The realization was startling.
I was watching a fantastic thunderstorm on the west coast of Florida. When thunderstorms roll through, I look for the best viewing spot, windows that give the widest view possible. The booms and the flashes of light bring on ooohs and aaahs like a child at the circus. I am giddy with the show.
This love of thunderstorms has a very clear and specific origin. As a child, and probably as a survival mechanism, our parents would ship us off in groups during the summer for a week with Granny and Grandad. One week with the grandparents was about as good as it got. Pepsi for breakfast? Sure. Would you like cake with that, too? Meals out, unheard of at home, were the standard with Granny and Grandad. One of our favorite meals out was an open face roast beef sandwich. We were cheap dates, but good and appreciative eaters.
We would spend our days walking around town with Granny, to the hairdresser’s, to the store, to church, to see friends. We logged miles during the day, but at night the real fun began. Poker. For money. Which we did not have, but Granny did. Granny taught us the rules and etiquette of poker. Each night’s game ended with “show downs”, sudden death hands that paid $20 each. We played until there was money in front of every child.
Granny and Grandad lived in what today would be called a duplex in Cobleskill, NY. The apartment was located on top of a hill, overlooking a pond below with swans. The front of the apartment had wall to wall windows looking down onto the pond.
It turns out too that Cobleskill lies in a unique geographic confluence, causing interesting weather patterns. In the winter, if it is going to snow anywhere, it will snow in Cobleskill. In the summer, strong thunderstorms are the norm. They may hit in other nearby areas, but the swath from Cobleskill up to Saratoga County is certain to see the most extreme storms.
Sandwiched in with memories of poker, roast beef and Pepsi for breakfast, are late afternoon storms in Granny and Grandad’s living room. The privileged location of their apartment allowed for the best view ever. We would sit cross legged, Grandad behind us in his LazyBoy and Granny sipping tea on the couch. Looking back on it now, I am surprised they were able to convince a group of kids more prone to playing games and running around, to sit and observe as nature moved through.
Each and every thunderstorm I watch reminds me of Granny and Grandad. It brings me back to their apartment, to the cozy warmth of their laughter and love, and those $20 poker show downs.
Late Florida afternoons can unleash thunderstorms that rival the Cobleskill variety. As I stood by the window last week, watching a particularly strong storm, it struck me that I no longer remember Granny’s voice. I think I can just barely remember Grandad, but Granny has gone. There was a heavy brogue, but I have lost its timbre. There was often laughter, but I have lost its rhythm. And I said it out loud to her as it stormed, in apology, “I can’t remember your voice…”
I never realized until then that not only do thunderstorms remind me of Granny and Grandad, apparently, too, thunderstorms are a private conversation with them.