Between them, John Ruvido and Alex Kelley have over 120 years of experience as husbands. Subtract just a few years, and you have their experience as fathers.
The two have good advice for those who may be new to fatherhood, or may simply have less experience than the 60ish years each has accrued. The advice is especially important considering that Ruvido believes that parenting is more difficult now than when he had his first child.
“I think it’s tougher now because of the times,” he said. “It’s more demanding now.”
Ruvido and Kelley are residents of Bayberry at Emerald Court, an assisted-living community in Tewksbury.
Ruvido worked for the Medford Police for 32 years, and began his family almost immediately after marrying his wife Virginia, some 65 years ago.
“We had (the baby) right away, the first one, and the other ones were a few years apart,” he said.
Kelley waited a while. He served a six-year stint with the Coast Guard, travelling to areas as remote as the North Pole. Because of his service, his first child didn’t arrive until five years into his marriage to his wife, also named Virginia.
The similarities continue: both Kelley and Ruvido have three children -- two daughters and a son. The Ruvidos, however, have a combined six grandchildren and great grandchildren compared to the Kelley’s 10.
One important piece of advice that the two veteran fathers would like to impart to rookie fathers is that they remember the importance of their new families.
“Stay close to them, keep them close,” said Ruvido. “Be there as needed.”
“I’d say keep close to your wife, she needs help,” said Kelley. “Take care of the family.”
Kelley said that the fatherhood memory that has stuck with him is the birth of his first child—something that is especially poignant because of his time spent away from the family due to military service.
Kelley was shipped out to the North Pole for six months after the birth of his first child, and said that missing the child and her formative years was one of the more unpleasant memories of fatherhood.
“I was overseas most of the time for the first child,” he said. “It was a good reunion when I got back.”
While he was gone, Kelley’s parents helped out caring and watching over his children.
“My mother was very close to the kids, closer than we were because I was aboard ship and (my wife) worked,” said Kelley. “So my mother was a big help.
Both Ruvido and Kelley mentioned that being a new father meant that they had to adjust to added responsibility that came with the territory. Ruvido discovered he had to balance his work with life at home, and extra jobs were necessary to pay the bills.
“I was a police officer for 32 years, but prior to that I worked many a job, construction, coating factory, just to make a few bucks,” he said. “I was working nights, pushing a truck, and whatever I could days.”
Both Kelley and Ruvido have kept family relatively close over the years. That means that family can visit, and that children and grandchildren are nearby to celebrate Father’s Day, complete with the company and gifts of the occasion.
And after 65 years of Father’s Day gifts, their favorites remain simple.
“I sound like a commercial,” said Kelley of his favorite gift, “but a pair of New Balance sneakers.”
“The only (thing I want) on Father’s Day is to have them near me and wish me a happy Father’s Day,” said Ruvido. “That’s it, that’s all. I don’t need gifts.”
And perhaps it has been keeping things simple that has sustained them throughout the years. For both men, their roles have changed little as they have made transitions in life, from father to grandfather, and ultimately from grandfather to great grandfather.
“I tell you, when I was a father I was happy, but when I was a grandfather, it was the same feeling,” said Ruvido. “It was like starting all over again. I have my grandson with me all the time.”
Kelley and Ruvido didn’t get to 60 or 65 years of fatherhood all at once. According to Ruvido, an important thing for young fathers to remember is to not get too overwhelmed, and that life must go on.
“Just take (it) one day at a time,” he said.