Musings & Thoughts, August 11, 2020
Well, it’s mid-afternoon here in my corner of Florida; currently, the temperature outside is 92 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. With a 4 MPH northwesterly wind (maximum gusts of 8 MPH) and humidity at 56%, the feels-like temperature in the open is 102˚F, while in the shade it’s still a sticky 99˚F. We have already experienced a short-lived thunderstorm; right now it’s quiet and the forecast says we won’t be expecting any rain for the next hour.
Thankfully, I don’t have to be outside; in my previous life, when I lived in Miami, I used to go for walks in the afternoon, but usually not before six or seven in the evening, at least in the summer months. My routine was almost set in stone, especially in my last years there (2010-2016): I would go out of the townhouse and make two, sometimes three circuits around the “big block” that surrounded East Wind Lake, the man-made body of water from which our condominium derived its name (East Wind Lake Village). I have – or had, since I rarely venture out in my new neighborhood – a brisk walking pace, so I could walk around the perimeter of the lake in, oh, 15 minutes if I didn’t stop to talk to any of my neighbors, some of whom I knew from when Mom, my half-sister Vicky, and I first moved into our townhouse in February of 1978.
If it was hot, as it is today, I’d wait till around 6:30 or 7 PM to go for my constitutional and make one circuit of the “block,” which in reality is an aggregation of sub-blocks that form a ring around the lake. Of course, by the time I went out for my walk, the mosquitoes and gnats would be out in force, so even if the temperature were tolerable, I’d only walk around the block once and return home. In the cooler months of our dry season, I’d sometimes do three circuits and stop and talk to my friends in the neighborhood.
If it was chilly – and trust me, we had some bone-chilling days at East Wind Lake Village when the occasional strong cold front made its way to South Florida – I would dress in layers and walk as much as I could; if it was in the low-to-mid sixties I would stick to my two-to-three circuits routine and chat with people I met on my path. If it was colder, then I’d do two “walks around the block” then get back into my cozy house and have a cup of Swiss Miss Cocoa.
Since I moved here in the Spring of 2016, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that I’ve gone for walks around the neighborhood. I can also say, unequivocally, how many people I know here that are not part of my domestic circle: goose eggs.
The other day, one of my online acquaintances from my days as a reviewer on Epinions read one of my Florida life-related Thoughts & Musings blog posts on Facebook. When she finished, she left me a comment that said, “ You sound depressed.”
I assured my friend that no, I wasn’t depressed, just a bit nostalgic for my old neighborhood. And while I was sincere when I wrote my reply, I do feel a sense of loss and melancholy when I think of my walks around the block in a neighborhood where I lived for 38 years and almost two months. I was two weeks shy of my 15th birthday when Mom, Vicky, and I moved into our two-story townhouse, and I was 53 years and one month old when I began the protracted process of moving to my present domicile.
What is it that I miss? I mean, as much as I wanted to keep my townhouse and live there for the rest of my days, I intellectually knew that I could not, not without some assistance. My half-sister and I have been at odds since at least 1987, although I believe the roots of the conflict go back even further. To 1972, I think, because that was the year that Mom and I moved back to the States from our erstwhile home in Colombia, followed a few months later by a resentful Vicky, who had been forced to rejoin us in Miami by the rest of the family after a disastrous effort on her part to live semi-independently in Bogota. The rift between Vicky and I probably began then, but the catalyst for the current situation was an incident that occurred in 1987 that I will relate at another time.
Regardless of when the Great Sibling Schism first began, the point is that I could not count on any collaboration or support from my half-sister.
I don’t think I miss the house, at least not in the shape it was when I last saw it without the tenant/prospective owner living there. It was not in the best of condition during my mother’s last few years of life; our financial state – which was precarious most of the time – didn’t permit Mom to tent the house for termites or hire contractors to upgrade all of the things that needed upgrading, and the list of those is too long to relate here.
I also don’t miss East Wind Lake Village all that much, either. While I liked many of my neighbors and the convenience of having a shopping plaza within walking distance from the house, I really didn’t like dealing with the homeowners’ association or having to pay almost $400 a month in maintenance fees. I thought that Maritza, the on-site rep for the management company hired by the Board of Directors, was a nice person, but she was not exactly the most efficient or professional of managers. Getting Maritza to send a handyman to fix the fence or replace a window screen was never an easy task, believe you me.
Word has it that there was an owners’ revolt or something in 2018 that resulted in the old BOD being voted out and a new management company hired, but I don’t think I could have lived in East Wind Lake Village on my own longer than I did (almost nine months) after my mother died. Not without renting a room or getting a trusted roommate, and certainly not without reconciling with Vicky, which is something that neither of us is willing to do.
I think that what I do miss is living on my own and having control over my own destiny. Or at least, having the illusion of some control over my life. Here, I have some space of my own – my study/mancave – and at least a family group that I am an unofficially a part of. I have a bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, and I don’t lack for food, so I have the basics for survival covered.
What I don’t have anymore, though, is the ability to go to, say, Winn-Dixie and buy my own groceries, plan (and cook) my own meals, and watch my favorite late evening and prime time TV shows. Winn-Dixie is almost three miles away and getting there involves a long, even perilous walk. I don’t feel comfortable asking any of the three young adults to drive me anywhere; they are excellent drivers, but I just don’t feel like I can ask one of them to please give me a ride to the store so I can get some pre-made hamburger patties and other grocery items to make, say, the kind of burgers I used to make back in Miami.
As for the TV, well, we only have one set connected to cable, and the other 50-something adult likes to watch her shows after work. So…her house, her TV…her rules.
I think that losing that kind of independence is almost as hard as losing a beloved parent. And even though I’m grateful to have a room in which to write, game, or watch movies on one of the TV/Blu-ray setups that I brought here in ’16, and have the basic necessities of life provided for me, I do miss many aspects of my old life.
Including, of course, feeling confident enough to go out for a daily walk.