Saying Goodby to Florida

I'm sitting in my empty home with a good bit of sadness at leaving my haven.  We came with high hopes and looking forward to wonderful retirement years.  We were prepared to do our best to see that Mom was always taken care of and comfortable.  We planned to have beach days, take road trips, cruises and enjoy Disney.  Family was close by.  We had a perfectly sized home, renovated to suit us and was easy to care for,  It was a wrench to leave our family up north, but the cold was too much for Bill and the prospect of warm winters was a relief to us both.

We arrived July 30, 2011 with everything we wanted from our old home.  Dianne and Chris helped us  pack and came down and helped us settle in.  Everyone was excited, Mom had a welcome sign of course and there was a vase of fresh flowers on the counter in our newly renovated home.

The first year of living together 24/7 was a challenge,  but a happy time because for so many years Bill had to work 60-80 hours weekly so there was never enough time together.  We paced ourselves and found alone time here and there,  I became accustomed to having coffee brought to me in the mornings and Bill enjoyed having free time to have a morning Bible study.  Life was good.

We brought Gracie and Mohawk with us.  Gracie our black Lab was always content.  She didn't care where she lived as long as we were close.  Mohawk reveled in the outdoor life,  Well, semi outdoor life.  He always tried to get outside in Ohio, but there were cat laws and it was a challenge to keep him from escaping every time the door opened.  Here, he was given the screened in patio.  He loved to lie in the sunshine, smell the outdoor smells and was very happy.  He never tried to escape.  He spent time with us in the air conditioned house, but preferred his patio.  He had lizards to play with, a comfy bed and his family close by.

We adopted Rambo, a tortoise that lived in the yard.  He ambled about randomly and was fun to watch.  Over the years he dug new dens in several spots.  Once right in the middle of the front yard!  It's abandoned now, but still visible and state protected.  We had cranes that strolled by, always in twos.  Bill named them Jack and Jill.  Sometimes they came up to the porch and peeked in the front window.  I know why now.  My sister used to live in the house we bought and she fed them during the years she lived here,  Since it was not lawful, we didn't and I rarely see them now after seven years.

We had two and a half more happy productive years here,  then Bill's health started failing and he was in pain all the time.  The doctors didn't know why and couldn't fix it.  He declined slowly and painfully for seven months.  The last month he was mostly in the local hospital and they finally gave up and sent him to Tampa General.  There we found hope again,  They fixed his pain with meds and were aggressive about finding the cause of his pain,  They had a whole team on his case.  He became himself again after becoming nearly pain free in the 4 days he was there.  The children came down for an exploratory surgery.  It was quite risky,  He didn't make it.  On October 30, 2014 he died during surgery.  Now I was alone.

I spent two months up north with the children but came home in January.  The house wasn't as friendly and the silence was deafening.  Karan was also a recent widow and we did things together and with Mom.  She found a good partner, Joel soon after I returned though and was happy again and traveling a lot.  I spent more time with Mom.  We became quite close.  I felt like I was sleepwalking.  Very functional but without much emotion.  I went back up north for the Christmas holidays, but still felt distant from life,  I'm not a cryer but I would cry at odd times.  At the Tax Collectors when transferring the title of the truck into my name, just burst into tears when I signed the church during the opening worship singing and it seemed like whenever anyone asked me about him.

I returned hone in January of 2015 and was still drifting when I read Jill McKay's blog on pocket letters.  I asked her about them and she offered to exchange one.  I was happy while making it and receiving hers.  She was doing Postcrossing, sending postcards all over the world.  I joined Postcrossing and sent out my first five postcards,  I joined a Facebook group for pocket letters  and began swapping with strangers!  I began to come back to life.  I was beginning to feel normal.  My creativity was bursting out and I received a huge amount of joy from making pocket letters for others and receiving some back as happy mail.  It was something to look forward to.

In May I learned about Junk Journals.  I found a YouTube person named Sugar who was happily making them without feeling the need to be perfect, just have fun. That is what always stopped me before, I don't do perfect!   I made one that very night,  It was thrilling to see it come together.  I made a YouTube video about my first junk journal.  Hey, maybe someone would watch it.

I began to gather followers and kept making journals for myself and doing videos.  2015 and 2016 was a whirlwind of art activity.  I was mailing out pocket letters, post cards, making journals and doing videos.  I had over 500 followers!  Mom was enjoying the art as well.  She started keeping a journal, which was a natural as she always kept a diary.  Now she had a book with pockets to keep stuff in.  An online friend started sending her postcards and pocket letters,  She started coloring in color books for grown ups for relaxation,  We had lots to talk about and to look forward to,  It was a lovely creative era,  Janet was also drawing again and coloring,  She loved her journal but preferred to make cards.  We were thick as thieves!

Toward the end of 2016 Janet began having her old trouble again and life with Mom was hard,  I stayed home to spend Christmas with her,  So, so happy I did.  After Christmas things were very difficult and I brough her home with me on Dec 29.  We talked about her living here, she was ready to.  I fixed a nice dinner, we had a glass of wine, some dessert and a lovely relaxing evening,  I helped her get ready for bed, she was shaky from the days events.  I tucked her in bed and kissed her good night.  We talked a bit.  She was relaxed and now tired.  I closed the door and spent the rest of the evening on the phone with my best friend Rebecca discussing the new turn of events.

Mom didn't wake up.  She died in her sleep that night, peacefully.  December 30 was the official date assigned.  But we didn't know how soon after she went to bed that she died,   It was very hard but I was happy that she never had to go through a painful death.   The next day on New Year's Eve I made a resolution to do something really different or exciting every month.

I no longer had the energy to make pocket letters, I cancelled the ones I had committed to,  I just journaled,  We settled her estate quickly after the funeral, before Patty left.  We took almost the entire month of January.  It went well, we all took many special items she treasured and sold the rest.  Again I felt alone.  I was in Florida to care for mom and now that job was done.  I decided to be a snowbird.

I would rent and furnish my son Billy's house and live there in the summer and fall and come back to Florida in January for the winter and spring months.  I traveled north in April and Billy and I began renovations to the house.  We finished in early July,  It is a great house.  Now with a brand new bathroom with a walk in shower!  The rest is newly painted, carpeted and furnished.  In Sept James and Rachel had a baby boy, Bennett.  When January came and it was minus 5 degrees and snowy, I packed my car and headed to Shelly's on my way home to Florida.  I couldn't wait to get warm!

I had completed my resolution to do very fun things every month and resolved that again for 2018.  In January I went on a cruise  with Karan, Patty and Susie.   Patty stayed after the cruise to finish up moms estate, we had a zillion pictures to distribute among us.  I had lost my roof in Sept when hurricane Irma went through Florida and so a new roof was put on.  I began thinking about just staying in Ohio.  It was hard to pack up my life and jump to Florida, pack it up and jump to Ohio when it was just me.  I decided to make the move permanent and rent my house.  But I had a hard time starting,  Chris and Dianne made plans to help and came down in June to pack and drive the truck back.  But I wasn't ready and cancelled.  I just packed a suitcase and went back with them, closing up the house.

Being in Dayton near my kids, grandkids and now the newest grandson Bennett was very good.  I regretted losing half of Bennett's first year.  I was in my stride, doing what I wanted to do.  I took a road trip to Bev's house in DC in August.  I started going to Ryan's last year of football games.  I already felt the time closing in when I would have to leave.

I was accumulating more and more items, filling the house.  I was feeling the pinch of money maintaining two houses.  I started adding up the figures and realizing I could no longer just jump on a cruise or put large sums in savings.  In fact my savings had dwindled.  I loved living below my means but now it was barely below my means.

 I thought about how hard it was to settle Mom's estate and now I had two homes for my kids to deal with.  Worry began to plague me and that was unusual.  An online friend my age had died over the summer.  In late September just before Karan's upcoming visit a voice clearly told me I needed to get my affairs in order.  I suddenly felt ready.  Really ready.  I decided then and there when Karan left I would go to Florida and pack up and move what I could to Ohio.  Sell the rest, junk what didn't sell and rent my house for a little income for me and investment for the kids.  I believe it was Sept 26, 2018.

Everyone was onboard with the idea except Shelly. She didn't want me to leave Florida.  But she saw reason there.   Karan offered to drive down with me.  Dianne was going to fly down to help pack, Billy fly down to drive the truck back. James to help unload in Dayton.   Shelly would come to help with the estate sale.  She would also take the purple cow to her home in North Carolina.

Later, Shelly came up with a plan that was very workable.  She and Michael would drive down before I got home and begin the packing.  She had to leave soon after but Michael would stay .  He works from home anyway and he could work from there instead of their home.  Then when it was time he would drive the van to their house with the purple cow and pick Shelly up and drive it Dayton.  They would not have to rent a van and Dianne and Billy would not have to disrupt their lives and fly here to help.  All four would unload the van and put the furniture in and set up the house.

I figured it could all be done by the end of October, possibly the first week of November.  We all worked very hard.  After Shelly left I finished the packing, taking 10 days where she only took 4 and did over half of it before I got home.  I was finished packing with a day to spare before the move date.  All went well and the kids arrived in Dayton and all unloaded and placed the furniture and set up the TV, etc.  The day the van left, Tues Oct 16, Karan and I began setting up for the estate sale on Friday and Saturday.  I had a ton of stuff to sell.  We made it, and I earned enough to for all the moving expenses.  Next  I had the front yard landscaped, installed a water system so it was now possible to drink from the faucet,  The tenants would not want to buy bottled water like I did.  I called someone to clear out all that didn't sell.

It's October 29 and my part is almost done.  The only hitch in all the plans was the people who took all my stuff away after the sale, did not take it all.  The didn't have room and promised to come back for the rest,  Just furniture, desks, sofa, chair some boxes and two barstools.  They did not return and now I must take care of that before I leave Florida this week.

I'm fortunate that my nephew and his wife manage properties as well as building homes.  He will oversee the rental personally.  He does background checks and credit checks.  The renters will call him with problems and he will arrange for repairs etc for a small fee as he does for my sisters properties.  It's good to be comfortable leaving the house in good capable hands.  Once I leave, he will get a cleaning crew out, another crew to fix any issues and have the house painted.  I feel blessed.

Today I plan to treat myself to a facial and relax.  I am also going to the polls to vote early.  I will have a beach day.  Before the week is out I will pack my car and drive home to Ohio so the rental procedure can begin,  It will be in my target time.

I bought Shelly and Michael a thank you dinner before Shelly left and last night I bought Karan and Joel a thank you dinner at Sam's Beach Bar.  Joel remarked how focused I had stayed and finished on time.  It was nice to hear but I couldn't have done it that quickly on my own.  I would have done it on my own if I had to, but not even close to the short month it took.  Thank God for family.  Really.  Thank you, God.

Seven years in Florida.  I'm very happy for that time.

Pictures to be added later,


I'm glad you took the time to write this and share it with your friends. I have enjoyed getting to know you on our blogs. And you inspired me with the journals you made and all the paper crafts. You've enjoyed your time here in Florida but it has a lot of sad memories now for you too. Time to move on. I hope you'll continue to travel and be creative too. Come down and visit when you can! Will you blog once you get set up there? Stay in touch sweet lady. I'll be praying for you and wishing you the very best! Sweet hugs...lots and lots of them....Diane
Cheapchick said…
Wow, thank you for sharing your story. You have been through an awful lot. It sounds like you really are headed to the right place with your people close by. Your family sounds wonderful - thank goodness they helped you! I wish you the best in your new life - please share bits of that too with us :) Hugs
Rebecca said…
Oh, my! What a flurry of life, change,settling and resettling! I've wondered where you've been lately! Hope we'll see more of you as you put down roots...❤️
Patty said…
You have such a gift Jeannie, not only for writing (which is amazing) but for appreciating every aspect of life, of love, of family. I am so sad that I have not been able to live closer to you all these years. I am very blessed to be your sister! I hope we can spend time together in Ohio - you have a lot to look forward to there, don't you! Love you so much!!

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