The sad and lonely lives of snowbirds

Tony Collins tcollins75@gmail.com
Published on March 29, 2014

Occasionally I hear from some of my retired friends who spend the winter months down in Florida.
They don’t say it in so many words, but I can tell that they’re not happy. They miss being home. They’re lonely. And bored.

There’s not a lot for them to do down there, other than sitting out in the shade drinking American beer and watching crews of Mexicans mow the lawns, trim the flower beds and prune the fruit trees.

In the mornings and afternoons they’ll hang out in the local coffee shops with their buddies from Newfoundland. In the evenings they listen to Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers CDs and reminisce about what they’d be doing if they were back home on the island.

It’s all so sad, so tragic. In spite of our newfound wealth, the Newfoundland diaspora has seen our sons and daughters dispersed to every quarter of the globe, with many of them ending up in remote work camps in the wilds of northern Alberta.

And now, just as the Promised Land seems within reach, even our grandfathers and grandmothers are being forced to pack up their belongings and head south to the far distant Sunshine State, seeking relief from aging, arthritic joints and chronic vitamin D deficiencies.

I had an email from my good buddy Ron the other day. He was trying to put as brave a face on it as possible, but I knew from reading between the lines that he would gladly exchange his Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts for a pair of Stanfield’s long underwear and a nice, warm winter jacket.

“Hi. Hope you are well, in spite of the weather — Har! Har! Things couldn’t be better down here. In case you’re interested, it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Have just finished tuning up my golf cart. The racing stripes and the Woody Woodpecker decal look really cool. Must toddle off and mix up a pitcher of piña coladas. Adios amigo and condolences to all. Ron.”

My heart bleeds for the poor guy. Ron is the sort of person who always has to have something to do. He never complains about it as such but he’s stuck down there with no wood to stack, no ice to chop off the roof and no snowblower to keep fixing. He must be going out of his mind.

I get the impression from Ron that even the golf isn’t the same.

You can’t go beating the bushes looking for your ball because of the snakes.

And the water hazards are all full of man-eating alligators.

At least here all you have to worry about are the flies, rutting bull moose, bears, wasps’ nests, coyotes, wolves, possibly snakes, maybe racoons, and other golfers.

Apparently, food is also an issue in the States. Floridians, and many snowbirds, for that matter, subsist largely on a diet of pancakes, hamburgers and tacos washed down with copious quantities of coffee and cola.

As a result, and considering the fact that the average age is 96, it’s not surprising that people are dropping dead all over the place. Ron doesn’t mention it, but it must be very upsetting for him.

Then there’s the weather, which doesn’t seem to change much. Day after day with sunny skies and warm temperatures and gentle breezes filling the air with the overpowering aroma of orange and lemon blossoms. (I can feel my sinuses blocking up just reading about it!)

There’s just nothing to look forward to, nothing to break the awful monotony except perhaps the odd hurricane or tornado. Then it’s right back to the same old grind.

I think Ron finds it especially hard, and no doubt would welcome a few cooling blizzards round about now. At least that’s the sense I get from his emails.

Something else that a lot of our compatriots miss down south is the drama and camaraderie associated with politics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the States, political disagreements are often settled at gunpoint. Here, on the other hand, things are handled in a much more civilized fashion. We treat our elected officials with consideration and respect and seldom — if ever — allow petty, partisan politics to get in the way of informed discussion and reasoned public debate.

From a few offhand comments, I gather that Ron can’t wait to get back home to catch up on all the political gossip, particularly in regards to the PC leadership race, which from all indications, promises to be a particularly exciting one.

In fact, I just had an email from him a few minutes ago pertaining to that very subject.

“Hello again. What the hell has happened to the PC party? Not that I give a damn, mind you. Not when I can buy a 40 ouncer down here for 15 bucks. Was planning on heading back north next month but may stay longer … much, much longer. Let me know when the weather improves … if ever. Must run. Deep sea fishing trip scheduled for this afternoon. With deepest sympathies, Ron.”

Somehow he always manages to sound upbeat, but you can tell that deep down inside, Ron is hurting bad, real bad.

 Tony Collins lives and writes in Gander.

He can be reached by email at tcollins75@gmail.com

His column returns April 12.