What would I do if…


Trying to push forward with greater positivity, I still find myself faced with curiosities to wonder about.  What would I do if I had to live here all the time?  This is a place I’ve lived before — a place I lived most of my life — but after two months I find that the answer isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Milwaukee Downtown
Milwaukee’s waterfront and downtown

Our long term goal for RV’ing relates to finding a spot into which we just want to hunker down and call home. The topic “can we live here” is never completely out of consideration.

Even though I’m frustrated by having to wait on doctors and nurses I do not count that as a negative in the ‘can we live here’ equation.  At least in Milwaukee there ARE doctors and nurses. In some of the places we have been that has not been the case.  Some were a bit remote for our taste. Bottom line, what may sound like a drawback is not actually a drawback; visualize it as one of the columns on our where do we go when we stop RV’ing spreadsheet (and no, there isn’t really a spreadsheet — it’s all up in my mind).  Being here is good for healthcare — particularly cardiac care which in my case is of primary concern.

Even though we are deterred from leaving Milwaukee we aren’t in a terrible state.  I’m not in hospital; I haven’t learned I have cancer; surely there are some things wrong, but then I’ve lived a great life and the fact that not everything works the way it did when I was 20 should not be all that surprising. Heck, in the grand scheme of things there are a fair number of people who never made it to the age I’m at right now. I’m not in any immediate jeopardy of dying — so I’m way ahead of the game.  I don’t think I’m whining by itemizing condition of habitation.

Which brings me to a point where I can explain in a little more detail what’s going on for the past two months. The doctors are working to establish a baseline for a condition they discovered as during my recent echocardiogram.  In a good scientific way they want to monitor changes;  to quantify what is happening over time.  There will come a time — I already know that. Whether it’s one year from now or +ten years from now I will need significant surgery at some point. The professionals have been doing more tests than I anticipated when we planned our stay;  but then I don’t understand how doctors think and mostly it just requires our hanging out waiting for appointment after appointment.  I’m glad we had not made and paid for reservations that we have been hindered from using.  And I wish there were more clarity to why we are doing some things — but that’s why you hire good doctors and hope they know what they are doing.

Last year was the first year was my first ever cardiology appointment. We anticipated in our planning for this year that there would be more involved this time around,  but we had no idea how much more would be involved. So much for the recent past.

I don’t know about you, but when I face uncertainty I look for options.  That’s part of my “think it, do it” mentality.  Nothing is ever static and I don’t sit still for very long (unless I’m sleeping), so if I can’t do one thing then I’m going to do something else.  But what?

So I’ve been trying to imagine life in sticks & bricks back here in Milwaukee and … whoa … what a shock that has been! For us that means coming off the road.  That’s the one common reality for RV’ers.  But if we took an apartment (I doubt we’d ever consider buying another home) what would living here again be like.

In retirement, I am learning a lot about myself.  I did not realize how much the idea of ‘moving on’ has been in the back of our mind ever since we hit the road. Even when we spent 10 months volunteering in one place (Oregon) in our MINDS we were still on the go:  we were RV’ers – our stay there was temporary.  We were ready, we were planning, it was just our ultimate departure date that was undecided.  We weren’t in that place as a ‘permanent’ decision.  We found we could tolerate a LOT, as long as what we had to tolerate wasn’t permanent.

I think that’s key to my understanding what I want from the rest of our travels.  Moreover,  I think it has become a part of who we are.  You might say that we have forgotten how to be residents in one place.  We have become people whose life is based in transience.  In transience, not on transience.  We may have eternal hopes but our living is bounded by … you guessed it … routine.  Yuck, there’s that word again.  The one I didn’t like.  R O U T I N E.

We too live with cycles.  Two weeks in one place.  Or a month or two in one place.  We get along for 2 weeks on a tank full of water and at the end of two weeks we have to dump our gray and blackwater tanks.  Our DISH subscription is a month by month subscription.  We can turn it off — for a month, but we can’t turn it back on 1/2 way through the month.    Even when I was still working it was sort of that way.  By the end of 2 months at home I had reached my limit and I was ready for another photo trip.  I’d take off for 2 to 4 weeks, get back, and be good for another two months…. then the call of road would lure me away once again.  So, whether permanent resident or full time RV’er there is no escaping routine no matter how much I rage against the machine.  🙂

Staying in one place has meaning.  We all develop a routine;  it may look different than the routine we used to have but it’s still a routine.  Out of those routines a person makes their life;  comings and goings settle and anchor us in a place and in society.  Certain things are reliable, you go, you do, you see.  Incidentals arise and we weave them into our lives but they are not the fabric; not the warp and woof of life — they are the errant strings that blur life’s pattern in us.

Almost every job I’ve had has been heavy on day to day variation and light on reliable day to day familiarity. By the time I had mastered most jobs I was ready to move on to another one — seeking change and challenge.  Not all that different from being a full time RV’er I guess.

Being useful has always been high on my list of priorities. From my days as a scout to those as a pastor, to my time as a photographer I crave having an impact.  I can do without notice,  I need no accolades, but I yearn to know that what I’ve done made a difference.  Perhaps that is why volunteering has been prominent in our retirement plans:  giving back is important to me.

I wonder what I might do if we became Milwaukeeans once again.  Could we find some other kind of volunteer gig to give back?  Will we still be able?  Will our help be wanted?  I remember that when my dad went looking for a volunteer job he had a hard time finding an organization that wanted him.  I wonder if I could repeat that experience; he and I were alike in so many ways.  And we both are independent to a fault. Oh well, we’ll find out some day.

Milwaukee City HallWhen our daughter was working with the local hospice I thought that was a great volunteer gig.  First, there’s real need. Sure, it might be fun to be a docent at the theater but on a scale of impact helping someone cope with death has to be better than just getting them to their theater seat.  And, that was something I could do,  I have the temperament for it.  I understand grief and healing and coping. A quarter century as a bi-vocational pastor taught me a few things about living and dying. But it’s in my nature to care.  Could I care without overly stressing myself?  That is a much bigger question than you might think.  At least for me.

It’s all hypothetical right now.  We don’t have to do anything differently right now; maybe not for a number of years.  But it did come as a shock to realize how much was the same as it’s always been and how much was different.  Life is never simple,  there’s nothing new under the sun and anything we’ve done has been done a million times before.

Milwaukee 1874Being in Milwaukee for 2 full months instead of just 1 month we have been reminded what it was that made us go mobile in the first place.  Attitudes, people, politics — there were significant reasons for us to ‘get out of Dodge.’  Facing the prospect of perhaps having to return to ‘Dodge’ — to Milwaukee — with a lifetime of memories and a decent understanding of the city’s strength and weaknesses — is a bit unnerving.  It’s not a bad place to live, but we haven’t found a better one, so it may very well be our ultimate choice. Even though we love our family who live here — you still have to live in the community, not just with them.

This has always been a strange, bullheaded town.  The downtown streets don’t line up across the river because the three founders of the three original towns did not want to admit that anyone else had been there first so they all built their roads down to the river askew from whatever road had been there first.  When land was given to the newly combined metropolis it took the good citizens seven years to agree even so much as to accept the gift of land for the construction of a new city hall — much less to agree on what kind of building to place on the donated property.  It’s a city that is torn by racial antagonism unlike that I’ve seen in other communities, antagonisms that are not lessening over time.  It’s in a state that doesn’t know who or what it is. This is the birthplace of the Republican party and much of the outlying population is staunchly Republican.  But Milwaukee, Madison, and the other major urban centers are vociferously Democratic.  The resulting public exchange of ideas is more cacophony of disharmony than blended harmony in a major chord.

One of these days we’ll get out of town and get on with living OUR life. My brain will return to thinking about trips and travel, I’ll find more modifications to make to Serendipity and we’ll find more volunteer gigs to investigate.

In the meantime my mind will wander among the gardens and weed fields of my brain — looking for something to latch onto.  I’m sure I’ll have some wonderful thoughts and others that might be really disgusting ones. That’s just who I am.  Real life is moving a bit too slow at the moment and this is what you get when I try to tread water. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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8 Comments

  1. Peter, I can’t wait to read your first posts when you get back on the road. It will be interesting to see your take on it, as this has been quite a long period of time for you in familiar surroundings. I’ve been loving your thoughts on Milwaukee, as we have had similar observations with our runs back to Grand Rapids. Difference is, we’ve been able to head back out of town. It really gets ones mind going, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now I just want to get the heck out of ‘Dodge.’ Our trip, once we pass Springfield IL (where we’ll be stopping to see a friend who moved in the last year) will most likely be new-to-the-RV-but-not-new-to-us road. There are some levels where not knowing our overnights always bothers me, and other ways in which that’s a big part of the fun.
      I suspect we’ll boogey on down there and want to get into place — instead of taking our good natured time. — but we’ll see. So much depends on what happens at that last appointment.
      Ya know, I have always been happy to be a Milwaukeean, it’s just the weather that I have disliked. But this time around MKE has definitely been less appealing. We still love the lakefront (not that we could afford to live near it) but change is gradually turning it into a place with which we are acquainted if not familiar. We’ll see …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s actually a good process to what if…in the environment you are contemplating because it gives you a more realistic perspective of what life would really be like.

    We have talked about our what if’s…Ideally we’d like to be snowbirds and head out of dodge during the summer months. Places where there is a bit more in terms of culture, when the weather isn’t too unbearably cold. Rick can’t handle cold weather at all.

    The other thing that both Rick and I observed is how much places have changed in a short period of time so places we thought we would like to stay tend to fall more into a like to visit category.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AGREED!

      While I wrote this post half a week ago, Peg and I were just talking yesterday about the way it’s true that ‘You can’t go back.’ If you try to revisit something from the past it never is the same, and ‘the past’ doesn’t have to be very long to be ‘the past.’

      uuuuhhhh, wait a minute….. not all that far SOUTH that you can go from Daytona! I hope you were speaking in more macro terms. :-p

      Yeah — the pursuit of culture can be challenging in retirement. Specially if your budget is limited. Seems increasingly so that culture is spelled with $$$$$$$. Not always, but often. And the Redneck South isn’t all that inviting. (hope I didn’t make too many enemies there) 🙂

      Like

      1. Had to tug on a limb there about the flight from cold!

        I think I have almost always done “what if’s” My parents owned a hardware store early in my life and I used to play with the toys before they got sold (sometimes). After they sold the store they discovered if they had catalogs in the house I would look at the catalog, play with the toys (in my head) and lose interest in the toys quickly. I would figure out what you could do with them and realize they were not all that interesting and change my mind about wanting them. Did it with jobs too. And (embarrassed blush) people too — realized that some of them too were not all that interesting to ‘play with’ for ver long.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have always moved on, so to speak. I have one long time friend that I keep in touch with. The rest are people I know connected to my current life. I do envy people who maintain long time connections but then I see the drama they put up with and it turns me off fast. I’ve gotten to appreciate my small circle. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Same oh, same oh.
        I think we have chapter changes in life and I respect them as such. I guess in a way, if I wanted the people I left behind in my life I would not have left them… sort of. We make value judgements about the things & people in life and that means that we valued something else more highly. And I too don’t like drama.

        Liked by 1 person

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