I have a lot of gratitude for web cams, the ones on Mount Washington gave me a glimpse of the child my grandfather was once, a long time ago.
My grandfather personified New Hampshire for me when I lived in the South. He was a snow bird for a few years and would stop in Virginia on his way to Florida to visit and deposit a gallon of pure New Hampshire maple syrup, a few of my aunt’s enormous Blue Hubbard squashes and some other treasure from my home state. He’d shake his head and commiserate as we stood at the grave of another one of my attempts to bring some of home to my garden. There was the withered twigs that never grew to become lilacs or white birches. We’d have wonderful visits and he was the rock in my life that I had attached my anchor.
I had been living in Boston for eight years, when my grandfather was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He was a man rarely ill and very active for his 85 years. He took it stoically but on our walks together, he quizzed me on thyroid cancer research and causes. Like many healthy people, he wanted to know why. There was no answer, given I worked with irradiated iodine in my work, I was not too keen on finding a link that might haunt my next sixty years.
Since I was a child there was one thing I could count on from my Grandfather and it was the weather conditions on Mount Washington. The Mountain is famous for some of the world’s worst weather and the highest recorded surface wind speed observed by man was clocked on the summit of Mount Washington by Observatory crew on April 12, 1934 –an almost incredible 231 miles per hour. This was a source of great pride and my grandfather would inform his family and friends of the daily conditions. A cup of tea and cookies on the balcony of his condo would start with the current harsh conditions only a few hours north of us in Manchester. There was something comfortable in this perspective.
After a meeting my grandfather, my new boyfriend (now husband) suggested we bring a computer on our next visit and show my Grandfather the live cams on Mount Washington. So, on the following Saturday we brought up his new Blueberry iMac and my Grandfather sat in amazement to see the rime ice formations on the summit. The Mount Washington Web Cams opened a world of wonder to my Grandfather at a time he was convinced that his world was over. This was in 1999, a time when home computers were a collection of hard drives, modems, keyboards, speakers and monitors. My Grandfather was tickled to see the small compact unit, he was also convinced that an iMac would provide a connection for my Grandmother to the rest of the family after his death.
He stood up and put on his jacket and hat. He told me to sit my Grandmother down and teach her to ‘compute’. He grabbed my boyfriend’s arm and said, “Let’s take a drive.” They arrived home an hour later carrying a brand new top of the line iMac. My Grandfather would not let us leave until he could dial up the Mount Washington live web cams. After that, each phone call started with “Did you see the rime ice on the cameras?” or “The winds were over 120 miles per hour this morning!”