Hot and cold

Mom and I get along pretty well, with one exception: she’s always cold—even now, in the dog days of summer—and I’m always too warm. Her townhouse has central air conditioning. Given her druthers, she’d keep the indoor temperature about 85 all the time. That’s waaay too warm for me. Given my druthers (and an unlimited income so I could afford the staggering electric bills), I’d keep the temperature at 68 degrees year ‘round. But that’s waaay too cold for Mom.

So, being mostly reasonable grown-ups, we compromise. The thermostat is kept at 75 degrees in the summer. That’s still too cold for Mom’s comfort, so she wears a cardigan and snuggles on the sofa under a wooly throw. Likewise, 75 is still too uncomfortably warm for me, so I keep the Japanese paper fan I found at World Market handy, dress as lightly as I decently can and enjoy frequent popsicles.

And that’s how it’s been since summer began—at least, until Tuesday this week when the A/C suddenly died. The soonest we were able to get a repairperson to come out and fix it was/is Friday.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the temperature inside Mom’s townhouse hit 86 degrees downstairs (and upstairs? Where the bedrooms are? Let’s not even go there). Today (Thursday), when I came home at 6:45 after working in my aunt’s (blessedly air-conditioned) house all day, it was 91. Inside. Downstairs. The peak temperature outdoors today was 96.

Now, before you accuse me of elder abuse, as in “How could you leave your frail, elderly mother home alone in an un-air-conditioned house to bake like that?!” please rest assured that Mom was as happy as she could be. I found her in the kitchen wearing short sleeves for the first time all summer. She was barefooted, making a salad for our dinner, vigorously chopping carrots and radishes, slicing tomatoes and tossing lettuce. She absolutely beamed. And while she expressed concern about my discomfort (I’m sweating, red-faced, and flapping my paper fan while gulping down ice water), in her heart of hearts she’s hoping that the A/C repairperson calls in sick/has engine trouble/has to send to Shanghai for a new part for our air conditioner tomorrow. I know this as someone who’s watched her mother wrap up in an electric blanket turned on “high” in the daytime in July.

As I write this, three minutes before midnight, with all the windows open and every fan in the place turned up as high as they’ll go, the temperature in here has dropped a whole five degrees. I’ve sucked down three glasses of ice water, slurped two popsicles, and have gone through six paper towels used to wipe the sweat off my neck, temples and upper lip. PIB, my sweet old cat, has abandoned his usual spot curled up next to me for a cooling sprawl on the tile floor of the kitchen. The other two cats have spent most of the evening sitting on the windowsills, pressed against the screens for the slightly cooler air.

I write all of this with a smile on my face because, honestly, I just have to laugh at myself. I can’t be mad at Mom. First, the broken A/C isn’t her fault, even if she did pray for it every day this summer. Second, she can’t help being who she is, and I love her for it. She’s small and slender and has been cold-blooded for as long as I can remember. My sister, who’s four years younger than I am, is the same way. I, on the other hand, inherited my warm-bloodedness from my late father. He and Mom rarely bickered, but when they did, it was usually over the thermostat.  And finally, while I inherited Mom’s fair skin and blonde hair, and we’re both female Scorpios, that’s where our similarities stop. We’re total opposites. Mom’s tidy. I’m messy. Her median speed is 60 mph; mine is more like 15. She’s a Republican. I’m a Democrat. Her clothes always match. Mine frequently don’t. She decorates her home in muted, neutral colors and pristine, tasteful surfaces; my house is a joyous riot of primary colors and what she sees as messy clutter and I see as beautiful variety. When she gets mad, she lets you know. When I get mad, I simmer and keep quiet. I don’t spout off unless I’m furious and absolutely at the end of my rope.

My sister is much more like my mother and, not surprisingly, has always been much closer to her emotionally than I have. But in an ironic twist of fate, I’m the one who ended up living closer and, when she finally needed me, the one who was able to help. That makes me smile, too, because if Mom hadn’t suddenly been struck down by sciatica last fall, we’d never have gotten to know each other again. We’d never have had this opportunity to become closer in spite of our differences. I’m glad that we have. It’s been a wonderful and unexpected gift.

But I sure will be glad when the air conditioner is fixed.

6 thoughts on “Hot and cold

  1. I really hope your AC gets fixed today! It’s far easier to add layers than to keep taking off more clothes. After a point it gets to where you just can not get comfortable and I don’t know about you but when I am too hot- there is no sleeping. You don’t need that- it would be like begging for a flare to come visit.

    I am so glad that, the reason notwithstanding, you got to spend this time with your Mom. It’s building a connection that is so special. Be well my friend.


  2. My temperature fluctuates throughout the day which means I end up adjusting the AC throughout the day. It is cooling down outside so I have actually started turning it off. Compromise is good especially when it comes to Moms. They always appreciate the efforts we make for them. God Bless for her very trying to make you happy – she seems like a sweet lady. I am different from my mom in every single way so I can relate to what you are saying but I am the one who is there for her and she understands that so that is why we can be on the same page.


  3. Wren: How my house, my hubby is always is the cold one I am always warm! Seems every family has this contrast….your humor in handling all of the challenges with your mom is really sweet. She is fortunate to have such a caring daughter. Nan


  4. Hi Wren,

    My husband came in to see what I was chuckling about. I laughed out loud! Thanks for the humor break for me; however, I’m sorry you’re experiencing extreme heat and a broken A/C. 😦 I hope it’s fixed for you today, as scheduled.

    My mom is about the same as me (we may even be aligning politically this next election — a shocker), perhaps even preferring it a bit cooler than I do, even at her spritely age. My mother-in-law is the opposite — it’s like I’ve entered the tropics and I need to immediately shed layers when I visit them, even during winter.

    Your cat imagery was funny was well — “pressed against the screens.” A “joyous riot” of color — primary, secondary or tertiary is always welcome in my life. Glad you have it at your fingertips to enjoy.

    Thanks again for the break!


  5. OMG! You can always get warmer through more clothes, but there’s not much you can do when it’s too hot. Even though we keep our thermostat at a reasonably comfortable temperature, our air conditioner has had trouble getting/keeping it there with the extended heat wave we’ve had in Texas. Hope you have cooler days ahead!


  6. Commiserating and enjoying with you Wren. I’m in a similar situation but one much more physically dependent on me and much much heavier. Despite that and my RA, we’ve learned how to handle it now for some years. PT and nurses/aides are always shocked. I tell them we’ve learned how to ‘dance’ together and know each other’s center of balance. We often have the temperature problem too. Getting off of prednisone has helped that greatly this hot, hot summer. I did not run the air near as much (but did use the house fan a lot to keep air moving) and when the heat finally did break to only slightly cooler temps, gosh, there were a few nights where I actually turned the heat on for a brief period until I warmed back up, having gotten used to the place usually being around 80 degrees.


Comments are closed.