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Don’t Call Me Cute: A Grandfather’s Lament

How did my wife and I, successful professionals, become a ‘sweet, old couple’?

Phil Jacobs
October 30, 2014

My wife and I both turned 61 in September. I’ve reached the number of home runs Roger Maris hit in 1961 to break the Babe’s record. Look on Wikipedia for any number, and you’ll find some interesting stuff. I’ve matched the country code for Australia—and Bob Dylan’s highway.

I wasn’t one to worry about hitting 60, didn’t feel the need to call it “the new 50.” It had its advantages: one year closer to retirement, one step closer to Social Security—not to mention cheaper movie tickets. I was further away from being included in the word and world of “young.” Still, I wasn’t thinking that way. But then I learned that my wife and I could live in the same “senior adult” community where my 85-year-old mother in law lives. I mean water aerobics, early bird specials, talent shows. God help me.

By far the best thing about reaching this age has been becoming grandparents. Or I should say, becoming “Nana Lisa and Poppy Phil.” After our oldest daughter gave birth we suddenly stopped being Phil, the award-winning investigative journalist, and Lisa, a life-changing speech pathologist. Now we’re Nana and Poppy, to such an extent that our presents for this birthday from our daughters were personalized Baltimore Orioles jerseys with our new titles prominently displayed on the back. We’re now cute old people who love baseball!

Along came Sukkot and Simchat Torah. We visited our daughter’s family in Sharon, Massachusetts, and visited their friends’ sukkahs with them. We were happy to go, meet some nice people, engage in lively discussion. How about the terrific weather? What is going on in the world? Ebola? ISIS? How about those Patriots?

It didn’t happen that way. We heard rousing discussions on the Britax B-Ready Stroller, not to mention the Chicco Stroller “System.” Yes, one needs a system to push the kid to shul. And what about the cost of day schools this year? Oy. Where did you get that etrog? Nice pitom. Not everyday someone compliments your pitom.

Basically my wife and I spent time in the sukkahs talking to ourselves. It hit unexpectedly hard.

We are no longer part of the conversation. We’ve become, in my wife’s words, “that nice, sweet old couple.”

I’ll say the motzi at my grandson’s bar mitzvah one day. That’s what Poppys do. Nanas have the big purse with the ever-ready hard candy. We’re trying to fight this off, but I fear the momentum of age got us from young pretty adults to sweet, cute old people.

In Sharon, I got a smile from the host when I left the table a couple to make sure my grandson was playing nicely—especially after I saw a rubber dart flying through the hallway on its way to hit another unsupervised child. Well, Poppy Phil took the toy gun away from the two perps. It’s nice to feel needed.

We let our daughter and son-in-law take a nap when we got to their home. They were exhausted. The little boys were on their second wind. Poppy Phil and Nana Lisa got down on the floor for a game called “play cars.” That’s what we do now.

Oy, we’re so cute.

Phil Jacobs is the former editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, and has worked at the Detroit Jewish News and Washington Jewish Week. He is best known for his award-winning reporting uncovering years of sexual molestation within Baltimore’s Orthodox community.