By Ashley White
Photography by Jacinda Davis
George and Kim Toops
Married for 35 years, with five children: Brady, Casey and Mickie (triplets), Skip and Wendy; and four grandchildren
For the first 30 years of their marriage, George and Kim Toops spent most of their “alone time” next to each other on a bleacher or talking in the car when the kids fell asleep in the backseat.
After having four children, including triplets, in two years, and then another daughter six years later, George and Kim became experts in juggling multiple schedules, handling several loads of laundry every day and cooking for a family of seven.
When their last child graduated from high school six years ago, they finally had time to take a breath and enjoy each other — without distractions.
“Until the point that our last kid left home, our life has really been all kids,” Kim says. “I used to laugh when people would say, ‘take time for yourself.’ We didn’t have time for that. Our life revolved around them.”
That’s not to say that they didn’t love raising their children, however hectic it could be at times. Both George and Kim enjoy sports, and they instilled that passion in all of their children. At one time, they estimated their family was involved in 11 different sports throughout the year, which made for a lot of travel, sometimes across the country.
“It was great. We enjoyed every second of it,” George says. “We always told our kids they could be anything they wanted, but we knew they had to be given the opportunity. So we sacrificed our own time, activities and discretionary money so that they could have those opportunities.”
Sometimes, those sacrifices meant that George and Kim didn’t get to spend as much time together as they would have liked. Between George’s demanding full-time job in the school system and all of the extracurricular activities they had in the evenings, their marriage sometimes had to take a backseat to their family.
“We didn’t always take time to seriously talk to each other, because if we weren’t running to a game, I was probably working,” George says. “If I could go back and change anything, I would spend less time at work. That’s not what’s important in life.”
A year ago, however, all of that changed when George retired. Now, he has the time to spend simply enjoying his wife.
“We went how many years without having that time to enjoy each other,” he says. “I have appreciated Kim more in the last year than I ever have in the previous 34, because I’m able to. I can honestly say that my wife has never been more beautiful to me, and I have never been more in love with her.”
Since their children moved out of the house, both Kim and George have also had time for their own activities. For Kim, who still works as a third-grade teacher in the New London-Spicer district, suddenly having her nights free came as quite the adjustment.
“At first, I didn’t really like it,” Kim says. “It was a big change. To be honest, it felt a little selfish at times to do something for myself. I don’t take that for granted though, because I didn’t have that for 30 years.”
Since becoming empty nesters, George and Kim have also had the flexibility to take more extravagant vacations — something that was nearly impossible with five children. A few years ago, they took a four-week trip to Europe, even traveling to Scotland to see the Open Championship at St. Andrews golf course.
In their retirement years, George and Kim plan to travel more and had even discussed the possibility of teaching together overseas for a year. However, that plan had to be scrapped when they realized another benefit of becoming empty nesters: grandkids.
“That’s part of the deal when you have kids: the next step is grandkids,” George says. “Ours are still young, so we’re just starting to follow them and their activities. Fortunately, it won’t be quite as crazy because we won’t go to every single event, but we’ll go to as many as we can.”
Advice to other empty nesters
George: “When the time comes to let your kids go, let them go. Prepare to enjoy your life and find things that you want to do, so you’re not just sitting around all day, but don’t get sucked back into that craziness either.”
Kim: “Give yourself time to adjust. It can be sad to be done, but you’ve finished that race.”
What they love most about each other
Kim: “George is very analytical. He’s a great problem solver. Stuff that looks impossible to me, he always figures out a way to fix it.”
George: “My wife is a rock. I love the fact that I know she will always be there for me. She will always be by my side, no matter what.”