Dad was always a little guy – short and thin. Mom was the same height as dad, but didn’t appear so skinny. Dad was always sensitive to the cold and in fact changed jobs early in his career because his previous job required him to work in the cold. But, my memory of the clash of body temperatures between my parents goes back to when they were approaching their 50’s.
Dad would be cold and push up the thermostat. Mom would suddenly find herself hot and comment on how hot it was. Dad would say “Change of life!” and laugh. Mom would get annoyed and push the thermostat back down. Long after mom passed menopause, the thermostat wars continued.
As they got older, dad was more and more likely to keep the room temperature above 75 degrees. Often he wanted it to be set at 80 or even higher. Mom was having health problems and the doctor wanted her to keep the room temperature at 75 degrees or lower.
About 5 years ago I visited mom and dad at their southern mobile home. Mom kept reminding dad to keep the thermostat at 75 degrees though he claimed to be cold. I was just there for a couple of weeks on that trip as I was using vacation time. Mom and dad had separate bedrooms by then as dad went to bed early and mom was always up for the 11 PM news. Mom moved into the 2nd twin bed in dad’s room so I could use her bed during my visit.
One night I woke up so hot I thought I would pass out. I got out of bed when I heard mom and dad talking in the living room. It was about 1 AM. Apparently dad had awakened cold and got up and pushed the thermostat up past 80 degrees. Mom heard him but didn’t realize at first what was happening until she felt the heat.
I got up to check the thermostat and see why it was so hot. It was about 82 degrees! Mom was just pushing the thermostat back down. She yelled at dad that if he kept doing that (apparently he had done it before), she would go back to the house in the north and leave him alone in the mobile home in the south.
Mom knew what I was just coming to understand. Dad couldn’t live on his own at all. His dementia was already so bad that he needed help with the activities of daily living like getting his meals. Dad knew also that he needed my mother and so he tried to go along with her decree that he not push up the temperature.
I learned to keep my suitcase on top of the heat vent in the bedroom where I slept those 2 weeks. (That essentially closed off the heat into the room.) I realized that in the future when I planned to visit them for several months in the south I would have to have my own place.
The following year I stayed in another mobile home in the same mobile park. Often when I visited in the morning I would find that mom and dad had the heat on and the home was already hot inside. Meanwhile in my mobile home, I was running the air conditioning!
Now that mom has passed away, dad lives alone in his assisted living unit. He keeps the heat in there set at about 80 degrees or warmer. I can’t visit for too long as the room is too hot for me. I can’t convince him to go out except when I take him to a restaurant for lunch.
Yesterday when I visited dad it was 84 degrees in his room. As I was about to walk him to the dining room, he went back for his heavy flannel shirt. I reminded him that we weren’t going out. “I know”, he said, “but I feel a little chilly.”