As the sun’s luminous rays begin to peek over the darkened horizon, a glorious new morning slowly dawns, and the never-ending battle for control of the thermostat begins anew in our humble home.
Of course, now that my wife and I are both retired and spend seven days a week together, we have more than ample opportunity to make each other miserable.
Allow me to set the scene inside our tranquil domicile. On a typical day, my bride is wearing sweat pants, a long sleeve sweatshirt, and thick wooly socks. She has wrapped herself tightly in a heavy quilt. Her lips are blue, and she is shivering uncontrollably. I am sitting on the other end of the couch, barefoot, panting, wearing only gym shorts and a thin t-shirt, fanning myself with a magazine while feeling feverish. I am, in short, sweating like a pig.
This is not a scene of wedded bliss. And, incredibly, what I just described can occur during any month of the year.
Unfortunately, the unpleasantness is unending because we are both unwilling to give an inch.
It would be interesting to understand the underlying scientific principle that allows two people, who are the same age, to react to the same temperature in such a way that each one is convinced the other does not possess a firm grip on reality.
My wife has certainly made it abundantly clear through the years that when comes to determining the ideal temperature for our home, she is convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that I am crazy. And although there may be a kernel of truth in her opinion, it does not explain why her muscles involuntarily contract, causing her to suffer bone-rattling chills each time the thermometer drops below ninety degrees.
I mean, this woman was born and raised in Ohio. She should be able to tolerate brutally cold weather, not to mention snow that’s measured in feet instead of inches. But no…… Just a trace of the frozen white moisture and she’s homebound for weeks. “I’m not going out in a blizzard!”
Trying to be a good husband, I respond with gentle encouragement. “Don’t worry, Sweetie. I think we can battle our way through the snowdrifts.” (I suppose it is kind of sad that I still believe my wife appreciates witty sarcasm.)
However, things are just as bad during the summer. Last year on the Fourth of July, my wife complained that when I adjusted the air conditioning, it created a measurable wind chill in the living room.
At one point, she stumbled through the house, bundled up in a patriotic red, white, and blue afghan, and emphatically announced, “Oh my God! I can see my breath!”
Wisely, I resisted the temptation to respond with the obvious. “You won’t see your breath if your mouth is closed.” At least I’ve learned something in more than four decades of marriage.
But then she barked at me in an unduly harsh tone of voice, “I hope you’re happy! Now I can’t feel my fingers or toes!!”
Unfortunately, that time, I did reply. “Congratulations! You’ll be famous when you become the first Oklahoman to develop frostbite in July.”
An ugly scene then ensued. You might say the fireworks started early, with me on the losing end as my frozen spouse once again took control of the thermostat.
By late afternoon, my butt was sticking to my favorite chair as beads of perspiration burned my eyes, making it difficult to make out the smug expression on my wife’s face.
However, we don’t just limit our fighting to the home front. For years we even took our thermostat war on the road. Every time we were in the car for more than five minutes, hostilities would break out. It always made for a fun trip.
Fortunately, we now have a car with dual controls for the temperature. I usually set my side at sixty degrees, while my wife nudges her side up, just a skosh, to eighty-five degrees. (That’s as high as it will go without actually bursting into flames.) It’s a wonder that the two air masses don’t collide somewhere over the center console and form a thunderstorm.
But through the years, most of our epic battles have taken place in front of the digital thermostat just outside our bedroom door. I would guess that on an average day, the setting is changed at least a dozen times, but that estimate may be a little low. Whenever one of us walks by, we check to see if it is set to our liking and because it never is, we are compelled to change it. (Hopefully, without getting caught.)
The temperature war even rages at night. I will frequently wake up at 2:00 am in a large puddle of sweat. It takes me a moment to realize I’m not laying a malaria tent in the tropics. I glance over at my wife who is not visible under mounds of blankets and quilts. Only the labored snoring of someone who is being barbecued alive gives away her presence.
Employing the stealth of a cat burglar, I slip out of bed and sneak through the door to the thermostat. As I suspected, she has set it on “sauna” which explains my queasy stomach and lightheadedness.
I quickly adjust the setting back into the habitable zone, return to bed and (accidentally?) touch her with what she always describes with deep contempt as my “ice-cold” feet. The instant an errant toe touches flesh, she levitates off the bed like a helicopter and then ricochets around the room, appearing unusually spry for someone of her advancing years.
But it’s been a long hard struggle, and the inevitable has finally happened. This war, like all wars, has begun to take its toll on the combatants. My wife and I have fought over control of the thermostat for so long, we’ve grown weary. We are battle-scarred and running low on ammunition.
So, for once in my life, I decided to make a mediocre effort to do the mature thing. (I don’t know what came over me.) I proposed a ceasefire in our never-ending conflict. As always, my wife was skeptical, but at least she grudgingly agreed to listen.
I suggested we should call a truce and implement a plan where we took turns setting the thermostat for twenty-four hours. This would be based on the odd/even days of the calendar. One day the house would be a raging furnace where we risked spontaneous combustion, and the next day, according to my bride, the inside of our house would be dangerous for brass monkeys. I theorized that with this plan at least one of us would always be happy.
For just a moment, she thought my idea had merit – until I cleverly called dibs on the odd days. My wife is extremely smart, and in a heartbeat, she realized that the months with thirty-one days led into the first of the next month, thereby, giving me control over the thermostat for two odd-numbered days in a row, a fact that she believed would cause her to experience hypothermia.
Because she immediately jumped to the conclusion that I had rigged the agreement, the peace talks broke down and negotiations ground to a halt. Despite my semi-good faith efforts, détente was not achieved.
Sadly, it is now apparent that for the rest of our retirement, we will both be miserable every day.
But that, of course, is what ultimately makes a marriage last a lifetime. It is the unbreakable bond shared by a husband and wife who, in their hearts, know that they were meant to be together……because no one else on earth would put up with their crap.