Thursday, June 21, 2012

Are You Staying Cool Enough, Babe?

We are on day three of temperatures near ninety degrees here in western New York.  Every summer we get several stretches of weather like this, and every summer I wish for central air.  Earlier this month, we went so far as to call for an estimate. “Let’s just see what it would cost,” I told my husband.  The answer: a LOT.  As it turns out our 120-year-old house is not well-suited for central air—something about no cold air returns upstairs and other things I don’t remember because I didn’t really understand them to begin with.  The bottom line is we’re back to fans and window units in two of the upstairs bedrooms.  Seeing an air conditioner in the window always make me think of my dad.  All the years we were growing up, he had one in his bedroom.  I remember feeling that blast of cold air when I walked in to borrow his scissors or to ask him a question in when he was working at his desk.  Years later when I had grown up and moved away, the first question my dad asked when he called on hot summer days was “Are you staying cool enough, babe?”  I wrote this poem a few years ago, and on this hot summer day I am thinking of my dad and of the way parents never stop taking care of their kids.

Are you staying warm enough?
he would ask when he called
on cold winter days
ever since he heard
that our dog's water froze
in her dish
in our cold New Hampshire
It only happened once
a long time ago,
but he never forgot.
"I'll send you some money
to help with your heating bill.
Turn your thermostat up a few degrees
I don't want the kids to be cold."

Are you staying cool enough?
He would ask when he called
during summer heat waves.
Despite my reassurances
of fans, backyard wading pools,
and sprinkler parties,
a second call came one summer day.
"Be watching for a surprise delivery.
It should be arriving soon. . .
Oh, I'll go ahead and tell you:
I got you an air conditioner.
You need one room to cool off in."

I wish I could call him today
to tell him
that a crazy hot June
drew us to the old air conditioner
that's been resting in the corner
of the bedroom through
several temperate summers,
buried under rolls of wrapping paper,
blankets, and stuffed animals
I want to tell him
how his grandson
lugged it up the stairs alone
and helped me wrestle it into
the window.
I want him to know that one room
is now blissfully cool.

But he's out of range
of phones,
of cold snaps,
of heat waves.
And I can't tell him
that although
we're warm enough in winter
and cool enough in summer,
I miss the asking,
and I miss my dad.


  1. The old air-conditioner Dad got us (Dan and Sally's used one when they got central air) finally died last summer so I have really been missing it (and Dad!)these past few days.

  2. We don't have the one Dad sent us anymore either. The one in the picture was also Sal and Dan's!