Tales of Retirement in Paradise Revisited
|Chapter 1: Kentuckians in the Tropics?|
Polly G. Vicars
As I re-read this first chapter of my 1995 book, I was astonished to realize that the only things needing updating were my age and the number of years we have lived in Paradise. Incredibly, all the emotions I wrote of then still apply, perhaps even magnified by the new friends and experiences afforded to Husband and me in our adopted home.
"I awoke this morning to the soothing sound of Pacific waves lapping the shores of the Mexican Riviera's crown jewel - Puerto Vallarta. The cloud flecked sky changed colors as the sun journeyed from the mountains toward the sea. The scented air gently caressed my face."
Those words are not the beginning of a new romance novel, but an accurate description of my daily awakenings. Every morning, even after seven years (now twenty) of such awakenings, I still have to reassure myself that this is real; I have to reassure myself that I actually live where the daily sunshine competes with the brilliant smiles of the people and where the palms sway in the soft breezes.
How did I, a sixty-three-year-old (seventy-six year old) Florida cracker married to a Kentucky hillbilly, get so lucky? Herein lies my story.
When we married, way back in 1951, Husband was studying engineering at the University of Kentucky, One of his most frequent topics of conversation was retirement. This, from a man who had yet to hold his first real job. Little did I know those thoughts would never leave him. Although he periodically had to advance his retirement target date, he always looked forward to bidding farewell to the successful engineering firm he built from a home basement operation to one of more than sixty-five employees.
I considered retirement a dirty word - number one on my top ten list of things I least wanted to do. My job for Kentucky's governor afforded me stimulation and excitement. We lived in a lovely home; we enjoyed many friends and activities. Fulfilling and meaningful best described our life. Retire? Not me!
So when Husband, age fifty-nine and one-half, announced his retirement time had actually arrived, I was hardly overcome with joy. But one of those events happened that after it happens everyone says, "Don't worry! Everything happens for the best," and you just wish they would shut up and let you get back to feeling sorry for yourself.
Anyway, what happened (and, of course, it was for the best) was that Kentuckians elected a new governor who promptly fired me and left me angry and anxious about how I would spend the rest of my life. I hated my unplanned retirement. I ranted and raved about the injustice that forced it. How could my candidate have lost the election? Meanwhile, Husband adjusted perfectly to his retirement after a rough five or six minutes.
Gradually our conversations turned to talk of sunny days, balmy nights and no snow. I agreed to Husband's plan to scout for a warmer alternative to spending another icy winter in Kentucky. Being healthy, with enough money to live comfortably (but not luxuriously) almost anywhere in the world, the quest became an adventure. Husband dreamed of never again shoveling snow or scraping ice while I dreamed of living by the sea - not incompatible dreams.
He, ever the engineer, decided we would make a systematic search and evaluation of the warm sea climes in order to ultimately come upon our winter haven. We started in Florida, the state of my birth. Everything we liked we couldn't afford and everything we could afford we didn't like. I remembered warmer winter temperatures and fewer bugs.
Memories surfaced of a long ago Acapulco, México vacation where we made friends with whom we still corresponded. We had promised ourselves and them to return soon, a promise we never kept. Whipping out the map of México, we searched for Pacific seaside cities. After eliminating Acapulco as too large, we picked Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo as possibilities and tossed in Lake Chapala, in case we couldn't afford the seaside. We bought airline tickets, made hotel reservations and were off to the first stop - that was to be the only stop, Puerto Vallarta.
By accident (or was it meant to be?) we were put in touch with a transplanted California realtor who just happened to have a beach side condo for us to see. Walking into that condo, the view of the sea, brilliant with millions of diamonds winking and blinking, took away our breath. Believing in love at first sight, at that moment we both knew this was it!
We forgot reasonable and systematic; we canceled visits to the other cities. Three days later, Husband and I signed purchase papers, wrote out the check, and moved into our condo by that sparkling sea. Our faces hurt from the smiles we could not wipe away. We made plans for the coming winter. We rearranged the furniture (twice). We swam in our front yard and took long walks on our beach. Then, reluctantly we locked the front door and flew back to the real world.
On the flight back to Kentucky (perhaps it was the altitude) we said, almost simultaneously, "Why just for the winter? Why not for all time? Why don't we sell the house and move down permanently?"
Indeed - why not? In less than two months, after trying to convince friends and associates that we were not hopelessly demented, we sold the house, furnishings, cars, winter clothes, snow shovels, and we boarded the plane for our new adventure - retirement.
While I don't recommend this haphazard, irresponsible, impossibly crazy way of choosing your retirement spot, I have to report honestly to you that after seven (twenty) years of living in our new environs, there have been no regrets - none! The smiles are still intact. Our visiting friends from the States now understand why we are here and no longer take bets on how long it will be before we move back to Kentucky.
Life is still fulfilling and meaningful, but in different directions and dimensions. New friends - Méxicans of all ages and backgrounds, visiting tourists who, on their annual vacations, move in and out of our lives, and expatriates from many parts of the world - spice our lives.
Old friends who journey south of the border keep us grounded and give us delight as they sample our new and different world. We keep up with the USA via satellite TV (now high speed internet too,) and we vote by mail.
We revel in life in our condo nestled between the sea and el centro. We love the wonderful Vallartenses, the people who so graciously and warmly welcome us into their land and their lives. We savor the pace, the palms, the mountains, the language, the flavors, the sounds, the music, the colors, the climate, the children!
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
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