The day Roger Rosenblatt’s daughter, Amy Solomon, died suddenly at age 38, he and his wife drove down from their home on Long Island to Bethesda, where Amy, a pediatrician, lived. The next day, Rosenblatt’s granddaughter asked, “How long are you staying?” His reply: “Forever.”
Since that day in December 2007, Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, have kept true to his word. While he still commutes to New York’s Stony Brook University to teach creative writing, Rosenblatt spends most of his time living with his son-in-law, hand surgeon Harrison Solomon, and grandchildren Jessie, ten, Sammy, seven, and James, four. Rosenblatt’s wife remains in Bethesda full-time. “Ginny and I never really consulted each other,” he says. “It just seemed like what choice would you want to make for these children, with their doctor father who was going to be away most of the day and couldn’t do it alone?” Rosenblatt’s memoir about life after his daughter’s death, Making Toast, came out last year. He recently published Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing.
Rosenblatt, 70, was for 23 years an essayist on what’s now the PBS NewsHour. He has been a columnist for Time and the Washington Post, editor of U.S. News, literary editor of the New Republic, and director of education for the National Endowment for the Humanities—his first job in Washington after receiving his PhD in literature at Harvard. He’s the author of six plays and more than a dozen books, including Children of War, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize, and two novels. His Time essays won two George Polk Awards; his PBS work won a Peabody Award and an Emmy. He and his wife, a former teacher, have two sons, Carl and John.
On a quiet morning at home in Bethesda while his grandchildren were at school, Rosenblatt talked about what he’s learned.
How is being a grandparent different now?
It’s not terribly different. It’s somewhat different in that there are times when I have to be the disciplinarian, and Ginny does, too. I do homework with my grandkids, which I wouldn’t have done before, as I did with my own kids—I get worse at it. I chauffeur them from event to event and lesson to lesson, but otherwise it’s really a presence. Before, I was the grandparent hanging around the house. Now I am the house. And so is Ginny—even more so.