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From broken air cooler to broken hip?

You don’t miss the air conditioning until it quits on a 100-degree day. Ours quit at 2:29 last Sunday afternoon. The clock on the now lifeless thermostat still says 2:29. I’m writing this Wednesday.

Air conditioning is cool in both meanings of the word — when it works. But it used to be a lot simpler. The first house we bought in Paso Robles (in 1962) had a swamp cooler.

It rapidly inhaled the hot, outdoor air through pads of wet wood shavings. The hot air was cooled by evaporation and blew into the house. That process works well in Paso’s almost non-existent summer humidity.

The swamp cooler had no compressor or thermostat. If you felt hot, you turned the cooler on and enjoyed its refreshing breeze.

And even I could repair and service that simple contraption. It was low tech, can’t wreck.

I wasn’t home last Sunday when our present, modern air conditioner quit. My son, Mike, told me about it at the convalescent hospital where we take turns hanging out with my wife, Mamie. She’s recovering from a broken hip, which made the broken air conditioner seem insignificant.

My favorite air conditioning expert couldn’t come to our house until Wednesday at the earliest, but the delay was a mere hiccup compared to a broken hip. Besides, the hospital is air-conditioned.

Spending several hours a day in a convalescent hospital changed my perspective on nursing homes. Until now, I almost never visited nursing homes, and when I did, I left as soon as possible. I’m ashamed to say I felt uncomfortable.

But Mamie’s nursing home stay gave me no choice. It threw me into the water at the deep end. I couldn’t run or hide. I had to open my eyes and look at what was really going on in this nursing home. What I saw was positively positive and enlightening.

For one thing, it made me feel differently about old age and its inevitable conclusion, which I’d never really thought about before, except for some vague notion of gracefully drifting away. I hope I’m now thinking more realistically.

Mamie’s nursing home stay also opened my eyes to the patients as individual people who want and deserve respect and friendship.

It also introduced me to many nursing home employees. They’re from many different backgrounds, but almost without exception, they treat their patients with perpetual friendliness, goodwill and respect.

Reach Phil Dirkx at or 238-2372.