Sunday, August 7, 2016

     Thirty years ago, my parents decided to retire to Florida. They were lucky, as most of their close friends had already sold their big fancy homes and relocated there. My parents had been traveling to Florida since the mid-fifties, so Florida was a favorite destination. At that time, Florida was a glamorous place where the tropical life was peaceful, uncluttered and beautiful. The snowbirds were mostly in their 60s and 70s, so people my parents’ age (mid-40s) were home raising families. My parents sent my grandmother over to yell at us for a week while they went and partied in the sand. 

     After making the big decision to leave our family in Michigan, my parents followed in their friends’ footsteps and sold their big fancy custom home in Birmingham and built a tiny house in Boca Raton, the fashionable spot of the rich and famous. My parents were far from rich, and they were only famous in their own minds. They chose a floor plan of 1800 square feet, and my mom gleefully went about planning her decorating scheme. I was so shocked when I visited the first time. Every house on the street looked alike. The only way you could find theirs was to locate the address so you made sure you were in the right driveway. Once inside the tiny house, however, it was a little jewel with plenty of room just for them and enough to have a small cocktail party on their lanai around the pool. My mom loved the pool; my Dad never put a toe in it. 

     I don’t recall every thinking to myself, “Why would they leave me and move so far away?” I was a grown adult, after all, and I was thrilled that they were going to live their dream. My mom loved the ocean (my Dad did not), and all she could talk about was being able to sit there and look at it. 

Above:   Mom and Dad's engagement
Below:   100 years later-our tiny house pool

     That tiny home gave them six years together before mom lost her battle with cancer. She was healthy for four of those years. She never stopped partying until she couldn’t stand up in her stilettos. Her friends rallied around her, and my father was a saint taking care of her till the last second. She was 73.

     I am 73. We have just sold our custom home and moved to a tiny house in Florida. (This was not my plan, but what we do for love?) All the houses on our street look the same. You have to find the address to know if you are in the right driveway. I am so excited about being near the ocean and having a pool to enjoy, however, so it’s all good. My focus is decorating our little space and making it our “jewel.”

     Florida is no longer uncluttered. It is a destination for many who want to live out their golden years in a tropical climate. Beaches can be packed and roads can be bottlenecked. If you know when and where to go, however, you can still find the pristine beaches with hardly a soul on them, and you can find the secret ways to get where you want to go without the traffic nightmares. (I do not choose to reveal such secrets at this time). We live on the opposite coast from where my parents were, but we are unintentionally following in their footsteps. 

     Our friends are not here. They wonder why one earth we would pick up and leave them at our age and start over. Moving in the 70s is not easy physically or emotionally, but it has proven so far to be a wonderful adventure. It has given us a new perspective, a chance to make new friends and a whole new lifestyle to explore. Our children are spread all over the country, and they have long ago given up understanding what we do or why. They simply roll their eyes and go on with their own lives. 

     As my good friend said, when we move, especially at our age, we are taking with us “all our baggage and traits.The only thing that changes is the externals.” She is right, but the externals energize and refresh, and we are already enjoying that part. The trick is staying healthy so we can enjoy it all. (Hmm. No more fish and chips at the local Scottish pub).

     My Dad would have been thrilled to know that we are here in his favorite state enjoying the sunshine and balmy breezes. He wanted us to live in Boca, as that was “the only” place to live. He called Naples “honky-tonk.” Oh, my, he did have his narrow opinions. Fortunately, for him, he found another woman and spent another 20 years in the tiny “jewel” with her. I was happy for him. She is now 96 years old. 

     Will our dear friends come to visit? Maybe. We hope so. Will our kids come? Maybe. We hope so. Will we move again. Lord, help me. Will life be better here? Probably not, but it will be as wonderful as we choose to make it. Much of that “wonderful” is being thankful for what we have, letting go of what we had, and trying to remember that living in the present moment is all we’ve got so we must enjoy it. Am I always this positive and optimistic? Hell no. At this very moment, yup.