I wasn’t sure about my new neighborhood when I first moved in. I missed seeing the ocean every morning. I missed hearing the seagulls overhead. Frankie seemed to miss his dog buddies. We hadn’t met a lot of new dogs or their owners on our walks at Mom’s.
“How’s it going?” a friend asked me.
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I might as well be in Mandarin.”
Now, don’t take offense if you live in Mandarin (or some other suburb of town). I’m not trying to pull a beach superiority complex on you. I just mean, I felt very far away. I moved half a mile down A1A, but when you don’t drive, it might as well be across town.
There were no more drop-ins at my friend Michele’s for coffee. No cruising down to the corner in my power chair for dinner out or a book signing. And no trips with Frankie to Jarboe Park to watch the ducks. Frankie and I did discover a park here, but all we can watch are the homeless people.
When I thought about my old morning routines, I felt sad. Then I thought about another, more major time of loss in my life. I compared the experiences and wondered. Is it possible I was more depressed about my move to Jax Beach than my move to a wheelchair? It sounds ludicrous yes, until you realize — it’s all about acceptance.
Everyone said I’d accepted my place in the disabled world quite well. I think I’ve figured out how. I mean, what choice did I have? Clinging to what might have been is no way to live. Spending the rest of my days woulda-coulda-shoulda-ing is not for me. And there’s the answer. I needed to let go of my past to be able to enjoy my present.
I had spent my first month here trying to enjoy my old routines. I could get to the ocean, but I hated crossing Third Street. I tried to make it to Michele’s, but it took so long now I had to leave by sunrise. And I knew better than to attempt to hit the corner spots for dinner unless I had a death wish.
When I stayed in my own neighborhood and developed a couple of new routes, we met some folks. We met Steve walking Sage, Larry with Luna, and Betty and Ed who don’t appear to have a dog, but drink coffee on their porch when we pass by around 7:45. The dogs, walkers and cyclists are fewer and farther between now, but they’re out here. It’s just taking longer to meet them. I’m trying to be patient. Frankie is beside himself when anyone stops to chat, especially with a dog. He’s dog-starved.
Of course, it helps me appreciate what I have when glimpsed through someone else’s eyes.
“It reminds me of the Keys back here,” said my friend Jamie, looking at the pool. “If I lived here, I’d be out here all the time.”
So I’ve started eating my breakfast out there. Bella and Frankie line up by the door every morning, part of our new routine. It’s ridiculous that they both wait for me to open the door when there’s a perfectly good dog door right there. But Bella, in true cat form, only uses it when no one’s looking. I know she’s figured it out, because she appears and disappears mysteriously. She probably doesn’t want to appear graceless or un-ladylike getting her rather portly body through the opening. I have no idea what goes through Frankie’s head or why he waits for me to let him out this one time when he flies in and out the dog door regularly.
So, I’m enjoying my mornings again. Only here, it’s chlorinated instead of salt water, cardinals instead of seagulls and retirees instead of twenty-something surfers. It all reminds me of a plaque that hangs in Michele’s garden, “Bloom where you are planted.” So, you know what? I’m blooming.