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Picture of Janet


Chlorine and AI

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We have a pool. 

Which is a very usual thing to have in Houston. 

We’ve had that pool for almost 40 years and with the exception of the first five years of ownership, no one has swum in it, except the very large dogs that we no longer have. 

 It’s shaded by four giant, gall infested oak trees and it is rarely warm enough to not make you catch your breath in surprise even on the three digit temperature days in Houston.  And, there is always something dropping in it. 

All. The. Time. 

If it’s not leaves in fall, carpeting the pool bottom like a proper woodland pond, its the pollen before the oak tassels in the spring. Oh and their are gumballs too. Given that we only have two seasons in Houston, it’s one of the other of those all year round. 

For the first 10 years of ownership, Silent Bob and I attempted to care for it. THANK GOD, literally, we did a much better job with our sons.  

For 40 years we have given the same answer, when asked “Why don’t you fill it in”. 

“It’s better for resale to keep it.” Uh huh. 

Finally, we found Ignacio. 

We had a rough start. A sincere and reliable man, he expressed confidence that he could get the pool in shape. It took him weeks, I mean weeks, to achieve that crystal-like transparency that pools are supposed to have so that you actually want to swim in them without getting little bits of bark and random weird pieces of leaves in your hair and mouth. And he confessed to me that he almost gave up. He is a kind man as well. He didn’t have to tell me, but he did. I remind him of his mother, the only reason he didn’t leave.

(It’s a bit strange to realize how Ignacio’s constantcy to our family has allowed him to see us at our worst and maybe a few times, at our best. He hugged me when SB died. He asks about mother’s health even now.) 

But, Ignacio almost quit again this summer. 

I knew there was something wrong. 

He was uncharacteristically …non-communicative. 

He would never tell me that I wasn’t paying him enough. But I wasn’t. I had no idea what had happened to his industry. 

In the middle of the pandemic, in late August 2022, Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana’s coast and the BioLab plant in Westlake had a fire. A really, really bad one. They make 40 percent of the chlorine tablets sold in the US. They won’t reopen until 2023. 

Turns out that with no where to go and no where to spend money and the inflation disaster having not quite hit, lots of pools were built during the pandemic. 

And then, in January 2022 another fire broke out a Qualm Inc in which 100,000 pounds of chlorine tablets were lost. 

Then in April, another fire triggered a chlorine leak at the Louisiana factory of Olin Corp. Who, yes, you guessed it, makes pool chemicals.

Igacio wasn’t even making enough to drive his truck to our house, let alone provide chemicals to keep it from turning green. 

I apologized to him. 

I had been extraordinarily negligent in our relationship.

I owed him. In many ways. 

“I couldn’t quit,” he told me, his brown eyes as familiar as one of my sons. “You are like family.”


Over the next couple of weeks, my John and my Josh, on their own volition and without any conversation with me, started their own campaign to help Ignacio. 

Josh had already purchased a 2 stage motor to run the filter that would avoid keeping the neighborhood up with its predecessor’s racket. 

Last week John purchased Nessie. Nessie surfaces to briefly scrub the tiles and then meanders about the bottom, making determined turns, this way and that, to keep from tangling her tether to the electric outlet. She needs no auxiliary pump to do her job.  The Mars rovers have nothing on her. Well, they might have something. But not a lot. She is freaking amazing. 

And then Josh purchased Gilligan. Like a topwater jellyfish, his two little propellers remind me of lobster swimmerets. And working in the realm of unintentionally, he drifts quietly into the sunlight where his solar panel consumes light rays and powered up and topped off, off he goes. To gather leaves and tree poo another day.

They are AI all the way. They work on the theory of random. They intrigue me. They are feats of engineering.

I have heard increasing rumors and wonderings of people who speculate we are making sentient beings out of silica, soon to be smart enough to find their souls. I don’t think so although I do admit these two are zen. It is quite peaceful watching them silently work. Quite remarkable what they can do. 

However and wherever AI takes life in the next decades I have doubts any programming could produce the like of the souls of my sons. 

Today is my Jake’s birthday. I love him. I miss him. He would be very proud of his brothers, how they have taken care of his mother. And others. I am excited that I will see him again. Even if I have discovered lately its not exactly the way I was taught in church. If you are interested, come back. I will tell you about it next week for Happy Monday… well. likely Happy Thursday. Promise.

23 Responses

  1. Glad you are writing again Janet. You have the gift of using the mundane to warm our hearts. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jake is still taking care of you, too, in his own way. That’s what he did best… care for everyone around him. HBD Jake. You are so missed.

    1. Leticia, I think of you and your sweet family so often. I look forward to what wonderful things God is going to have them do!!! Like their mother and father…

  3. You have been on my mind so much lately and you have no idea how much I miss you. So glad you are writing again.

  4. It is so hard not to focus on our losses. You remind me every time to focus on the scariness of what is ahead. Somehow, as we age, we have a plan, and God sighs, and the plan we would never choose is ours. The only way is forward, whether on tiptoes or boldly-usually a mixture of both. Mystery of life.

    1. Barbara, as usual you witness and insight make us companions in the world, wondering and hoping for the next. His Kingdom come!!!!

  5. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a child (or a spouse) and I, like some others am glad to see you are writing again. You encouraged me many years ago to do the same, and I have begun my journey of wordsmithing. It is Good For the Soul!

    1. It is indeed good for the soul!! well done Tony. Keep it up!!!!!!! I pray for success in expressing your heart and for those that will read your words.

  6. Janet, so glad to hear from you, I too have a pool and know what you are talking about. My wife died of brain cancer, glioblasto, last August 20, almost a year. The following month I retired from the Army Survivor Outreach Program. That was always the plan, but it didn’t work out like I thought it would. Glad to hear you are doing ok. Harvey Mikulencak

    1. Shelly, I have thought about you a lot over the last month. I know you miss your dad terribly. He sure raised a fine woman, full of kindness.

  7. Janet, what joy that Jonathan and Josh are taking care of you. Your description of Nessie and Gilligan reminded me of something that I saw in Germany when I went to the Passion Play. I stayed at a boutique hotel. The back lawn was mowed by a robot. I could not figure out how that thing knew where to go next. It was amazing. And very quiet. Not very big. No electrical cords. Technology is a wonderful thing……when it works.
    I do think about you and SB and Jake. I wonder if Duane is anywhere near them in heaven. I try my best not to be sad. Some days I can’t help it. Some days I just cry. I know I am not alone, but some days I wish I had someone to tell about my day. I wish I had someone to ask their opinion of something. I wish I had someone to fuss at me for sitting around doing nothing.
    Thanks for your post. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.
    Oh yeah….change my email address to the one below. Thanks.

    1. You articulate widowhood very well. I dwell on heaven as well. I can’t imagine you ever just sitting around..

  8. So good to see you back. You have a gift for writing in such an inspiring, encouraging, bright and funny way. Love it when I see you emails!! God bless!!

  9. I’ve missed your writing! Thought I was dropped off the list!
    Have to admit I much prefer Lake Michigan vs that never ending pool maintenance in Houston!

  10. Love you and love the story and that you amaze us with your storytelling bravado. I love the new creatures, but what about Ignacio??
    A hug to all of you, one for each and two go directly to heaven

    1. Oh my sister. Life has taken us many places, but not as too many of us in person. I hope that life has us close again in person, still in heart.

  11. It is nice to see a new post, I was missing them. I am so glad you resumed writing and telling us so many good stories. God bless you dear Janet!

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