By Dave Bernard
For the past four-plus years I have been preparing for retirement. Back in 2010 the wonderful little start-up I worked for was unexpectedly (at least for me) purchased by a behemoth public company. Not only was the nature of the job and business drastically altered but it soon became apparent our group was not going to survive the reorganization. My position quickly “evolved out” and at the venerable age of 50 I was forced to begin looking for a new gig somewhere out there in the daunting job market. I quickly discovered the number of career options requiring my skills (especially at my age) was rather dismal. After eight long months I realized I just might not find another full time job…ever.
I began to plan and research and prepare for the retired life I might suddenly find myself living. Rather than focus on only the financial side of things I considered just how I would occupy and engage myself once no longer a member of the working world that had monopolized my days for decades. Since my departure and revelation, I have been able to build a variety of interests and hobbies and passions that keep me busy for most of my waking hours. And I love it! At the moment, the one thing my retirement repertoire is missing is the experience of having someone call me grandpa. I am looking forward to that day.
I think being a grandparent will be one of the best jobs ever. At a time in my life when I have “done it all” and could begin to find myself a bit jaded, in comes a new force whose life experience is a blank slate. Everything ahead is new and wonderful. Energy levels are as high as they will ever be and curiosity of all things is the norm. Innocence and honesty rule the day. And when they look up with those bright inquisitive loving eyes, you have no possible choice but to love them right back.
I look forward to being a part of first time experiences. I remember so many fun trips and adventures with my kids over the years and am ready to do it all again. One trip to the zoo stands out as my then three and five year olds wandered up to a Lemur exhibit. They had never seen anything quite like these perpetually swinging critters that immediately began to hoot and holler with booming voices momentarily stunning the kids. But they quickly recovered and were soon laughing wildly as they bravely pushed their little bodies ever closer to the show. What about the first time investigating the wonders of the tide pools? Or their first pickle (a traditional comfort food in our family)? What about their first dance or baseball game or cartoon or ice cream? That wonder and excitement in their eyes is something I cannot wait to share.
I believe grandchildren will help me appreciate the little things. When I raised my kids there was often an unavoidable atmosphere of stress that threatened to taint the good moments. Whether it was the bills or long hours on the job or having to do without to prepare for the future, it was easy to get distracted. It was easy for the little things, those brief but wonderful special moments, to be overshadowed by seemingly more important events. As a grandpa that stress is no more. I will not get upset over a little mess that results from creative play and exploration. Reading stories will not be a chore but a highly anticipated event; holding them when tears flood will be my cherished duty; making them laugh will make my day; sitting together on the couch watching strange cartoons I do not understand will be just fine. I will have time (I hope) and patience (I really hope) to enjoy those moments that will only be lived once. And this time around I plan to appreciate each one of them.
Grandchildren bring their excitement and wide-eyed wonderment to holidays making celebrations even better. Christmas time for children is nothing short of magical – in their mind everything is possible. I remember when I was seven waking in the middle of Christmas Eve and calling mom to my bedroom vehemently swearing I heard the jingle of bells and Santa on the roof. I really thought I did! Every birthday is a special celebration with determined faces taking seriously the chore of blowing out all those candles. When Halloween rolls around prepare to be frightened by half pint monsters and enchanted by celestial princesses. There is no time to be anything but happy when you find yourself in the midst of energetic youngsters brimming over with a joy they cannot contain.
And I look forward to weekend visits knowing well the routine of my retired day will be thrown off its orbit and the cats likely traumatized by the determined pursuit of little people. Things may be misplaced and unexpected “decorative improvements” may highlight previously clean walls. And just when my wife and I find ourselves desperately searching for a couch to collapse into and that supreme cuteness of the grandkids has reached a saturation point, our children will come to the rescue. With genuine appreciation in their eyes for our help entertaining the gremlins, they will bundle up their toys and their furry stuffed friends and their cute little ensembles and head to the car for the trip home. I can see my wife and me sitting together as we catch our breath and gather our thoughts. Holding hands as we look toward each other I envision a smile on our tired faces as we relive memorable moments and congratulate one another on our survival. It was a memorable visit, it was a good time, and there is nothing better than being a grandparent.
Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. Visit his website
He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement –Only the Beginning.
Candid feedback and thousands of comments from readers has given him a unique glimpse into the realities and challenges that all retirees will ultimately face, inspiring his book I Want To Retire! – Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be.
His other books include Are you Just Existing and Calling it a Life? and Navigating the Retirement Jungle.
He recently published his first venture into fiction with Tales from Technology Gone Wild, a collection of four creepy short stories.
Dave was a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”).
He has been quoted in various articles and magazines including The Times of India, Prevention Magazine and Erickson Tribune.