When Tom and I were newly married more than 20 years ago, we became friends with a couple named Jim and Barbara. They were older than we were and had two teenagers about to leave the nest. But our age difference made hanging out with them even better. They had already figured out things Tom and I were still learning -- things like perspective, patience and the ability to endure home remodeling projects while staying married.
We admired Jim and Barbara not only for the kind of people they are but also for the experiences they'd had. Jim had been a ski bum, a small business owner and then a retail analyst. Barbara had worked for the CIA and as a librarian. They were so interesting, always kind and never once failed to beat the pants off us during a game of Trivial Pursuit.
In our view, the only thing that made it obvious they were older was Jim's obsession with the weather. He knew where a storm was heading before the storm did. The man never met a radar he didn't check repeatedly. If rain was coming, Jim would know when, where and how much of it would fall.
At the time, we didn't get it. When you're in your 20s, weather just happens. If you're lucky, there's an umbrella lurking somewhere in the car. If not, you get wet and don't give it another thought. And you certainly don't check weather forecasts or make plans around it.
But now that Tom and I are the couple with teenagers leaving the nest, we're becoming more like Jim and Barbara. A few weeks ago on a road trip, we drove through an intense thunderstorm and immediately checked the weather app on our iPhones to see the radar. Could we drive through it? How long would it last? Were there any warnings? That "old guy" behavior we used to tease Jim about is now part of our daily routine.
It makes me wonder if weather knowledge is somehow correlated to age. If you know what "dew point" means, you're probably over 30. If you keep an eye on the "barometric pressure," you may be over 40. And if you know the nuanced differences of "sleet" versus "freezing rain" versus "wintry mix," then you're probably getting a senior citizen discount somewhere. You may even have a trusty rain gauge mounted to the backyard deck.
I thought about Jim this morning when I drove home after dropping our youngest kid off at high school. I had just checked the outdoor temperature on the car's dashboard. (Only 57 degrees without a cloud in sight.) Then I checked my weather app. (No chance of rain, and the relative humidity was a pleasant 43 percent.) I announced to Tom that it was the perfect time to go for a walk and get the 10,000 daily steps scientifically linked with decreasing our chances of dementia. (Did you read that, Jim? We planned a morning around the radar and a relative humidity percentage. We're like real grown-ups now!)
Of course, you don't have to be "old" to be interested in weather. In fact, some of the weather guys working for our local TV news station look like they're 12, wearing their father's suit as they point toward storm fronts and predict wind speeds and precipitation levels. Do these kids even know what they're talking about?
Maybe we should get a rain gauge on the backyard deck so we can check to see if they're right.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected] Her book is available on Amazon.