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A north-south road from was to will be

If all goes according to plan, today I am tooling down the interstate in a loose frame of mind and a tightly packed rental truck.

There is a select lifetime of memories to my rear and a cooler full of bottled water and Saran-wrapped sandwiches to my right.

There is an iPod in my ear, a song on my lips and a cushion under the only part of my middle-aged anatomy that apparently is immune to weight gain.

Tonight I will leave the great state of Tennessee and flop down in some roadside Georgia motel that was built on red clay, sweat and sweet tea. Tomorrow I will roll past the Okefenokee and Ocala and into Hernando County, white-knuckled and eager to lie down for a few hours before standing to deliver this silent shipment to a new home.

Later this week, years of prodding and planning will culminate in the airborne arrival of a truly precious and irreplaceable cargo.

Welcome to Florida, Mom.

If Mom had her druthers, she probably would stay where is, in a comfy hillside homestead where she moved from another hillside homestead more than 25 years ago to be down the road from her aging parent. Since then, she has cared for and buried a 93-year-old mother, a 53-year-old daughter and an 81-year-old husband. With the exception of a trio of granddaughters, a few thoughtful cousins and friends, and a geographically distant son who sets aside half of his vacation every year to help maintain the property, she has lived independently and modestly.

Those experiences, and countless others, have taught her that we all have our limits and there comes a time when one must accept it is time to move on. Thank goodness, she is still willing and healthy enough to recognize that vulnerability, and to accept the need for a transition.

So, the adventure, with all its anxiety and expectation, begins.

Mom arrives like so many in Florida do, with a few cherished possessions and dreams of sunshine and relaxation. After almost 80 years on the planet, she is enthused about the undertaking. There is the predictable apprehension, of course, about leaving a small town where she was born, and where the mention of almost anyone's name sparks a dissertation about a family tree.

But that familiarity hopefully is countered by the expectations about the places she'll see and people she'll meet in her new home. She has the assurance of a fresh family here, both inherent and acquired, that will provide the security and love she so richly deserves.

Still, it is difficult to cull a lifetime of possessions to what will fit in a 16-foot truck. And it is not easy to leave behind most of one's belongings with people who will not know the history that deepens their meaning.

But it must be done.

As much as I want Mom here, I was hesitant to recommend it. Florida's faults are showing. Its economy, environment and inadequate infrastructure combine to create a threat that rivals a hurricane. Throw in the greed of insurers, the government's high taxes and fees, and the bought-and-paid-for legislators, and it is no surprise that residents are running in the other direction.

You can't walk into a convenience store or restaurant without hearing someone talk about leaving Florida and heading north to Tennessee, Georgia or North Carolina. I always figured it was more grumbling than intention.

Apparently not.

After we put Mom's house on the market, the first person the real estate agent showed it to had traveled 810 miles from a comparatively big town in Florida:

Spring Hill.

So, as we fret about life's journey, the cycle continues. Some of us just keep going up and down the road in a loose frame of mind and a tightly packed truck.

And, if we're lucky, we enjoy a snack and hear the music that changes our lives.

Jeff Webb can be reached at webb@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6123.

A north-south road from was to will be 04/12/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 12, 2008 10:41am]

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