We all do significant things for the people we love most, and this is one time of year that we tend to celebrate those acts with the respect they deserve. Gregg and Cathy Oliver, who lived in the Methow Valley for 22 years, recently relocated to North Carolina for five years as a gesture of love for their son, Luke, his wife, and their two young children.
The Olivers moved to the Methow Valley in 1997, when Gregg received the call to serve as pastor at Community Covenant Church in Twisp, and Cathy began teaching at Methow Valley Elementary School. Their two older boys graduated from Olympia High School, but Emily and Luke Oliver both graduated from Liberty Bell High School. Both Olivers retired a couple of years ago, and sold their home on Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road in order to downsize, without a clear idea of what their next step would be.
But in mid-April, Cathy tells me, “Luke was accepted to Duke University for the Doctor of Theology program in Old Testament, hoping to teach when he is done. He and his wife, Carolyn, a nurse, asked us if we would consider moving to Durham, North Carolina, to support their family by caring for Amos, 2 1/2, and Iona, 10 months old — no pressure!”
Gregg and Cathy considered the possibility, ultimately deciding that since they had never lived in the same town as any of their 15 grandkids, it was worth the opportunity, despite it being “really hard to think of leaving our community of support in the Methow,” The Olivers knew they would never regret the decision to invest the next five years in Amos and Iona.
The Olivers both grew up in Bellevue, so “this is our 5-year East Coast Adventure!” Cathy says. The East Coast Adventure, so far, has been focused on getting settled in a new home and taking care of their grandchildren.
“The first months were super-hot and steamy,” Cathy says. Now, however, with fall in full force, “it’s great to still be hiking in the nearby state park in tennis shoes and a down vest. We are enjoying the crisp days, colorful broadleaf trees — leaves still falling.”
Gregg reports, however, that North Carolinians have a wildly different perspective on what a “crisp” fall looks like, noting that “People seem to get pretty worked up over weather. When it was going to get into the low 40s for Friday football games, the weathermen warned us to have your parkas, gloves and hats for the cold.” While The Olivers are out enjoying the sunny crisp weather, their neighbors they pass are all “bundled up for winter.”
It’s never a dull moment taking care of grandkids, Cathy says. “A day in our caregiving life starts about 7:30 a.m., arriving at their home (or ours) complete with a bag of picture books to read throughout the day. Our days are regulated by toddler morning and afternoon naps, with walks and outings wedged in between. We are always looking for toddler-appropriate places to visit and things to do. We discovered the wonderful Museum of Life and Science 10 minutes from us. Monday nights we share pizza night dinner together. On Tuesdays our day can extend until 8:30 p.m. when Carolyn returns from her 12-hour shift at University of North Carolina Hospital and Luke is at night class. We are pretty tired when the day is done.”
The Olivers are developing a palate for vinegary North Carolina barbecue, but “we have yet to discover a bakery to match the Mazama Store, Rocking Horse, or Cinnamon Twisp.” One thing Cathy says she may not ever adjust to, however, is the light pollution. “This is NOT a dark sky community,” she says. And not having friends that you share history with, she says, but they combat this longing with visits from friends and family.
Other sacrifices, the Olivers say, include staying up until almost midnight to watch the conclusion of Seahawks games when the team plays on a Pacific Time Zone field. So yes, the Olivers are tired, but not tired enough to prioritize sleep over supporting their home football team.
The Olivers aren’t sure where they will end up after Luke’s 5-year program ends, and they’re realistic enough to know they cannot plan precisely what will happen next, but they imagine they might “return home to the Methow Valley someday” Cathy says. But for now, the Olivers are making a home where they’re needed and appreciated, giving the priceless gift of grandparent child care.