This is the first summer I haven’t worked.
That means I’ve worked for eleven straight summers. I used the money to pay for my wedding, to go on trips, to do renovations on our houses, but I promised I’d never depend on that additional income as part of our household budget.
I worked all those summers because I knew the time would come when I wouldn’t be able to work, or I simply wouldn’t want to. I didn’t expect that both of those potential scenarios would come to fruition at the same time, but that was precisely the case this year.
That said, this summer’s been a different one.
It started off a bit rocky – pun intended – with my surgery, but it’s progressed and improved from there.
We were generously invited to friends’ cottages – we’ve been tremendously spoiled in this regard the last few years – and we spent Canada Day weekend up in Sauble Beach.
When we’ve been home, my wife’s been at work, and I’ve been home with Daughters One and Two.
Our days have been fairly routine – perhaps a blog topic for another day – and we’ve spent a lot of time at the neighbourhood park.
When I was working in the summer, the only time I’d make it to the park with the girls was after dinner. The park’s a busy place then – kids and their parents trying to cram some fun in before bedtime – but it’s different during the day.
Sometimes we’re the only ones there.
I suppose the neighbourhood kids are off at daycare, or summer school, or day camps – maybe they’re away on vacation, or maybe their families simply prefer to stay indoors – and it feels strange to be the sole park players.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice having the place to ourselves, but what’s been interesting this year is the amount of grandparents at the park with their kids.
Since we’re there about the same time every day – sometimes twice a day – we’ve gotten to know the other park regulars, and I’ve had some pretty incredible conversations.
One of the older park regulars answers to Oma, a name near and dear to me and my family, and the German word for grandmother.
She immigrated to Canada from Germany in the 60s, and, of all places, she originally settled in Hamilton. Eventually, she moved her family to Mississauga, and she watches her son’s two children during the day while he and his wife work.
She brings her big brown dog to the park with her and the kids – Daughters One and Two love that – and we often talk about our kids and their days while we push them on the swings or guide them down the slides.
I told her that I have an Oma of my own, and she was pleased to hear that. We’ve talked about the tremendous success of Germany in the World Cup, we discussed some German writers, shared stories about places in Europe we’ve visited – all sorts of different things – and it’s been a great way to spend the mornings.
There’s been a younger grandfather at the park a few times who helps his daughter and son-in-law by watching their kids from time to time.
He’s got a lot of energy – obviously one of the benefits of having kids when you’re quite young – and he struck up a conversation with me about Ontario microbreweries, having noticed my Mill Street t-shirt. We talked about all things various and sundry and enjoyed ourselves.
There’s a comradery in these cases.
We’re there for the kids, doing things to make their days better, and we’ve also found a way to improve our own.
Everybody has interesting stories to tell, and the park’s as good a place as any to listen to them – particularly when there’s only a few people there.
I’ve enjoyed these visits this summer, and I know I’m going to miss them when I go back to work.
The kids will too, for different reasons.
But at this point, I’m not sure who’ll miss them more.