in her falls because she's got a "marshmallow body." Other times she's told Ms. Social Worker that it's her "body fat" that's protecting her bones. Ms. Social Worker is a little smaller than I am and once I spoke up to say, "I've got more body fat than she does and it doesn't keep me from breaking my bones. I don't even have to fall to break something." Foot, ribs, both elbows and wrists and I worn out both knees and had them replaced. Same with both shoulders. Oh, and I've also broken toes.

Ms. Social Worker now bad-mouths Ms. Art Professor at every opportunity which on one hand I understand but on the other hand it baffles me that she can't let it roll off her back because Ms. Social Worker delighted in offending people on purpose when she first moved in. It didn't take much. Several times she announced at a lunch table that she's an atheist and that's all it took in this faith-based, continuum care community to cause a few people to never talk to her again. One time she said she was going to confront our Director about the way the new pastor here ends her prayers before meetings and special events. Not sure if she followed through but the prayers still includes "in Jesus name." To me, you don't move into a place knowing it's Christian based and try to change it. That's like marrying a man thinking you can change a sloppy mamma's boy into an attentive, well-groomed guy. Never works. Or so I've been told. I never tried. Don could go from grease-monkey yucky to Cowboy Cool to Mr. Hot-Damn all by himself.

Ms. Social Worker is good for entertainment and we're both cut from the same political clothe but what's made me back off from sitting near her lately is a couple of months ago she started wearing a strong perfect that I can smell from ten feet away. She leaves a wake of spicy smelling air in the elevator and where ever she walks. It makes my eyes water and my nose get stuffy and---get this, she's always complaining about her stuffy nose. One of these days the filter in my brain is going to break down and I'll tell her she smells like she just took a whore's bath and I'd not only embarrass her, but also myself and anyone nearby. And don't suggest I pull her aside and tell her she's getting heavy-handed with the perfume because it did come up once at lunch and three or four of us said it was strong and she was shocked that we thought so. But she still wears it thicker than a layer of cake frosting.

As you can see from this post there really is reason to believe that old people lose the filters in our brains that normally would prevent us from saying inappropriate things like telling another woman she's fat or she smells like a whore. According to researchers, though, it's not so much a filter that we lose but rather our brains start to shrink as we age out of life, in particular in the frontal lobes. Sometimes it happens slowly over time and other times, when there is brain damage from a stroke or what is known as frontotemporal dementia, it can come on suddenly. I just hope I can hold on to my 'filter' long enough to document the quirky thing others around me say rather than me being Exhibit #1 on the Lost Filter Chart. Yes, and I'm aware that "documenting the quirky things others say" is just another way of saying I'm turning into a gossip. Lord help me!

Until Next Wednesday.  ©

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A Murder Mystery, Outlander and a History Lesson, Oh My!

President Biden posted that, "Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate the resilience, culture, and heritage of generations of Mexican Americans." That might be true but in Mexico May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, marks the anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Puebla when Mexican troops were victorious over French troops. When I first read that I was surprised that France had boots on the ground in our neighboring country but then a few brain cells kicked in and I remembered (with a little help from Wikipedia) that France once owned all the land "from Quebec and from the middle of Manitoba to the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio Grande River and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains." In other words at its peak (1710), the French colonial empire covered 3,900,000 square miles of what is now a major slice of the United States. So I'm not surprised that I don't know anything about the history of Mexico. I barely remember my own country's french connection. Duh, the Louisiana Purchase. How could I forget such a colorful part of Southern Culture?

Oui, mademoiselles and other valued readers, we could be speaking french if not for the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Year Indian War, a war that had all the Native American Tribes lined up to fight along side either Great Britain or France. And I only know about the treaty because a new season of Outlander started on Netflix and I went down a research rabbit hole trying to figure out which side the Cherokee Indians fought on. Jamie on the long-running series just became the Indian Agent in North Carolina and I can't binge-watch fast enough for me to get ahead of my curiosity.

If you like historical romances or time-travel movies and books---and there was a time when they were my favorite genre---you'll know about Diana Gaboldon's Outlander series. I read recently that she claims that all of her characters fall into one of three categories: mushrooms, onions and hard nuts. The mushrooms pop up in her writing with no forethought. The onions are like Jamie and Claire who she develops in layers, but the hard nuts are characters, like Jamie and Claire's daughter, who have to be there for the structure of the time-travel but Diana said she doesn't always know what to do with them.

Back to my own life: Here in the continuum care complex all Cinco de Mayo Day means is if we want to eat that day we have to pick and choose from a buffet of chicken or beef tacos, Spanish rice, mex corn on the cob, pinto beans, chips & salsa and churros. They did serve free margaritas and I always look forward to any event when free drinks at our bar are involved. It's the only time I "partake." Thankfully, I only have to walk across a small piazza to get home because my old brain gets a buss on a whole lot easier than it did when I was young and in my bar hopping days. Or maybe I've just gotten old enough to realize it's not safe to walk or drive when that happy, I-can-do-anything feeling kicks in.

Drinks were not free here the next evening when the CCC hosted our second annual Murder Mystery Party. And while the food was pricey we got a lot for our $29. (See the menu below.) That Peanut butter and Jelly desert was yummy and certainly the talk of the around the campus. Some thought it was a strange choice for an otherwise elegant dinner party. I don't know about that but I do know it was crazy good.

I was only going to watch the murder mystery dinner/play this year but the Life Enrichment Director was short of actors so I changed my mind at the last minute and I took the part of Maxine Cruise. My introduction script went like this: "The name’s Cruise, Maxine Cruise — and I’ve got a license to thrill-seek. I was rock climbing yesterday, snow-boarding today and I’m skydiving tomorrow — or at least I would be if I could afford the jump costs. I’ve also got a license to drive, which is cool because I’m Lady Cattersley’s chauffeur. She never lets me go over thirty though so it’s kind of boring."

My part called for me to be, "...adventurous, energetic and unconventional. Cruise eschews the traditional chauffeur’s uniform in favor of a bright Hawaiian shirt and black trousers, whilst his dark glasses show that he has exceptional eyesight in poor lighting conditions." If you've ever been in one of these murder mystery games you'll know that line about having exceptional eyesight played into the drama. I happened to own a pair of sunglasses that have a small corrective areas for reading and they were not too dark for me to wear inside the night of the party. They were perfect since there's always stuff to read on the fly when you take an acting part which is why they really should call them reading parts, not acting parts because we don't have to know our lines by heart.

We had a lot of laughs that night but unlike last year there weren't prizes for the best costume, the best 'acting' and the best ad-libbing. I think the Activities Director had too hard of a time picking last year. Regardless, the evening was the highlight of a very busy week and lots of fun. In addition to the Cinco de Mayo buffet and murder mystery dinner this week we we also had book club, a lecture on Death and Dying (which was actually kind of a comedy act put on by a Hospice worker), my writing group, mahjong, a Mother's Day luncheon, Crafter-noon, and lest I forget High Stakes Bingo, oh my! I needed a vacation to rest up after all these activities strung together and I got one. The next week's calendar is as boring as dirty dish water.

Until Next Wednesday. ©


The PB & J Dessert

Maxine Cruise

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

This is the End, my Friend

It's over. The internment of my brother’s ashes took place today and as I left the cemetery I nabbed two long-stemmed yellow roses out of the family floral arrangement that was brought over from the funeral home. It was a beautiful arrangement of mostly orange gerbera daisies and yellow roses and it bothers me, as a person who was in the floral industry for twenty years, that I can't remember what other flowers were in that arrangement. While we were getting ready to go our separate ways it also bothered me to leave that gorgeous bouquet behind but I resisted taking any more flowers, knowing that they were supposed to go on top of the bare dirt left behind after the sexton buried the box of ashes that he was waiting in the wings to do, after we all left. My youngest niece at the same time I was fight the impulse to take more flowers, finally broke down in heart-wrenching tears as she kept feeling her dad's box of ashes, saying over and over again that she didn't want to leave him there. If nothing else my twisted need for those yellow roses put me in the right place at the right time to be of some comfort. She'd kept her emotions in check far too long and I knew exactly how she felt, given the fact that I Johnny Appleseeded Don's ashes over seven places, places that didn't seem as final as a cemetery.

I should backtrack to the service. As I was getting ready to leave this morning I got a call from my youngest niece. She wanted to give me a heads up that the service would be "more religious" than I might like. My brother was never a member of a church and while he and I had "that talk" a few months back I can't honesty say I know one way or another if he would have been put off by phrases like "Jesus was waiting with open arms" the way I would be if I knew Jesus was invited to my memorial service. But as I told my niece, half his grand-kids are super religious so the songs and prayers will comfort half the people there. All in all, it was a nice, well-balanced service with something for everyone. There was also a great slide show with 84 photos for his 84 years on earth and a touching and often funny eulogy written and delivered by my brother’s oldest grand-daughter. She does a lot of public speaking and teaches writing classes so she was a pro. As I listened I couldn't help admiring her vocabulary, it made me feel like I write in me-Jane-you-Tarzan mode.

The only thing that bothered me about the entire event was that my brother's first wife wasn't in a single photo in the slide show. They were married 19 years and it didn't seem right to erase her from my brother's history like she never existed. When I asked my oldest niece about it---she put the slide show together---she joked that two women were enough for any guy. "His second wife and girlfriend (who came after) were enough." I shouldn't have even asked, but questioning that editorial decision was my worst transgression of the day. At least I think so. I hope so. I did made a point of not getting too clingy with any of my brother's kids, knowing they had a connection to everyone single person who came and who also wanted a piece of them. But if I had had my dream seating arrangement for the service, I would had sat on my nephew lap, folded in one of his bear hugs while being flanked on the sides by my two nieces who would have each been holding one of my hands. Wouldn't that have been a sight to see? People read all kinds of gossipy things into the order in which immediate family members sit at memorial services and my dream scene would have said the little sister inside of me was feeling needy.

I didn't speak up when the minister asked if anyone had a story to share, but I wanted to. If I had I would have started out saying, "Jerry was my older brother, my only sibling and he was both my protector and my tormentor" then go on from there to recount some cute stories from our youth, but I didn't trust this geriatric shell I live in to get the words out of my mouth in the right order. And I often have to remind myself when I share anecdotes that it isn't about me. I worry sometimes that others think I'm trying to steal a spotlight when all I'm trying to do is show empathy...and that's what I call my 'Me Too' defense. When I catch myself doing it, I remind myself that a tat doesn't always have to come on the heels of a tit. Sometimes we just have to listen to show empathy and concern.

There was a funny story told at the cemetery and it’s a good example of my brother's character and sense of humor. His second wife had a framed, pastel painting of her two sons when they are really young. It was rather large and the boys had super yellow hair that---knowing the nature of pastel chalk---I imagine that hair probably glowed in the dark. She loved that painting but neither of my step-nephews wanted it after she died. So my brother bribed the oldest and his wife by telling them to hang it in their living room and he would pay for their son's college. "But if you take it down, the college money will disappear." At the cemetery the oldest said he kept his word about hanging the painting but the day his son graduated from college, it came down and its been under their bed ever since. At the cemetery he was trying to get his younger brother to take it home to Colorado with him. 

The biggest laugh that came during the eulogy was about the "yellow haired boys" that dominated my brother's living room decor in the '80s. I don't know what made my brother place strings on that painting but it sounded just like something I would do if I had his resources and wanted to keep something in the family for another generation or two. I hope my great-niece, who finally spoke up saying she'd take the painting, writes its history and attaches it to the back. It's too good of a story to get lost with the passing of time. 

Until Next Wednesday... ©

P.S. After Don died I bought a silver locket that is made with a compartment to contain ashes, a photo and an engraving and I wore it a lot for the first year after Don passed away and on special occasions now. I highly recommend them as a bereavement memento. Just touching it that first year made me feel closer to Don. The post about the locket can be found here. The post about the places I left his ashes is here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Techie Nightmare Week

I've been using WPS office to write posts which has been a free program for as long as I've had my computer. But they've been leaning on me lately to upgrade to their paid edition for $9.99 a month. That doesn't sound like much, given how much I write every day but as an 'enticement' they've added Artificial Intelligence to my documents and I absolutely hate it! It finds so many things that IT thinks I need to change that it's distracting. For example, when I capitalized Artificial Intelligence it suggested that I don't need to do that. When I wrote a sentence using "I'm" and "you're" AI told me the proper way to write those in a business letter is: "I am" and "you are". If AI was so smart they'd know I'm not writing a business letter, for crying out loud. In this short paragraph WPS has underlined 19 things in three different colors! When you click on an underlined word a drop down box covers up half my document to try to prove it’s smarter than me.

Once I clicked on an ‘accept all’ button thinking I was accepting all their suggested changes but it took me to a place to order the upgrade and it wouldn’t let me close that window or back out. Even using the ctrl+alt+delete trick didn’t work to get me out of that screen. I had to turn off my computer which we all know isn’t a good thing to do. Bottom line: When I get more time I have to replace WPS because I don’t like their strong-arm tactics. I’ve tried my Microsoft built-in WordPad but that doesn’t have spell check unless I download TinySpell. I research the stuffings out of anything that requires a download because I’m so afraid of making a mistake that I can’t fix. I might just end up using my tax refund to buy a new computer so I can upgrade to Windows 11 and a good word processing program. I’ll have to do it eventually when they quit supporting Windows 10 which is coming October 14, 2025.

This isn’t the only techie related problem I’ve had this week. I was on Facebook, reading posts from the various Mahjong and animal sites I visit daily when I clicked on one that opened up with scary bells ringing and flashing lights telling me not to turn the computer off and to call a number on the screen for help because my computer was supposedly locked and under attack by someone trying to steal my files. Again, the clrl+alt+delete trick didn’t work but I wasn’t born under a turnip truck so I got my Kindle out and googled the phone number on my computer screen. Not surprising it belonged to  a known scammer. So I turned off my computer, let it reboot, did all the security scans for Trojans, viruses, etc. Nothing turned up but what a waste of time that no doubt shot my blood pressure up. I love my computer but stuff like this will be the death of me. Someday they’ll find me slumped over my computer screen and my obituary will say, “Cause of death a false scam alert while using Facebook.”

What’s the saying? All frustrating techie things happen in threes. No? Well, close enough. Also this week my maintenance guy swapped out my dumb TV for my brother’s Roku TV which is a streaming thing I inherited when I helped my nieces clean out my brother’s room down in Memory Care. I wanted it so that I can watch Netflix and Amazon Prime in the living room where I can multitask instead of me having to go to the bedroom to see movies and binge-watch too late into the night. I'm hoping the change will result in a better quality of sleep.

My brother never learned to used a computer and couldn’t manage getting around that Roku TV so he pretty much watched the same, cowboy channel all the time. But even doing that, he’d screw up the settings so often that one of the maintenance guys made it a habit to stop in my brothers room at the end of every shift to get his TV back to TV Land. Fast forward to my hook up appointment happening this week and I assured the maintenance guy that I wouldn’t have the same issues my brother did, that I was pretty computer literate. Still, there is a learning curve and after he hooked up the cable, the WiFi, Netflix and Amazon Prime I was a happy camper. 

That is I was happy until I turned the TV off and back on again later on and I couldn’t find the stupid cable channels. So, I downloaded the TV’s manual onto my Kindle and spent several hours determined I could figure it out without having to embarrass myself with a call back to maintenance. Finally, I gave up, shot an email to the guy and not more than five minutes latter I discovered my problem. My mistake was so Micky Mouse I hate to even admit it here. But I will...when I'd see the list of channels open up I thought it was at the top of the list and I’d scroll down looking through all the Roku channels, but what I was missing is that I could scroll up as well! And that’s where they were---a nice, tidy list of my 88 cable channels---above the list of Roku channels. When my stress level can handle it, I’m going to learn how to build a ‘favorite’ list but for now I only have to wade through 88 cable channels to find the five I generally watch. (You can't just punch in a channel number on a Roku remote. It doesn't even have numbers.)

Until Next Wednesday!

 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Binge Eating, Funerals and Continuum Care Living


It’s Sunday and my birthday and I’m hiding out from the public places so I don’t have to listen to ten verses of ‘happy birthday’. It's one of those love/hate things you get when you live on a continuum care campus.

Do you know what I like best about Sundays? It’s the only day of the week I can be 100% sure I can stay in my nightgown all day long and not be caught by the fashion police or worse, the health care police who automatically think if a older person doesn’t get dressed they are depressed or giving up. Not that I have to worry about the Health Care Police anytime soon, but I know for a fact that if I end up moving on down the road to Assisted Living or Memory Care I will have to fight the aids to stay in my jammies. They have a job to do and by god old people need to dress for breakfast! And that breakfast is served at 8:00 in the morning. I might be out of bed before the clock strikes eight but that doesn’t mean I want to be social at that hour or have someone helping me change my nickers before my head is in the game.

One of my neighbors gets up at 4:00 and loves to watch the sun come up while is wife sleeps in until 7:00. More that few of my neighbors get up at 6:00 or 7:00 and are out walking and taking the cool, morning air into their lungs. From what I can see of the health nuts those daily walks don't protect them from moving on down the line. A couple who lived on the floor above me spent their entire adult lives walking every day and watching their weight like hawks, just recently got moved---him to assisted living because he got a diagnosis of ALS and he could no longer care for his wife who was moved into the Memory Care building. They both seem to be adjusting well. He has a motorized wheelchair now and is just a court yard away from visiting his wife. And it’s two short blocks for him to come back to the independent living building which he’s been doing to play bridge and attend a couple of lectures. (Won’t work in the winter, but for now it’s making him happy.) He says their care is excellent down there and he looks like the weight of the world is off his shoulders. Herding his wife around to keep her safe was taking a toll on him that few people fully appreciated. But I've been there done and many of my readers have too.

The wife of another couple just moved into the assisted living building, too but I heard she resisted going and they had a huge fight over it, but their kids sided with him and off she went. She lost her leg a year ago and he, too, looks like a changed man now that he'd no longer responsible for her care.

The cross-over aspect of living in a continuum care facility gives you a sense of comfort knowing if and when you do go on down the line we wouldn’t be thrown in with a bunch of strangers. In the two years I’ve lived here, five people got moved to a higher level of care (aka “got moved on down the line”) and five people have died. I didn’t go to any of the funerals although I was tempted to go to one of them. When I moved in I made a rule that I didn’t want to be one of those stereotypical, old people who goes to all the funerals in town, like they are social events. If that makes me a cold-hearted bitch I guess that’s what I am. I have, however, started buying sympathy cards by the box, instead of individually.

Despite my current, no funerals rule I never looked for excuses not to go to funerals during my lifetime. For the most part I find them interesting, almost heart-warming to know how family and friends will carry their memories forward. And I always learn something about the deceased as people share stories from parts of their lives I didn’t have privy to. It reaffirms the fact that we don’t always know how we might have touched or influenced someone else as we go through our lives.

In my lifetime, however, I’ve been to a couple of funerals where I wondered if I was in the right place because the service didn’t reflect the person I knew. Last year I wrote about an old neighbor at our cottage who was the closest thing I had to a grandfather and 7-8 people walked out of his funeral in a silent protest as a preacher went on and on about how the deceased was going to burn up in hell because he didn’t accept Jesus as his Savior. This man and his wife were pillars of kindness but they hadn’t been allowed to know their own grandchildren because they wouldn’t get baptized in their daughter’s church. <rant on!> It's scary that our current political climate is made up of too many people like that daughter whose intolerance is leading us into creating a monotheocracy that would rival Gilead in The Handmaids Tale. <rant off>

Change of topic: Since my surgery I’ve been on a real eating binge and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. The day after the surgery I could zip up my black jeans after weeks of dieting and the four day fasting for the colonoscopy. If nothing else, I’m good at self-sabotage and I'm currently eating my way back up the scales and out of those jeans. 

And now it hits me why I’ve been indulging in comfort foods again! After my mom died I wasn’t eating, I was severely depressed. One day I found myself amazed to realize I’d lost two sizes but that happiness quickly turned to deep, gut-wrenching guilt as it dawned on me that the weight loss was a by-product of my mom's death and it was nothing to celebrate. Fast forward to when my dad and my husband died and I subconsciously started binge eating---I think---so I wouldn’t have live with any guilt if I had lost weight after they left me. 

I need to get back into healthy eating mode again but I won’t seriously tackle the issue until after my brother’s service which is a little over a week away. I should rename this blog The Misadventures of a Fat Lady. ©

 Until next Wednesday.