Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

Jack Ohman: Going back to your parents? It’s your move

04/27/2014 12:00 AM

04/24/2014 4:27 PM

A recent article noted a growing national trend: middle-aged people moving in with their parents. Not recent college graduate hipster underemployed 20-somethings, but people who are in their 40s and 50s with kids.

Sadly, both of my parents are gone, but there have been many times in the past few years when moving back home to Minnesota in 1976 seemed like a really great idea. After all, I wasn’t writing $2,700 checks to people every three days, there were three squares and free laundry, a knotty pine paneled room in the basement, great fishing a block away, a fashionable Trimline telephone with a really long cord, my obligatory Dylan poster, and a nice 27-inch Motorola color TV. Oh, and my mom yelling at me and going through my stuff all the time like the East German Stasi.

Aside from the police state aspect of it, where do I sign up?

When I would go back to visit my parents when I was in my 20s, my father, who was about the age I am now and a former U.S. Army Bronze Star-awarded platoon staff sergeant, would lightly inquire about my consumption of hot water during showers. Usually employing fists on the bathroom door, but occasionally brandishing a .38 to make sure that I was energy efficient.

I wasn’t.

The smell of freshly lit Pall Malls would wake me up at 4:45 a.m., coffee would be on, and our Labrador retriever would tastefully inspect my face, swabbing it gently with her Purina Dog Chow-laden drool.

Moving back in with your parents is the worst-case scenario for some people, and believe me, I have a great deal of empathy for them. No one should have an episode in their 50s when it looks like you might be able to live in a used trailer on a slab in the Arizona desert if you were really frugal. I had that moment. It was terrifying. But I also didn’t have 80-year-old parents to take me in, and I am not sure how that would have gone.

Some upsides include bonding with them over conversations about Lisinopril and Atorvastatin dosages, angry tirades about the size of buttons on the Comcast remote, a little help when you’re looking for your reading glasses, nostalgic reminiscences about most electrical appliances having a knob you would turn to the right in order for it to function, and bitter muttering about why some people just can’t seem to cut their grass or paint their house.

Downsides would include fighting with them over the relative merits of the 1964 New York Yankees vs. the 2013 New York Yankees, listening to them chuckle over “Family Circus” (“That darned Billy sure gets into a world of trouble”), eating Hamburger Helper night after night, getting into arguments about whether Watergate was that big of a deal, making sure you don’t put dirty dishes under your unmade bed, finding Jumble already filled in (“YRTEOH/THEORY” you are absolutely certain you would have solved on your own) and having to drive a 1991 Buick Regal with a velour interior.

Again, I am not sure sure I would want to move back in with my parents, but I may want to move back in with someone else’s parents. Maybe we could start AirMom’N’Dad. You could choose solid Midwestern World War II parents, Florida/New York nagging parents, Southern Great Santini faux-gracious parents, or even Don and Betty Draper 1960s inattentive parents. Your call.

Oh, and don’t tie up the phone too long. Do you think they’re made of money?

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.


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