So, I closed my apartment, settled with the Manager about the refund I might receive and asked her to donate it to one of the local agencies. I threw my much larger - by now, suitcase in the trunk of the Mercedes and we were on our way, South. I made a point of turning abound to my new friend's wife who had been told to sit in the back seat and we started on a conversation that lasted most of the morning, with occasional nods to the driver. If there was ever a point in my life when I felt God was present in our conversations, it was that morning. I was about to discover, they were not a happy couple and the coming weeks would offer the several reasons as to their differences.
We were not stopping at the McDonalds along the way. They made reservations, using cell phones that I really did know they even existed. He paid the bills. I could not afford them, yet.
It was late at night when we left our dinner stop and I was asked to drive the rest of the way. We changed seats and he climbed into the back and went to sleep. His wife and I had a very interesting and informative conversation until we drove into their driveway. Very nice place. While she opened the doors, I unloaded the baggage and I stepped into more luxurious surroundings than I had ever visited. I was given a beautiful room that opened onto an orange grove that surrounded us on all sides. Unusual from my perspective as it seemed to be too far North for oranges, but that was a problem for the people who cared for them and harvested them in season. They told me that they were used to sleeping in and showed me how to operate the coffee pot if I got up before them.
I hardly slept. I thought I was in a dream. But at 6AM, I dared to head for the kitchen, made some coffee and headed outside to see what I could see. We were the only house on what some would call a street, about a half mile away from the highway heading towards civilization or so it seemed. You could hear the boat activity on the piers that were about a mile away. I met a beautiful Collie dog who came out of nowhere and let me know, we could be friends if I was interested. As I returned to the house, I discovered he had a dish, but no one really knew where he came from.
Inside, I discovered a library with a huge TV and all sorts of electronic gear. I really didn't know how to turn the TV on, so I poured another cup of coffee and pulled the drapes to get a better view of the orange trees that were everywhere. After awhile, I'll call her Dottie, came in, dressed like she was if she was heading out and she was, this was her "bridge" day, one of three every week. She showed me where everything was for breakfast and headed out, telling as she was going out the door, she was also on her way to see her new doctor,
She had no sooner left and "Tom" (not his real name) appeared and started fixing breakfast, as I was about to learn, his specialty and as he was working, he told me more about why they had chosen this place. There was a daughter, married to a physician in Tallahassee, and this place was close enough to have her visit occasionally, but they had no intention of visiting them. As he told me, there were sordid details he did not care to discuss and that is how we left it. We started to sit down for breakfast and he disappeared for a moment, returning with a crisp new $500 bill which he said would be on my breakfast plate next Monday - it was Friday, and every Monday as long as I cared to stay with them. I told him this was rather extravagant, but he explained it this way. One, he could afford it, and besides, it was his reward for my going out of my way to spend time with them.
Afterwards, as I offered to wash dishes and he accepted, he went into the library and set up the "system" he had designed to watch TV, listen to music and an occasional "rabble rouser" (as he called a number of people) who he listened to if only to see what they were saying about the destruction of the nation he and I both loved. It turns out that was one of the reasons for my invitation. Then, as I listened, he told me of being raised on a farm in Kansas, education at Harvard and MIT, brief stint in the military until they discovered he had - or would have, problems with his heart, and then the time he spent climbing the "success" ladders at U.S. Steel. When his parents were killed in an auto accident, he inherited a sizable fortune and left corporate life to profit from the mistakes others had made in "rolling" steel plant operations they had ignored. Whew! I was impressed. So then, we opened the other garage door and climbed into an Italian car that I cannot pronounce. It once belonged to an executive friend who had tired of it and "Tom" bought is for a "song". We headed for the pier where I was introduced to a lot of people he knew; owners, fishermen, crew, women and people who came to watch what others were doing. One of the owners was taking his boat out fr a trial tun and invited us along for a ride down the coast. I loved it. I told them of a water skiing accident I had in one of the coves near Fort Walton Beach and so we headed there and looked at the homes that had been built since the time I had been stationed at Eglin AFB. The boat owner knew Joshua Foster, the Base commander I knew then and we turned around and headed for a cove near to where he was buried. We docked and headed over to see the monument that had been erected in Foster's memory. Now, I was impressed.
And so was "Tom". By the time we got home, Dottie was there and fixing steaks for dinner. Tom and I went into the library to listen to Rush Limbaugh's tirade of the day which I was about to learn, was recorded everyday and sent to file which I could always find by entering a date - or basic subject, that had been recorded (most of then) and was stored stored in a system that I never learned to enter.
After dinner, we talked about Rush Limbaugh and others like him. Tom talked and I listened and then I critiqued what he had to say. It made for fascinating conversations, some of which lasted far into the night. After which, I would get up early and Tom would sleep late. Sundays, we headed for a small Episcopal church where they knew the Pastor and most of the handful of congregants. We listened to a 20 minute sermon, typically concerning the events of the week and what the Bible had to say about them and on our way home, I was asked to critique the Pastor. That was easy, he didn't have much to say.
We spent a couple of weeks in this sort of routine until one morning when Dottie was not headed for her bridge friends, we talked about her "pills" at breakfast. Tom was concerned, Dottie was not. I asked why and learned that she had had a number of "spells" after which one of the doctors she was seeing would prescribe a pill that seemed to work until the next spell. I asked to see what they had prescribed and was astounded to discover that she had over sixty different prescriptions. Some were the same, just different dosages. No wonder she had spells, my diagnosis. She took them on a random basis. I suggested throwing them all in the toilet and heading for the closest hospital for an thorough examination. It took a week for that to sink in and one morning, she was up early, came into the library - I kept calling it, and asked me if I would throw all of her prescriptions away, that she had an appointment for a physical examination scheduled and wanted to - as she said, start over again.
While they had left, I did what she asked, only I bagged them, took the other car and went to see my new friend, the boat owner, and asked that we could scatter them out in the Gulf. He agreed, had his son take me out about two miles and as he turned around, I dumped them - a few at a time so as not to effect the fish, until they were all gone. Mission accomplished.
What a change in Dottie's life. She dropped one of her bridge days and started attending a YMCA for an exercise routine and lost several pounds, she wouldn't say how many. Meanwhile, Tom and I kept "meeting" every afternoon, either in the library or on the pier. One day, we stopped to see his lawyer and I learned that he needed to do something about some of the trusts he had established and as we left, he asked me if I had some money to offer to a charitable organization, which would I choose. I could think of several and made a list which we would discuss and eliminate some, while adding others. I had no idea as to how much was involved, but we settled on an amount and I started calling the head offices of those on my list, asking if they could use an "investment" of $10,000. We asked what they would do with the money and wound up with some excellent suggestions.
We gave away a lot of money and I had to ask him about the one "charity" we had ignored. What could they do with a similar donation? He asked Dottie and she did not hesitate, a vacation in Europe.