Musings & Thoughts for Thursday, February 17, 2022, or: Hot Weather, Sad Memories

Mom at the checkout lane in the Publix closest to our house circa 2009. Photo by the author.

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning/early afternoon here in Lithia, Florida on Thursday, February 17, 2022. It is a balmy “winter” day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 79˚F (26˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 75% and the wind blowing from the east-southeast at 13 MPH (21 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 77˚F (25˚C). Today’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 89˚F (32˚C). Tonight, skies will be mostly clear. The low will be 66˚F (19˚C).

I snapped this shot of a water bird sunning itself by the shore of the man-made East Wind Lake on a balmy day in early 2014 while I was on a “mental health break” walk during my mom’s last year.

As you can see, we are in a typical Florida warming trend. One day it can be as chilly as, say, Sevilla (Spain) in late autumn, the next can be downright summer-like. These climatic “mood swings” were often topics of conversation with my late mother during her last years, especially when dementia ate away at her memory and sense of place.

See, before my mother’s health took a rather nasty downturn in 2010 – Mom had been slowly declining since 2005, but after the spring of 2010 she suffered from many issues after undergoing emergency surgery to repair her spine – she understood Florida’s weather patterns well. After all, she had lived in the Sunshine State for over 50 years, even taking into account the six-year period when we lived in the colder, higher Andean climate of Bogota, Colombia.

South Florida weather can be unpredictably nasty. Here’s the aftermath of a sudden thunderstorm that passed through my (now) former neighborhood in June of 2015. Less than a year after I took this picture, I started the process of relocating to the Tampa Bay area.

My mom loved to work on her garden, so before her last health crisis she was acutely aware of our fickle, ever-changing weather patterns. She had to be – she was the one who put the special fertilizer for our lychee tree in the backyard[1] and putter about the backyard, rearranging the potted plants, pruning away the dead leaves, or simply watering the plants with the garden hose. She enjoyed doing some of the gardening tasks she could still do in her late seventies and early eighties; what she could not do herself she left for our landscape guy, a Mexican named Calixto – to handle.

Mom with the son of one of her former Easter Seals respite aides at Christmastime in 2012. This was one of the last times that she felt able to sit on her favorite chair in the living room.

Even in the early stages of her being confined to a hospital-style bed in what had been the guest bedroom, Mom’s awareness of the passage of time and the oddities of Florida’s subtropical climate was still sharp as ever.

She taught me, for instance, how and when to put the special fertilizer for fruit trees around the base of the aboveground roots; it had to be applied in the early morning before the sun was too high up in the sky and therefore too hot. You also had to water the tree right away, applying enough water to wet the soil and the yellow-white fertilizer pellets, but not so much that the fertilizer would be washed away during the process.

There were more directions regarding the fertilization of the lychee tree since it did not bear fruit every year. However, I’ve been away from that house for almost six years, so I’ve forgotten most of them.

Before Mom got sick for the last time in 2010, we would go for walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes we would venture to East Wind Lake just for the view. (I snapped this photo in June of 2015, about a month before she died, so I could remind her of what the world outside looked like.)

However, with the passage of time and the progression of Mom’s dementia, her awareness of the seasons and Florida weather patterns gradually faded away.

I distinctly remember that around this time in 2015 – five months before she died – we had a heat wave that coincided with issues with the air conditioner. Her sickroom – which for a while after her death became my writing room/library – faced due west, and in the afternoons during that week when temperatures reached the high 80s and low 90s, Mom swore that it was high summer rather than mid-winter in South Florida.

I miss my mom. Terribly. But I don’t miss the last seven months of her life, which were full of sadness, fear, bitter bickering between my half-sister and me, and especially the awareness that my mom, who had once been a lively, intelligent, and highly active woman, was slowly but surely slipping away from us.

I apologize, Dear Reader, for not writing something less angsty. I had planned to do a Star Wars The Black Series action figure review. Unfortunately, there are certain things – songs that I’ll hear, say, or even environmental changes – such as warm days in February – that trigger unhappy memories.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll write that action figure review,

[1] I was told that the new owner had to have the lychee tree removed because its root system was playing havoc with the underground pipes beneath the patio floor. If by some miracle my half-sister and I could have harmoniously co-owned the house, like our mother originally planned, or if I had somehow been able to afford the expensive renovations and repairs that the townhouse needed, I still would have had to remove the tree. I’m glad that we don’t go to Miami and visit; the new owner happens to be one of The Caregiver’s nieces, so if we were going frequently to South Florida to attend South Miami High alumni functions like we were doing between 2016 and 2018, it’s not unrealistic to speculate that I’d see my old house at some point in a trip down Miami way.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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