Their Retirement Job
story by Boris Shirman
"Horses and our grandson are the two most important things," says Charlene Diesel, 58, who with her husband, John, 60, is combining a horse carriage business with the responsibility of raising their 10-year-old grandson.
The balancing act includes sitting for hours in Victorian attire on a horse carriage, driving grandson Jakob Vartanian to cross-country practice and taking him rollerblading once a week.
"It's our retirement job," Charlene says, smiling.
When Jakob was 4, his mother, who was struggling with a tumultuous lifestyle, turned the youngster over to his grandparents.
Initially, Charlene thought that Jakob was autistic because he didn't start talking until he was 5. But as time went on and his life settled down, Jakob became more open and happy. Now he is a very energetic kid who runs cross-country at school, always has friends at the roller rink and within minutes can find kids to play hide-and-seek with at a McDonalds. "He's a kid magnet." his grandmother says
It all came together in Paducah, where they purchased a barn and a business. "It's like God had a plan: a barn, a business, a farm for sale," Charlene says. The business is John's Pass Carriage Service, where they provide guided carriage tours dressed in Victorian clothing. They also include Jakob by giving him all the dollar bills from a day's take as long as he helps with the horses.
Balancing their busy life, especially at their age with a 10-year-old, is a daunting task. They have to wake up early to get Jakob ready for school. Then it's off to cleaning the horses for the day's carriage rides and back to taking care of Jakob after school. Charlene believes that "kid time is important" so she takes him rollerblading once a week — unless, of course, he hasn't finished his homework. "He is a blessing, but yeah, my life is full" she says.