The Saddest Day of the Year

Pool

I covered the pool on Sunday, which is always a somber occasion. This episode was particularly weird, because the temps were in the mid-eighties, the humidity was high, and I was sweating profusely.

When to cover the pool is always a tricky proposition, because there are years where you could easily enjoy the water in mid to late September. Yesterday was such a day, in fact, but the reality is it was a hectic day and nobody had time for a leisurly swim. The other reality is we get far less daylight than we did even a month ago, and the evening temps will soon dip into the fifties, all of which will conspire to drop the water temperature precipitously.

There have been occasions where I’ve waited until late September or early October before completing this task. But after I froze my cojones by immersing myself into mid-sixty degree water to help remove the ladder many years ago, I vowed never to repeat that fool’s errand. It was not a pleasant experience, and I have since erred on the side of closing it too soon instead of too late, to avoid repeating it.

We call it the saddest day of the year because it represents summer’s symbolic end, and the beginning of the inexorable march to winter. The best time of the year is coming to a close, and the worst one is on its way. Plus, the pool is depressing to look at when the cover is on. During the spring and summer, looking at the sparkling blue water and colorful pool liner leaves you with a good feeling. All we have to look forward to now is the drab cover that will soon have rain and rotting leaves floating on its surface.

What makes this year’s closure particularly sad is the fact that this may be the last time we enjoy the pool. Normally, when the pool is closed you know it will eventually be reopened, and you take solace in that reality. The difference this year is that there are no gurantees that will happen next year.

We should be breaking ground on the new house soon, and if things go well, we will be living there, our current homestead will be sold, and the pool will become someone else’s property before the real heat of next summer hits. A pool at the new place will not be a priority. We certainly won’t consider it in year one, and the truth is we may never install another one.

That thought brings a bittwesweet nostalgia, because that is not only the house that Shodan grew up in, but he lived in that pool for a long time after we bought it. Conversely, so did I, and we both had a of fun in those ten thousand gallons of water over a long period of time.

Even though Shodan doesn’t go in the pool much now unless his little cousins or other company visits, not seeing that sparkling blue pool every day will represent a lost chapter of our lives. The new chapter that awaits means he has grown into a fine young adult whose journey is just starting. It represents a new chapter for me too, but my journey has a lot of uncertainties and is also a lot closer to the final chapter of my story than it was when we installed the pool.

I’m not planning on moving again unless it is in a hearse, and I will be visiting a new decade when my birthday arrives in March, so not only am I feeling my mortality. I’m also feeling a tsunami of sentimentality at the passing of such an innocent period of time.

So the saddest day of the year was more melancholy than most. Change is coming, which is not always a bad thing. But when you open the door to change, another door closes as you walk through it. Memories of birthday parties, and Santa Clause, and frog ponds, butterfly bushes, and that pool will be all that remain when that door clicks shut.

It’s part of life, I know, but in covering the pool, we also wrapped that part of our lives in a burial shroud. I’ve never given that much thought because I try not to waste energy and emotion dwelling on stuff that hasn’t happend yet. But putting the pool to bed for the winter was more than symbolic. For me, it made everything we are planning feel very real for the first time.

The sense of loss is palpable and lingers, but I know that will fade once we start seeing the new homestead rise from the ground and feel the anticipation of something new. For now, there is nothing new, we haven’t broken ground, and a large part of our life is under cover, perhaps permanentaly.

It’s a sobering feeling.

 

 

Heat

summer

The summers of my youth were idyllic. I remember family vacations at cottages on the Connecticut shore, where a Good Humor truck was always parked near the boardwalk. Days would be spent frolicking in the water, crabbing, and riding bikes. Twice a week, we’d grab blankets, pillows and snacks shortly before sundown, and trek to the beach to watch a movie. The night air was warm, the sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore was always present, and the sand was filled with chairs and blankets as kids and families gathered to see what was typically a Disney movie. This was Heaven for a ten year old boy.

Days at home during the summer was spent riding bikes all over town, visiting a friend’s house to go swimming in their pool, or playing baseball all day long at one of the large grassy fields near my house. When it wasn’t raining, the only time I was in a house was to have breakfast, lunch, dinner and to sleep.

Summer was, and always has been, my favorite time of the year. The onset of summer vacation from school was wildly anticipated and celebrated, even for those of us who liked school and were good students. Summer days seemed to last forever when I was a kid, and while the new school year always arrived faster than expected, the break felt like a long period of time.

My enthusiasm for the season didn’t diminish when I became a teenager, and had to obtain a summer job. All that meant is I had less time to have fun, but fun was still to be had, and I pursued it with the passion of a religious zealot.

What is there not to like about summer?  It’s much more enjoyable to throw on a t-shirt, shorts and sandals than to bundle up in layers, struggle with a pair of boots, and find places to stash winter gloves or a hat. There are no limits to what you can do in whatever free time you have compared to the cold winter months, when darkness prevails, you’re in hibernation mode, live in sweats, and spend most of any free time you have in front of the boob tube.

Even summer chores are more pleasant. What would you rather do, mow the lawn, tend the garden, and maintain the pool, or scrape ice and shovel/plow snow?

Another thing I loved about summer was the heat. You see, I would always rather sweat than freeze, and there is something about sweating in the summer heat that appeals to the prehistoric recesses in my brain. When I lived in Southern Indiana for several years, the summers were brutally hot and humid. From Memorial to Labor Day, a typical day would involve temps in the 80’s and 90’s with extremely high humidity. I never lived in a place where it would be hotter and more uncomfortable at six in the afternoon than it was at two or three. Being land-locked, the heat would just build and increase throughout the day, which is one of the reasons they had such horrific storms. You could literally walk outside and start sweating so badly you felt as if you were melting.

But I didn’t mind it one bit.

New Englanders can wax poetic about the beauty of our autumns, and feel invigorated by spring, where everything quickly explodes into a lush green after the long winter months, but I will take summers any day of the week.

It is too bad summers don’t like me that much anymore.

I say this as we approach a stretch where we will have a week of 90 to 100 degree weather and high humidity. Once a cause for celebration it instead is a reason for caution because, unfortunately, heat and MS don’t co-exist very well.

Pretend for a minute that your body runs on a battery, which gives you the energy to work, play, move, think, concentrate, or do virtually anything. Food and rest help recharge it on a daily basis, which in turn allows you to function from day to day.

For some reason, heat drains my battery to virtually nothing the longer I’m exposed to it, and I’m not unique. Many, if not most, MS Warriors have this issue. I believe an increase in body temperature is the cause for this power drain, but I don’t know if that is the true clinical reason.

The drain occurs more quickly if I’m active while it is hot, but it has gotten to the point where I can feel a difference by simply sitting outside for an extended period of time. When humidity gets added, the effect is exponentially worse.

Imagine your body feeling completely limp, like every bone is missing. Imagine feeling so weary that the idea of getting out of your chair feels overwhelming. Imagine your  head feels like it weighs one hundred pounds. Imagine your mind feeling like a vast wasteland of emptiness, where the act of thinking feels like a herculean task. Hell, even the idea of sleeping seems like a herculean task. Your focus becomes a narrow pinpoint that centers on the thought that you can’t believe how shitty and utterly spent you feel.

I’m describing a worst-case scenario, but I’ve been there on an occasion or two. Most of the time the feeling is one of significant physical and mental fatigue, and the mental aspect is far worse than the physical.

Some warriors use cooling vests to regulate their body temps during the hot summer months. If I still lived in Southern Indiana I’d probably own several and wear them constantly in order to survive their summers, but they aren’t necessary in my neck of the woods.

My respite from the heat is a pool, which includes a deck and large umbrella that provides a lot of shade. The umbrella cures a lot of sins in terms of the heat from the sun, but nothing can escape the humidity. Nonetheless, immersing myself in the pool provides relief from the heat, and cools my body temperature immediately. It isn’t a perfect solution, because prolonged exposure to the hot sun can still make me feel like the battery is at fifty percent or less, even when I’m in the pool. But it certainly makes life more tolerable, and who doesn’t love the feel of being submerged in comfortable, crystal-clear water on a hot summer day. It brings out the kid in all of us. I especially love to float in a raft where my butt and feet are in the water, my upper body and head is resting comfortably in a semi-upright position, and a cool beverage is secure in the cup container within arm’s reach. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Every winter and summer provides a platform to gauge the pace of my progression. The struggles of maintaining a clear driveway this past winter told me there was a definite progression compared to the previous year. Now, this next week will test the theory from the heat and humidity perspective. How much of a difference will I notice compared to last summer?

When I left the house to drive to work this morning, it already felt like a sauna outside, and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. I know it’s going to feel like an oven for the foreseeable future, but I have stuff to do. So it will be interesting to find out if I feel like a rag doll when the evening rolls around.

I hope not. I don’t mind bitching about the winter, because the winter deserved to be bitched about, but I hate the thought of being a prisoner in my own house during my favorite time of the year. I can live with watching people enjoy themselves from the sidelines. Watching it from the inside is a completely different story.