For several years now, my wife, Brenda, and I have talked about someday retiring to sunny Florida.
We both love the beach, we both hate winter, and we both love Publix grocery stores. Plus, my sister lives there, so we have family to help us get settled.
I must admit, the thought of throwing my snow shovel in the trash is a pleasant one, as is the thought of watching the sun slowly sink into the Gulf of Mexico every evening. It surely would be nice to live someplace where wind chill refers to the feeling you get when you wade out of the warm ocean on a breezy day.
Yep, Florida has been calling us for years. But lately the lure of the Sunshine State is beginning to get a bit overcast. It’s not the hurricanes or the snakes or the crooked politicians that are causing us to rethink our plans to sail off into the tropical sunset.
It’s the grandchildren.
We have five: two in Columbus, one in Indianapolis and two in Pittsburgh, just six hours away.
Recently we were sitting in the living room watching TV when Brenda said, out of the blue, “If we ever retire to Florida, do you really think you could stand being so far away from the grandkids?”
I thought about it for a moment, then replied, “Probably not.”
Grandchildren have a way of burrowing into your heart and sending the best-laid plans right out the window. And it’s not just the grandchildren. We really don’t want to live 1,000 miles from their parents, either.
It might be different if we could afford to be snowbirds, or fly back to visit whenever we wanted, or fly all the kids and grandchildren down to Florida several times a year. But unless the stock market makes a miraculous recovery in the next decade, we’ll be lucky to get the two of us to Florida for a week’s vacation every three years.
On Labor Day, we had occasion to drive to Bloomington on an errand. I am a graduate of Indiana University, and Bloomington, specifically the IU campus, is just about my favorite place on Earth. No matter how long between visits, no matter how many new buildings pop up, as soon as I hit the intersection of Third and Jordan, I am home again.
If the IU campus is my nirvana, the Indiana Memorial Union building is its capital city. As we strolled through the empty hallways, we had the place pretty much to ourselves due to the Labor Day holiday.
We walked from the Union down through the oldest part of campus, where I sat on a bench next to a statue of Herman B Wells, former IU president and probably the most beloved character in the history of the university. I thought to myself, “I could live here,” meaning specifically that particular bench. But I’d settle for Bloomington.
When I mentioned this to Brenda, she seemed amenable. She wants a new adventure when we retire, but one within range of the grandchildren.
We’re a long way from picking up and moving to Bloomington. A lot could happen between now and when we can retire. And while I have lots of good memories of my student days, I also remember the few years I lived there as an adult in the 1980s. Specifically I remember the traffic was horrendous.
But who needs to drive anywhere? I plan to spend my days hanging out with Herman.
I love Florida, especially the white sand beaches on the Gulf side. I love the idea of no winter.
But showing my grandchildren around Bloomington and the IU campus and hoping they feel the same magic Papaw does sounds pretty good, too.
Maybe at least one of them will attend IU, and they can wave at Papaw and Herman as they walk by the bench on their way to class. Or look the other way and pretend not to know me.