“Close the door,” he said.
“The wild and wooly BTUs are escaping!”
“Stop it.” He had a totally straight face. Not even a smile cracked the solemnity of his balding forehead, his mustached face. Every time I looked at him, he seemed older than before.
“You know you love it.” But I wasn’t sure he did. But deep down I hoped. Maybe.
This was life with Dad.
Since Mom died, back in 1978, he’d become obsessed.
“You know, we only have enough power for the next 20 years.” It was like a mantra. I tried to imagine the world without power, without energy. No cars. No fridge, no air conditioning. No plastic. No TV. No radio. The list became overwhelming and I just shut it off. Like flicking a switch.
Months after she died, when he closed her gift shops full of flowers and baskets and started peddling solar panels, it wasn’t a shock. Jimmy Carter was President and there were huge tax incentives on putting panels on your home. They were flying out of the warehouses.
That’s not to say these panels worked, because they didn’t. Well, they did, but not as well as, not as reliably as, say gas and electric. Fossil fuels. Fossilized fuels. The ancient remnants of life. The ones we were going to run out of.
Off our bookshelves went Erma Bombeck and Jacqueline Susann. On came book after book: sun power, wind power, water power. Harnessing nature. The way we couldn’t control mom’s illness, the snowball of medications, rolling over us and on down the mountain. The way we couldn’t stop the inevitable. Time. The passing of days. Each day shortening each of our lives. Together.
Our new back porch is passive solar powered, which is to say it gets damn hot out there, and it heats the whole house up.
Dad did it himself between sales calls. He built over her vegetable and herb gardens. He spent Sundays out there sweating, shirtless, hammering, sawing, trying out a new tool, instead of quiet coffee with Mom in the living room with the Sunday paper spread out all over the floor. He built this sun room, to try to capture the sun. And it did, but it made us all sweat. The sun doesn’t like to be confined like that.
After mom died, I took up yoga. A friend dragged me to a yoga retreat, not an Ashram, just a retreat, nestled in cabins in the woods, up state. I loved it. I loved sitting quietly; I loved stretching my limbs; I loved Savasina, the corpse pose, where you laid very still and tried not to think.
On the not-Ashram, I fell in love with everything, including vegetarian cooking. Brown rice, lentils, tofu. Food of the sun. Off the menu went mom’s meatloaf, fried chicken, monthly steak dinners. On the menu went anything Moosewood. It was a diet for a small planet.
Post not-Ashram, every morning I did my Sun Salutations, a series of yoga poses to great the day, on dad’s new sun porch. The heat from the sun swirled and whirled around me and forced beads of sweat out of me. When I was done, I always laid very still, and waited. I was damp and hot. I tried desperately to clear my mind of thoughts, to achieve Savasina, to know what she knew, to have my mind be blank, but Mom did not fill me.