This moving-to-Florida-and-starting-a-new-life thing is really feeling real now. I’ve been down here in Tampa with my family for the past week, and that’s been great — even with the usual misbehavior of the kids, and even with my penchant for yelling at them. This morning, though, they all climbed into the van and set off for Michigan, while I stood on the curb at the North Tampa Hilton and watched them drive off into the pre-dawn darkness.
Since 1994, I have never been without my wife for more than a week. I have never been without my kids for more than a week since my son was born in 2000. Now I am 1,400 miles from all of them for the next two months, and I have to say…it’s already hard. It’s like I don’t know what to do. Hell, I haven’t had to do my own laundry or grocery shopping in years. It’s funny on the surface, but really not.
I mean, my wife and I have talked about this since November when I started pursuing this job, and we traded the usual “it’ll be hard but we can do it” banter. This is different. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where she’s on her own with four kids and a house to maintain and pack up, and I’m on my own in a little apartment in a strange city. I think she has the tougher row to hoe, at least in terms of workload. I think I have the tougher row to hoe psychologically. My wife gets to have the kids to occupy her mind, and she’s in familiar surroundings, while I have very little that’s familiar to hold on to — my laptop and my car, just about. Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds.
On the other hand, it’s not like I’ve been stationed in Siberia or Antarctica, either. I’m in Florida in April. Today was 86 degrees and spotlessly sunny. I’ve been driving around with the sunroof and windows open. My temporary place is a tidy studio apartment on the Alafia River, in a nice, quiet neighborhood where the neighbors wave as I (a stranger) drive by, and where I watched dolphins swim past this evening.
Anywhere there are dolphins is a peaceful place, right? I mean, they’re dolphins.
Adding to the positives, after spending the week here — even with atypically cloudy weather, and tornado-spawning thunderstorms on Thursday — my wife has pronounced that she likes Tampa. That is such a huge weight off my chest — the old saw “if the wife ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” (or the shorter “happy wife, happy life”) is more or less applicable here. Thankfully, her verdict after the week is “omigawd, we get to live here?”
But that’s in June, after the kids finish the school year. Until then, I live in a little studio apartment that’s just slightly bigger than our house’s living room. By myself. And so…here I am.