I grew up in a brick house with no air conditioning. We used box fans in the windows and a sprinkler in the back yard (usually surrounded by neighborhood kids in bathing suits, waiting their turn to “run through.”)
For the past twenty years I’ve lived in another house without air conditioning. It has thick plaster walls, two layers of siding (some past owner just slapped vinyl over wood, and we left it alone) and a floor plan similar to that childhood home, where my brothers and I could run or ride a tricycle in circles around the ground floor while Dad played “Sweet Georgia Brown” on the piano. We called that “the running song,” and thought it was fun to zip past Dad, through the hall and kitchen, dodge the dining room table, scream and laugh our way through the front hall and then back past Dad in the living room. After I became a parent myself, I realized Dad played “the running song” to tire us out so we’d go to bed. He was a genius at stuff like that.
When Angelic Daughter was a toddler, I bought her a Red Flyer trike, so she could do circles in this current house – past the living room fireplace, through the kitchen, left through the library/dining room, across the front hall and then around again.
We’ve just come through three days 94-98 degrees (F) and very high humidity. No joke and very dangerous if you live an a brick-oven building in the city without air conditioning.
But we’ve got a yard, a garden hose and two fans – one box fan:
and one newer one, that stands on the floor and rotates.
Upstairs, there are three smaller ones, each with two fans that can be switched from “intake” to “exhaust.”
Friday night, the “exhaust” setting just couldn’t keep up with the heat.
So I set up the cot downstairs – the cot I bought for Mike to use, if the heat became too much during that last summer. But he couldn’t lie down flat without excruciating pain, so he tried to use another “lounger” I bought, a cheap bench sort of thing, that could sit up like a pool chaise. But he couldn’t get comfortable on that either, no matter how we adjusted the pillows. It was rock hard.
The visiting hospice nurse took one look at him on that thing and said, “this is not under control. I’ll send an ambulance and get you into the hospital.”
So Mike got two days of blessed relief in air conditioning, adjusted pain meds, and a good break from the stress of being home and needing my help all the time.
That damn rock hard lounger was one of the first things to go. But I kept the cot, in case a brother or a guest might need to stay over one night.
Last night, that cot gave Angelic Daughter respite from the upstairs bedroom heat. I slept on the couch, where I slept while taking care of Mike, in the front room where we had set up his hospital bed when he came home after his brief stay, so he could watch TV and eat dinner with us.
Around 2 or 3 in the morning, still sweaty and not sleeping, I stepped outside on the deck and noticed that the breeze had picked up.
It’s coming, I thought – relief.
It cooled off enough for me to open the ground floor windows (and still feel secure, since I was right there) and use the fans to draw in some fresh, slightly cooler air. The forecast said it would be 85 by 7 am, so I shut them again and closed the drapes by 6:45, when the temperature began to climb.
Smoothies for breakfast: frozen yogurt, berries and cream in the blender. Voila.
Salad bar in the air conditioned grocery for lunch.
And the garden hose after 3, in the shade from the cedars outside my desk area window. Blessed lake water still icy cold in July. Squished around in a wet bathing suit for half an hour, and then the storms hit – torrential rain, thunder and lightning – and a temperature drop of 20 degrees within an hour.
Windows back open, despite the downpour, to take in that delicious, rain-cooled air.
Memories and moments like these free me from obsessive worry; they help me remember Mike (inventor of all our strategies for keeping cool in this house through the hottest heat waves) with love and gratitude, instead of pain, grief and regret.
For now, the heat is gone, the storms have blown over, the birds are singing and the yard is green.
May you stay cool and find your calm after whatever storms blow over you.