The Revenge of My Father

As my father got older, into his 80s, he was cold all the time. I remember being at our family cottage in Wisconsin and wanting to swim in the lake on a day that was warm but not hot. He stood on the pier, wearing a cardigan and long pants, and watched me enter the water. “Aren’t you cold?” he asked, and it seemed a silly question. It was summer, the sun was out, and the temperatures were maybe in the low 80s. How could he be cold?

All winter long, my father, who had been skinny all his life, wore long johns—inside the apartment he shared with my mother, and even with the thermostat set at 70. When my siblings and I visited, we would complain about how hot it was and ask if we could turn down the heat or open some windows, while we rolled our eyes at each other.

In my youthful arrogance, I must have thought my parents were coddling themselves. Maybe if they got out more or experienced the real cold outside, they would see that their apartment was too warm. I thought this, even though I knew my dad loved to walk, that he exercised every day even if it was just circling the interior of the retirement facility in winter.

And now I’m old, and I feel the cold more intensely, wrapping myself in my fleece robe once it gets dark. On a day when it’s 40 degrees outside, I’m wearing a parka, hat and gloves, while younger people are out in shorts and tank tops. I suspect they are sneering at my bundled-up outfit, while they’re running loose and free. And I look at them in amazement, as my dad once looked at me, and think, “What’s wrong with them? How can they not be cold?”

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