Friday, October 26, 2012

The Weather Watcher

I write about Ethan, and sometimes I write about my brother.

Now it's time to give my other brother a turn -- on his birthday, no less.

There is something you should know about our family: in addition to autism and spectrum-like traits, musical ability and affinity for good Italian food, there's something else that's been passed down for generations: a love of weather.

One of my first murky memories is of my dad calling home on his lunch hour so my mom could hold up the phone to the TV for him to hear Don Kent (a legendary Boston weatherman) share the latest on the impending Blizzard of '78. My dad and my mom's brothers were all huge weather nuts. They went out to Boston to meet some of the weather guys. A fun family gathering involved pouring over weather maps. My uncle had a mini weather observatory set up in the back of the house. That same uncle, incidentally, went on to obtain a PhD in meteorology.

Nate followed in their footsteps. Where there were storms, there was my dad, my uncles, my brothers. My dad fondly recalls chasing a hurricane out on the Cape as a young adult and the excitement of "water lapping under his motel room door." One uncle nearly had a tree fall on his car while driving through a tornado that hit my grandmother's town. Nate also narrowly missed a tree while chasing the Springfield tornado last year.

When the Weather Channel came to our home via cable in the mid-eighties, let's just say it was a very happy time at our house. For years I had the Local Forecast elevator tunes running through my head. 

My brother is four years younger than me. I can't say we're extremely close, I think because of the age difference and the obvious fact that, you know, he's not a sister. It's a different type of relationship, but I think we both know we love each other deeply.

One year back when I was in college and Nate was in high school I thought I had the perfect gift. No, it wasn't Christmas or his birthday; it was January and a snowstorm was about to pound our area. The Weather Channel happened to be broadcasting live from Blandford, a town about a half-hour away. Not only was it The Weather Channel, it was Jim Cantore, Nate's favorite weather guy, there doing live shots not far down the road. He kept mentioning people who had stopped by to say "hi."

"Nate! Get in the car! We're finding Jim Cantore!" I yelled. We squeezed into my Ford Escort and skidded onto the near-empty roads. Any sane (non weather-obsessed) person would not have been out there. I gripped the steering wheel with my entire being, willing the car not to slide off the road. We somehow made it to Blandford. We looked high and looked low for the familiar backdrop we had seen on TV. Jim Cantore had appeared to be at some sort of gas station. Blandford is not a very big town. Very quickly we realized he just was not there. I hated to give up. I hated to turn around. My eyes literally were filling with tears as we both had to admit defeat. Later, we realized (how could I have missed this?!) that Cantore was actually reporting from a rest area on the Mass Turnpike, which did technically run through Blanford briefly.

My brother is just as good as any local forecaster out there. He stays up late during storms to view the latest computer models and observe weather conditions. He can speak the weather lingo. He knows as much as someone who went to college for meteorology, only he didn't, because he didn't think he was strong enough in math.

Today he works for my dad's small business, but my brother dreams. Isn't there a piece of that in all of us? Often we make the responsible or practical choice. Often family or other duties are involved. That doesn't mean we aren't happy. But it also it doesn't mean that we aren't still dreaming.

My brother was blessed to find a wonderful wife, Christina. Even with three small kids, she encourages him -- find a way to go to school, study weather, it's your passion! The jury is still out on that one. But in the meantime, my sister-in-law got Nate the best gift ever: admission this weekend to a conference in the Boston area on Southern New England weather. Topics of discussion include 2011's Hurricane Irene, the Springfield tornado, and the October snowstorm. Weather experts from all over will be coming to talk weather: just as a monster, unprecedented storm barrels toward the East Coast.

I don't wish death, damage, or destruction on anyone. But I can't help but think of all of this and smile just a little. These people, these professed "weather geeks" don't want to see tragedy. They just really, really, enjoy a good storm. There isn't a better place I can think for my brother to be on Saturday, the day after his birthday.

Don't stop dreaming, Nate.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am a weather junkie, too. Nothing like a good hurricane to stir up some excitement. I love how you write about your brother. He seems so very real, and I don't even know him.