Summers were always special. No school, warmer temperatures, shorts and sandals. Keg parties in the woods. Bike riding everywhere. Round Table pizza, arcade games. Lakes and rivers. Dust, smoke, pine, fir. Pools, frosties, picnics. Family cabins, docks, boats, roasted marshmallows. Reading a book a day. Drive-ins and marathon movie theater days. Thunder and lightning and monsoons. Kayaking, hiking, gardening. Grilling, drinking wine, star gazing.
Halcyon days and nights.
I dislike the cliche “simpler times.” Instead, let’s call it youthful exuberance… minimal responsibility… flowing energy. A certain naiveté in believing that summers would remain celebrated regardless of age, and that good health would always be a given.
Then cancer came, and with it, radiation therapy, turning glorious summer into the winter of my discontent. Last June to August consisted of treatments, iron infusions, doctor appointments, blood tests, and work. There were a few dinners with friends. Don’t ask me what I heard or said, though. Those memories dissipated along with my strength. I avoided the sun—my body already had enough positive ions. Eight hours of nightly sleep wasn’t enough. Hibernating until spring might have been. Maybe. This season held nothing of its past renown.
My favorite season has been overrun with harsh realities: loss of muscle mass, strength and energy, and too-occasional ill-health. I love summer, but I don’t seem to enjoy it anymore. I’m just too… tired, worn down by life and adult responsibilities. I conserving internal resources for work and chores. Looking out my window, I know that 87 degrees Fahrenheit is too warm to be in the yard. My body throws hot flashes at higher temperatures before dousing them with sweat. My bed covers have been narrowed to a sheet and comforter; most nights I don’t need either. I think about cold beers, mojitos, barbecuing. The “highlights” in my hair are white, not Sun-In. I slather SPF 30+ because I don’t want my skin cells to follow in the path of my uterus. Kayaks collect dirt and spiders. The new hammock sits in its box, waiting for a cool breeze. The tires of a mountain bike slowly exhale air. The backyard is a blank canvas ready for color, but the paintbrush is too heavy.
It’s August 4, but it feels like autumn.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sentimental for my childhood, which had enough adversities that I score high on that scale. Keggers and frosties would leave me ill for days if I imbibed now. I like to work and appreciate the wisdom that comes with age. In many ways, cronehood suits me. I feel like I’m finally catching up with myself, But… I wonder if I’m really living and can’t remember when I last did. The warmer, longer days are making their way to the other side of the hemisphere, out of reach… and I wonder if I can get my good health—and summers—back.