From Good Books to Goodnight to Goodbye,” column for Feb. 25, 2014

This is not, as they say, my first rodeo. I know the drill. I’ve done it plenty. But it never gets easier saying “goodbye.”

Some years ago, when my husband changed jobs, we left our families and friends in California to move to Las Vegas. It wasn’t easy, but we made the best of it. Our one big regret is the 500 miles it puts between us and the people we love.

So we try to visit often, especially since adding grandchildren to the mix. The difference between grown children and grandbabies is not how you feel about them. I love and miss mine all the same. But the little ones change overnight.

Skip one month in the life of a toddler and you’ve got to start all over. Not only will he forget you, he will look and act like an entirely different child. My grown kids don’t change quite that fast. And if I don’t get to see them for a month, at least I know they’ll remember me.

They’d better. I’ve spent a lot of years chiseling my name in their memory banks. I started when they were born: “I’m your mama,” I whispered in their tiny ears, “don’t you dare forget me.”

I said it so often that in time I didn’t need to say it. I could just give them a certain look and they knew what I meant. So far it seems to be working. Either they remember me or they’re pretty good at faking it.

The grandbabies are different. I don’t see them often enough to do much chiseling. But I try.
For starters, I send them stuff. Books, usually, that cost $3.99 and ship for free. I order online and a few days later, I get a call from a little voice: “Thank you for my book, Nana, I yuv it!”

Every time they see a FedEx truck, they shout, “Nana!”

When I go to visit, as I did this week, I try to spend time alone with each of them (preferably without their parents) doing whatever they like best.

Randy is 3. He likes to build train tracks. I built a trestle that went nowhere and he doubled over laughing when I showed him how trains can fly.

Henry is 2. He likes to play with his jungle animals. So I threw a jungle party and they all showed up: the lion, the rhino, the gorilla, the giraffe. And we danced until I dropped.

Wiley is 1. He likes his mama. I can’t do much about that. But he also likes to eat. So I fed him his favorites: eggs for breakfast, yogurt for lunch, pizza for dinner, crackers for snacks. And he gave me a big Wiley kiss.

I bathed them, diapered them, zipped them in their jammies and read 50 books, give or take. (“Goodnight, Gorilla,” “Giraffes Can’t Dance” and “Snuggle Puppy”were the biggest hits.)

Randy said, “Thank you, Nana, for being my nana.” Henry called me his “little darling.” Wiley pointed at me with his chubby finger and grinned.

Then I tucked them in bed, rubbed my face in their curls and asked God to watch over them forever and always and bring their parents home soon.

It was easy. Exhausting, yes. Even my teeth got tired. But it was a breeze as it always is to do something you were born to do. The hard part, as usual, was having to say goodbye.

It’s an unnatural act to leave someone you love _ especially a child who can’t understand why you show up for a few days to build train tracks and throw jungle parties and let him eat too many crackers, only to get on a airplane and fly away.

There is no way to explain it. So I kissed their parents and promised to come back soon. Then I hugged those little boys tighter than I should and whispered in their ears, “I’m your nana, don’t forget me.”

Then I flew home and went online to send them more stuff.

You can’t buy love. You can only give it freely and hope to get it back. But $3.99 is a small price to pay for a memory.  At least until they’re teenagers and want me to buy them a car.

Comments

  1. Ellen Ashworth says:

    LOVE your columns, and especially identified with this one. We are lucky enough that 3 of our grandchildren live 1.5 hrs away, and the other 3 are 4 hrs away. I feel for you living so far away. Would love to know where you get your $3.99 books shipped for free!

  2. Jo says:

    Great column!
    Decided to send this one to my daughter who lives out-of-town with 3 of my grandkids. One thing I am thankful for is; they are only 200 miles away in the same state! We try to see them at least every 2 or 3 months.

    I send them packages too, and try to Skype or Facetime as much as we can. The two oldest, ages 5 & 6 have no problem remembering us, but the 11 month old I still have to say, now remember – I’m your Mawmaw. :)

  3. Maria says:

    That just about sums it up for me too. God bless all us “Nana’s ” we could use the support.

  4. Susan Kovarick says:

    We lived in Monterey twice during Navy days…PA for 34 years and now Solvang CA to be near our grandchildren and daughters. Hoppe I have the real Sharon Randall whowwrote Birdbaths and Paper Cranes. I still have the book and decided to find you. What a joy to read more of your
    columns since I have to look at my life at 76 differently. Forwarded link to friends. Thank you.

  5. Nancy Durein says:

    Love those grandchildren! We agree….can’t get enough of them. Last weekend we read “The Belly Book” about 3 dozen times. I think it’s in a Dr. Seuss series, but I’m not sure. It was a huge hit with our 2 year old!

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