Friday, October 02, 2009

Grand au Pere

Above are Charlie Ruggles and Debbie Reynolds in "The Pleasure of His Company," one of my favorite movies, in which they play grandfather and granddaughter. To appreciate my current situation, there should be two more granddaughters sliding down that bannister.

The last time I provided a career update, I had found work with a fellow who had obtained funding to begin an on-line project. Well, he hadn't entirely obtained it, and, when it came time to put the name on the old parchmentoroonie, the venture capitalists were hard to find. Something may yet come of it -- he got enough funding to go into business. But my part of it didn't happen, at least yet. And I'm old enough that I place promises in the drawer marked "nonessentials."

Meanwhile, I've sold a few serials to newspapers here and there (the marketer in me says "from the Rio Grande Valley to Newfoundland!"). It's not a lot of money, but it's money and we like money. And I have a project going on with the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, and the possibility of another and the potential for a third. And I've got a few other possibilities out there.

Somehow, as all of this was coming down, I ended up crashing at my son Jed's house, with his wife and three daughters (12, 8 and 5). They -- the parents -- recently moved down here to begin work as nurses at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, which is a very good place to work. And the kids are in good schools.

But there are some disconnects involved in the oddball schedules of nurses and the unmoveable schedules of school, soccer, horseback riding, piano lessons and suchlike.

Enter Grand au Pere.

I moved in here with a great deal of trepidation. The kids (that is, my kids) deserve to have autonomy at this stage in their lives. In fact, they deserve autonomy at any stage in their lives after they turn 18, because that's how we've set up this family. But certainly, they deserve to run their own lives after they have children and careers.

But somehow, it's working. As grandpere, I'm here to listen to eldest daughter, Elizabeth, and to tickle the younger two, Abbie and Sammie. As au pair, I walk them to the bus in the morning, meet them in the afternoon, help them with their homework and generally fill in when Mom and Dad are working or sleeping after a night shift, including doing some of the cooking and the dishes and just generally filling in the missing pieces.

It is a blast. The girls are learning that Grandpa isn't a pushover, but he does listen. And Jed and Courtney are well aware that free childcare is a bargain, and that free childcare that adapts to their insane, ever-shifting schedules is a real bargain. And getting to walk the girls to the bus, go to their soccer games and generally hang around being the cool guy is a bargain for me, too.

Not to mention the free rent. I chip in for groceries and it's my gas on all the pickups and dropoffs that are involved, but that's chickenfeed. I couldn't afford to rebuild a freelance career without this little cut in expenses.

Did I mention that it's a blast?

So the other night, Abigail said, "I like having you here, Grandpa. How long are you staying? I hope you stay a long time!"

And I said, "Well, I think I'll probably stay here at least through the cold weather."

And Jed said, "You have to stay here through the cold weather."

Apparently, Grand Au Pere has succeeded in making himself indispensable.

Good. Whatever is going on in the economy at large, I can't think of a better organization in which to be indispensable.


R said...

You're living a great life, Mike. Embrace every freaking moment.


Christopher Baldwin said...

I'm so glad, mike. Through the cold weather or longer, it sounds like a right place to be now. There's a reason every generation before recently stayed together as a family community. :)

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

This sounds like a real godsend for everybody. And i don't know how i managed to miss that movie but i need to add to to my to-see list!

Ronnie said...

I couldn't possibly be more pleased. This is so good for all of you. You are a thoughtful group, sensitive and all that good stuff. This can work for everyone.

Brian Fies said...

Lucky you, lucky family.

Jean said...

Grandparents are the best things (wrong word?) that can happen to anyone. I always loved being with mine, and now I see my son totally adoring my parents and my parents-in-law. So much that he really doesn't need me when one of them is around. And I love seeing him love them.