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Sheila Stoll: There's no escaping the heat of summer

We have been having a heat wave. No surprise there. I should be used to heat. After all, I used to live in Florida and now spend months every year in Arizona, in the burning desert. We go to Switzerland in summer (Darling Husband's ancestral home), largely to avoid Arizona's blistering summer heat.

As I recall, Florida summers featured a saunalike, humid, mosquito-friendly atmosphere punctuated by spectacular afternoon thundershowers. Arizona locals and transplants say that in Arizona "it's a dry heat," as if that makes 110 degrees just a balmy afternoon. Ovens produce a dry heat, too — for cooking, after all. Experts warn that the high heat is dangerous for old people. Duh!

There is no air-conditioning here in Switzerland, as is the case in most people's houses here. There are also no screens on the windows. To get any air circulation at all one has to open every window wide and pray for a breeze. Bees and wasps prefer going through the house to save having to go over it. Sometimes they need a little guidance to find their way out. Though we don't really have mosquitoes, there are flies. They are not just passing through; they have evil intent, and if they are persuaded to leave they come right back in.

Though I don't like to kill bees or wasps, I have a serious, ongoing war with flies. I give no quarter, take no prisoners. However, carrying out my war with flies requires a certain amount of exercise, makes me drenched in sweat and fearful of dehydration. So I drink more water . . . and then need to get to a bathroom either upstairs or downstairs, which makes me sweat some more.

To get groceries, Darling Husband gets on the Honda scooter and makes a trip to a supermarket several miles away in another town. He returns with two shopping bags full of stuff we need, some of it vulnerable to heat, like dairy products. The village we live in has one street suitable for vehicles with wheels. And, from our perch, it is four cobblestone stairways down to street level. We have a little trolley cart thingy that I take down to street level to meet him when he returns. We load the bags onto the cart and he then hauls it up the four flights of stairs, with me trailing behind, sweating like a pig, panting and wondering if I'll make it back this time. In normal weather this little exercise is no piece of cake, but in this heat it's a potential killer and we both know it. However, there's no other way to get anything up to the house.

This really is dangerous weather. In my old age I find that when I heat up to a certain point, my internal thermometer goes haywire and I overheat to the point of feeling dizzy and faint. Bad sign. So I do everything in slow motion with many rests. I'm always a little unstable on my so-called feet, but now the heat makes instability much more frequent and threatening. The thought of crashing on the cobblestone stairs fills me with dread. I could break a lot more than a hip. DH has heart trouble. I think of all the old guys who drop dead while shoveling snow in Buffalo in January and I know that hauling groceries up to the house in this heat is every bit as threatening. We both feel triumphant and done-in when we get home.

The people who warn old folks to minimize activities in hot weather do know what they're talking about. Heatstroke is no laughing matter. It really doesn't matter if you think you look dippy in a hat, wear the infernal thing if you're out in the sun, and don't go there if you don't have to.

I have watched those ads on TV picturing active seniors playing golf, strolling on the beach or chasing their grandkids around in the sun. They want you to believe that age is merely a state of mind, that you can be young forever. They lie.

It's hot out there, people. Pay attention. Don't risk heatstroke. Take care of yourselves and each other in the summer heat.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

Sheila Stoll: There's no escaping the heat of summer 08/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 23, 2010 6:36pm]
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