Human Interest


When you move away from the place you lived for seventy-two years, you often second-guess your decision. Doubt, regret, and even remorse fill your thoughts. But the doubt, regret, and remorse quickly disappear when you return home for a visit. Suddenly, you remember why you decided to move away, and your difficult decision now seems to be a wise choice. Such is the case with our July, 2021, visit to Indiana.

Almost five years ago, my wife and I chose to move to Arizona. It was a huge decision and an even bigger task. The details of the move are not pertinent to the subject of this blog, but suffice it to say, there were a lot of moving parts to that decision. The biggest of those was packing up all our worldly possessions, placing them in a storage warehouse for three months, then having them transported by Allied Van Lines 1700 miles to a house in a Phoenix suburb. Fortunately, everything went without a hitch.

After nine months in our new Arizona home, we longed to return home for a month or two to see the many friends and family members we left behind and escape the AZ summer heat. It was a time we greatly enjoyed. We, later, made shorter visits in each of the next two years. The 2019 visit coincided with the 50-year reunion of my graduation from medical school. That time, we stayed only about 10 days.

2020 was the disastrous year of COVID-19 when no one went anywhere. We spent one of the hottest Arizona summers on record (55 days with a high temp above 110°) at home. I don’t think you ever get used to 100+° heat, but we somehow managed to endure. As the pandemic eased and people got vaccinated, restrictions on travel were lifted, and we yearned, again, to return to our home state. This time, we decided to stay for the whole month of July. 

The trip to Indiana was plagued at the very start by a dead battery which delayed our departure. As we approached Flagstaff, AZ, we were hit by a torrential downpour that nearly forced me to stop until it passed. Then, nearly constant rain accompanied us from western Oklahoma to Indianapolis. Construction zones too numerous to count slowed our progress, and more semi trucks and trailers than I can ever remember added to the hazard of the long drive.

Once in Indianapolis, it was obvious highway construction was alive and well in central Indiana, too, but that was just a minor issue. Little by little, day after day, I began to remember why I wanted to move to Arizona, and after five years of living there had developed a closeness to our new environment. 

I lived in Indiana for 72 years. Growing up, going to school, raising a family, and practicing family medicine, I always loved the state, and often said I was glad we chose to live and practice where we did. However, I’ve always been a ”grass-is-greener” kind of guy who saw other places in the U.S. he thought, for a variety of reasons, were more desirable than Indiana. Arizona topped my short list of locations.

The dry, warm climate, the wide open spaces and lack of an overcrowded feeling, and modern, well-maintained infrastructure were major reasons Arizona won my affection.

Arizona didn’t become a state until 1912. It was settled late because of its remoteness, limited water supply, and, at times, brutal desert climate. This and the vast openness into which Phoenix could expand provided room for wide streets, multiple freeways, and plenty of undeveloped land. Everything has a newer, cleaner, brighter appearance helped by the lack of bad winter weather and abundant sunshine—300+days a year. The newness, “big-ness,” and daily sunshine were very appealing to me.

Our 2021 visit reminded me of the many reasons I loved Indiana as a place to learn, raise a family, and earn a living, but did not love as a place to spend my retirement years. With age,  you develop disabilities that impair your capability of walking and getting around. If you require an assistive device, that adds another dimension to the situation. In my current condition, I would never be able to spend winters in Indiana unless I stayed inside all the time. Walking on snow and ice during an Indiana winter would be risky if not disastrous. A bad fall would be inevitable and could have dire consequences. Not to mention the frigid temperatures. Such a dilemma is non-existent in Phoenix where snow and ice are never a problem. 

During the first 17 days we were in Indiana, it rained every day except two. Many times the rainfall was so heavy, driving visibility was severely impaired. July 17th, it rained constantly as we drove from downtown Indianapolis to Franklin, IN and later, on the drive from Franklin to Mooresville, IN and back. Rain often interferes with outdoor activities, and if you forget your umbrella, or can’t hold one and your walker at the same time, you get soaked!. That happened today. In the summer, Arizona has “monsoon” rainstorms that are heavy but brief and can be waited out. All-day rains are rare. 

The condition of the infrastructure of downtown Indianapolis, a very long-term problem, is another annoying issue that immediately comes to mind. Chuck holes, ruts, sunken manhole covers, and patched areas in the streets are everywhere. They can’t be avoided. And it’s not just downtown. The suburbs, except for the far north side, are terrible, as well. Some of the main streets are in good shape, but side streets are awful. It gives the city an old and run-down appearance. Poorly-maintained streets are not a problem in AZ. Minimal rain and the absence of a winter freeze-thaw cycle keep AZ streets in decent condition. Storm sewers don’t exist so manholes are rare. Road repairs are a priority so chuckholes don’t have the chance to enlarge. Dry, sunny weather helps, too. Inclement weather never prevents workers from completing repairs.

Rain and poor streets are bothersome, but the most annoying problem is the uncomfortable feeling you get from living in high humidity. It’s not as humid as in the southern U.S., but still, everything feels damp; bath towels don’t dry out, bedsheets feel damp, paper and envelops wrinkle, eyeglasses steam up, and you just feel uncomfortable. My mother used to call it “feeling close.” All the rain we’ve had lately hasn’t helped, either. The HVAC system in our rental apartment is either inadequate or not working properly because in addition to what I previously mentioned, the kitchen floor “sweats” and condensation on any cold object leaves a wet ring or drips on your clothes. 

The relative humidity in Arizona ranges from 1-20% so it’s very dry. Visible perspiration is uncommon, and condensation never collects on cold glasses or bottles. When you pick up a glass, there is no wet ring on the table. Your bath towel is always dry for your next shower, and you just feel more comfortable. Even when it’s 110° in AZ, it feels better than 90% humidity in Indiana. 

The reasons behind our move to Arizona may seem petty and selfish, and maybe they are. When you leave friends and family behind, it’s difficult because loneliness sets in, and it can be hard to overcome. But quality of life is one of the important aspects of satisfaction in retirement. The ability to be active and enjoy outdoor activities helps your attitude. When you add in a disability that is significantly limiting during bad weather, it doesn’t feel as selfish to me. It gives me a better chance to enjoy the remaining days of my life.  

It is true that friendship and family ties are important for happiness. I dearly miss all our friends. But waking up to sunshine and blue sky every day, being able to be comfortable outside, and not being at risk of problems from inclement weather improve my attitude and physical well-being. Some friends say, “What can we do to get you to move back to Indiana?” My answer is “nothing.” This trip has clearly reminded me of the reasons for the decision we made five years ago. It was a tough decision, but a right one.

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