The MAD Goddess writes out loud with candor and humor about the changing landscape of life for women with retired husbands,
adult children, and grandchildren. It's not always a pretty story,
but it's usually pretty funny.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When I Grow Up

When I was young, I believed that I would marry a man I loved, have children, work hard to raise a family and make a life, and then grow old bouncing my grandchildren on my knee. Not surprisingly, there were a few detours along the way.

Perhaps I was naïve. Devoting 30 years to a career with no paycheck and no pension plan is risky business. Now that I am 50, my trip has been seriously side-tracked. Instead of enjoying the life I’ve made and spending my time spoiling my grandchildren, I am weighing the benefits of going back to school to improve my employment prospects.

I don’t think my traditional choices were wrong; I’m still very satisfied with my degree in motherhood, even though I have no diploma for lessons learned – nor gold watch for retirement, and in fact, any retirement seems out of the picture now.

Here is fair warning: It matters little whether you or your spouse are the primary wage earner, or even if you depend on both incomes equally; divorce, illness or death can still bring your dreams to a screeching halt. Don’t talk to me about planning for emergencies. One major illness or serious accident can wipe out a life savings in the blink of an eye. There is good reason middle-aged bankruptcy is becoming a buzz-word phrase.

Whatever comes next, I’ll figure it out – I’ve always been adaptable. What I can’t figure out are the judgmental comments from women who chose to work outside of their home. I’ve been summarily told, “You’ll have to get a real job now.” I guess because I didn’t receive a paycheck, it didn’t count. Even more insulting, I’ve been asked, “So, what are going to be when you grow up?” Do they really think that raising three children was just one long recess in the school yard?

I had idealistic dreams 30 years ago. Most of what I planned worked out, some of it didn’t, but I’m not down for the count yet. Perhaps continuing to believe I can find a way to preserve and pursue that dream is still naïve. But if growing up means giving up, just book me a one-way fare to Never-Never Land.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

MAD Doesn't Begin to Cover It

If you are a regular reader and tuning in for the usual mirthful Madness of the Middle Age'd Goddess, better find something else to read today - I'm venting.

Isn’t it enough to deal with a spouse’s critical heart disease, knowing that his death could be around the next corner?

Add to that the loss of his income and medical insurance due to his inability to work, leaving me looking for full time employment including benefits in a region with jobless rates higher than the national average.

Compound the situation with hours and days of missing work from the measly part-time job I do have. This, in order to complete the seemingly endless, repetitive paperwork necessary to apply for disability, relief from medical bills or other financial help.

Pile on the role of caretaker. Okay, he’s not bed ridden or immobilized, but he is on a daily maintenance dose of nitro with that tiny bottle of backups to pop in case of an emergency. He can’t lift, carry, bend, stoop or exert himself in any way.

I’ve gone from living alone ten to twelve days out of fifteen (the life of a truck driver’s wife) to being on call. I used to be able to come home from work, toss a salad or pop a Lean Cuisine into the microwave. Now I have to prepare low-fat, low cholesterol, no sodium and no sugar meals that at least approach good taste. I have to set the table, clear the table and do the dishes that have somehow more than doubled (I think it’s the cooking utensils). I have to purchase the food, which has become an education in Label Reading 101. I can’t get through the grocery store in less than 90 minutes now.

If there’s any time left after that, I attend to household chores (including more paperwork along with financial management). When I finally make it to bed, I lie awake wondering how all of this happened and what I can do to fix it. At 50 years old, should I go back to school to improve my career outlook? Sure, I’ll fit that in when I give up sleep completely.

I refuse to give up the last vestige of sanity I have - and this is it, my blog, my little space, my only piece of the world where I still have some control.

So, if all of this isn’t enough to deal with, do I also have to be my husband’s cheerleader, psychologist and emotional punching bag?

I’m struggling to keep from being dragged into the dark pit of depression that is pulling him under. If one cog in the mechanics of my carefully structured schedule jams or breaks, the machine that is our life will come to a screeching halt.

My income may be insufficient right now, but it’s better than no income at all. If I collapse, if I become ill, if I let the stress overtake me, who will look after the two of us? Who will buy the groceries, prepare the meals, run the house, pay the bills and continue to ensure the safety and security of us both?

You’d think that my husband would have a vested interest in keeping me healthy and sane. Instead his fear and anger have made him combative, argumentative and resistant to the inevitable change required by his condition. I’m not the one he’s angry at, but I’m the one that’s here. He flings all the injustice of what has happened to him and what he is going through, at me. Does he expect that I will take the burden from him and return miracles?

I’m fresh out of miracles today. Check back with me tomorrow.