Paul Biver retired nine years ago.
Shortly after, his second grandchild was born. So was his next career, caretaker of grandchildren.
“We are watering the baby,” he said, standing in the kitchen of his Swansea home, holding 8-month-old Kennedy Biver who was ready for a nap. “Stick her outside (in the rain) or give her a bottle.”
Paul, 61, was director of an East St. Louis child welfare program until 2006. He now works 10 to 15 hours a week for Home Instead, a business that provides help for seniors so they can stay in their home. The father of three also is often in charge of his grandchildren, Teagan Biver, 10, and younger sister Kennedy, and brothers Simon Newcomb, 7, Gabriel, 5, and Adler, 2.
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“We watch Kennedy four days a week and watch the boys on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he said. “During the summer, Sandy will be here to help me. We’ll take them on excursions to different places.”
Wife Sandy, who works for Head Start, has two months off in the summer.
“It’s great fun,” he said as she took Kennedy to a quiet room for a nap. “To be honest, on my way to a (baby-sitting) job, I feel a little nervous. Can I do all this? I have never done much with babies, but my own. You figure it out. I think I am more patient now than with my kids.”
“You definitely are,” said daughter Katy Biver-Newcomb.
“These kids can’t rattle me. God knows they try. I do spoil them. I have put them in time out before, but not very often.”
“My oldest is 7,” said Katy. “When I was pregnant, one of the things Dad told me was he would take Simon one day a week.”
Soon, Katy had a job, working two days a week.
“Dad watched Simon two days a week and any time I needed him.”
Now, Katy and husband Jason, who live in Fairview Heights, have three sons. She’s a McKendree University professor of dance who also teaches studio classes at Taylor’s Academy of Dance in O’Fallon. Jason works for Cahokia School District.
“He watches all three boys, takes them places and spoils them rotten,” said Katy. “He goes out of his way to make each of his children and each of his grandchildren feel unique and valued and loved. The man would do anything and drop everything for any one of us. He is funny and generous and charming and so very full of love.”
Grandpa even had to get new wheels.
“I had a Taurus,” he said. “I went to a Ford Explorer so we could fit four car seats.”
Grandpa and the grandkids are regulars at discount store Five Below. When he fuels up at the gas station, the kids fuel up on candy.
“They get something different every time,” he said. “They like to experiment.”
“He likes to buy stuff for us,” said Gabe. “Stuff like candy.”
“Grandpa, want to play a game?” said Simon, heading to a computer.
What does Simon think of hanging out with Grandpa?
“I like being with my friends Tyler and Sean, but I like being with Grandpa, too.”
“They like to wrestle,” said Paul, “even Adler jumps in the middle. We go to the park quite a bit, It’s a park in their neighborhood. They call it the ‘secret playground’ because it’s kind of hidden. We walk down there quite a bit. For a side trip, we will come here. We have a swing set and trampoline.”
“Whose boy are you?” he said to Adler.
“Once they learn to speak better, he insisted on ‘Grandpa,’” said Katy.
For meals, Grandpa wings it.
“I am not much of a cook. I do Hungry Man meals. Gabe likes hot dogs and sausage patties.”
The hardest part?
“For me, the hardest part is getting going in the morning. Getting to Troy (where son Joe and his family live) before they leave for work. I get up about 6:30.”
Not much different from when he was growing up.
“My mother had 13 children. I was number 7. We lived on a dairy farm south of Belleville, close to the new Belleville West. The boys worked outside. The girls worked inside. I didn’t take care of the babies. I took care of baby calves.”
Having her parents watch her kids gives Katy peace of mind.
“I know I can trust them implicitly. There are not many people who love my children as much as they do. It makes me happy to think of all the memories they are making. They will say, ‘Grandpa said this.’ He tells some of the best stories about when he was a kid growing up on the farm.”
“Katy just told me she was inviting me over Tuesday for supper,” said Paul. “Joe and his crew in Troy have me coming over Sunday for an evening meal. I think they are going to do pork steaks. I keep telling them to take me to Andria’s Steakhouse.”
But he’s fine if they don’t.
“I do what’s needed. I am doing this to help out my children. If they need me, I am there. Sometimes, it’s harder for men. We didn’t grow up with that. Any guy can do it. Just jump in.”