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64 Degrees of Separation

Pregnancy and summertime don’t mix. I’m sure I’m not the first one to point this out. It was probably a comment Eve made to Adam when carrying Cain: “Boy, this place has really gone downhill after the Fall—not only that, but it’s as hot as that place we just learned about.” My extremely pregnant wife, Lisa, has insisted all summer that the house remain at a steady temperature of 64 degrees—anything warmer than that is unacceptable to her. I feel for her—I really do, but in the summertime, 64 degrees feels surprisingly cold.

It’s just a little strange leaving my office, stepping out into a 99 degree day, driving home and then opening the door to my 64 degree house. Walking into my house lately is a little like drinking a Slurpee too fast. For the record, like most men, I’m usually hot when the women around me are cold. Growing up, I could never figure out how my mother could wear, not one, but two sweaters during the summer months. My brothers and I used to complain about the heat, turn the air conditioning on, and never really feel too much concern that my mom had to go search for her sweaters. Boy, how the tables have been turned. I tried to explain this hot/cold problem to my wife, using examples like: “when you can’t thaw meat in your own kitchen, it might signify a problem,” or “opening the refrigerator door actually warms our kitchen.”

You also find yourself saying some strange things to your children, like “Tarcisius, make sure you take off your sweatshirt before you go outside to play golf,” or “No, Demetrius, we can’t build a fire tonight.”

I’ve suggested turning up the temperature to maybe 68 degrees, but my wife quickly reminded me of the golden rule of the thermostat: those with the babies make the rules.

Sixty-four degrees it is.

Last week, when my wife and I were sitting with our kids watching The Dick van Dyke Show (which brings us to the golden rule of the television: those with the babies get the remote control), something funny happened. Well, actually two funny things happened. The first was that, in the middle of August in northern Virginia, eight children and their father were huddling for warmth around a television, while the mother of the family sipped an iced tea. But the other thing was the question my wife asked. Right after Rob Petrie tripped over the ottoman in his living room, Lisa asked us: “is it a little cool in here?” Keep in mind, when she asked this question, I had left a Wendy’s Frosty on the kitchen counter, and after two hours, it had retained it’s essential chemical properties (to phrase that another way, for those non-chemists reading this: it was still frozen!). Actually, that part of the story is slightly embellished—I would never leave a Frosty unattended for two hours.

Through chattering teeth, I was able to get out a response to Lisa’s question, “No, honey, it feels about right to me.”

“Really? It feels a little chilly. Must have been a draft,” she replied.

“Yeah, must have been a draft from outside,” I answered.

It’s like living in a meat locker—the problem is, we can’t cook any meat. We’re not allowed to use the oven—it makes the house too hot for Lisa. We used to have biscuits in the morning, but now we eat cold cereal. We’ve collected so many toy surprises from cereal boxes this summer that it’s become the Clark version of “Christmas in July”. Dinner is a bit different too, in the sense that I can’t cook any. I’ve ordered so much pizza this summer that the local pizzeria owner is starting to treat me like a family member (we’re getting together next week for a Pinochle game).

Of course, these aren’t the only downsides. I can’t wait to see my utility bill. I can just imagine employees at the power company passing around my electric bill before they drop it in the mail, making comments like: “Hey Frank, look at this—what do you think Clark’s doing over in that house?”

I can tell you what I’m doing— freezing. At least the baby is due soon— I can’t wait for summer to be over and be warm again. People say that babies bring warmth to a family. In our case, this will be literally true.

If you’re new to this column, at this point, you might be thinking that this has caused some contention between my wife and me. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

With my wife, I know how good I have it.

I’ve always thought that on the day of my judgment, I will stand before God and He will ask me what good I did on earth. My response will be: “I loved my wife.” God will pause for moment, look at me with Divine mis-belief and say: “You married Lisa McGuire; how hard was that?” After seventeen years, 11 pregnancies, up’s and down’s, hot’s and cold’s, richer and poorer, and all the rest, I can still make a claim that few men can make: I married my dream girl, and my dreams get better all the time.

I just wish she’d turn the thermostat up.

About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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