Coming In Out of the Cold


East Canyon Lake, TX

Looking out my front door...

My wife and I have averaged 6-8 trips to Texas per year for the past four years, since the birth of our grandson in October 2013 (duh). It’s become a familiar routine, with familiar flights and familiar strategies for squeezing the least amount of stress and most joy out of each visit.

What we haven’t done is travel together. Her schedule in particular, teaching in a university, forces my wife to go when she can, which usually coincides with her school breaks, two trips in the summer, beginning and end, usually combined with other things (visiting her mother in north Texas, seminars, etc.), and then one at Christmas break and often another at spring break.

I tend to go whenever I want to, or can afford to, or need to (these are a jumble of priorities, often the latter being primary). It’s just rarely seemed convenient to go at the same time, and the first time we tried it together it felt awkward; we weren’t used to engaging with this new life, and this household, as a couple. As if we didn’t know how to behave.

Last fall, though, we made a combined trip and it was spectacular, lots of love and joy, sun and a little boy on a beach. Really spectacular.

So we did it again this time, Julie’s usual post-Christmas visit, this time with me. There would be, as it turned out, differences.

First, as my daughter and her husband have moved to more of a destination house, outside of the city (of two cities, really, Austin and San Antonio), friends come to visit for more than a few hours, generally, and particularly around the holidays.

So they were planning on having a full house, and we decided to look for an AirBnB in the area, which is not particularly convenient for hotels anyway. We found a cabin across the lake from their house, not quite a tiny house but not far off, maybe 700 square feet with a living room, dining area and kitchen in the front, and bedroom/bathroom in the back. Just about perfect for us, not intending to do much there but sleep.

For various reasons, we spent a bit more time there, usually late mornings/early afternoons while we took our time getting ready for the day (and the younger people were crawling out of bed at all hours, of course). Our time with Bixie was more limited, given that he had six other adults to entertain him (and to whom he was the most entertaining person around). Kind of a hectic trip, including a New Year’s Eve that didn’t work out the way we imagined, leaving us back at our small place at 8pm, eating Dairy Queen food and freezing.

And I meant that part. About freezing.

We don’t need an added incentive to visit, but we get one anyway. We tend to avoid the middles of summers, when the weather would be the most disagreeable, and so it’s always a nice change from our dreary autumns and winters to head down south, to remember what 70 degrees actually feels like and to up our vitamin D game because you gotta do that.

And as everyone is probably aware, the new year brought a cold snap to much of the country, with unusually cold temperatures in central Texas. I’m talking mid-20s for lows and not much higher than freezing during the days. That’s not a disaster but it’s cold for even us. Not severe cold. Cold cold, is all.

And that cabin? Ain’t made for the cold.

It was nobody’s fault, definitely not the hosts. They provided two large space heaters and a third, smaller one was left on the front porch as the weather turned. We needed about three more, although that would have put a strain on the electrical system in this small house, no doubt. We managed to keep the bedroom fairly warm, with heater on high and the door closed, but the bedroom was mostly the bed, a king size that was excellent for sleeping but not conducive to sitting up and reading, etc.

So I shivered in the living room a lot, and I shiver a lot anyway. It’s so common that it’s become part of my personality, although it also lines up with aging into a group stereotype that feels natural. I looked it up once, in fact, trying to find a solid biological reason that older people are most sensitive to cold, and the answer turned out to be mostly longevity. That is, older people dislike the cold more because we’ve had enough of cold, thank you very much.

And sure, this has also all developed over the past 10 years, when I’ve lost a lot of weight and I assume body fat. My son, down 70 pounds, has had a similar thing happen. It makes sense but it doesn’t matter in the end. Cold is cold.

I had the unusual experience, then, of looking forward to going home, not just for the sameness of my chair and my bed and my computer and my kitchen, but for my heat. If I can get this room here over 90 degrees today, I’m definitely doing it.

A new year happened, though. I don’t have any resolutions, although I’d like to focus more on the good, healthful stuff. Move more, shore up some weaknesses that crop up from time and degradation, try to keep away the big bad for as long as I can. I don’t drink and I wasn’t interested in football, so the normal activities didn’t really apply, but I’ve noticed the calendar.

As I noticed this boy, now fully capable of having complete, nuanced conversations with anyone, sporting longer legs and a slimmer profile, the baby pot belly mostly gone and all boy, all the time.

He was eager to give me his Christmas present, which was a painting he’d made. The two of us unwrapped it while my wife shot video with her phone, so I grabbed a still from that video. A couple of them, which I’ll leave here to remind myself that warmth is a state of mind, really. Shiver me timbers all you want.


Chuck SigarsComment