Backdraft

by Dani

Papa moved in with us in 2006. We made the decision to bring him here after a particularly cold winter.

Several reasons precipitated this decision, but topping the list was our awareness of the cost of heat as related to the limited income potential of the elderly.

Papa worked as a carpenter for over 40 years. He worked seven days a week, 365 days a year. If there was work, he went after it. Summer, winter, rain or shine, he was more faithful than a mailman. (You had to admire his work ethic even if you did get a bit steamed when he missed every major holiday, birthday and life event).

As a result of Papa’s life dedicated to physical labor, working often out in the elements, there are two things he hates. Walking and being cold.

Dad says, “People who walk can’t afford cars” and  “I’d rather be dead than cold.”

My parent’s house was kept at 80 degrees in the winter. I used to bring shorts when I slept over. It was kind of nice. But now we pay the heating bill.  Dad’s room brings to mind a sunny Miami beach day in July.

Fuel is expensive and I’m while I’ll never be mistaken for frugal, I do try to be practical.

Papa has the warmest room in the house. It’s a great room. Southern facing, ocean view, with three giant cast iron radiators, a mini fridge and a flat screen tv turned on 24 hours a day. Between the sun, the tv and the radiators- it’s quite toasty.

I love that Papa is comfortable in his dorm room. It makes me happy to bring him his meals on a tray and to pick them up on the floor outside his door when he’s finished. I’ve been serving my father on a tray since I was old enough to carry one. It’s part of the culture of our family. I begrudge him nothing. I do ask one small favor of him when it’s cold outside. Please keep your door open.

This is a 135 year old house and his room gets all the sun. I tell him “It can get pretty chilly in the hallway so please keep the door open. Share your heat. Share your sunlight.”

The conversation goes like this…

“Hey dad. Can you please keep your door open a bit. It’s dark in the hall and cold too.”

“Of course honey. You should put more radiators in the hallway”

“Dad, radiators don’t go in hallways. If you could just keep your door cracked the heat would move into the hall and warm it up.”

“Ok.”

Exit. Slam.

…………..

“Dad, would you please keep your door open a bit. It’s 100 degrees in here and the kids are freezing in their rooms.”

“They should have radiators like mine. It’s warm in here!”

“I know Pop but they don’t and I can’t change the heating system. If you could just share some of your heat with the second floor…”

“I don’t even turn the heat up for but a minute! It gets too hot! I have to shut it off!”

“Dad. There is a backdraft when I open your door. How about keeping your heat on and cracking your door so it can move into the hall?”

“Ok”

Exit. Slam.

……………………

Today…  door open to say good bye on my way out..  BAM! A wall of heat slams me in the face.

Ever open the oven to check dinner but forget to wait until the initial blast escapes? In this oven sits one 77 year old Frenchman in his recliner wearing nothing but a pair of shorts enjoying some morning tv.

“Have a great day Papa. I love you”

“bye honey!”

Slam.

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