Grandad trades job for grandson

Wednesday, August 26, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dave Himes of Westwood with his grandson, Ty, 10.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
Dave Himes would do anything for Ty. They are buddies. Ty is Dave's grandson. Dave is his regular baby sitter and round-the-clock pal.

In his 64 years, Dave has worked as a plumber, written insurance policies and sold building supplies.

"But taking care of Ty is my biggest job," he said as he peeled an apple for his grandson. Dave was fixing lunch in the tidy kitchen of the Westwood home he shares with his wife of 45 years.

Oyster stew simmered in a pot on the stove. Freshly chopped bits of emerald-green celery lined up on a cutting board waiting for Dave to push them into the stew. Ten-year-old Ty raced in to ask about the apple. "It is ready yet, huh? Huh?"

Across the kitchen from Dave, a guy sliced a crusty loaf of Amish white bread. That was me, Dave and Ty's guest for their midday meal, this week's "Lunch with Cliff," where I get to share a regular lunch with regular people and they get to share what's on their minds.

Dave has been taking care of Ty for two years. His grandson had a female baby sitter until "her husband beat her up in front of Ty. The police were called. Ty was terrified."

Grandpa Dave came to the rescue. Vowing that his grandson "was not going to go to another baby sitter as long as I live," Dave retired from selling building supplies and went to work watching Ty.

"My buddy has attention deficit disorder, like me," Dave said. "He gets hyper. So do I. But we get along."

The apple sliced, Dave took it into the living room, where Ty sat in front of the TV watching The Flintstones. "Here's your apple, old buddy," Dave said to Ty. Fred Flintstone yelled: "Yabba-dabba-doo!"

Back in the kitchen, Dave stirred the celery into the stew. He lowered his voice as he gave me a quick family history. Ty's mom is Dave's daughter. Divorced from Ty's dad, she works long and crazy hours at the post office. Ty's dad lives in another state and doesn't see him.

At lunch, Dave and Ty plan the rest of their day and plot out their week. They talk about going fishing or visiting a museum. On hot days, Dave surprises his grandson by not acting like an adult. He'll stop eating, run outside and chase Ty with a hose.

"We'll have a water fight and laugh and scream like two kids," Dave said. "I'm 64. But I think like I'm a lot younger."

Between spoonfuls of stew, Dave admitted Ty can get on his nerves. "And I probably get on his." When Ty makes too much noise and Dave starts yelling at him, Grandpa calls for a time out. Both of them take it. More often than not, Ty is the first to say he's sorry. Then, Dave rubs his head and they hug.

Two years ago, Dave's wife and daughter would have been shocked by his reasoned approach to child care. They had their doubts about his knack for being a nanny. He had a reputation for having a "pretty short fuse and a pretty good temper. And I could get really impatient, real fast."

But that's how he acted with other people, not his only grandchild.

"Next to his mom and his grandma," Dave said, "I have Ty's interests more at heart than anybody."

Dave grabbed the heel from the loaf of bread, chewed on it and said, "being with Ty gives me leisure time to think at lunch. I value that more than an extra $1,000 a month in my paycheck."

His lunchtime thoughts invariably turn to Ty. The grandfather worries about his grandson's future. "What kind of life will he have? A good one, I hope. But you never know."

One day at lunch, Ty was thinking about his grandfather. The boy wanted to compare ages. He quickly figured that in 54 years, he would be his grandfather's age. He then realized that by then Dave might be dead.

The realization did not shock or sadden Ty. He just told Dave: "While we're together, let's enjoy it."

There are those rare times at lunch, while Ty watches The Flintstones, when Dave thinks about himself. He remembers selling insurance for 23 years, eating lunch and planning on just fishing during his retirement.

Tending a 10-year-old named Ty never entered his mind. Now, it's all he can think of.

When Dave Himes sits in his dining room, and not in a fishing boat, he does not feel cursed. He feels lucky. Extraordinarily lucky.

"If I had my druthers," he said, glancing at Ty, "I wouldn't trade places with anybody in the world."

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.