I've been addicted to thunderstorms since before I could remember. I'm unsure if I was ever even afraid of them--I only recall fascination. It'd be late at night, a boom would shake the house like an ogre trying to get in, and I'd tiptoe over to my window to slide up the glass for better sound. I'd stay up in bed, then, being quiet, just listening to the Earth's cleanse.
That's how I imagined rain. Like a shower. Currently, I'd think, Earth is being washed. Because that's how my child self saw things then. The water coming down in my town, it seemed logical that it was being swept through everywhere to wash it down, as if clouds were nature's shower head, and they focused on where it was needed most before getting to the next section. A bit true, I suppose, if you were to get to the science of it.
My mother was always frantic about thunderstorms. We weren't allowed to take showers "because lightning." We weren't allowed to go outside "because lightning." And we were supposed to listen to the news and get downstairs when it was severe "because lightning."
These were my grandfather's favorite parts of storms, and I will always have that connection with him now that he's passed. My aunt, two years younger than me and nervous around any weather that isn't sunny, would create a fort in the basement with all of the amenities for a five-day boat ride. Water, food, games... and far away from any windows or natural light. At age seven, she'd cry for everyone to be downstairs with her, out of fear for being alone or our of fear we'd be harmed, I'm unsure at what percentage. My grandmother would grab my hand gently and lead me downstairs, where we'd sit by my aunt's pillows and blankets and flashlights and books and snacks, while the rest of the adults mingled ten feet around us, talking like normal, watching the weather channel for updates.
My grandfather would be upstairs, taking his time, as my aunt cried for his life. My grandmother would distract my aunt with books and games until it went from every five minutes not noticing he wasn't there, to ten minutes, to twenty... During a moment when my aunt wailed that everyone should be downstairs to not be harmed, I snuck away from the adults back upstairs, wondering what my grandfather was doing, what made him not answer to his own daughter yelling out the proper actions needed to be taken during a thunderstorm to stay safe between sobs.
Only nature was upstairs. For the few times I've ever been to my grandparents' house, all of the electronics were off. No television with sports on. No radio on a channel that only played what was made in the 50s. Not even a light.
I walked quietly, barefoot, across their wooden floor into the kitchen, looking around. I wasn't scared, but curious. I'd never seen the house in this state before, and through the large, copious amounts of windows, I could see that, while the sky was heavy with dark, the ground and trees were bright green. I was reminded of times when I would hide under my blankets when I was supposed to be asleep, but I'd be reading a book with my flashlight instead.
Out on the enclosed porch, standing still, was my grandfather, clad in only red shorts that had to be over thirty years old and sandals. Rain gushed from the skies, pouring to their destination, desperate to kiss the ground. Thunder rolled in a surround sound fashion.
I waited a bit, then said, "Are you going to be coming downstairs?" to announce my presence.
"Huh?" he said, not even looking at me. A history of stories and of what I knew about my grandfather dictated he was hard of hearing, and rarely paid attention in the first place. Rather than repeat myself, I came out onto the porch with him. I didn't really care about his answer.
He wrapped his arm around my shoulder as I fell into place beside him. We stood there looking through the screens of the porch as lights flashed to their own time of their own music that is rain. I leaned against him. His skin was hot, although the air was cool. Over on the table was an ash tray with a half used cigar, but we never strayed from our standing point. We just stood, me two feet shorter than he was, clad in a dress with my swimsuit underneath, not waiting for anything to happen. Cracks of light would cut across the sky, their sound preceding them moments later.
"Katia is wondering where you are," my grandmother said. She stood inside, hand on the edge of the opening of the sliding door. She was talking to me.
My grandfather patted my shoulder in a fashion, kissing my forehead when I looked up, and then I walked toward the house opening. My grandmother came into step with me as I crossed the threshold, her rubber soled shoe patting in a familiar style as we made our way to the staircase, my own feet not making any response.
I looked back. My grandfather now held a cigar in his mouth, but he was still standing in the same spot, shoulders rolled a bit forward, red shorts stark against the noir-grey filter the storm had created.
That moment will come to me during very heavy rains, such as now. The non-stop kind of storm, where you wonder how clouds get the audacity to carry the amounts of rain that could fill a pool.
But I've never been scared. Just soothed, calmed that, once again, Earth was getting a shower to wash away whatever filth it decided it had. And I got to enjoy the spoils.