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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thoughts on Surviving Widowhood

Sometimes it is not about you and missing your spouse. It is about you and the Lord and what you need to do to honor HIM. Staying active and not burdening your children is part of it.
There is a woman who has been a dear and close friend for years, my first, new friend after I married and moved to Augusta, Feb. 1957. Three or four years ago, my friend stopped communicating totally, which was most unusual. I continued for awhile then just quit after sending the usual presents, calling etc.
I’ve come to find out that my friend treats her daughter almost the same way, with little communication. We’ve finally had to accept the fact that strokes have done a lot of brain damage. Unless you knew this person really well, you’d not see any change in her. She teaches a Bible class and continues other activities. She has an apartment in a lovely retirement facility but she recently told me that other old friends have stopped calling her and she is lonely. Yes, I’m back calling and planning her Xmas present etc. and realizing, once again, that old age is often cruel, even to 85 year old wealthy widows.
She is not handling things the way I think she should, but given her limitations I know she is doing the best she can do. That’s all you can ask of anyone. I can’t forego a long friendship due to disapproval. That’s not how I operate.
I wish she would use a computer.
Old age can be a time of intellectual and social stimulation. It doesn’t have to be lonely, even if you are a widow.
ALSO - If your husband dies, you don’t automatically have a right to try and run your child’s life.
Recently, I spoke with a friend of Dee’s who has concerns about his active, 83 year old mother. His dad died a few months ago, after the parents had moved close by. The son and his wife are happy where they are with their home, jobs, church etc. Mother wants them to move with her back to her former city. I doubt that she’d be happy there because her husband is not there either. Sorry Mother, but you are going to have to deal with your grief and learn to live alone no matter where you are. Try some non-credit college courses, craft courses, exercise for elders’ classes, teach something, reading groups, etc. There are tons of volunteer jobs available. I did almost all of the above during the nine years I lived alone after my husband died. I tried some I didn’t like so just didn’t go back But my point is that you are going to have to make up your mind to adjust and stop trying to guilt trip your son.

Not too long after Tony died, my children asked if I’d like to have a computer. I answered, most definitely No! I can barely operate my car radio! A week or two later, my son appeared with a bunch of boxes he’d brought from where he lived in Columbia, S.C., about an hour away from my home, in Augusta, Ga.. I was gifted with my first computer – and it scared me to death.
The wisest thing that we did was to set it up in the kitchen, on my desk.  Yes, I finally got where I could send and receive messages, print and send all kind of silly stories, print out lots of information for my garden club members, etc. It was - and is - great fun. I research all kinds of odd information. Example: this morning I looked up “Snake Island” just off the coast of Brazil. There are lots of really interesting facts about that island.
The computer has opened up the world to me, and I would urge any person over 60 to USE their computer. Keep your mind active. Reach out to people.
My health is such that I’m just not very comfortable away from home, though I do go out to the beauty parlor etc. I decided to stop driving about 2 years ago because of my arthritis. However, my computer is on my desk, here in my comfortable bed room. If I can’t sleep, I don’t toss and turn, I work on my farm game until I get sleepy again. I always have two or three books I’m reading – usually a serious non fiction plus a mystery or two. I stay in almost daily contact, online, with far away family members and dear friends. When my son was stationed in Iraq, the computer was a Godsend.
I honestly believe that the fact I lived alone for a period of time, has enabled me to live with and share a house with my daughter with a minimum of conflict. I can and do entertain myself. As time goes on, Dee has had to help me with physical jobs such as changing bed linens etc. Of course, Dee does tons of things for me and I am blessed but I think she enjoys time with me too.
But to reiterate my original premise – widowhood is a time to redefine your life and reach out, not give up. Take a class. Call an old friend. Learn to use a computer. Just keep on GOING.
[Note from Dee: I am blessed to have Mom in my life, and so is Michael. Mom is a pistol, and she could teach a course called Widowhood That Doesn’t Suck.]