“Just Us,” column for Sept. 23, 2014

Life gives us moments for doing things. Being young, for example. We don’t get to do that forever. Except maybe at heart. There are moments for laughing, moments for grieving, moments for watching a child grow up.

Childhood may seem to last for years, but really, it passes in bits and pieces that come flaming out of nowhere like shooting stars and slip quietly out of sight. Either you see them, or you don’t.

We want to think we can make them happen. If not today, tomorrow. Or soon, for sure.  But moments never show up on demand. They are gifts, free and clear. We can’t create them, any more than we can make a comet streak across the sky.

All we can do is take a little time to hope and watch and wait and see what might come along.

My children do a beautiful job of raising their children without me. We live 500 miles apart. I fly in once a month or so and stay a few days or more. It’s never enough, but it’s the best I can do. And God bless them, they all seem to understand. Even the little people.

Henry is 3. “You have to go, Nana?” he says, sad-faced. Then he nods with the wisdom of a knee-high Solomon. “It’s OK. You live with Papa Mark.”

“Henry,” I say, “where is your nana when you can’t see her?”

He grins, pointing to his heart.

Henry’s cousin, Wiley, is almost 2. He knows I’m his nana but doesn’t care if I leave as long as he’s got his mama.

But Wiley’s big brother Randy is 4, old enough to spend a night away from home and sweet enough to need me as I once needed my grandmothers: To be someone for whom he hangs the moon. Someone who lights up to see his face. Someone who loves just to be with him.

What else is a nana for?

So on the next-to-last night of my latest visit, I invited Randy to spend the night with me.

I was staying at the home of friends who were off in France, or wherever, and I had their house and pool all to myself.
Randy brought swim trunks, pajamas and a toothbrush, his favorite Transformer and enough books to fill a library.

“Can we go in the pool now, Nana?” he said after dinner.

“It’s too late to swim tonight,” I said. “Let’s read.”

So we did, curled up in my friends’ guest bed like foxes in a borrowed den. Five books later, his eyelashes fluttered like copper butterflies and he fell asleep, clinging like a monkey, arms around my neck, legs around my middle.

I didn’t sleep much. Didn’t care. I can sleep when I’m dead.

At 2 a.m., he roused to ask, “Nana, can we go swim now?”

“It’s pitch dark,” I said. “Go back to sleep.” He did.

At 4 a.m., he mumbled, “Nana, I’m not very comfortable.”

“Roll over,” I said. He did.

At 5:49 I awoke to hear him whisper-singing in my ear, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

“Hungry?” I said.

He grinned.

Minutes later, we were sitting in the kitchen. He was eating Cheerios. I was drinking coffee. The sun was dancing on the hills. Then he stopped with his spoon mid-air and said:

“Nana, I’m glad this time is just you and me. I thought it would be you and me and my mom and dad and Wiley and Papa Mark. I love all those people. But sometimes I like it when it’s just you and me.”

He took a bite of Cheerios. I tried to swallow a gulp of coffee.

“I like it, too,” I said finally, rubbing my face in his red curls. “But tell me. Where is your nana when you can’t see her?”

Like lightning, he pointed to his heart.

Then we smiled with our eyes and went back to being just us, a boy and his nana.

He won’t always want to be “just us.” But in that moment, he did.

Some moments shine so very bright they linger forever in memory.

Randy might not remember it.

But I will.


  1. I read the “Just us” column today on your website. I love it. I have a granddaughter that is 7 and a grandson that is 1. Oh how I love them. My granddaughter is an early riser. I am not. But when she stays with me I am. She always wakes me up with “It’s good morning time”. Oh how I love to wake up to those words. Her father, my son, passed away when she was 6 weeks old. She doesn’t know it but she helped me through that very tough time in my life. I have told her from day one that I love her to the moon and back. When she was able to talk my other son told her that he loved her to the moon and back. She told him no, that was for grandma only. How precious they are. My grandson Lance, named after his deceased uncle, is just beginning to talk. He is so much fun. He loves to play and lights up when he comes to my house. I am very lucky to live only 15 min from either of them.

    • Sharon Randall says

      How precious indeed, Jeannie. I’m so very sorry you lost your son. I can’t imagine that kind of pain. My heart goes out to you. What a gift that you have your granddaughter _ and that she has you! All the best to you and your family!

  2. Sharon, thank you for writing this article and expressing how we “Nana’s” feel. I have three grandchildren: Ethan, 4 on Halloween; Laken, two and Lochlan, 4 months. Until these beautiful children came along, I never understood how in love you can be with a grandchild and when my friends would talk about thiers, I just didn’t get it. My relationship with Ethan, the four year old, is so precious to me and we have such a bond, it’s making my life at this stage so wonderful. We get to have him and his sister every Monday to help out their mom’s with daycare expenses and it has been so enjoyable and we know these children so well due to this. We are so lucky! Now that we have little Lochlan, we hope to establish a bond and great friendship and love with him as well every Tuesday when he is dropped off at our house. I wanted to share one morning with Ethan with you. We were at the beach this past summer and every morning he and his sister would come into my room to jump on me and “wake me up”. I would lay there in bed until they did this, no matter what time I woke up because they got such a kick out of it. Then Ethan and I would cuddle for a few minutes. The last morning of our vacation, he was in bed snuggled up to me and he looked me in my eyes and said, “Nunny, I wish we could do this cuddling every morning forever, I don’t want to go home!” My heart almost exploded with love. Thank you again, I had tears running down my face after I read your article this morning.

  3. He’ll remember all right. He probably read this on his iPad.

    Good on you, Nana.


  4. SHARON. Just read your column in the SEPT 29th issue of the PITTS post. There are tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. We just moved to PITTS from PHILA to be near our two little grandsons. I left many friends behind but treasure the memories we are making with those little boys. I always tell them – mom mom loves you to the moon and back. Thank you for a great story and will now follow your website,

  5. I loved this. I have three little grandchildren that spend at least one night a week with me. It isn’t always convenient and the little one doesn’t always sleep all night but I wouldn’t trade these days with them for anything in this world. I want to savor every time they are with me and never let it go. I wish I could just freeze these moments in time with them. How blessed we are to have grandchildren to love and that love us back with no strings attached. I never dreamed it would fill my heart like this. Loved reading your story and it brought tears to my eyes as I read because it so much reminded me of my little ones.

  6. Terre Schwartzkopf says

    This took me back to when my little Hayden (my 1st grandson) spent the night with me and did not sleep in his pack and play. I was blessed to have him stay all night many nights while he slept in his pack and play (right next to my bed). The first night he slept in my bed, he snuggled next to me and asked if we could hold hands. We did. I didn’t sleep much that night, but like you, I didn’t care (actually, I never sleep much when he stays all night). But, as long as he was right beside me, I didn’t have to get up every half hour and tickle his precious little toes to make sure he was still breathing ( that was the ‘breathing’ test I always used when his daddy was a baby). After that night, we held hands every night until he told me one night (he was 7) that he was a big boy and didn’t need to hold my hand anymore. I wanted to tell him that I was not a big girl yet and still needed to hold his hand, but I didn’t. I let him be a big boy, and I was happy for him and sad for me. He may never remember those nights when he needed to hold Mamaw’s hand, but Mamaw will never forget.
    Sent from Xfinity Connect Mobile App

  7. Blessed and beautiful times held in the heart forever. Thank you, once again, for the gifts you give so generously, Sharon. I think you are wonderful! A phrase I use often with my own grandchildren.

  8. Jess Randall says

    He remembers and talks of it often. He even told his preschool teachers about his night at Nana’s house. Though he did add a few additional details like Batman was there and you saw dinosaurs in the yard.

  9. How much parents feel relaxed when nana like you can handle a kid by yourself ,I can imagine . A good post ,enjoyed reading it .

  10. Brenda Bryant says

    Randy will remember. Even if his nana wasn’t a Liar that got paid cash money to write her stories down so that they could be shared over & over again, he will always remember how that instance made him feel. That writing thing will preserve the the treasure of the moment, so that when he is all grown up he will remember why he loves his nana so.

    • Sharon Randall says

      Thank you, Brenda, couldn’t have said it better myself! And I love that you remember that where I come from, storytellers were once known as “Liars”! All the best to you and yours, my friend!

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