Naples, Florida in August. It is raining, most days, and it is hot. One of those boring “isolated, scattered thunderstorms” days. The weather has been the same for a month and will not change for at least a month. Just a few more or less “isolated, scattered” thunderstorm days.
I scratch my chin. It feels good and scruffy. I have not shaved for several days because when you retire you do not have to. I shave when I go to dinner with my ex-wife or with friends, which is not too often. I do shave when I appear as a Major at the Civil Air Patrol meetings – when one is in the US Air Force Auxiliary – one follows the rules. Which, otherwise, I do not always do.
Do not get me wrong – I love living in Florida and I am not depressed. I love the hot weather, the warm rain, the sunshine, the Everglades, the Ten Thousand Islands of the Paradise coast, and of course the Gulf. I love to eat my lunch and dinner on my small patio, looking at the nature reserve that stretches behind my apartment building; palm trees, tall and skinny sea pines, birds, an occasional squirrel, and of course lizards. They say that around here, we have the best fishing in the world and the beaches are world famous. Two of the best in the US are in Naples – wide, white sand beaches. My eight-year old grandson, my daughter’s boy, who goes by a distinguished and long name of Henry Arthur James Durston (his dad is British, you know) said one day, “I want to live here!” while he swam around in the warm, clear waters of the Naples Pier Beach. It did not hurt that three dolphins were patrolling and catching small fish twenty feet away, and pelicans and terns did their kamikaze dives for their lunch.
The news has been the same forever. We worry about the pandemics, the economy, loss of jobs to a crushing economy or to AI, income disparity, China, North Korea, Russia, ISIS, homegrown terrorists and other wackos. I do not understand the obsession with abortion, gay marriage, and creationism among other “important” issues — they leave me wondering if we have really changed that much from medieval times, with the inquisitions and crusades, and sages pondering such important issues as “how many angels can fit on the tip of a pin?”
Therefore, it is raining and I have the time. I am retired. I am quite content. Well, I retired in 1999 at 53 but now I am retired for real. I still help my son Adam with his website development and other projects but I do have plenty of free time; so I write.
I write this story because my kids asked me to do write it. I did not want to take the time to do it, “could not” take the time during my working years. I was too busy doing so many things that I thought my epitaph would say, “Here lays a man who has done everything…,” well not really everything, but many different things. Probably better than the tombstone in a small town in Maine, that proclaims, “I told you I was sick!”
People are very curious about other people’s lives – they always have been. The Web, Facebook, and Instagram raised this curiosity to the point of paroxysm. We are voyeurs and exhibitionists by nature. We read private, intimate details in posts like the banal, “I got up with a headache and brushed my teeth”, or the emotional, “I argued with John, again. I just hate his guts!” Nowadays I do not have to wait to speak to my best friend on Tuesday to tell her everything. I can tell it all to all of my Facebook “friends” immediately. This is hardly a surprising trend. After all, we are the “talking, social apes” bent on communicating with each other for more than a million years. “Want to come to my cave and see my paintings?” would say the Cro-Magnon to his friends. Sharing.
The main reason for writing my story is that I now have three grandsons: Henry Arthur James, Abel, and Noah. Abel is Adam’s son, of course (check your Bible or Google it). My kids tell me that my life was interesting enough for them and their children to get to know it in some detail. I believe that my father’s life was even more interesting, which is far from better but that is another story – I just finished his biography and published it on the web. I was really touched when the family in the US and the relatives in Poland said they read it and loved it.
With our longer lives and the constantly accelerating rate of technological progress, we can now see the world change greatly during our lifetimes. The life in Poland in the early 50’s was so different from what my children experienced as middle-class American kids in the 70’s and 80’s in Massachusetts that I might as well have lived in the Middle Ages. Can you believe a life without television or cars or smartphones or the Internet? Well, we did have books. My grandchildren also need to be told how just a few years ago there was no Internet, no PC’s, no electric cars, no Netflix, no DVR’s and PlayStations but we did have printed books.
So I write because they asked me to. I also discovered that it is a bit like chatting with friends. I realized that I do have a lot to say about my life and life in general, and that is what I am going to do.