The Stay-At-Home Grandmother


            Last week, my mother did something I never thought she would do. After 32 years in the fashion industry she traded her style updates for social outings, her email for gmail, her professional must-have list for a personal must-do list, her expense account for an AARP card, and her business trips for a beach condo. It's hard to believe, but yes, my mother officially retired.

            My father has been semi-retired (or semi-working, depending on who you ask) for the past few years and apparently has been covertly, but not-so-subtly, prepping my mother for this move for some time now. My dad says he never has to officially retire because he doesn't officially work unless someone calls him. It's one of the many benefits of being In the insurance industry - pun intended. He's like the human version of the On Demand button on the cable remote. His services are supplied as needed. Otherwise, he's been enjoying life and counting down the days until he and my mom can fully enjoy it together.

            I rarely even heard my parents mention the "R" word until six months ago when my dad sent a group email to me and my siblings saying, "We did it!" with a photo of their new condo in Florida attached. My brother and I were in shock. My sister started booking her vacation dates. Four months later, my mother's announcement became public at work and, more importantly, official on Facebook, so the reality of the situation finally hit me. My mother was becoming a certified stay-at-home grandmother.

            As a kid, the only retired people I knew were old. Senior citizens, even. They must have been at least 60. And apparently that was the age when people were forced to quit their jobs, cut their hair, and move to South Florida so they could take up golf, play Mahjong, and eat dinner at 4 p.m. Retired people wore sweatsuits, went to the beauty parlor twice a week, and smelled like denture cream. They traveled the country in Winnebagos, went on cruises every few months and spent the remainder of their free time doting on their grandkids.

            My parents in no way fit this model, except for the grandkids part. They don't play cards, they have all of their teeth and they are still quite young. In fact, they both turned 70 this past year. And yes, the older I get, the younger older people seem to be. My parents are in good health, good spirits and good shape. To put it in perspective, my father is just two years younger than Harrison Ford. My mother is a year older than Cher and the same age as Diana Ross. These timeless icons set the bar for my parent's generation just as my parents are setting the bar for mine.

            I now see 70 as the new 40, social security as a cool social status and retirement planning as the modern version of playing house when I was a kid. Where will be live? What will we do? What time will we eat?

            While my dad is in heaven over this new chapter in their lives, my mother is showing tempered enthusiasm. She is the kind of person who would gladly die with her boots on, while my father is not. The compromise was her agreeing to take hers off for a while. My mother admits that she hopes retirement is the one thing in life she actually fails doing. While some people eagerly count down the days until retirement, she found herself instead making every last moment at work really count. She loved working, adored her job, and is now trying to "rewire her brain and body" to accommodate this new flexible lifestyle. She is excited to lose the hectic schedule and constant demands, but equally eager to find her new purpose. 

            The one thing my parents are both excited about is spending even more time with their nine grandchildren. In fact, I see them less as retired people and more like on-call sitters, ready to watch our kids at the drop of a text message. Just yesterday my mother called to say how happy she was that they could spontaneously drive to Atlanta to hear my nephew give a commencement speech. For his third grade class. "Just so you know, the high-low hem is still trending right now," my mother shared on her way home. "At least, that's what all the third grade girls were wearing at the moving up ceremony."

            Looks like those boots won't be off for long.