Our region of the country was recently hit with a severe storm – an ugly mix of snow, rain, wind, and temperatures that hovered just at freezing. As a result, many households lost electricity. Some remain without it. As is the case with any natural disaster, I immediately called or texted my family to see how they’d fared.

My fiancée was driving home, slowly and on slippery, slushy roads. Mom and Dad were without power. My sister and her husband were with power, and worried about the tree that had bent in half in their yard. I stopped short when I started to contact my grandfather, who passed away this past September at the age of 92. Then I laughed, realizing that he would’ve been the one contacting me, and he would’ve done it hours before the storm hit.

I find it comforting, albeit painful, that natural disasters are a reminder that life is fragile and impermanent. Thus, they are a reminder of the people we have in our lives, and of those we’ve lost.

You Can Never Be Too Prepared

Grandad, as he was called by his grandchildren, was obsessed with the weather. This is why I laughed when the storm passed and I thought to call him, because I realized that me contacting him first would have never happened.

Usually, the routine went like this. Grandad would hear the first report of upcoming inclement weather on the Channel 6 Evening News. He would text my sister, my Mom, and me, with a short yet descriptive text message, in all caps (i.e. “RAIN RAIN LOTS FRIDAY” or “SNOW WED 10 INCHES”). My favorite was when he’d use a trending weather word that I hadn’t yet heard, such as “SNOW SQUALLS SAT.”

Then, he’d send us an email with “Chx Weather” as the subject of the email and include the same information as the text message in the body of the email. Then, the next day, he’d call each of us and leave us a voicemail, often in the middle of the day when we couldn’t answer due to working hours, that included some preliminary “Hi, how are you” but then cut right to the point about the severity of the forthcoming inclement weather. Then, when we called him back, he’d ask us if we’d seen his email and his text message, and if we’d received his voicemail, and then he’d remind us about the weather, again. And finally, when the weather arrived, Grandad would call each of us at least 3 times to ask if we were home, and if we weren’t, to ask us to please drive safely and to call as soon as we’d arrived home.

Yearning to Learn

We could never get ahead of Grandad in passing along information about the weather. He had the time, having retired and having lived alone since my grandmother passed away, he had the resources, with an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop, and a smart TV at his fingertips, and he was quick, even at age 92. And he wanted to learn. He sought an update about the weather because he wanted to learn, and he used technology to share that knowledge with others.

It came with the territory, as Grandad, who was 118 pounds and just under 5 and a half feet tall, was fiercely, proudly, and ever so practically, independent. Every day, he’d walk out to the parking lot of his condominium, climb into his Honda Fit, and drive himself to the local diner for breakfast, where he’d chat with the waitstaff who knew him by name and who knew what kind of maple syrup he preferred for his French toast. Back home, he’d check his supply of Ensure, milk, and bananas, and when the reserves ran low, he’d drive to the grocery store to restock. Some days, he’d go to Panera Bread instead of the diner, where he’d eat a cheese soufflé and browse CNN and Facebook on his iPad. After Panera, he’d drive to Norman’s Hallmark (just “Norman’s,” as he called it) to browse the greeting cards.

Grandad at his favorite diner.

I’ve Got a Story

None of this independence was possible without the help of technology, and Grandad loved technology. Mainly, he loved learning, and technology kept him learning. Technology, and learning, challenged him, presented him with a problem to solve, and gave him a reason to tell us a new story.

Which brings me back to the weather. And the stories he’d tell us about the weather. The weather, and how to prepare for it, was almost always on Grandad’s mind, and always made its way into his conversations.

“You know, the one thing you can’t control is the weather,” he’d say.

Funny, because he sure helped us try.