All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin'
It's early morn
The taxi's waitin'
He's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome
I could die
Yes, my bags are packed, and I'm ready to go. The movers will be here Wednesday. I'm going home.
Jim knew that moving back to the Midwest was always in my plans, if he passed away before me. I have nothing to keep me in Jacksonville.
I had a good job. I did make a few good friends, including my cousin (who ironically lives in my neighborhood!). But I am lonesome for the company of my family, and they live 1,100 miles from here.
So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go
Not going on a jet plane. My son and I are driving up north with my pup Katie. I do know, however, when I'll be back again...never. I have no desire to return to Jacksonville.
I came here because of work. Of all the places in the world--or even just in Florida--It is where I would voluntarily choose to live. I remember the first time we visited Jacksonville: It was to witness Jim's daughter-in-law's commission as a warrant officer in the U.S. Navy. As we left the city limits on the drive back to Palm Beach, I remarked that I wouldn't want to live in Jacksonville. Jim agreed.
Fate had other plans.
9-11 happened; the freelance work by which I was making a living dried up; I had to find another full-time position. When I began looking for a job in 2001, Jim said he would follow me anywhere. And he did. A great one was offered to me as editor of a business magazine, headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, just outside of Jacksonville. So I sold my house; packed it up; and moved to northeast Florida in January 2003.
That first January exposed me to a Florida quite different from the one I had known since I moved to Palm Beach Gardens in April 1998: The temperature in Jacksonville actually dipped to 18 degrees! This was Florida? Not really. Despite the geographic boundaries, an argument could be made that northeast Florida is part of south Georgia, both in climate as well as in mentality. Ultra conservative in politics and religion, racist, and not really a great place to live.
Except for our house.
We liked our house, situated on a quiet pond that welcomes turtles, ducks, and geese, in a nice subdivision. The location was perfect. The area developed: We watched road crews widen the main drag to four lanes, builders erect a set of business buildings, construction crews tear down two draw bridges and replace them with high bridges over the San Pablo River, and a Super Walmart and Super Target shopping centers appear where trees had grown. As the area grew, so did the value of the house. For that I am very grateful. Even after buying another home in Schaumburg, Ill., I have a nest egg from its equity.
Despite how much we liked the house, we often talked about moving away from here. At one time we entertained relocating to The Villages in central Florida; we ultimately were glad we did not act on that urge. We also thought about moving to DeLand, a small city outside of Orlando. But we put that thought to the wayside, too, as we considered water shortages and sink holes in that part of the state.
As the summers kept getting hotter and more humid, Jim would often come in from the outside and complain that we had to move to the mountains in North Carolina or Georgia. Cooler temperatures in the altitudes, he said. I resisted, because I knew we had to be close to good doctors and hospitals. The rural areas he longed for did not have them. One of Jacksonville's few assets is an abundance of good medical care.
So here we stayed. But no more.
Now the time has come to leave you
One more time
Let me kiss you
Then close your eyes
And I'll be on my way
Dream about the days to come
When I won't have to leave alone
About the times, I won't have to say
I've been dreaming about the days to come. I just purchased a three bedroom/two bath manor home (two-story condo) in northern Illinois just a few miles and minutes from my daughter. Living in a complex will be an adjustment, for both my dog and me, but I am looking forward to it. Katie (who is really stressed out by having her surroundings being boxed up) will have new smells to explore, and I've already been thinking about ways to meet new friends...perhaps getting back into golfing again. Attending the Unitarian Church (where I met Jim!). Maybe even pickleball. It will be nice to have my family over for dinner occasionally. And maybe not have to spend the holidays alone.
Come Wednesday afternoon, I'll close my eyes and be on my way. I don't know if I will dream about this place, this house, but I know I will occasionally think about it.
In spite of Jacksonville's (and Florida's) shortcomings, I had good times here. I had a good job; I made a few good friends. I enjoyed my swim-spa (I had always wanted a pool, ever since I was a little girl). Jim and I had bought and sold five RVs and traveled the country. I saw more of Florida than most people do, and I enjoyed it. I even caught a few fish.
My most important memory, of course, is that of my wedding. On July 31, 2004, Jim and I were married under the shade of a willow tree in our backyard, with the pond in the background, and immediate family as witnesses to our love. So whenever I look at our wedding pictures, I will remember the life Jim and I had together here.
We loved; we lived. He died. And now I am going home.
But, I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I (don't) hate to go
My thanks and apologies to John Denver.
Until next time, if ever,
Your Reluctant Rover