Sundown

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011

Dear Julie,

These days are torrid here in the Midwest. Hot, humid, not the kind of weather that makes you want to go outside. The heat builds through the day until close to sundown. Then it seems to explode in a wave that moistens the body and makes you thirsty. In the movie "Body Heat," everyone seems to be sweating and people do things they might not otherwise do. This kind of weather makes people want to kill each other, one of the detectives says.

After work, DC cools off in her little backyard pool. Our dog Lucy floats with her on a raft while our dog Buster jumps in and out and in and out and our dog Dizzy runs and hides from the terrors in the water. So far I have not joined them, thinking the pool already overcrowded with one human and two animals. But the heat affects your thinking.

Our friend Robyn joined the country club to be able to take a dip after work. I ask what her anti-elitism friends in Denmark think about that and warn her that political conservatism is sure to follow. She just smiles inscrutably and slips into the water as the sun goes down.

As his broken ankle continues to mend in an assisted living facility, my father may be dealing with something called Sundown Syndrome. It affects people with dementia and Alzheimer's and other people who are merely hospitalized. They become more confused or agitated as sundown approaches. Researchers think the person's biological clock is disturbed so that sleeping and waking don't follow normal patterns, patterns that rule behavior.

Being inside all the time in a strange place is disorienting all by itself. The hours are marked by meals and the arrival of nurses checking vital signs and orderlies with medicines.

My father takes a blood thinner to prevent blood clots from forming. The medicine leaves him feeling chilly, so he oddly wears a sweater these days we can only hope are the hottest of the year. At home he'd watch the Cardinals game and then go to sleep. Now he wants to get in his wheelchair to roam the fluorescent hallway.

The ancients believed hell to be a place of extreme heat, not unlike the Midwest this July. Dante described nine circles of hell coinciding with the basic sins available to us all and a few -- heresy? -- the Catholic Church added on.

My only notion of heresy is being untrue to yourself. Now that is a sin.

In his "Confessions," written before the Bible was assembled, St. Augustine blamed Adam and Eve for creating sin, a reaction some say to his own lustful or loving feelings for a woman he would not marry. Somehow his belief that we're all born sinners survived.

I don't subscribe. "The heat made me do it" makes much more sense.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

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