A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time, there was a Minnesota girl that went to college.  At college, she had a roommate.  The roommate invited her to come to stay at her home for the weekend.  The Minnesota girl said sure.  That sounded fun.

On the weekend away, the Minnesota girl met a Minnesota boy and the two had a lot of fun.

To make this story not take forever, let’s just fast forward a year later.  The Minnesota girl and the Minnesota boy married.  It’s love to say they lived happily ever after…but there is more to the story.

Soon babies started coming.  The Minnesota couple had three.  Then the Minnesota couple moved to Iowa and quickly became the Iowa Girl and the Iowa Boy.

Fast forward a few more years.  The Iowa couple added two more babies to their family.  I’d like to say now that they lived happily ever after but that wouldn’t be completely true either…but…
The Iowa couple grew more and more in love.  The babies grew.  The Iowa Boy did everything he could to make the Iowa Girl happy.  He went antiquing.  He rebuilt and refinished furniture.  She wanted a house, he helped her get one.  He took care of all the man jobs.  He did the lawn care.  He filled the weed eater with string.  He cut any board to the size his Iowa Girl wanted.  He did all of the talking to electricians, plumbers or any tradesman that ever came to the house.  If it was a “man job”, he did it.

The Iowa Girl loved it.  She loved not having to worry about or deal with any “man job”.  She loved that her only responsibility to it all was writing the check to pay the bill.  She loved that he took care of her of her so well.

Well, here is where the story comes to a sad ending.  Iowa Boy got sick with lung cancer and died.  It was quick.  Iowa Boy didn’t have time to teach Iowa Girl anything…she didn’t know how often to change the oil.  She didn’t know how to deal with tradesman.  She didn’t know the ins and outs of many of the “man jobs”.  Iowa Girl hated this and it made things a little bit difficult.  Not only was she grieving, she was reminded every time that there was a “man job” to do, that Iowa Boy wasn’t there to do it.  Often that tiggered off a bit of sadness and more of a sense of loss.  It was not easy for Iowa Girl, but she wasn’t a quitter.  She lived life…but she always regretted not learning more about “man jobs” while Iowa Boy was alive.

I don’t know the rest of the story.  I’m still living it.  I’m sure you know by now that I am Minnesota Girl turned Iowa Girl.  I’m sure you know Minnesota Boy/Iowa Boy is my husband who died in June of 2019.

This story is exactly how our life played out.  Kramer jumped into the role of fixer, refinisher, power tool guy.  I jumped into the role of all things domestic.  Had our roles reversed and I died before Kramer, he would not know a thing about paying bills.  He wouldn’t know how to contact a single person about the money we have and where it is.  He wouldn’t know how often to clean anything…heck he wouldn’t know how to clean anything.  He’d know how to wash his clothes but that’s about it.

I want to caution you all…
It is great to love someone so much that you do all of the domestic things…It is great to have someone that loves you so much that they handle all of the “man jobs”.  But, when one loses the other, it’s not great.

The other day, Kelli was here and went to the basement to take a shower.  We have an old shower in the basement that everyone loves.  Kramer built it.  It has two shower heads and is super powerful.

Kelli came up after her shower and told me something was wrong.  The shower drain wasn’t working.  Crap.  Where was Iowa Boy now?  This was not my department at all.

I looked at the drain.  There didn’t seem to be anything blocking it.  UGH.

Karl stopped over.  I told him about the drain.  Karl asked if we had a sump pump.  Darn.  I was pretty sure we did, but honestly, I didn’t even know where it was.  Then I thought and remembered the tiny closet of a utility room we have in the basement.  Karl and I went to check if the sump pump was there.  We went to turn on the light and it didn’t work.  That’s when I realized we probably tripped a breaker.  Yep, that was it.  The problem was an easy fix.

This all sounds simple and easy when I write it out but it really wasn’t that way.  I tried to figure out who I was going to call about this if we couldn’t figure it out.  I worried that this was going to be a thousand-dollar fix.  I didn’t have the Iowa Boy to defer to and that triggered a new sense of loss.

It’s hard.

The other day I was so proud of myself.  I put the new string in the weed eater.  I didn’t have to watch the Youtube video that I have bookmarked that explains how to do it.  I guess the fifth time is the charm.  The previous four times I did this, I had to watch the video.


So ladies and gents.  My cautionary tale is please don’t let your loved one do everything for you.  Include them in the domestic jobs.  Learn some of the “man jobs”.  When one of you loses the other, the one that is left will be so much better equipped to live life.

45 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale

  1. Laurie

    Thanks Jo, This has been on my mind for awhile now. This will be the push to do things I have been thinking about – putting all our banking and bill info somewhere that my husband and son can find it. Almost all of our bills come to my email and he would not have a clue how to find them. Whenever I mention anything I want done around the house he jumps on it, which is awesome but I have no clue how to fix anything. God bless you.

    Reply
  2. Linddylou

    You put a smile on my face. I lost my hubby 4 months ago and slowly I’m learning to do some of the things I never knew how to do. Things I never thought I would ever have have to do.

    Reply
  3. shirley

    So true. Just remember he would be happy each time you figure out how to resolve the issue. You can be proud to know you can resolve issues.

    Reply
  4. Ginny Clyne

    But that was how life was when I married and later when you married, there were men jobs and there were women jobs. Now in my children’s marriages things are more shared for the better I think. I am pretty good about car things as I was my fathers daughter and like cars, but home repairs not so much. My husband is a decent cook, he does a good breakfast. He is an excellent home repair guy. Finances have always been my thing, plus I was a banker before I retired.

    Reply
  5. Nicole Hanson

    Hello Jo!
    My husband of 54 years died on Christmas Eve 2019. He too, took care of the “man stuff” but I could help him. I can rebuild a car engine and do all car maintenance. I can do minor repairs and handle a screwdriver, drill and hammer. After he died the water conditioner broke down. I couldn’t even turn the handle to shut it off! Had to go get the neighbors grandson. Then the garage door broke. Just little things that he usually took care f that began to overwhelm me. Thankfully, God provided caring neighbors to help me with the problems, made sure I ate, and then got me through hip replacement surgery and just have been keeping me busy. I thank God every day for providing me with these friends. You are right, it’s hard and something “new” has to be learned every day! But we will get through it! God Bless and Take care!

    Reply
  6. Sherrill

    I’ve lived that story as well except my DH would’ve been able to take care of pretty much everything I did without issue. He was better at cleaning and picking up and he was able to do all the money stuff probably better than me even though I paid the bills. My issues are mostly tech stuff; I hire someone to mow my yard and I lease my car so all that stuff it taken care of. And I have 2 boys but neither of them talk to me so I don’t call them for help. So sad.

    Reply
  7. Paulette

    Very good point, Jo. I’ve always handled the finances and bill paying, but when Covid hit, I consciously started having him pay the bills. That might seem like an easy thing, except when you add in his dyslexia and little-to-no computer skills, in addition to 38 years of ignorance-is-bliss when it came to financial stuff, it was a big deal. While he still has to be reminded regularly, I feel like at least now he wouldn’t be left completely in the dark if I weren’t around. Now as for me learning how to operate the snow blower…that’s another subject, lol. I think I’d hire out that job!

    Reply
  8. Hedy

    I think my worst thing that happened was buying new tires. My car had hydroplaned and the tire dealership told me I needed 2 new tires. I bought them but somehow my car just didn’t drive right. Ended up getting two more tires and the driving was terrible. Took the car to a family member an hour away who was a mechanic and had to buy a whole set of tires to get the car right. Found out at each oil change that my car suddenly needed all kinds of things, NOT. Being a new widow is very difficult and I struggled but I persevered. Like your getting the string on the weed eater. I know I can’t fix everything but the key is to know someone who can steer me in the right direction.

    Reply
  9. Judy Vivian

    Jo, thanks for the reminder. I’ve done that with my husband after I saw my dad fall apart when my mom died. Unfortunately I don’t know much of his jobs though, I’d better get cracking.

    Reply
  10. Dianne

    I truly understand and appreciate what you are talking about because I have and am experiencing the same thing. I am a widow with little knowledge of things my husband use to do and now I am dealing with all of these things. Unfortunately my sons don’t live close to me so I have to figure out how to do or fix something. Sadly I don’t have any family close by to come to my aid. You are so lucky to have children close by to help you. Once in awhile I go out in the garage and get upset with my late husband for not telling me what some of the tools are for but eventually I get it figured out. Life does go on but not exactly what I would have liked it too.

    Reply
  11. Kate

    What a good blog, something for all of us to remember and think about. I am fortunate that I now live near family and have nephews who would help me if needed. My husband often says he doesn’t know what he would do if something happened to me though. He can cook and do laundry, clean, but would be overwhelmed doing it all.

    Reply
  12. VIRGINIA K CORRIEA

    Oh, my gosh, this is ME!!! My husband died in December 2017 and he did all the “man jobs” that needed to be done. I have had to struggle with getting things fixed, and, as you said, trying to find out who to call to even get it fixed. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even think about changing the filters on the heater for our home. I know now that they need to be changed every few months. Ours didn’t get changed for three years until I sold our house and moved away!! I often lament that it’s so terrible having to do all the “man jobs” myself. I don’t want people to think that that’s all I needed my husband for. I loved him but I find myself lamenting about these “man jobs” and him not being there to do them. He really was so kind and gentle; but I hate that he’s gone. I need him!!

    Reply
  13. Heidee Lindsey

    What a good reminder. But I’m sorry that you are experiencing it! It reminded me of my friend’s situation. Her husband had a long, terminal illness. During this time, he made books for her, outlining everything from car maintenance to winterizing the sprinklers. He noted the repairs done and what would soon be needed. Then he planned his funeral even inviting the speakers. She did not know he had done all this until he gave her the books. What a gift of love! My husband and I are working on these things, because you never know. ❤

    Reply
  14. June

    Very true words of wisdom. My story is a lot like yours- been married 44 yrs. 3 children and grands. I used to do the bills – he did the job ( Navy wife). Now I’m his caregiver and paycheck worker and SSI and he took over the bills. I don’t have a clue when to pay /what. I don’t know how to get into the safe. But he did leave me a detailed book filled with info should I need it- in the safe…lol. I wouldn’t know how to change a weed eater cord. Or fix a leaky faucet. I think I’ve googled a lot of things like how the car-window locks work cause my dog keeps putting it down while we’re driving. God be with you and send the right person to help you.

    Reply
  15. Dianne

    Hi again, my first post got lost and must be out in cyberspace.
    I’m also a widow that has had to learn so many things that my husband usually took care of rather than me. I do go out to the garage and some times get mad because I have no idea what all his tools are for. My sons live in different places and try to help me via text and FaceTime. I do have some good friends that do help me when I need some help or advice but I try to figure out what I need to do by myself. This is a whole new challenge for me. It helps to listen to other widows and know that I am not alone trying to figure out how to deal with challenges that pop up periodically. Jo, you are so lucky to have family near by to help you when you need some extra help.

    Reply
  16. TeriDegonia

    Another thing I learned from a friend who lost her husband was she had no credit. It was in both their names. When she tried to buy a car she couldn’t. So get a credit card in your name only. You don’t have to use it much but it will help later on.

    Reply
  17. Linda Lewis

    People often don’t understand why widows are so busy. It’s because we’re doing double the chores and it takes longer to do the ones we never had to do before. Help is always appreciated! Don’t forget widows after, whether it is a week a month a year or 5 years.

    Reply
  18. Judi

    My Dad taught me to do a lot of “man” jobs when I was you, honey.” Well, Georgia girl married NJ boy and they moved to PA. To maker a long story short, the PA guy is almost useless with fixing things. His plan is to call someone! I tend to do the things I know and watch when I am home to learn a bit more!

    Reply
  19. Robby H.

    I would like to add that you need to put all your passwords for various things in a safe place and make sure your other half or sibling or children know where that is. Oh my, will this make things easier later.

    Reply
  20. Judith Fairchild

    When my husband realized he had only a short time left. He taught our daughter and I how to maintain the the car changing oil, changing the break pads etc. We also taught our daughter how to tend her dad in meds and other medical things as soon as she was wanting to help so that I could work outside the home . She’s 41 now and there is nothing she won’t tackle. If it’s something she doesn’t know she researches it. She’s passing on to the grands what we taught her. Losing my husband was the hardest thing that’s ever happened to me. Thank God for the people who were there for us when we needed them. I like how you wrote your story. So glad your story hasn’t ended and I have had the pleasure of reading the bits you have shared.

    Reply
  21. Dianne

    Another thing is to write down where you bank, lock box is and all the other important items in your life. It is also important to have both names on documents such as car titles. It will save lots of headaches later on and extra trips to the courthouse. I ended up having to make several trips to the courthouse and to the Social Security office which was in another town to get the documents to be able to sell some items that required documentation. The more you can have done in advance for important paperwork is a good thing. Just be prepared.

    Reply
  22. Maureen Toole

    P.S. And its been five years since he passed
    I’m learning but I’m a stubborn woman who doesn’t like to admit she’s wrong….no problem with being right

    Reply
  23. Elizabeth

    My husband and I both do most jobs around the house including paying the bills,mum told me about a few of her friends that were caught in the situation you are talking about. I handled tradies at the last job I worked so am not intimidated by them,but be aware some will try and put it over you.so even if you are getting a tradie in have a male around so they don’t try and scam you especially on cars.my sister is single and she would look at a car to buy then half an hour later my brother would go look at the same car interesting the different prices and responses they got.so as much as she knew what she wanted she always took one of our brothers along,especially on car repair,my daughter came home from having her car in for servicing in tears saying it needed 1000$worth of repair and she was on a low wage included in the immediate essential repair she needed a new fan belt.she bought the belt as she knew how to change them and sold it with the car three years later unused.she never went back to that place and often went with one of her brothers after that to pick the car up from servicing,not fair to women whereas now it is her who constantly takes the car to the mechanic and does all the physical jobs around her house.the only ones I don’t do is the mower and whipper snipping as my husband likes them .plus due to shoulder injury I am unable to start the current mower pull cord the next one will be electric start ,even my husband says that .so ladies learn it all and teach your husband and BOYS it all .keep it up Jo

    Reply
  24. Michelle Chadima

    oh my gosh Jo this really got me in the feels. I just want to give you a huge ole Iowa hug!!!! I’m so glad your kids are so protective of you and help you so much!! I hope at least one of mine ends up the same.

    Another Iowa Mama

    Reply
  25. Karen

    You are sooo right!! My Uncle took care of all the financial stuff because he was a bookkeeper by trade. They were in their 80s and did not live near any of our family. When he passed away my Aunt seemed to be doing okay. and we had no idea of the situation. A few weeks later she called saying she was hungry, didn’t have any food, and didn’t know how to go about getting any. We went to get her, helped her take care of everything and brought her home with us. Sooo sad and scary!

    Reply
  26. Brenda Oishi

    I went through that 14 years ago. My husband did the yard work, and I did the inside. Heck it was my dad that fixed everything.
    Long story short, both parties need to know about ALL documents and accounts. I now have a will, and my lawyer knows exactly what and who to contact.
    Paperwork can be messy, take care of it TOGETHER!!!

    Reply
  27. Rita

    Thank you for this post. This is absolutely great advice. My husband and I will be married 38 years this December. When our 2 boys were small, we moved to a new community to raise our boys. I continued to work since my job paid for medical insurance, and my husband started his own home-based business. The big drawback was that I had a 1.5-hour commute each way for work so hubby took care of the boys, household chores, and even cooking – PLUS all the “man” jobs. He did the best he could and we all survived. Our boys are now in their 30s and I am retired. Hubby now works FT for a local business and our roles have reversed. I have never really believed in “man” or “woman” jobs. We are equal partners. Having said that, however, I have become dependent upon him to take care of all those “man” matters: the cars, the yards, the plumbing, etc. etc. Not because I think I can’t do all that – I am very capable – but I have become “lazy”. It’s just so much easier to let him take care of those things and he’s happy to do them. And yes I do sometimes think about what would I do if he goes before me. On the other side, we have a good friend whose wife divorced him – one day she just up and left. The poor man had no idea how to even boil water or do grocery shopping or any of the other “woman” chores. His wife had done everything for him. My hubby had to teach him how to do many things. Yes, my hubby will probably function better without me than I without him. We are in our late 60s so it’s time to think about these things. Thank you for your post.

    Reply
  28. Carolyn

    My husband was diagnosed with nsclc lung cancer in March of 2018. He has far surpassed his doctors predictions. It is almost time for another ct scan. If the scan is good we see the survivalist, if not the oncologist. My husband isn’t ready to discuss this info. He wants to live for a long time yet. I think I have most things figured out, but I can’t take care of the grass or snow. I will have to hire those jobs out if I have that to face.

    Reply
  29. Lisa B

    This was a well-written and entertaining post about a serious subject matter. If you are married you should think about if you would realistically be able to stay in the home you’re living in if your spouse passed. Maybe you could pay to have someone come clean once a week. Maybe you could afford to have the lawn taken care of it in the summer months.

    One often overlooked area as a couple ages is driving. One elderly couple told me that she always drove to appointments and he always drove home from appointments. That way she continued to have experience driving on freeways and in busy areas. So often the man does all the driving and the woman was helpless after her spouse passed.

    Reply
  30. Brenda King

    My Heart goes out to all of you. I’ve been married, happily, to my husband of 52 1/2 yrs. He had always been a dependable worker, repairer, mechanic, gardener, and made things for us as needed. We didn’t hire anyone for anything. That was his rule. No, he hasn’t passed away, but has been dx’d with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It has been fairly fast acting, leaving him exhausted, and often in serious pain. He is in pain sitting, or lying down, so it has been very hard on him. He has to nap daily, or is too exhausted to do anything. We currently have a hole in the roof of my quilt studio, from high winds. He can no longer do ladders. We had purchased new light fixtures for the exterior of the house, and new kitchen lights. They will not be put up, or the roof patched. We have a son-in-law locally, and two grown grandsons, but they are busy with demanding jobs, wives & families. I did all the interior work, and he did the exterior stuff.
    I know just about NOTHING about repairs, maintenence. I am glad someone shared about their husbqnd mqking instructional books for them. That sounds great! I’ll see if my Calif. man will make one for me! : )
    Thanks Jo for the reminder that we need to prepare for any possibility, and learn to be independent, in taking care of ourselves. After never being in the kitchen except to eat for fifty years, my honey is learning to cook, and enjoys it!

    Reply
  31. Brenda King

    My Heart goes out to all of you. I’ve been married, happily, to my husband of 52 1/2 yrs. He had always been a dependable worker, repairer, mechanic, gardener, and made things for us as needed. We didn’t hire anyone for anything. That was his rule. No, he hasn’t passed away, but has been dx’d with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It has been fairly fast acting, leaving him exhausted, and often in serious pain. He is in pain sitting, or lying down, so it has been very hard on him. He has to nap daily, or is too exhausted to do anything. We currently have a hole in the roof of my quilt studio, from high winds. He can no longer do ladders. We had purchased new light fixtures for the exterior of the house, and new kitchen lights. They will not be put up, or the roof patched. We have a son-in-law locally, and two grown grandsons, but they are busy with demanding jobs, wives & families. I did all the interior work, and he did the exterior stuff.
    I know just about NOTHING about repairs, maintenence. I am glad someone shared about their husbqnd mqking instructional books for them. That sounds great! I’ll see if my Calif. man will make one for me! : )
    Thanks Jo for the reminder that we need to prepare for any possibility, and learn to be independent, in taking care of ourselves. After never being in the kitchen except to eat, for fifty years, my honey is learning to cook, and enjoys it! God bless and protect us all!

    Reply
  32. Janet Rice

    Also, everyone keep lists of your meds in your purse or wallet. Medical personnel frequently needs to have that information and it’s not always easy to remember during those times of stress.

    Somewhere at home, have a list of insurance, bank accounts, car info, etc. When my sister passed away, her husband had no idea about any of that information. My hubby wouldn’t know, either.

    Thank you for that reminder, Jo.

    Reply
  33. Shirley Mann

    Well, you are telling my story too. My husband passed June 2020. I didn’t realize how very much he did. I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I felt at times. I am learning and I am grateful for the years I had my husband. Love him still.

    Reply
  34. Mary B

    My husband was recently diagnosed with dementia. It seems like overnight he was this vibrant man who did all the “man jobs” around here. And now he can’t. I’m in the position of trying to figure out how to do everything while also taking care of him. It can get so discouraging at times.

    Reply
  35. Colette

    You put into words so eloquently why I get frustrated, angry, sad when there is a “man” job that I have to take on. From fixing a sump pump to fixing a roof. I wish I had more time, had asked more questions and been willing to learn more. You are doing awesome!

    Reply
  36. Carol

    This is so true. I lost my husband in 2017. So I understand what you are saying. So many things I took for granted. Moving on is a hard process.

    Reply
  37. Judy

    Well said! I lost my fixer of 53 years last year to dementia. Every time I have to fix something now I say why didn’t I pay more attention or ask to be shown how.

    Reply
  38. MARGARET LANCASTER

    What a well written article. We were married more than twenty years but together more than forty-four years. He passed on Jan 4th 2020 after only 40 days from date of his diagnosis. The first year as a widow I had no problems but his year 2021 it seems as though things are fast falling apart. I am grateful to you for writing this article and for everyone who has written their story. It will help.

    Reply
  39. kit

    from the “queen of the weed eater” i offer the following advise.
    i recently discovered (god bless google and youtube) that the spool on the weed eater rotates a certain direction, and if the spool is loaded “up side down”, the line will not feed !! (it breaks and disappears)
    so, if you run into this, simply flip the spool !
    (there are arrows printed on my spool that need to turn a certain direction.)

    Reply
  40. Beth T.

    Oh, Jo. Reading this, I remember when my sweetheart’s mother’s cancer moved from her lung to her brain. She sat took her husband to the laundry room and showed him how to wash his clothes because in the decades of their marriage he had never needed to learn that skill. She had always done it. I’m pretty sure she had washed every load of laundry through their entire marriage. But she wanted to be sure he wouldn’t be left completely helpless when she died, and she was now certain that she was dying. My heart broke that day, although as a twenty-something I was amazed that he didn’t know how to do that task. Now, three decades later, there are many tasks we have divided up in my own household, and we have to make a conscious effort to show each other: here is where we keep this; this is when this dividend is paid every quarter.

    Reply
  41. Dot

    One more tip: if you share a credit card, be sure that both of you are listed as “co-owners” of the card. Often, a wife is just an “authorized user”. A while back, I wanted to sign up for online access to a card we’d had for over 20 years, and the bank said, to my surprise, that I was only an authorized user and couldn’t have access. We had to do paperwork to make me a co-owner. When my husband passed away, the bank would have immediately cancelled the card, if we hadn’t done that. That would have been a big problem I didn’t need at the time.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *