In the Suburbs: Reflecting on a special year

The year 2019 has been quite an exciting, whacky ride for our family, but I wouldn’t have traded it for a minute. Most importantly, as we rang in the new year, we wondered what our older daughter Stacey’s recently diagnosed pregnancy would bring — a little boy or girl — and we pinched ourselves that barely two years after the arrival of our miracle grandson Lucas from China, another very miracle grandchild would fill our lives in the summer.

This pregnancy for Stacey, a single mom, came some 12 years after a similar in-vitro experience ended in disappointment and her decision to adopt. So we understood why she was skeptical and worried.

But skepticism and worry evaporated on August 3 with the arrival of little Caleb, our second miracle grandson. He has brought joy beyond anything we could have ever dreamed of feeling.

Of course, in addition to Caleb’s arrival, the rest of the year has been filled with chaos and unexpecteds, which have become the norm for my wife and me and our two neurotic senior dogs. But I’ve concluded that we seem to thrive on these kinds of wild rides.

My work life still includes my teaching assistant duties at the charter school in Bridgeport where I have been for the past, nearly 7 years. I am also in my 7th year at the Fairfield University Book Store, tutor Chinese exchange students and write this column, now in its 31st year.

My wife enjoys her social work practice, now done out of our home office, and she works with a comfortable caseload of four and sometimes five clients. When family and friends ask when we plan to retire, we politely smile and say, “Never.”

This year was number 75 for me, but I honestly don’t feel like I’m three quarters of a century and my energy level is stronger than

ever. I credited three things to reaching this milestone. The first is being blessed with good health, the second is sticking with Weight Watchers, aka WW, along with joining a gym and the third is following my late grandmother’s mantra — always have RMA — Right Mental Attitude ((she lived to be 97 too).

My hope is that I will also continue to have my late father’s energy, which kept him going strong until two years ago when he passed at nearly 97 years old. He never stopped being busy and remained an avid reader to the end.

Earlier in the summer, we drove to a wonderful family reunion with my wife’s family in Virginia over the July 4th holiday and enjoyed relaxing by our niece and nephew’s pool, finishing more wine than we have in years and learning to really enjoy smoked cooking.

We brought our older grandson Lucas, who was thrilled to be with his new cousins while his mom stayed home to prepare for her new baby.

My wife and I celebrated 53 years in mid-August and thankfully managed a quick getaway to a delightful B & B in Goshen, Conn. one week before Caleb arrived early. Just abandoning daily chaos by escaping from the house, leaving our two senior dogs with their sitter and going on quilting expeditions up in New Hartford and Simsbury was the perfect recharge for us.

One totally unexpected event this past November was my 57th high school reunion in Chicago, which was organized by one of our classmates. She managed to find 75 of us and called the event a 75th birthday party. Naturally, we were all a “little” chunkier, all a little wiser but a lot less uptight and cliquish 57 years later. And it was definitely a night of raucous laughter and wonderful memories.

The only regret for my particular circle of high school friends was that our dear friend Marilen had lost her beloved husband Jordy only two months before the reunion. That was a real void for us and a mortality wake up call. Sadly, Marilen wasn’t up for attending.

We reprised our visit to Virginia over Thanksgiving, bringing our entire growing family, and that was an incredible treat. Aunts, uncles and cousins adored and enjoyed Caleb, and our daughter felt like a real queen for a few days. The baby became the toy of the year — beyond any Lego, Ninjago or video game. Of course, there was more nonstop eating (smoked turkey, smoked brisket, mac and cheese, cheese) and, of course, wine.

The highlight of Thanksgiving was an unbelievable early 75th birthday cake for my wife consisting of edible pictures prepared by our niece, who is truly a baking artist. The cake was to die for and my wife loved it.

The most memorable part of our whacky 2019 was celebrating Caleb’s first and Lucas’ second Hanukkah just last week. The holiday was so special for us with our two miracle grandkids.

For us, 2019 truly was a “once-in-a-lifetime” year, filled with more joy and new traditions than we could have ever imagined. Thankfully we have reached the end of it in good health and appreciating family more than ever.

And now it’s over and we’re on to impeachment, primaries, a hoped-for Democratic ticket that might just be electable and an upcoming, volatile roller coaster of an election.

Happy New Year to all my readers. Thanks for following this column and helping me get to year 32 of “In the Suburbs.”

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears on Fridays. He can be reached at