From playing golf to helping with snacks and homework: My dad’s new retirement

|     Marjorie Brimley     |

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) – The other day, I was getting ready to leave work and I ran into a former student of mine. He’s a quieter kid but was always kind and thoughtful in my class. He was with his grandma, whom I also know. I asked him how the year was going for him, and he gave me a brief answer. His grandma added, “you know, he’s been playing a lot of baseball. He’s very good at baseball.”

Her grandson looked away, his cheeks turning red. We chatted for a bit about his athletic endeavours, and it was clear that his grandma was very proud of him. “He’s really such a great player,” she said again, as her grandson looked down humbly. “I know I’m embarrassing him a little bit,” she said with a laugh, touching his shoulder.

He looked up at her and smiled. It was clear they were very close.

We talked more about their lives, and then I told them about mine. “My dad is living with us,” I said, “so I’m doing OK. Now that I’m a single mom, he’s decided to move in indefinitely.”

“Oh that’s so wonderful!” the grandma said. She knew that my husband had died a year prior and that had been difficult for me. She looked at me kindly. “You know, I live with my grandkids,” she said.

Marjorie Brimley’s son Tommy, and father, Tom, playing with Legos. – THE WASHINGTON POST

I told her I didn’t realise that. “Oh yes,” she said, “we moved in when the kids were really little.”

We talked for a while about what it is like to live in a three-generation household. I told her how grateful I am to have my dad around. “To be honest, it’s wonderful to live with my grandkids,” the grandma told me, “and I bet your father gets a lot out of living with you too.”

At that moment, her grandson looked up. “You know,” he said, “it’s pretty great for the kids too.”

The grandma paused. Then she looked at him and said, “well, sometimes I think now that they are all in high school, it’s probably time for us to move out.”

The boy looked at his grandma. “No, you can’t do that,” he said. He smiled after he said it. He knew she wasn’t moving out.

The grandma turned to me. “Well, I’m happy to hear your dad is with you,” she said. I told her I am happy about it too. We chatted a bit more and then parted.

I thought about my dad, a 71-year-old widower who had retired a few years earlier to play golf and read all the books he’d set aside during his busy career. But family is family, and when I needed help, he came. Now he is spending his days making breakfasts, organising backpacks and hearing about the intricacies of second-grade basketball.

I left school and came home to a dozen kids playing tag in my house. My father was in the kitchen, making a snack for my four-year-old as the other kids joyfully screamed all around him. On the table was a piece of paper showing different angles. “What’s this?” I asked my dad.

He told me that my daughter had drawn it for him. “She’s learning about line segments in school.”

My daughter ran up right then. “I was showing Grandpa about math!” she said, and then ran off with her friends.

He smiled. “She’s really very good at math,” he said as he showed me what she knew.

We talked a bit more about his day. He’d taken a walk and read a book about Napoleon. Then he’d picked up the kids at school and walked them home, collecting a few other friends along the way. Everything was chaotic at home, and his book on Napoleon had been flung onto the floor.

We started to cook dinner together. My boys got into a fight in the middle of it, and I heard my dad shout, “hey, cut that out!” at them. The older kids set the table, and I signed all the papers from their school while my dad helped my youngest in the bathroom. Other parents and neighbours came in and out of the house, picking up their children and just stopping by to say hello.

Eventually, we sat down to eat. We all talked about our days, and the kids each had a story about what happened to them at school. After they finished, my daughter said, “What about you, Grandpa?”

“I had a great day,” he said. “I got to read a lot and then I took a walk and then I picked up all of you.” She smiled at him. “Sounds good!” she said.

I sat back at that moment and looked at my kids. My daughter was chattering about the details of fourth grade recess and her brother was laughing at something she was saying. My youngest was so close to my dad he was almost in his lap. My father was sitting there, just taking in the moment and listening to my kids with a slight smile on his face.