And climb the stairs to the beach...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

A Few Observations from a Retiree in Southwest Florida

This morning when I went out on the lanai (porch for those non Florida residents) the view of the lake was enhanced by sunshine sparkling on the surface, smooth, untouched by the soft breeze barely rustling the palm fronds on the tree at the corner. The buzzing of the weed whacker working its way around the corner to the back of the building interrupting an otherwise quiet moment. I took a deep breath as I stretched out the early morning sleep and stiffness coughed a little from the diesel fumes,  and muttered "Darn landscapers!"

But I didn't really mean that. After all, it is such a new experience for any of us recently retired folks to live in a community where the lawns and shrubbery and mulching and trimming are all taken care of by someone else. It's such a freeing thing, for those of us who once had to take care of our yards, not to have to worry if our schedules and the weather was going to cooperate with our plan to mow the grass. How many times do I remember my own grass half a foot high before I got to it because the summer rains fell consistently on weekends or after work making it impossible to mow? Yes, we pay for the privilege of watching somebody else do it for us, and occasionally I miss puttering around in the dirt planting the annuals or seeing the perennials coming up in the spring up north but on balance, it's something I never get tired of, arriving home to a newly mowed and trimmed yard or watching it all being done for us while I sip on an ice cold drink and Ed hangs out in the pool and we  count our blessings.

There were a lot of changes to my life when I moved here to this lovely new gated community on the Florida gulf coast. First, our homes all look identical. There isn't any individuality on the outside. In fact there are times when I still bristle a the efforts of others to keep us identical. No pots of impatiens allowed in the front yards. No flags to be flown, but for Old Glory. No variation in color or appearance in any of the buildings is allowed. Kind of a tough transition for a New Englander where nothing is ever the same from one yard to the next. Most of my life I lived in homes that were not part of subdivisions, uniquely their own shapes and colors. Usually a different shape than they were when they were first built thanks to various additions over the years. And I have always loved the look and layout of a "cape" which people from other parts of the country call "Cape Cod style" homes. The centered front door, the clapboard siding and the shuttered windows always said New England to me. They are cozy and familiar and you always know what to expect when you enter one. But here, the stucco and tiled roofed homes are the norm. And I love the look of those, too. We live in a coach home, a building containing four units, each with about 2,000 square foot of living, a two car garage and spacious lanais. The buildings all look the same, but everyone decorates them so differently and it's fun to discover the differences when you step inside their homes.

Outside, we all look the same. Inside, we are all so different.

When you think about it, that's just the opposite of the way I think about people. But that's another whole blog.

The people in our community are similar in a lot of ways, too. We are all of a similar age, mostly young retirees, removed from their homes and their families, looking for an easier and perhaps in some ways a  more active life to live, one we can afford while not outliving our 401Ks. We have many people here from Canada, the Midwest, the Mid Atlantic States and even a few from New England. Getting to know some of their local colloquialisms and dialectic differences has been a lot of fun for me. Did you know that Jimmies means something entirely different in some parts of the country than it does in Massachusetts? I will let you look it up for yourselves. And, did you know that people who aren't from Massachusetts really think the word scallop rhymes with gallop? 

Because this is a newer community, everybody here is new to the neighborhood and instantly have that in common. Discovering a new way of life and looking for that support system that many of us have left behind brings us together and makes most of us maybe even a little more outgoing than we once were socially.
My friend Sandy Staves off the gator for me as I hit my tee shot!
We don't have the workplace or the kids' school friends' parents to get to know, so we seek each other out through activities like golf and tennis and for other common interests.
One of our friends has a charity event every few months when we dress up teddy bears for patients undergoing chemo. She calls them Joy Bears and we all have fun dressing them and chemo patients have something warm and friendly to hold onto.
My friends Karen and Sue and I tried our hands at acrylics one day. Hmmm...
And that family and those old friends we love and miss  are all central to our conversations, no matter who we talk to.
Family is often the topic of discussion, especially grandbabies!
But we do find ways of having fun together. One thing we really like to do every once in a while is have a "driveway party".

Driveway party at our friends' place last night.
It's almost always a last minute plan, texts and phone calls a couple of hours in advance include just two requests: "Bring a drink and a chair."

The man corner
Sometimes the guest list consists of  just our closest of friends, numbering 3 or 4 other couples. Sometimes it's whoever we can think of and whoever walks by while we are out there laughing it up. They almost always begin at 4:00 and because of the casual stress-free nature of these impromptu gatherings, everyone has a good time.

The gal corner
Yesterday we went to the first big driveway party of the season and I think it might have been the largest so far. We actually heard about a drink called "Sex in The Driveway" but we didn't serve them yesterday. I think that drink may have been invented by some retiree from Florida.

Lots of conversation. In this photo, a Canadian, a gal from Wisconsin, a guy from Duxbury, MA, someone from Long Island, someone from France and someone from Indiana.
As the sun gets lower in the sky and dusk begins to descend on the well kept lawns of our little enclave, people start drifting home heading off to their varying commitments, or home for leftovers or whatever they have planned for supper. Always a warm feeling of friendship lingers and everyone looks forward to the next time someone says "Drinks in the driveway at 4:00. Bring a chair!"

 Have a great day!


  1. I really enjoyed your post, and understand completely your home as I worked for a Property Management Co. for 20 years and my job was HOA (Home Owners Associations)...and so many CC&R's... Looks like your are have a great life, and I'll bet the inside of your home is lovely.

  2. Great post. Love the idea of the driveway parties. Everyone being new to the area is like in college when you're all new as freshmen and you live in the same dorm and you just hang out together because you don't know anyone yet. And having a driveway party is totally something kids would do in college, if they had driveways!

  3. Sue what a great job you did of capturing our new Florida lifestyle! I am loving your posts and look forward to reading the next one!! It's true life is what you make it and it truly is paradise here! We are blessed...Wishing you and Ed a very happy New Year!


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