Dear Readers, This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever written.
My family and I have decided to make some significant life-altering changes. It all began a month ago when I attended my first in-person conference since the pandemic started.
I was so excited to be “back to normal.” Little did I know how it would rock my world!
As a board member of my local historical society, I was asked to attend a conference hosted by my county on preservation. I assumed it would be about preserving buildings and artifacts and discussing the typically Florida issues of mold, humidity, insects, and so on. I was so very wrong.
The speakers were professors from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, a preservation architect, a state archaeologist, two leaders of historical nonprofits, our county’s planner who specializes in preservation, and a tourism guru (it’s Florida, this makes sense).
Whether you believe in climate change or not, you have to admit the weather has just been kooky. We get minor flooding in Florida on a sunshiny day. We have built on just about every piece of land. Citrus canker has decimated our groves and because of the population growth, farming has shrunk dramatically. There is no longer a dairy in my county or any of my neighboring counties. We’re a beef state but the high humidity and temperatures are making that even more difficult.
I’ve been here for nearly 50 years – graduated from high school, and college, married, raised a family and retired after a 44-year education career. I’ve written before about my love of gardening which I hoped to spend more time on when I retired as an educator last year. Spending just 2.5 hours in my garden is now my limit due to the excessive heat.
Sure, I can stay indoors as I did with the pandemic but that’s not the lifestyle I envisioned when I retired.
The conference had no solutions to preserving Florida’s heritage. Models were shown of the damage that would occur with various hurricane categories descending upon my area. FEMA has a new Ap and it was encouraged that buildings of “value” 1975 and before are photographed and uploaded to FEMA, with additional paperwork to complete, of course. That way, they can be “preserved” once they are destroyed.
Floridians are a hardy bunch; we know what to do when a storm is heading our way. Perhaps we have the Jimmy Buffet mentality but we don’t tend to spend much time worrying about what may happen someday. The conference, however, reminded me how long overdue we are for a direct hit. Last fall, I wrote an article for the Florida Genealogist that will be published this month on a no-name storm that caused heartbreak for a local family in 1921. We lost everything once to Hurricane Elena; I do not want to go through that again at my age.
The traffic was fierce when I left the conference and because of congestion, a car fire, accidents, and road construction, it took me 1.5 hours to get home. Back in the day, that would have taken less than 30 minutes.
The next morning I spoke with my husband about my concerns. He processed our conversation that day and by the next day, thought we should relocate. I felt awful as I was the one who made such a big deal when our adult children came back to live here shortly before the pandemic. How would they take the news?
You have to love those millennials! One child said, “I’ll start packing” and the other replied, “I’ve always hated Florida.” Husband and I looked at each other, stunned.
The next decision was where to relocate. One adult child works from home but the other will need a worksite. We all contributed to what was important to us – less congestion, four seasons, access to the amenities we are used to like shopping, and a place that is accepting. My husband and I were then sent on a mission to find that place.
Last week, we flew to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We rented a car and drove throughout Indiana and Ohio looking for a home. Originally from Lake County, we were familiar with some of the areas we were investigating.
Of course, I did some stops just for genealogical purposes. My family settled in Ohio before it was a state, around 1802. I visited where my paternal grandparents were married and the town where my dad was born. They relocated to Fort Wayne when he was a toddler and so I checked out the churches they attended and the home where they resided. My grandfather returned there after my grandmother’s death and I found his last home. I was not close to my father’s side after my parent’s divorce so seeing these locations were new to me.
My husband’s family was in what is now Indianapolis by 1829 when they built a mill race on the west fork of the White River. His second great grandfather, John Anderson Long, married the mill owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Troxell, and they were the first white settlers in St. Joseph County.
So, our roots run deep there.
This is a bittersweet change for me. I was doing fine emotionally until I saw the menu at a Mad Anthony’s in Warsaw, Indiana. I teared up when I realized I could still order shrimp and grits, get a gyro, or a Cuban.
I realize home is where the heart and family reside and I’m blessed that my adult children would like to remain close to us as we age. Still, I will greatly miss my small Florida town, my local FAN club, the beaches, and my exotic plants. Sure I can visit but it won’t be the same.
Our houses will go up on the market next week. I have no idea how long until we move; we have three towns we are looking at in Indiana but decided to hold off on looking at property until our homes sell.
With the upcoming move, I may miss out on a blog or two.
If you have a need for a Tampa Bay Florida area look-up, please let me know ASAP.
Next week, I’ll share a great genealogical find my husband made and why boots on the ground is still so valuable.