Dad has gotten it into his head that I am longing and pushing my husband to move to Florida. He continually asks Mike and me when we are going to retire, have we planned for retirement, and when is it going to happen. This is a mystery to all of us. I have friends who have moved to Florida. I’ve house-sat for friends in Sarasota. I’ve had the great pleasure of staying in a friend’s condo on Marco’s Island. I’ve had uncles who lived, died, and are buried in Florida. Burmese pythons notwithstanding, Florida is a lovely state that holds wonderful memories for me.
However, we have no desire to move there. Many areas are too commercialized for my tastes, the heat and humidity are unbearable in summer, but the biggest issue for me is the traffic. What would be a short, ten minute drive in West Michigan turns into a minimum of a half hour drive in Florida. There is no such thing as a quick trip to the store. I’m not moving anywhere with insane traffic unless it has an excellent public transport system.
And did I mention the Burmese pythons?
Trying to convince Dad this is not the case has proved fruitless and the truth is, this new issue will eventually pass. But Mom and Mike are both sick of hearing it since it has been going on for months. Interestingly, he does not bring up ‘the move’ when I’m around. He does question me about retirement (for me that’s a ways off - for Mike it’s a couple years), but not about my desire to leave Michigan and move to Florida. So Mom tried a different tactic and one day last week when I was there helping her with her emails, she asked me in front of Dad, “Donna, do you want to move to Florida?”
I answered an emphatic no, listed the reasons above and added, “Dad, the whole reason we moved you to Grand Rapids is so we could be close to you and be available to help you whenever you need it. How could we do that if we are out of the state?” He started protesting we shouldn’t stay in Michigan because of them. He still doesn’t believe he needs our help very often and both Mom and Dad think once Mike retires we’ll be footloose and fancy free to go travel the world. The fact is, they take vicarious joy when we take trips, because they themselves were world travelers back in the day.
But once a fear has lodged into his brain, he can’t let it go. And even though Mom said, “See John? She doesn’t want to move to Florida. I don’t want to hear it again,” we all know it will continue to be an issue in his mind until something else replaces it. I’m willing to be the awful daughter-in-law that’s taking his son away if it keeps him from some other, more detrimental actions or thought patterns, because that’s what it really boils down to. I’m a selfish woman.
Love is patient, love is kind. But it isn’t always easy and it often breaks your heart.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.