I'm typing this in Sarasota, Florida sitting at a little restaurant bar downtown by myself. I flew down yesterday after my visit with my folks in Virginia and the idea is this: to investigate whether this state could be a possible place to relocate.
Scary, yes. Hard, yes. Sad, yes. Possibly also exciting, yes.
Because I might (read: probably will) lose my house in Kona. Because Kona is so dang far from so much of my family, especially my parents, whom I would dearly love to be closer to during this phase of their lives. Because as much as Kona was a magical place to live with Mike, now that he's gone I'm finding I need...more. I dearly love my friends and my musician boyfriend and the sweet island life, but it's not like you can jump in the car and drive to the next city. It is very isolated, both geographically and culturally...and I just wonder whether I can, or even should, resign myself to spending what could be several more decades of life in that small spot on that big island, beautiful as it is. It would mean missing out on helping my parents, and seeing the grandkids more often. On top of the fact that affording to live in Hawaii has become a very serious issue for me.
Why Florida? Because real estate is so affordable. Because I could get a nice little condo essentially for the price of a car payment. Because there is no income tax to take bites out of my meager little pension. Because there is no snow, and beautiful beaches. Because there are so many retirement and assisted living places down here I might be able to coax my folks into relocating to themselves, eventually. We are in talks for all of this. I'd also be closer to my parents while they are in Virginia, brother in North Carolina, and at least while they are in New Orleans, my grandkids - and my stepdaughter and son-in-law are investing in property in South Carolina too, so in the future, there will be that.
So Jacksonville yesterday. It's kind of a cool city, I liked it. It's far north so traveling to the other southern states would be easy - and it's a little cooler than farther south. But I am also drawn to the gulf coast, Tampa/St Pete area. So today, a long drive alone in a rental car. I have had a lot of anxiety about this, but hell I'm 48 years old I can do this, right? I traveled through Europe alone oh so long ago when I was so young...a couple of days in Florida should be a no-brainer. But it's not.
I find myself craving independence and culture and places to go, and now that I'm out and about on this mini-adventure I feel sad. I feel scared that something will happen with no one to help. I feel unsure about what he heck I'm doing. What the heck am I doing???
Leaving Hawaii would mean leaving my other dear stepdaughter in Kona, though she has hinted at the idea of moving away one day too. And my boyfriend can't leave Kona...at least for a long time. He has a great career there and could never do what he does anywhere else...starting over again as a performer with a successful convention band at his age would be insane. Maybe impossible. But it's looking more and more like I will not be able to afford to stay. So we may be at an impasse. We have talked about it a lot and will probably continue to do so. We don't really have any answers. It's sad and so not fun. Thankfully he is a practical and helpful sort. We try not to be emotional about it. But it does creep in. It can't be helped.
One of the biggest issues he has offered to help with is my dogs. I love my dogs. Of course you know I do...they are my babies. But if I have to move so far away into a small place...well, my big dog is a pit, and though very sweet and snugly, she is just too old and difficult of a breed to move so far. I am grateful she and the musician have such a torrid love affair. My heart is already broken but without that, it would be shattered. I am hoping to be able to move my small dog with me if I go, at some point. But not until the big one goes to be with Mike. Because she cannot be left alone. That much I know. She howls if she is left alone in the house. So we will not do that to her. I can't help but feel that my family was broken apart when Mike died, and the pieces continue to fall away from each other.
When I get back to Kona, I will be starting the foreclosure mediation. So many months and postponements later it will finally happen and then I'll really know where I stand. So I can't know anything for sure, can't decide anything for sure, until I go through that. But meanwhile I feel like the intelligent thing to do is be thinking about plan B. Mike used to say, there is no plan B. But he's not here. So I'm pretty much in plan B for the rest of my life, thanks to that fact.
I am trying to find the excitement in my little adventure, trying to relish being on my own and getting to do exactly what I want to do, if only for a couple days. But the empty seat next to me is very, very loud. You know? I used to be super independent. I used to live my life on my own terms and do exactly what I wanted and then I got married and everything changed and then he died and everything changed again. So the independent person I used to be? In there somewhere, I'm sure...hard to find. Hard to coax her out.
My impressions of Florida so far? It's beautiful. Where I've been so far, kind of uncrowded and big and open and very flat. Yes it's hot this time of year, but so is Virginia, where I just came from, and so is Hawaii. A little humidity in July doesn't sway me. In fact as I drive around, and walk through the quaint little historic downtown shopping districts I kind of wonder...where the heck is everyone? The streets are downright deserted. Then I realize everyone is just inside in the air conditioning.
Tomorrow I will stay with a friend in Venice, who happens to be Mike's ex-girlfriend from before we met - he stayed friends with everyone he could and thus so did I - I look forward to a ton of great memories of the man he was. And the next day, I will stay with a friend from high school who now lives just north of St Petersburg whom I haven't seen in 30 years. I thought I would be excited about a couple of days completely on my own, but I can't wait to be with friends.
Life is hard enough without people to share it with. It sucks not to be able too look over and comment on the landscape, or share a snort about a bad driver. To share a laugh over a drink. To create a memory with someone you care about.
My Mike is gone, and I'm permanently in plan B. But doing my best to grasp my way around. Wish me luck.