Got a late start today, it’s 10pm already… tough day… 3 mile walk in beautiful Lakes Park followed by 2 relaxing hours at our newly re-furbished swimming pool….. which leads me to today’s story:

My new job was going well and I was in awe of the strength and courage of my clients. I couldn’t wait to get to work each day just so I could hear their incredible stories of how they managed to deal with all the adversities in their lives. I, in return, was able to give them the positive re-enforcement that they needed to continue their daily battles to succeed in life in spite of their physical problems. My best outlet for taking on the emotional and mental pain of my clients was to pound the tennis ball into submission every chance I had.

I mentioned in a previous story that after the tragic death of my wife’s sister to Cancer at the age of 39, we no longer went every weekend or summers to stay in her home in Long Island. That was when we joined the Jackson Heights C.C. with our 10 year old son in the summer of 1982. We not only learned to play tennis as a family but we developed deep friendships with some of the members of the club that had much in common with us. One of these couples, Mike & Edie, in the summer of 1987, showed us pictures of their new home that they were going to move to and leave NYC for good. The pictures of their condo were beautiful and they raved about the complex and the town of Fort Myers, Fl. that would become their new home. The Lennar Co. was building more condo’s in their Summerlin Woods complex and they told us to check it out if we were interested. I always had a dream to eventually go back to Florida as I loved my 4 years there at Jacksonville University. However, as I played baseball all over the state, I really fell in love with the Southwest corner of Florida, which was on the Gulf Coast and not the Atlantic Coast. I surely did not want to live in the Miami area as I did not want to go from “New York to New York”… it was too crowded, too loud and too New York for me. So when I saw that Edie & Mike were moving to Fort Myers, my dream came “alive” once again. A year later in the spring of 1988, my wife told me that we should consider a retirement home (I still had 20 years to retirement) and she wanted us to check out where Edie & Mike moved to. I thought to myself “this is too good to be true!” I wisely told her that I knew Fort Myers well enough to know that it would be a perfect location for us. I suggested that she go down by herself to check it out as I was all in on this idea. That was the smartest decision I ever made besides marrying her! She went down that spring, met Edie & Mike and saw their condo. Edie gave Maria a referral to a Real Estate agent and Maria looked at some of the new condo’s but didn’t like any of the one’s she saw. She also was smart enough to know she wanted a ground floor condo and not one on the second floor. This came in handy when I had my hip-replacement and when we went grocery shopping. She decided to stay a few days longer at the nearby hotel she was staying at. The weather made it easier for her to extend her stay, so on the next day the agent told her that she had a first floor condo that just came on the market because the woman who purchased it had her loan fall through… Voila! She instantly liked our condo. It faced the pool and the flag pole. The view was spectacular from our lanai. (a lanai is a fancy word for closed in porch). Maria called me up all excited and told me that I had to come down to see it. I immediately told her that if she liked it, then she should buy it right now! I told her to put the $5,000 down payment and come on home.

I knew what I was missing and with 20 years of working ahead of me, i did not want to see this paradise just yet. We got the mortgage and decided to rent out the condo to help us pay it off faster. Maria worked double shifts so the bank would not make all that interest from us. In those days we were paying 7.5% interest on our condo. and with Maria’s hard work we paid off our 30 year mortgage on our Astoria home in 15 years, so that one was already paid off. The fact that our home in Astoria was paid off, is what made her think of a condo for our retirement home. We rented the condo out,unfurnished, for 10 years… Yes, that’s correct, I did not see our condo until 1998! Maria went down to the condo with her mom and her aunt between tenants to get it ready for the new tenants. Because of their hard living style in Poland and the hardships they endured in WWII, they felt fine sleeping on the wall to wall carpeting and eating on the floor as well…. but I wouldn’t waste my precious vacation time living like that and Maria would not “waste money” on a Hotel…so that’s why it took 10 years for my first visit to “paradise.” Maria’s mother loved the winter weather there so much that she convinced her 2 son’s to buy condo’s at our complex too!

Because I loved my job at ICD so much, the 10 years flew by faster then I thought it would. tomorrow I will tell you the story of my first visit to what I felt was “my heaven on earth.”

Read the next post Taking Stock Day 58.