Even on the most frigid days, he seldom wore a coat. Every night, all year round, he would come home from work, change out of his suit and into a pair of shorts (the same shorts for the entirety of my life) and an old shirt, his feet bare. His favorite temperature was fifty degrees or below and his love of air conditioning was unparalleled. On warm days, his already measured (read: very leisurely) gait would moderate in the (often vain) attempt at avoiding (his habit of easily) breaking into a sweat. He described the crisp, blustery days of fall as “delightful” and took the heat and humidity of the summer as a personal affront. As much as my father loved a cold day, he loathed a hot one. In fact, my mother kept a blanket in the car which she would wrap around herself to keep warm, no matter the time of year; the heat was always too low and the air conditioning set to arctic.
Every morning in the winter he would gracefully lay his winter coat in the trunk of his car, suggesting he might actually wear it. I am not even sure why he owned one, let alone bothered to take it in and out of the house each day, since I am one hundred percent certain he never put it on. Also in his trunk: a pair of galoshes which, by the way, he insisted on calling rubbers. Calling them by their less formal name was his way of gently teasing me, an easily provoked teenager, and it worked. I was utterly horrified that he even knew the word, let alone that he chose to use it in my presence whenever humanly possible. It was pretty classic MJL.
When the weatherman used words like “blustery”, “crisp” and even “frigid” my father’s interpretation was that it was going to be delightful. On the flip side, the descriptors “hazy”, “hot” and the most offensive, “humid”, would actually piss him off a little.
When everyone was cold, he was hot. When everyone was comfortable, he was hot. When everyone was hot, he was miserable. It was so much a part of him.
All that changed once he started the chemo that would briefly extend his life. Suddenly he was always cold, dressed in layers and raising the heat. His queries as to whether anyone else thought it was hot in the room, abruptly morphed into his request for consonance that it was, indeed cold…even when it wasn’t. I happen to share his affinity for cooler weather and distinctly remember thinking that the drugs that were supposed to be attacking the cancer were actually killing a central part of who my father was. Our long tradition of commiserating about the stickiness on the back of our necks or the absurdity of everyone else bundling up in sweaters on what we considered to be a delightfully crisp day was no more.
This morning with the temperature in the teens, the wind strong enough to sway the large trees in my backyard and warnings that the current 27 degree reading represented the high for the day, I opted out of my regular morning beach walk. Instead, I drove to the gym and spent 45 minutes climbing to nowhere on the elliptical, bored out of my skull and trying desperately to avoid checking how long remained on the countdown clock. By the end of my workout I was, not surprisingly, dripping with sweat, red in the face, my hair fuzzing up. I left, met my girlfriends for a cup of coffee and planned to head home, shower and get on with my day. As I walked to my car, I thought how refreshing, crisp and, yes, delightful, the air felt against my face. I drove out of the lot and took a left, even though home is to the right. A few moments later, I parked at the ocean, pulled on my hat and gloves and walked down to the sand. The wind was whipping, the waves were crashing, the sun was full and, most people would agree, it was freezing.
The tide was coming in, so my time was limited. I spent about twenty minutes pacing the shrinking parcel of sand that the tide had not yet reached, collecting piece after piece after piece of sea glass. As the water began to get closer to my feet and I contemplated just how long I had before I was soaked by the sea, I found what I didn’t even know I was looking for.
I find things like this often and know that it is my father, checking in (he loved the ocean, too). (Remind me to tell you about the time he was fooling around with us in the waves and it was all fun and games until he got knocked on his ass and his prescription glasses went out to sea…)
Yes, it was a delightful day.