We walk down a dusty road under a green tornado sky. After sharing family Sunday dinner of corn on the cob, fried chicken, deviled eggs, and sliced tomatoes, Grandpa asked me to take a walk with him. I love going anywhere with Grandpa, but a storm is coming on. He points out dark clouds in the distance.
“We’re OK, Lanie,” he says. “They aren’t close.” I trust him.
My small soft hand curls inside his calloused farmer’s hand. His hair is white and his gait is slow and steady. As we head home, the storm strengthens. He keeps an eye on the sky and holds my hand with a strong grip as though he’s afraid I’ll disappear. When the swirling wind blows harder, an eerie howl quickens our steps before we find shelter in my parent’s garage.
Later, Grandma says the sky turned green when Grandpa was 16 and a tornado hit his Missouri school house. That storm killed Grandpa’s beloved six-year-old sister, my Great Aunt Eliza. His eyes fill with tears when he speaks of Eliza seventy years after her death.
“You remind Grandpa of Eliza,” Grandma says.
Seventy years later, my world shimmers with an odd tangerine glow. I stand on the back deck of my home and keep an eye on the sky as the world turns dusty orange. Instead of tornados, ominous smoky skies come from raging Canadian wildfires and strange wind patterns.
Later, inside my house with the air purifier on high, I make a salad from my garden lettuce and arugula. I wish I had an ear of corn or a ripe tomato from Grandma’s garden, but mostly, I want to hold Grandpa’s hand.
Unlike Missouri, we rarely have violent weather in the New York Finger Lakes where I live. Locally, the worst of the Canadian fires has been smoky air and irritated lungs, although I know the fires are leaving a path of destruction a few hundred miles from me. Have you had to deal with extreme air pollution or strange weather patterns? Do you feel safer with certain people at your side? For other articles about my Grandpa Ware, see How I Learned to Trust a Man. For more about my relationship with my dad who was Grandpa’s eldest son, see When Dad’s Die Young.