Trapped in a Tropical Paradise: Part 4

By Eleanor Motley Richardson | Jun 29, 2020

Friends are emailing asking if we would be safer in Maine. Well, going by the chart I keep each week, we would be much safer in Knox County. I salute you!

The numbers in Florida are indeed scary. The problem is getting from here to there safely. So we sit tight and isolate ourselves as much as possible, suiting up for grocery trips once every three weeks.

"It must be awful in Florida," Irmi wrote. I bristle a bit. It's not awful, it's a tropical paradise. A mockingbird lays her eggs in a bicycle basket and we watch the babies hatch. Royal Poinciana trees sport huge canopies of red blossoms. Yes it's hot.

Think of Maine in the winter. If it's 10 degrees you flick up the thermostat, or get in the car and turn on the heater. Here the A/C brings ambient temperature to comfortable human levels. Of course my husband and I might disagree on what is comfortable. In Maine we don down parkas. In Naples, I wear sleeveless cotton sundresses.

My mother taught me to walk before breakfast here when it's cool. Maybe that's the secret of why she has lived to 100.

In May, she tested positive for COVID-19, but never developed symptoms, while 14 fellow residents in a Massachusetts nursing home died. So I descend the two flights from our third floor condo, and walk the empty streets, admiring the peaceful mansions as they slumber in their elegant landscaping. A mask dangles around my neck, mobilized at the sight of another human being on the path ahead.

Fortunately, the CDC says swimming pools are OK, so we go to the condo pool each afternoon and bask in the smell of chlorine. We shower at home, and don't touch gates or railings. Not quite ready to put our faces in the water, we float around on noodles. We have developed the noodle breast stroke, the noodle back stroke, and noodle rowing.

Despite SPF 30, we develop golden brown shoulders.This is a chance to socialize at a distance with those few who remain here. "We have become our grandmothers," I observe to Rosalie, as we wear sunhats and our toes stick up out of the water.

In summer 1983, I visited my 92-year-old grandmother on North Haven, on vacation from my demanding corporate job. I brought my daughter Elise, 13, who stayed up at her grandmother's house, my mother. Perfect.

But after one day I was spinning my wheels. "I'm going to go crazy living each day at the pace of a 92-year-old," I thought to myself. But over the course of several days I got used to naps after lunch, and reading large type novels about nurses in love. I was reluctant to go back to the corporate rat race at the end of the week. The parallel to today is clear. Lie back and float.

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