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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

THE DIGITAL THERMOMETER

stoneface


A beautiful sunny day of blue sky and white puffy clouds drifting over Carolina blue. I see a crow in the meadow pecking around. Black chickens. I want to attract them to the house so I can see them. The fence between here and the meadow keeps the dogs this side of it. I don't want to lure them too close for their comfort, just close enough to see them better. It's been a cold day in the 30s and 40s. I think it went up to 46 or so and is on the way back down for the night. 44 now. The digital thermometer sits here on the computer tower receiving signals from the transmitter on the side of the shed out the window.




I bought this digital thermometer for Jr some years ago, 3 or 4 maybe. He needed a new thermometer. The one by the door with the red line that went up and down had little numbers. He had to go up to it to read it, so I read it when I passed through the door. I went to Radio Shack, believing I'd seen such a thing there. $30 then. I wouldn't have spent that on one for myself, but it seemed like this was what Jr needed. He'd declined to the place walking was difficult, going outside even more difficult. The numbers on the screen are at least an inch high. When I put it together for him at the coffee table, read instructions (yes, I do that--I learned it putting model cars together) and put the batteries in, trying to explain how this thing works when I don't have any idea. What I understood was easy to tell. He got it. It's just that it was something he'd never imagined existed. Like me if somebody walked in and gave me an iPad telling me I need it. I'd have to beg to differ.




Batteries in, it started working. I took the transmitter box out and put it up under the porch's roof out of the weather and the wind, 8 or so feet from the window. From the moment it started operating he sat and watched it like it was a little television. It was far more interesting to him than anything that's on tv. He would watch it all day long. He watched the numbers change as the air went cooler or warmer. I came to see it that he lived his life working outdoors in every weather. He liked the feel of the outdoor air. The temperature told him how the it felt. A string about a foot long hung from the clapper in a bell on the porch post below a cast iron tractor somebody had given him and he wouldn't take nothin for it. The wind kept the string going. It told wind direction and wind speed.




The way the house sat in relation to the wind and the row of white pines beside the house created patterns of turbulence that sometimes sent the string going in every direction. A memory came of a day when big snowflakes were drifting down. Caught in the little bit of turbulence directly in front of the window, the snowflakes drifted up and down, around. It was a window full of lightly dancing snowflakes. Jr said of it, "Seein those fnowflakes floatin around out there - looks like they can't hit the ground." And that's how they looked. The window told him everything about the weather visually. He saw the curve in Hwy18 at Rifle Range Road. That curve was in his view. That's where he read the traffic. He could tell by how many trucks and the kinds of trucks what kind of business was going on and how much. He watched the trucks carrying trusses die down to almost none. Logging trucks too. Weekends brought the motorcycles and Wednesdays the paper told how many of them wrecked someplace.




I've sat and looked at the scene out the window with him to where I know it pretty well. From time to time, not often, he would mention what he was reading in the traffic. I'd been watching the same traffic and didn't see any of what he saw. I was seeing landscape in seasonal and weather changes, vehicles running through it from time to time. He was reading cattle markets and every kind of thing to do with commerce on the roads.
A lot of them he knew who they were. He had the eye of a hawk. Seeing Jr confined to the house was like seeing a race horse put out to pasture. The digital thermometer cost the same as nothing as far as I was concerned for what it gave Jr. It gave his eyes something to watch while he sat thinking. That's why he didn't watch tv or listen to the radio. He'd rather think about things. He could solve about anything in a sleepless night.




When he wanted to know what I paid for it, I told him it wasn't much to start with and I got it on sale. That was my way of telling him I'm not going to be paid for it. It's a present. Thinking about buying it, I didn't have any idea it would be so great a present as it turned out to be. It gave his eyes something to focus on that didn't distract him from his thinking. It was so right it felt divinely inspired, because I believed so completely I was sent to him to help him in his helpless time. I marvelled at God's conscious setup to arrange for Jr to have somebody on his side he can trust. It didn't matter to me whether Jr believed he could trust me or not. I knew he could trust me absolutely, that the last thing he would know would be that I kept his trust. That was important to me. It was important to Jr too. Because I knew he could trust me absolutely, I didn't feel the least bit anxious about whether he thought he could. I couldn't tell him he could trust me. That's the same as saying he could not. Time would tell it. And there is always time.
And time for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
- TS Eliot
The thermometer is now with me. I became interested in the temperature after watching it so closely with Jr. I asked for it upon his passing. I knew no one would want it. I did. Before, I didn't care what the temperature was. A look out the window at the rhododendron told me. I have a lot of ways of estimating the temperature. I don't need closer than an estimate. What to wear when I go out the door. Now I watch the numbers change to the 10th of a degree. My old thermometer with the red vertical line doesn't do the trick any more. It's good for backup when the batteries die out in the digital. With rechargeable batteries, it goes on and on. It's the best object for a memory of Jr I could have.

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