As time went on, I learned, how to buy major appliances, get estimates on home repairs and acquire cemetery lots. All this happened while I learned to cook, sew, knit and have a baby. With this addition to the family, we outgrew the first house and I learned what to look for when house-hunting and how to deal with real estate salesmen.
Next, husband thought I should know how to buy a new car. I really didn’t want to do this alone. Husband insisted. I would slip into a dealership trying not to attract the attention of the sales staff. I just wanted to look at the cars and read the window stickers but always got caught! A smiling salesman would materialize and begin questioning me about what kind of car I was interested in, price range, color and if I had a car to trade in. I would say I would know when I saw the car I wanted. I visited a lot of dealerships, read lots of window stickers and sat in a lot of new cars. Finally, I got up the courage to ask to test drive a car.
This became my new pastime. I drove every car from the top of the line to the basic stripped-down models. I could tell you about cylinders, horsepower, miles per gallon, tire size, leather or cloth seats and whether a particular model had a cup holder. I was ready to talk to the salesman about cost and trade in allowance.
This part went well and I even sat and listened to his presentation about the
merits of leasing the automobile over buying it outright. I said no to leasing, paid cash and drove my new Oldsmobile home. Another notch on my widow lessons.
In my middle age I inherited my older brother’s estate. This included a house that was over a hundred years old and some money. This brought on how to invest the money and whether to keep the house or sell it. Another widow lesson was in stocks, bonds, annuities, and real estate versus putting the money under the mattress.
Husband decides I should study the stock market and make my own decisions as to how I would invest what money was left after the inheritance taxes were paid. I made some mistakes but managed to make a few good investments.
Then I had to decide what to do with the house. It was a big old twelve room
Victorian that I had grown up in located in a small town in southern Indiana. The house needed serious repairs whether I sold it or kept it. Husband says its my decision. We still had the first house we lived in which was now a rental, a cabin in the woods near Spencer Indiana, and the house we presently lived in. That would make four. We definitely didn’t need another house.
The old house I inherited needed a new roof. I got estimates and had the roof done. Husband does not offer any help with the project. Right! Another widow lesson! It was a grueling year-long adventure. I acted as my own general contractor and completely gutted and restored the house. I made lots of mistakes, but along the way I learned a lot. The house had so many wonderful memories I decided to not sell it.
By that time our daughter had grown up, gone to college, taken a teaching job in Arizona, and gotten married. We started thinking about down-sizing. Would we stay in our house, buy a smaller house, or go into an apartment? Some of our friends were moving into senior living facilities at that time and these senior facilities were popping up like mushrooms. We began looking around while we discussed the pros and cons of spending the rest of our lives in a place that offered independent apartments, and when needed assisted living and healthcare all under one roof. After much investigation and comparison, we decided on a place that would meet our needs and put our name on a waiting list until an apartment that fit our needs became available. We sold the house we had lived in forty years and entered a senior living facility. End of widow lessons? No.
One day husband hands me a folder headed “Death Procedures.” It contained lists: healthcare powers of attorney, living wills, who to call first when one of us dies, names and addresses of all family members, mortuary and burial instructions, who to contact regarding pension benefits, social security, name of attorney, list of bank accounts, brokerage accounts, trust papers, tax forms for previous three years, lists of bequests of personal items not specified in the trust, disposal of contents of apartment when last one dies. The list may not be complete yet. As we think of other things that would make easier for the survivor, we will add them. Yes, widow lessons.
Contributed by: Margaret Hall Simpson
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