Monday, March 21, 2011

The Falcon and the Snowbirds

Whenever I talk to my brother who lives in Arizona I get the sense that he envies me for living someplace he couldn't wait to leave. A globe trotter for years who has traveled to faraway lands all over the world just to see it, he took his wife's advice and fled our hometown of Columbus, Ohio to live out his days in the year round warmth and sun just outside of Phoenix.
Leaving behind everything that was familiar to begin what will be the eventual end of his days, like the rest of us in the so-called baby boomer generation. But I think when I hear him rave about the weather out there and when his words carry the sound of relief to be far away from what can be a challenging community to the personal safety of everyone still back here, I get the feeling that he is a little homesick. Maybe not homesick enough to want to return to what is here now, but for the days when everything here was...well, still here. My book (Are those my Footprints?) speaks to both then and now and although I am sure he hasn't read it I know that it would make him smile and feel good about his decision to leave. Yet I also believe that it would make him smile for other reasons. This book outlines the reasons that he and hundreds, if not thousands of others have left but it is also something of a history book that showcases all of the reasons I am sure he wishes he could could come home. He would never say it but I think he would race back and tolerate not only the weather here but even the people he has such disdain for if he only could. It is no secret that our neighborhood is one that is far less safe than where he is now. Here he would worry about his car or his home being broken into as well as being assaulted if he wandered onto the wrong block within walking distance, while in Mesa he has no such concerns. There he lives in a community of mostly white older Americans, most are retired and all are there for the same reasons. They want to live out their days surrounded by people like them and they no longer have the tolerance for other people's bad behavior or the challenges and discomfort of harsh winters. But although I am only a couple of years younger than my brother, I still can. I tolerate a lot but I don't succumb to anything. Although the troubles I might encounter are within walking distance of my home I remain diligent to compete with them when it is necessary and to survive them if they have other plans for me. I understand my brother's reasons for not wanting any of this on his plate but I know that he is homesick. Our telephone conversations are always long and our dialect is similar to listening to an old time radio show. Our conversations often play out our past, and even though a lot has changed over the years he knows that I still sleep in the same bedroom he and I shared as kids and that every day of my life I am surrounded by everything that he was when we were living the happiest years of our lives. He knows that on holidays I am keeping the same traditions that we enjoyed for all of those years alive and that every day of every year I am where he could find me in an emergency just by picking up a telephone and dialing the same number he has been dialing since he was nine years old. I have kept even that. I can think of nowhere else on the planet I would rather live the end of my life than where most of it all began. I wouldn't want to follow his footprints anywhere he has been even though he has seen all of the wonders of the world and visited every place he was ever curious about. And I would never want to be surrounded by what he is now. Even though I would fit in with what I consider a bunch of old geezers living in some retirement community like him, I just couldn't do it. There are still a few old souls that we knew when we were kids still living on my block or elsewhere within walking distance, but aside from age and what we remember we have little in common. I do enjoy talking about the past and remembering a better world than we have now but I cannot retreat from who I am out of fear of others or because the snow gets too deep around here. And I cannot participate very long in conversations about sickness and the death of those we care about or even discussions about my own health or my eventual demise. I will die soon enough from something and I am okay with that. I have no desire to be the last man standing in a world of strangers anyway and I don't see any signs that our world will ever be any better than it is now. So as my brother ran away, or was dragged away by his wife to what is her panacea to be surrounded by community gatherings, yard sales, pot-luck dinners and warmer weather I am content to just be home. Home, not only the address where I live but really home. And when my brother shares his concerns about my personal well being in an area that has changed but remained the same to me I try to calm his fears by telling him that I am more than just okay, I am happy. And when he wonders what it will be like for me when I am too old or too weak to survive in a tough place I remind him that when that time comes, if it does, I won't be making any travel plans to escape. Those that are able to overpower me and take away what I have will have to do it when they can. But for now that is a bigger challenge for them than my brother believes. And it is one that I anticipate, but one that if it goes as I hope it does will take my last breath. I'm not leaving. I will go to our kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee and later sit on the same porch he and I sat on when we were young, just talking and trying to predict the future. So what does the title of this story mean? Well, aside from my brother who soared off with a flock of like minded baby boomers...I just like Falcons.

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