My A/C is broken. In fact, I’ve had it turned off since Sunday night because it was simply wasting electricity and the house wasn’t any cooler. It’s Summer in Florida and I’m having to sleep with the windows open and just a ceiling fan running. I bought two floor fans for my two young adult children still at home but I have chosen to suffer through until it can be fixed.
No, I’m not being a martyr; I’m simply being pragmatic. It makes no sense to buy more fans when they will be unnecessary in a day or two (I hope!). I can rationalize two extra fans for those rooms without ceiling fans, but feel as though three would be greedy and wasteful, especially when I expect it to be fixed (or replaced) within another day or two (hopefully! I already said that, didn’t I? The heat is apparent frying my brain…).
But last night as I lay there in the darkness, on top of my covers and completely naked, arms and legs akimbo to allow every possible inch of bare skin to catch as much of the the warm air being circulated by the whirl of my ceiling fan as possible (and believe me, that’s quite a surface area), it occurred to me that this is nothing compared to what my husband must have gone through the last 24 hours of his life.
In the end, he suffered from something known as a “central fever”. I’d never heard of it before, but essentially, (as I understand it, and I’ll admit to medical ignorance) it is a fever caused not by infection or some other treatable source, but rather by a malfunction in the brain. As such, there isn’t much they can do.
In my husband’s case, he was once again placed on ice treatment similar to the ice protocol which he endured just after his heart attack. (I say endured as he spent nearly two days in a state of “suspended animation” whereby they dropped his body temperature to 91 degrees in an effort to preserve brain functioning while he initially began the healing process.)
He was covered with a blanket into which was woven thin tubing through which ice water was pumped. The water that became heated from his body was returned to a small pump that cooled it down to begin the process again. This was some sort of twisted joke of the universe as this was essentially a machine similar to those my husband worked on in his career and I knew far more about water-cooled air conditioning systems than I cared to. (And yes, the fact that he is not here, yet would have likely been able to fix my now broken A/C is also another cruel joke.)
The medical staff never was able to get his fever down, and it was 107 degrees and still climbing when his organs finally gave out. A was somewhat of a “medical celebrity” in that hospital, first for coming out of the coma in the first place when after a week, most everyone doubted that he would, later for actually having little visible loss of cognitive and physical functioning, and finally for the fever of such a high degree. The nurses who came by all said they had only read about it in textbooks, but had never actually had a patient’s temperature hit those heights. My husband always did have to do things in a big way…
For several months after my husband passed, I was hit with these “episodes”. Similar to hot flashes in menopause (I’m assuming, because thankfully I avoided them myself), I would suddenly become overheated and even the air conditioning on full blast directly in my face wouldn’t cool me down. Often this occurred while driving and listening to the songs that would reduce me to a blubbering mess.
As I was in the midst of my own shock, wandering around a zombie widow with limited brain functioning, at first I believed these were similar to the sympathy labor pains that some fathers seem to experience. Later on, I would convince myself that these occurrences were A reaching out to me with a message and if I only tried hard enough to solve the puzzle, I could somehow be reunited with him to live out our lives as they should have been in another dimension. (Apparently, my husband’s love for sci-fi movies rubbed off on me…)
The incidents lasted only a few minutes at a time, had no lasting effects, and those hot flashes are few and far between these days. But lying in bed with the windows thrown open so I could feel some of the “cooler” 78-degree air from outside had me remembering the days that caused me to imagine ways to skip planes and join my husband in the new world in which I imagined him to be.
I am also trying to be grateful for the recent weather, however, knowing it could be so much worse. This is Summer in Florida, after all. Summer here lasts for all intents and purposes from Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving with generally a week or so in December or January thrown in for good measure. But we had been well into a dry spell (read: drought) to the point where we were only allowed to wash our cars every other Thursday, as long as the moon was in Jupiter or some such nonsense.
But just the other day, the skies cracked open for a little while as I was sitting in my bedroom and I got the sudden urge to run out into the rain. As adults, we tend to quash these impulses, generally without good reason. That day, I simply gave into it and ran out and splashed in the puddles until my yoga pants were wet halfway up to my knees, my shoulders and arms were coated with raindrops and my pony tail was slightly soggy.
After awhile, my 18 y.o. son and his 18 y.o. friend joined me. I kicked water at them, and we just wandered around the neighborhood, spinning in circles with our faces to the sky searching for a rainbow. We never did find one, but as I was heading back inside, I spotted a magnolia blossom hanging low enough on the tree for me to reach and I snapped it off. As I climbed the few steps to our front porch with the flower to my nose, my daughter told me to “stop”; she snapped a picture, then proceeded to tell me how cute I looked.
As a nearly 50 year old overweight widow, I think I’ve left “cute” far behind me, but I wonder if it was the joy I felt in that moment that she saw. Splashing in the puddles brought me back to a simpler time and I was free of worries for a few minutes. I was lighthearted and unfettered. I was the person I strive to be.
In that moment, I was not middle aged. I was not overweight. And I was not widowed. I was simply a joy-filled spirit. That is who I should be. That is who I want to be. And that is who I’m going to continue working towards being. So, the heat is on… it’s on me to become the person A always saw, who he believed I was, and who he would still expect me to be.
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