Thank you all for the fantastic and insightful comments on the series I posted last week. I was just blown away by the encouragement, feedback, and book suggestions (which I will read to help me better understand my little man).
Once upon a time, retirement made sense. People established themselves in their twenties, scrabbled to raise a family, poured their youth into amassing retirement savings, tucked away pennies to help their children through college, and then, somewhere in their sixties, they sat down for a few years to catch a breath. The shame of it was that they were too exhausted by the years of toil to actually enjoy themselves, and they mostly played canasta with the other old fogies at the community center while patiently waiting for the social security checks to come in.
Now, with the baby boomers, we are seeing a slightly different model of retirement. Sure, some are still retiring in their sixties, but there is one slight difference. Whereas sixty-five used to be old, now it is young. I am not sure what form of the new math brought about this change in calculations, but the sixties are the new forties. It used to be that the grandmothers met one another in the aisles of the grocery stores, comparing coupons and complaining about their sciatica. Now, you are more likely to run into a grandmother at the gym, where that lady outpacing you on the elliptical machine is a grandmother of five getting in her daily two hour workout.
With all of this energy and youth, not to mention a good thirty years until they are likely to slow down, many of the boomers are picking up second careers or buying R.V.s so they can visit all fifty states. Others are starting businesses, picking up hobbies, and generally painting the town red. But, there is only so much time one can pour into blogging, clubbing, and organic farming. Sooner or later, these folks are going to find themselves with time on their hands.
Fortunately, right about that time, their children have babies.
This is why the grandparent industry is taking off. Magazines written for grandparents, travel agencies exclusively for boomers and their grandchildren, and sturdy little cribs designed for quick assembly in Grandpa’s study. J’s parents, however, were having none of this last. No, they went out and bought a full-sized crib, along with a complete bedding set.
The crib probably should have been our first hint, and if we missed that, we might have picked up on the new video camera and the three bags of children’s books that Ruth happened to pick up at her school’s used-book fair. “The librarian recommended these,” she beamed. But, because we are a little clueless, it was not until we actually drove home from the hospital with little Zachary squalling in the backseat to find Ruth and Edward waiting in our driveway with their new video camera running that we finally realized what was going on: Zach might only have two grandparents, but he probably was not going to suffer from lack of attention.
Now, both of J’s parents have busy careers and active social lives, so it is not as though Zach, as the first grandchild, was filling some empty hole in their lives. No, they just built an entire addition on their hearts for him, something they have done for each subsequent grandchild.
I do not mean to intimate that they are perfect people. They have an annoying tendency to show up with giant gingerbread men forty-five minutes before supper, and after a day out with them, my kids come home suspiciously hyper and with telltale dark-brown smears around their mouths. They seem to equate doting with tooth decay. And, like any in-laws, we can get on one another’s nerves. No, they are not perfect people. They are, however, damned-near perfect grandparents.
They take the kids to the pool when it is hot and the Science Museum when it is windy. They scour books on wherever we are living so they can plan adventures involving trains or dinosaurs or string instruments. Together, we earnestly discuss Zachary’s aversion to Band Aids and Benjamin’s level-four hurricane status. Yes, my in-laws are making all the other grandparents look bad, and they know it. And, despite all the presents and outings, Zach told me recently, “I like when Grandma and Grandpa come to visit because they give me kisses.” Of course, he rather likes the chocolate-chip cookies, too.