I'd say I am somewhat spoiled. I've been in Florida now for just under 20 years, and I have happily gotten used to winters with 58 degree mornings, roses blooming in January, no snow, no ice, no blizzards and no itchy wooly underwear.
I like being able to go to the beach just to watch the birds and breathe in the salty air whenever I feel like it. I thought, when I moved here, that I would always be able to do that - just go to the beach and sit whenever I pleased. I haven't done enough of that. Other things always get in the way -- because when you live here, you know you can always go, so this sort of little pleasure is often kicked aside. When I moved here, I told my kids I was picking my retirement spot early, that I was moving here to stay.
It was here, in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, that I started to create a new life for myself. I went to college. Got my Associate's degree, then my Bachelor's. Discovered that I still had a knack for writing (Sometimes during years of wifehood and motherhood, skills and talents get forgotten. ) I was evolving into someone I really wanted to be. I finally had a job I enjoyed with a company I was proud to be part of. I had a sense of capability, of independence, of being in charge of my own life. I was creating a local reputation as a poet, and learned the skills and nuances of public presentation. I was finding causes to support, and, though I am not one to make a flock of friends, I was friendly with most everyone, and enjoyed the bond of friendship with a few select people. Found love a time or two, found like a few times more, and have had friends die and move away. I've been disappointed and outright stunned, I've been hopeful and a diehard believer. I've loved living here.
My daughter (and her kids) came to Florida some time ago, stayed a while, fell in love and married and doubled my inventory of grandkids.
My daughter picked up her family and moved back to the roots she remembered and was familiar with in Wisconsin. I've missed her a lot since she's gone, and the kids -- growing up in a place I had visited a time or two and knew not at all, but for the climate. But Jinger is a snow-bunny. Jinger always loved snow and the more vigorous change of seasons that happens in Wisconsin. She needed to find her own place, and Wisconsin was it. Taran came and went and came and went in Florida. He had been growing up in Trinidad, and the climate in Florida suited him far better than that in the northern states where he was born and spent his early childhood. He joined the Navy here and spent some time in Orlando before going to his Great Lakes post, then he went South again until his father's health dragged him North again. Then back to Orlando, then to Clearwater to work for a time at the same company as I. I think, sometimes, that working there changed the direction of his life. He found a place where he was appreciated, not just for what he knew and his ability to get a job done, but for his ability to think, to learn, to grow. And he outgrew the place. Eventually he returned to Trinidad - a gap I cannot seem to close even to see him and do the motherly pride thing. He's been back to visit, but these days the world is his teacher, and he freelances his abilities and is constantly learning more, implementing more, and one day he'll be back again - most likely to visit. I don't believe he will set down roots in Florida again. And Dusty. Dusty's visited Florida, but his roots and family are in Pennsylvania. I doubt he and his wife will consider Florida until they are old and in need of the constant warmth.
But there are many kinds of warmth. Of late, I have lost two friends within a week of one another, both to pneumonia. Florida is no safeguard against illness. The friends I have left are busily into their own lives, as they should be. I am most often left to my own devices, which, since I lost my mind in 2001 to a sort of accumulative breakdown, are narrow and of the self-serving type one uses as one tries to mend. I've gotten much better, mind you -- but I am aware that I am not "well" yet, and while working toward that end, I do have to make allowances for what I cannot do anymore, forgiving myself for the inabilities that thwart me. It isn't easy, and while my friends have ruffled their feathers from time to time, they have stood by me and I am grateful for that. But I need more.
When my daughter calls, I immediately calm. There is nothing like her stories of her job, her family, her life, always seasoned with her laughter, to make me smile and -- miss her all the more. I have been visiting to Wisconsin in the early summer, several times in the last few years, and each return to Florida I miss her and the girls more. Now when she calls, I know some of the people she talks about. I've actually made friends with some of them. I can picture in my mind the setting for her stories.
When my granddaughters call, I can see them in their environments in my mind's eye. They are young women now, with husbands and children (though husbands and children are not evenly divided among them) and each has her successes, each has her challenges. I've met three out of four of my great grandchildren, and I miss knowing the littlest one, the one with the serious face, the one so very tiny , as my daughter was as a baby. The oldest one, a little boy with incredible dimples, is four now. I've caught myself imagining me teaching him where his five fingers go on piano keys.
I've thought of moving to Wisconsin.
I've thought about it for several years now.
(to be continued)