If there is one aspect of my father that I recall as a constant throughout his life as I knew it, it was his obsession with humidification.

It seemed he was always fussing with a humidifier or a dehumidifier. Emptying a tank. Filling a tank. Developing networks of tubes to automatically empty a tank. With results measured by humidistats in every room.

And, yes, I have followed in his footsteps.

His final humidifying gift to me was a tip to pick up an inexpensive travel humidifier from Home Hardware. He had two of them, and swore by them. Fed from any standard-mouthed pop bottle, the ultrasonic “Classic” model that he recommended sells for less than $30, and emits a pleasant mist of water vapour into its surroundings. Easy to fill, easy to move around, easy to clean.

Of course I bought one.

And then, last month, when Catherine was at the Palliative Care Centre, I noticed that the air there was very dry, and so I brought the Classic in, set it up above her bed, and her mother and I took turns keeping it refilled, day and night.

Volunteers, nurses, and doctors noticed it—it’s hard to miss because the vapour-emitting nozzle glows with a bright blue light—and decided that it was just the thing for other residents in need of humidification. So the handyman was despatched, and two were acquired. It makes me happy to think that they’re in service today, giving small comfort; a gift, both from Catherine, and from my father.

Oliver, alas, has come down with the head cold that seems to be going around.

I can’t breathe,” he complained tonight before bed.

I knew just what was needed.

I rummaged around in the cardboard box that came home from Palliative Care—yes, I need to attend to that box—found the Classic, opened it up and gave it a clean, and it’s on Oliver’s bedside table tonight, giving small comfort.

Between that, and the VapoRub that Oliver insisted that I rub on his chest, because that’s what Catherine used to do, I feel tonight like I’m not, completely, parenting alone.


Thelma's picture
Thelma on February 22, 2020 - 09:25 Permalink

I remember the drama over humidity and water in our house when I was a child: a dish of water in the piano, the large dehumidifier behind a bedroom door that always spilled when being emptied, moisture on windows that rotted sills, spring flooding of our hand-dug well in the basement, french drains. If you ever need a nice vintage analogue humidistat, I have a few you can have!

Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on February 22, 2020 - 14:58 Permalink

When we moved in our current home 3 yrs ago, we noticed how the humidity could easily drop into the 40s and below. So 1 by 1 our rooms acquired a humidifier. When we left for the French Alps last week, Elmine suggested we take one of them and it was very needed. But it took quite a bit of space in the car. Now I know from you that they exist, I think I'll hunt for better travel-suited ones.

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on February 22, 2020 - 19:27 Permalink

I am many years now into an off-humidify cycle, but you're reminding me I ought to be humidifying in the winter. I'd already been thinking my stuffy nose was to do with the forced air from my furnace. But I suppose I'd had a mental block to excavating whatever was the last humidifier I used. I used two or three kinds which all had at least one Achilles heel or fussiness about them. The last would always become incapacitated by scale. I can't remember if vinegar worked to remove that. I think I can recommend against scraping and chipping with a flat screwdriver.

vbj's picture
vbj on February 22, 2020 - 23:37 Permalink

I love the blue light.
Hope Oliver feels better soon!

Jarek's picture
Jarek on March 1, 2020 - 19:45 Permalink

Peter, quick question about this humidifier. Does the translucent vent cap on yours stay up? We just got one and the cap won't stay up without being held in place with some extra friction like a folded piece of paper stuck in beside it. From looking at it, it kind of looks like the cap is supposed to stay up by friction or pressure of the vapour, but it wouldn't for us.

The paper is a good enough solution, but I'm wondering if I'm missing something about how it works.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 1, 2020 - 21:41 Permalink

The vent cap stays up in the “fully up” position, but it’s more challenging to get it to stay in any intermediate position.

Jarek's picture
Jarek on March 2, 2020 - 14:30 Permalink

Okay, thanks! I'll try to fiddle with it some more, but if nothing else the folded post-it works too :)