On hot days like today, I think about my memories of mom and dad at their house in the north. Typically I would visit them each summer in early July as I got an extra vacation day for the 4th. Generally it was hot and humid and they would not turn the air conditioner on. Dad was always cold and mom didn’t like to have the house all closed up to keep the cool inside.
I have to admit I wished they would turn the air on at least late in the day and overnight because it was very hard to sleep in that heat and humidity. If the television newscasters warned about excessive heat sometimes that would convince mom and dad to turn the air conditioner on for awhile. But dad set it for over 80 and as soon as it came on he got too cold and turned it off again!
Generally I spent a good part of each day sitting in the back yard reading my summer romance books and sometimes mom would come out in the shade with me to read too. I would have my glass of iced tea or just cold water and keep cool. Dad would sometimes get on his riding lawn mower and circle around in the yard getting the grass clipped and enjoying the ride.
My brother would sit in the house with the fan running directly pointed at him and grumble and complain from early morning through late at night. Now I’m not saying I enjoyed the heat any more than he did, but it annoyed me and everyone else to listen to him complain constantly. I would ask him why he stayed in that house living with mom and dad when it made him so miserable. And he would go on and on about not having any choice as he couldn’t afford to buy a house in that area, etc.
Mostly I have good memories of being with mom and dad while they were still able to live independently and enjoy their time together. The sad part is the memory of my brother and my mother arguing and listening to his tone of voice as he spoke to her. He would take her to the store when he was ready and he didn’t know when he would be ready as it was too hot and he couldn’t function, etc.
Then sometimes mom would start to nag dad about the fact that he never did anything anymore except sit in his chair. Or she would talk to him and he wouldn’t hear her and she would get upset that he knew he couldn’t hear yet refused to get a hearing aid. She used that same aggravated tone of voice against dad that my brother used against her. It seemed like a contagious rudeness that was difficult for me to listen to.
I tried a few times to talk to mom about the fact that dad really couldn’t help his behavior at that point as he was starting to have Alzheimer’s Disease and really couldn’t do the things he used to do. Once I even heard him respond to her that her talk was hurtful to him and he had feelings too. She apologized but later would start again. I was amazed that dad responded infrequently as he used to have strong reactions to annoying behaviors himself. (I remember as kids we would run out of the house and down to visit a friend if we thought dad was in a bad mood.)
Mostly though, my memories of visiting mom and dad were good. Mom would cook dinner every night (whereas when I was at my own home I generally just microwaved a precooked meal) and sometimes dad would cook out on the grill. I would go to the store with mom and dad or later (after dad stopped driving) with mom and my brother to get groceries and stock up on the magazines, books and junk food I liked to have to keep me going.
I was away from my stressful job for a few weeks and I didn’t think that much about work at all. I visited with some of my high school friends who would come over to pick me up. We would go out to dinner and maybe walk on the beach somewhere and catch up on news about our other classmates. I read about 3 or 4 paperback books per week and totally relaxed before going to visit my children and grandchildren in another city and then returning to my home and my work.
Now the nostalgia is mixed with sadness as I will never spend my days like that again. Mom is gone now and dad is unable to live on his own. I can visit dad at his assisted living facility nearby whenever I want to now and I do so frequently. Dad keeps his room fairly warm (hot I would call it!) but no one complains when he doesn’t turn the air on. I do rush home to my air-conditioned home after I visit him though ;}
My brother lives alone in that house now, and still complains about the heat because now the air conditioner needs replacement. He refuses to spend the money to replace it – after 25 years of complaining that dad wouldn’t turn it on! I visited the house twice last summer to go through mom and dad’s things. I don’t know if I will get there this year or not. I hate to have to leave dad alone here for a week or more and it isn’t worth the trip for less time. The main thing I would like to do now is visit my friends as I did most of those summers and look through what is left of mom and dad’s things in the garage and a few other places.
I feel the tears in my eyes as I think of all those summer visits with mom and dad. In earlier years I was able to arrange family reunions with some of dad’s siblings, his cousins, my cousins and second cousins, etc. We would have a picnic style lunch in the yard or sometimes in a nearby state park. All would take lots of pictures and tell lots of stories and I would try to record them all. As the family historian, I tried to keep in touch with everyone and keep those stories flowing.
Not only is mom gone now, but all of my father’s siblings, many of his cousins and even some of my cousins have passed away also. And what I have left is my summertime memories, photos and stories.