I wanted to pay tribute to retired parents everywhere. It’s their time to relax, ponder in retrospect, anticipate the future, and cultivate new hobbies. As their proud offspring, we can be so lucky to be included in their thrilling new roller coaster rides. Here are some ideas to enhance this time in their lives: 10 ways to make your parents’ retirement awesome.
Certain books encourage conversation about generational similarities and differences. Exchange titles every month. They don’t have to be new discoveries, although that can be fun. What inspired your father in college? A great suggestion by my dad is Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Get your Gun.” (I, um, still haven’t read it). It’s an anti-war novel which stands the test of time.
No, I’m not suggesting this because my old man is losing his marbles and it’s the only way to exercise the frontal lobe, or whatever benefits doctors endow crossword puzzles with. They’re loads of fun! Set some ground rules: No looking stuff up, only ask each other for help, phone only one lifeline. And have a blast!
Maybe your parent isn’t fooldhardy enough for a trip to Palestine or outer Siberia, but there might be some exotic curiosities brewing. If you had told me before that my dad would one day book us a trip to Iceland, I’d have waited for the punch line. Brainstorm some ideas, take suggestions, get creative. Remember the motto (I just created): “Less Talk, More Travel!” Or, if finances are down…
Once a year for Christmas is fine, but he might miss you more than he lets on. Book a weekend, take a Monday off work, consort behind his back with your mom, and jump out from behind the lawnmower when he comes into the garage (make sure his heart is doing OK, though). Then do something fun: pack up the camping gear, present him with some concert tickets (my dad loves Judy Collins), or just have a fun weekend back home.
OK, maybe your retired parents haven’t breached the MP3 world, but they’ve probably found their way to a CD player in the last five years. Remember how much fun making a mix CD was? Throw some classics on (look through their dusty record collection for ideas), and some new ones they might like (worth a try). I put “One Toke over the Line” by Brewer and Shipley on my dad’s mix, and he was right back in the 60s, doing whatever he did then (best not to ask).
Terrifying and futuristic for some, but up-to-date and necessary for you, this will actually be a fun time for all! Hook your retired parent up with an iPad or iphone, throw some apps on (do you really want them to become an Angry Birds addict, though?), and you guys will be in touch faster and better. It’ll make them happy to see your face via Skype, or WhatsApp you when you’re touring Europe. School them on how to get lost in the Youtube void, and they’re not leaving the couch for hours.
Don’t get your jogging shoes switched up (gross), but with or without mom or dad, get moving! If you can’t be together a few mornings every week for a run, then clock in your times via phone. Or, both of you commit to fine-tuning some competitive sport (tennis, racquetball…old folks like racquetball), from across the country, and the next time you’re together…SHOWDOWN!!
How about the both of you learn some new stuff in the kitchen? Swap cookbooks or recipes when you’re long distance, make friends on Instagram, post your culinary successes or disasters, and experiment away! Try some new cuisine; in New York, I can eat Indian or Ethiopian food whenever I please, but in rural North Carolina, it’s a little more difficult. When you’re finally in the same house, pop a bottle of wine and co-operate a feast for the rest of the family.
How about an email a day? Even a few lines will do! Maybe it’ll be great impetus for your retired parent finally learning how to switch on the monitor. Navigating through gmail is another story, but tell them how your day went. Read about their day. Send some irreverent humor their way. I normally ignore the emails chains my dad includes me in about dogs chasing birds or something like that, but maybe you’ll be amused? This leads me to…
Make it one for the Smithsonian’s records. Make it long, make it meaningful, let it span time and encompass oceans of gratitude. Letters used to be a rewarding way to read intimately how someone felt about another. Whether you’re 17, 29, 41, or 59 years old, your parent was probably making sure you’ve been OK in this world all along. Confirm your love with your words…put your pen on paper and give a shout of thanks. Thanks, Dad!!