Today is my grandson’s birthday. Eleven years ago, we were standing around the hospital waiting for him to join the family. It was a long day, but well worth the wait. He came into the world as spring officially arrived. If you knew my grandson, you’d understand the significance of that event. He brings sunshine into our lives every day. And sometimes the aroma of a freshly fertilized cornfield. But that’s another story.
We became grandparents at a rather young age. I was 42, and we still had a daughter in eighth grade. We were beginning to think of life as empty-nesters, but still had a few years to go before that would become a reality. Did I say a “few” years? Little did we know.
People who don’t know better automatically assume I’m my grandson’s father. We’re really close – much closer than I was to any of my grandparents. It’s because he spent seven of his first ten years living in our house. He’s never lived more than twenty minutes away, and right now he lives across the street. And I couldn’t be happier.
I remember a line in the movie Something To Talk About where Robert Duvall said, “All our friends complain because their kids move away and they never call or come home. How come that can’t happen to us?” I have to admit, there are days I’ve felt the same way. It’s all part of being a parent. But the fact is, I like having them so close.
Especially my grandson. We’re best friends. Besides, with him right across the street, I rarely have to take out the trash, and I can’t remember the last time I mowed my own lawn. He’s at an age where he loves to help, and using the lawn mower is still fun. We’ve been painting the past few weeks, and handing him a paint brush is like giving him a bowl of buttered popcorn. And just about as messy.
Our granddaughter is too young to paint or carry out the trash. In fact, she’s too young to do much of anything other than give kisses and make us smile on the worst of days. And she does it well. It’s funny, between the age of three and thirteen, we wish time would just stand still. Because we know the magic of those days will soon fade into another reality. I think God gives us those years so we’ll let them live through the teenage years.
Our youngest daughter is 25, and so far I think we’ve spent a total of about 14 months as empty-nesters. Otherwise, we’ve had one of the girls living with us until a few months after my mother-in-law moved in. And for most of the time that we were without kids, I was doing comedy on the road. It’s been thirty years since we lived alone for any length of time, just the two of us. I’m not sure we know how.
Oh, we’ve got plans. I still do some road work, and my wife loves to travel so the two of us will get to take some trips together. In fact, if any comedy bookers are reading this, we would love to do some shows in Hawaii or Las Vegas. Or a cruise ship would be nice. Anything that doesn’t involve snow.
We started going to the gym again this past week, and we’ll do that a lot more in the future. As soon as my body forgives me for pushing it so hard last week. I’ve discovered that working out is a lot like drinking – you can’t take a month off and make up for it all in one night. And contrary to what everybody says, the “hair of the dog” isn’t always the best cure. Especially when it comes to exercise.
Something we’re learning is that, as empty-nesters, the house seems to transform. In the movie Failure To Launch, Matthew McConaughey came home to find that his old bedroom had become “the naked room,” a room where his father went about his hobbies in the buff. I don’t think we’ll have a naked room in our house any time soon, though it would probably keep the spiders out. It would also make the kids call before they come over, so let’s not completely rule that one out.
I’ve written in the past about the “honey-do” list that fills my spare time just enough to keep me from getting in trouble. It’s not an unreasonable list – it’s mostly things we’ve agreed to do, and my wife helps where she can. As long as it doesn’t involve the downwind side of the plumbing, she’s usually right there with me.
But she just found the perfect way to get me to do everything on the list as quickly as possible. Ladies, pay attention – this one is worth the price of admission. A few weeks ago she said, “As soon as you get these other things done I want you to build a bar in the basement.”
Okay, this is one of those times when clarification is necessary. She wasn’t asking me to put up a bar for hanging damp laundry. And she doesn’t want me to install a bar for chin-ups, or any other form of physical exercise. She meant build a bar – a real bar, with barstools, a sink, a refrigerator, bar lights, and ice cold beer on tap. Read that again ladies. Ice cold beer on tap. Care to guess how long she’ll have to beg me to finish this job?
She really used her head on this one. Because there’s a natural progression that has to take place for me to get from this desk to my bar. First I have to touch up the paint in our spare bedroom and get the furniture out of the basement and back into that room. Then I have to install a new floor in the other side of the basement and move my office downstairs. Then I have to move the furniture that’s in my future office into this room – the second guest room. Yes, empty-nesters have more than one guest room. At the rate we’re going, we’ll be living in the bar and we can rent out the entire upstairs to another family.
Then I have to clean out all the junk my daughters left behind. But in order to do that, I have to clean out the storage room in the basement. Then I have to clean out my garage so I’ve got room to use my woodworking equipment. And I want all of this done by next Thursday because I’m building this bar before she changes her mind!
Needless to say, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the basement. I already have a pool table in that room, and with the addition of a bar and big-screen TV, it’s entirely possible you folks may never hear from me again. Okay, I’m kidding. My computer will be in the office next-door. So you’ll hear from me on a regular basis. I just can’t promise it’ll all make sense. But if you drink a few beers of your own, who knows?
Anyway, that’s our plan for the immediate future. The nest is empty and, for the first time in our lives, it looks like it may stay that way for a while. How long? Who knows? Our kids and grandchildren will always have a home as long as we do. Life has a way of pitching a few curveballs, so there’s no telling what the future may hold.
But something tells me our empty nest will never be lonely. In fact, it may become the hot spot of the neighborhood. I’m sure we won’t have to beg the kids to visit, and we may find a few new friends we never knew we had. Let me repeat – ice cold beer on tap. It has a certain ring to it.
And if it makes the kids visit a little more often, I won’t complain. Because I’ve learned how this whole thing works, and right now we’re just putting favors in the bank. Retirement isn’t that far away, and the day may come that we’ll need a comfortable place to live. I’m just making sure we establish a common definition of “comfortable” before that day ever comes.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon