A Chilly Memorial Day…Friday

The temperature is 61 degrees with a 17 mile per hour wind…making it feel like 57. That is unusually cool in our neck of the woods for the Memorial Day Weekend or the unofficial kick off for summer. Also, there is a light rain falling periodically, that is. It is just my kind of weather! I was watching the President and his obvious grief for his deceased son, Bo, who had served in the military. His expressed love and respect for our troops was palpable and a testament to the supreme value that they have for our country. I remember my dad who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He bought back the most lovely hand crafted jewelry boxes.

I watched a most interesting documentary on Hulu, the other night, regarding the largest retirement community in the United States, The Villages in central Florida. In the beginning of the the piece it seemed that The Villages were Nirvana on Earth. In fact one of the residents stated that they were… However as the movie continued it became apparent that although, as a resident said, that if you lived in The Villages you never had to leave the community for anything as it was all contained within…yet there was no panacea for our human condition. One couple featured in the program had been married for 43 years but the husband was determined to experiment with illegal drugs and was a slowly losing his mind. A recent widow had to continue working full time to afford to live in The Villages and was constantly reminiscing about her former home in Massachusetts. She was lonely…although she noted that it was difficult to be alone in the community. The third man that was focused on was living in his van and seeking a well to do widow to support him. It appeared that there was constant entertainment and unlimited opportunities to drink your favorite alcohol and the opportunity to drive, incessantly, your golf cart…which is considered a necessary luxury in paradise. Google calculates that the monthly expenses of Villages living is $4,254 dollars and $200 for expenses and $8000 for a golf cart and painting your home.

Summer was not my favorite season when I was a youngster. I have never cared for hot weather. If it were not for our bi-weekly swimming trips to Pound Hollow, which was about 20 miles from Eldorado…I would have been miserable. I did enjoy being out of school. I so enjoyed swimming that I even ventured into my neighbors pond, that their hogs also enjoyed, on more than one occasion. Thankfully, I am still alive to tell the story. For the many years that I was working…work did not adjourn for the summer…it was just the hot time that I had to go to labor. Upon retirement I made my peace with summer. Now I enjoy what it has to offer. After all it is a quarter of our year. We have made a number of hot weather holidays. After five Caribbean cruises and one extend visit to the island of St. John…we understand the complete meaning of…hot. Three of our four visits to Europe could be characterized as hot holidays… When we spent a month with our friends, Margo and Jeff, and stayed with them in their flat in Nice…I was without my trusty hat. After being in the Mediterranean sun for a couple of days…I began to furtively seek a hat. MJ and I finally discovered a hat store in Nice and I purchased a white beach hat. The friendly owners of the haberdashery told me that I had chosen the perfect hat for my head…and so I believe the they must know what they are talking about. We even kicked off my retirement at the conclusion of 2010 with a January visit to Jamaica. I was so enthralled with my new freedom that I felt like a rich man who did not know how to spend my money. We went with my brother-in-law, Ron…who is more like my brother, and he showed us how to enjoy Jamaica. The Sandals Resort that we stayed at was all inclusive and I did not fully appreciate the terminology until I ordered a drink at one of the many bars and the barman kept pouring alcohol into my Vodka tonic. When I mentioned to the broad smiling gentleman that he certainly made drinks stronger than where I came from he replied….’We are a drinking country…mon!’ We went on an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls and Ron assured us that we would enjoy the experience. At first we had to stop off for some water shoes…and I found one pair that would fit my size 15 feet. Then we walked down many steps to only look up at a 90 degree angle wall of slick rock and algae covered rock with water running down it in a copious manner. I looked around in an effort to see if this must be a joke on the tourist…but it was not. Many in our party were obviously older than we were. I wondered if this was where I was gong to die. We began to climb and slip and grab on to the slick wall of rock and algae and water as if our life deepened on it…because it did.

So I have learned to love the summer and the gifts that it brings. I have discovered that the feeling of fulfillment in retirement can be found in Southern Illinois…just as well as in The Villages in central Florida. Happiness comes from within. It seems that.a peaceful heart comes from a settled mind.

Often when I return from an enjoyable holiday and where I have seen things that I have not seen before or experience adventures that are new to me…I remember the smallest and obscure details. We purchased some Tumi luggage at Miramar Beach and the Asian lady that helped us was simply a delight! She made us proud and excited to be owners of Tumi! I visited Edinburgh and saw the varied mysteries and dreams of the hundreds of dramatic performances during the Fringe Festival…and yet I vividly recall a gentleman that I spoke to at a Chinese Restaurant on the first evening that we were there. He was in a wheel chair and he asked me if I could help him up in order to facilitate his order at the counter. He was such a kind man and inquired with interest as to our impressions of Edinburgh and where we were from. He mentioned how he wanted to visit the United States…but had been denied on an occasion and yet he was going to resubmit his application for a Visa. Activities and events and friends and fun are standing in line for those of us who are up for little adventure…

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