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 29, 2024

Tales From the Grim Reaper Zone


The past few days I've been weaving myself into a basket full of depressing thoughts but in my defense, I didn't really know or acknowledge the state of my mind until this morning when I re-read some stuff I'd written about past Memorial Day Weekends. Those weekends were more about day trips along Lake Michigan or get-togethers with family than honoring loved ones that the Grim Reaper snatched from my world. Don’t get me wrong, I've done more than my fair share of grave decorating over the years but what is missing now is the counter-balance to the duties of Memorial day---the fun stuff. The picnics and pot-lucks. The mini day trips that included the feel of the sun and sand, the sound and the smell of waves hitting the shore. That sense of being part of something bigger than just myself is easier to feel at the Big Lake where its water touches the sky and fills the entire horizon, or at family pot-lucks where more often than not I used to bring my mom's version of marinated four bean salad.

I did this re-reading of past holidays instead of going to the Memorial Day event here on campus that was organized by our resident, self-appointment Veterans Committee of one. Given the ages of my fellow residents it's no surprise that anytime he puts a program together to celebrate or honor veterans it's well attended. But I couldn't bring myself to go this time for two reasons. One, because he planned to read the entire Constitution and I'd have a hard time hearing it from the lips of a rabid Trump supporter. And two because last year I felt like a fraud singing along with all the patriotic songs when I was not (and still aren't) all that proud of our country. Sing-asking God to bless our "Great Nation" is not something I felt I could do again, as if we are still the same glorious beacon of freedom and hope we used to be.

But my negative mood was about more that just not wanting to go to that event. I was dog tired from something that happened the night before. It started when a man parked in our guest parking area and walked to a bench in our green space. I didn't think anything of it at first, but eventually I realized that he was wearing mismatched shoes and he looked to be crying half the time. Turns out he was. I didn't recognized him but it also turned out that he lives here and he'd just come from being with his wife down in the assisted living building. The grapevines says she gives him a hard time and blames him for her being moved down there---temporarily if she plays her cards right. She had her leg amputated last year and just broke her good leg and caring for her was more than he could handle. He himself lost all his toes to diabetes.

After an hour of keeping an eye on the man I called our security guard and asked her to go check on him. It was her first day on the job and she was rattled. Long story short while I was on the phone the guy walked over to my building and sat on a bench not more then 12 feet from my open window. I still didn't recognize him---he looked so rough and he had his back to me. Another fifteen minutes past before anyone approached him and it was another resident who was coming home from seeing Wicked and was pressed into helping. The two guys sat on that bench a half hour talking and praying together. Finally Resident Two got Resident One up to his room. By 2:30 AM I was just dosing off to sleep when the fire department showed up and an ambulance took him away. I got two phone calls---one a half hour after the ambulance got here and one in the morning---updating me on this stuff.

This Memorial Day made my loses hurt more, I think, because I went into it thinking a lot about my husband, my brother, my parents and even the dogs that have passed before me. I miss having a close bond with another being. Because I was in an antisocial mood, I spent the whole four day weekend avoiding everyone on campus while licking my wounds. Woe is me, I had no one to hang out with and like it or not, I have no one to blame but myself. If you move into a continuum care complex---like I did---with a goal of not getting close enough to anyone that their dying would hurt, then you pay a price. Mistake or not, it's too late to unwind it.

At the mailbox this morning a woman ran up to me to talk about Resident One, the guy I called security about. She was visibly upset and she said, "This is when the shit is starting to hit the fan. It's so hard to see people go downhill so fast." Then she named three couples who started out together in our independent living buildings but one recently had to go one down the road to a higher level of care. "That's what they signed up for and knew could happen," I rationalized. "I know," she replied, "but it's happening faster than I thought it would." I didn't say it but I was thinking that we're living in the Grim Reaper zone and sooner or later he will get us all. 

Until next Wednesday when I promise I'll be in a better mood. ©

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

From Barbie-Pink Gloves to the Proud Boys and The Cult

Sitting at my computer I was racking my brain for a topic to write about when down the road came an 18-wheeler flatbed with six U-Boxes and a Donkey on top. The giant U-Haul rig parked directly across from my windows. And before I get any farther along I should explain to anyone who might be confused that the Donkey was the four wheeler kind, not the four legged kind. In other words a Donkey brand forklift was attached to the back of the rig extending the normal 72 feet length of an 18-wheeler out another 5-6 feet.

I've see moving vans and trucks of all sizes and descriptions parked across from my windows. It's one of the few downsides of having a main floor apartment near a building's entry door. But like many other things this can be a two-sided coin. It's an advantage to, say, a gossipy-type person who loves to see other people's possessions paraded by her windows or it could be a disadvantage to a person who likes the tranquil view of the woods on the other side of the road and green space that, on occasions, gets blocked by a wall of metal and rubber. 

I normally don't care what is loaded or unloaded outside my windows unless it's a person into an ambulance. But the driver of this particular rig caught and held my attention. She was a petite thing with a bouncing blonde ponytail and as she jumped down from the driver's seat and walked back to the Donkey she pulled on a pair of Barbie Pink work gloves that made me smile from ear to ear. And in no time at all she had that Donkey down on the ground and whipped it around to unload one of the U-Boxes. I held my breath thinking if she didn't turn her load just right she'd end up backing into my windows but my fear was short-lived. She was good---no, she was great at her job. She handled herself with the confidence of a tattooed, biker-bar bouncer and she parked that U-Box in the designated space with the ease and precision of a Victorian era maid setting a table for high tea. And like the Amazon drivers do after delivering a package to our mail room, she took a photo of her delivered U-Box, then she drove the Donkey back to its hookup brackets and straps and she was back on the road in less than six minutes from when she arrived.

It hit me that what I was seeing was the results of the second wave of the Feminism Movement that I was a part of back in '60s and '70s. We have equal opportunities for women in the labor force now that we didn't have back then, but not without getting some societal stretchmarks from people like The Proud Boys who feel they are being left behind or out-shined by women. That's an over simplification, of course, because the Proud Boys don't just hate women. They also hate transgenders, Muslims, immigrants and they are hardcore White Supremacists. Wouldn't it be nice if they died out for lack of breeding opportunities. I can't imagine a woman as capable and confident as my Barbie U-Haul Driver being attracted to a guy who spends his weekends playing soldier in the woods and planning for an Armageddon.

Still, social anthropologists who study hate groups like this say the danger is thinking that all hardcore racists are contained in these pocket groups that can be tracked. I, for one, have a hard time taking them seriously because their very name says they are proud that they haven't matured into fully functioning men---men who take responsibility for their own life choices instead of blaming go-getters like Ms Barbie Pink Gloves and so-called 'woke' people and others who don't look like them. In the meantime we forget that the Proud Boys have aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and other family members who have the same agenda of hate, but they keep a low profile. They are quietly running for offices on school boards, in townships and counties all over the country. They might not wear labels like the Proud Boys or even think of themselves as racists, but they are also in this culture war, while those of us on the other side are blissfully and willfully ignoring them as if they are as insignificant as a fly bussing around a family picnic table.

According to a website that tracks the Proud Boys we should be afraid of them and their extended orbit if Trump gets re-elected. Even though the January Sixth Insurrection decentralized the group when many of their leaders ended up with long prison terms, Trump is now promising to pardon them all if he's re-elected. In other words he's blowing his dog whistle again for them to stand back and stand by. 

Because the Proud Boys are equal opportunists when it comes to hating others, their members belong to a wide variety of other, more targeted hate groups as well and that's one of the main factors that helped coordinate activities that resulted in our first Insurrection at the Capital. I say "first" because it will happen again if Trump doesn't win our next election. Maybe the mobs won't be as big or maybe they're bring bigger weapons or both. But hopefully, the powers that be will be ready this time. 

<Rant On> Those of us who value democracy cannot stay complacent. We cannot stay silent! We must do what we can, while we still can, to get people to tune into what is at stake with the coming election. All the gains we've made in Equal Opportunities for women and people of color in the last 50 years will be undermined if the Democrats lose. Not to mention reproductive freedom is at stake. All the strides we've made towards cleaning up the planet will be turned back, and Trump is promising to throw out the Affordable Health Care Act along with getting rid of the regulatory agencies that protect our water, food chain and medical supplies. His plans to round up immigrants is literally right out of the 1930's Nazi handbook.

Biden may have made mistakes but he's a moral man of honor who we can trust to surround himself with good people should he die in office. Where Trump is a man with no moral compass who the first time around surrounded himself with people who are now either sitting in prison or who have come out against ever letting Trump near the Oval Office again. The polls all say that these two men are running neck to neck and that means too many people are turning a blind eye to the dangers of another Trump term. So those of us who aren't under the spell of the Trump Cult need to step up to the plate and help them see we're on the Crazy Train headed toward Fascism. We do that by speaking up whenever we are given the opportunity. We can, we must be willing to have some uncomfortable conversations with the goal of helping our Democracy to survive. The world does not need another immoral dictator. <Rant Off> 

Until Next Wednesday.  ©

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.