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The Sunny Sunset Years


Over the decades, I’ve been one of those prone to bleak forecasts about the future, sometimes wondering if I even wanted to be a part of it. But I have found my reason at long last to go on.

In a retirement community.

I’ve just returned from a trip with my partner to visit her parents. They are members of that migratory species known as the American snow bird. They summer in Minnesota, winter in Florida.

Specifically, Englewood, Florida, a town seemingly crafted to accommodate the species. There are more back and joint clinics than yoga studios; more hearing specialists than tattoo parlors; more golf cart lots than automobile dealerships; more karoake than concerts.

My partner’s mom openly speculated that the new sushi restaurant – Englewood’s first and only – faces bleak prospects. The Applebee’s is thriving.

Our particular slice of heaven was the Holiday Travel Park, where scores of trailers and mobile homes are tricked out with sturdy additions, full amenities and tiny patios and gardens filled with colorful garden ornaments and flower pots and where every door mat says “Welcome.”

Over five days, we took a dance lesson, played bocce, threw horseshoes and were planning for a round of shuffle board but we got bumped by the women’s league’s weekly doubles tournament. We didn’t get a chance to play pickle ball this year either.

Pickle ball is kind of like tennis for old people played with a paddle and a wiffle ball on a mini-scale court. Englewood has an indoor court, but a fancy park up the road just installed eight outdoor courts.

It’s hard to keep up with the Jonses when the Joneses are 75, competitive as hell and have nothing but time.

The primary means of transportation in the park are golf carts and those big adult tricycles with fat tires, usually with a big basket behind the seat.

Everybody here – at least everyone you see outside – seems overly jaunty and overtly friendly. I’m surprised more of them don’t get arthritis from waving to each other all day. And all of the women seem to get their hair done by the same hair dresser.

“Short and boyish, please, Marjory.”

Four out of five nights, we went to karaoke – at the V.F.W., American Legion and the Elk’s Club, plus one night at the park’s community center where, during my first and last karaoke performance ever, I feel flat on my ass on stage. Literally.

I think I’ll stick with pickle ball. Less dangerous.

But it’s all paradise. Places like Holiday Travel Park seem like some kind of earthly reward for a frugal life lived well. And it’s the epitome of the classic full cycle of life where, towards the end you return to a child like state. Except here, that just means you get to play all day, every day, for as long as you are able get out of bed and get vertical.

It would never have occurred to me to consider such a lifestyle or community for my sunset years. But my partner’s parents are leaving their place to her in their will. And that alone is reason to keep on living.



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