“Waiting on Nana Call,” column for Jan. 13, 2015

Nana duty is not for sissies. It requires you to do things you once did as a mother: Feeding, tending and cleaning up after little people who seem to think they own your soul simply because, for some reason, you love them more than life.

But here’s the big difference. As a mother, you were young. As a nana, you are not.

You can tell yourself you’re still young at heart, but you cannot fool your body. 

Had I known as a mother what it takes to be a nana, I’d have taken better care of my knees.

That said, I will tell you this: Being on nana duty is not nearly as tough as being on nana call.

That’s where I am now, and have been for days, waiting for a call that will launch me into action. I hate waiting. Every inch of me, even my knees, would rather act than wait.

My son and his wife are expecting their third child, who is scheduled to be delivered by cesarean section soon. Even sooner, if my daughter-in-law goes into labor. They live in California. I live in Nevada, 500 long miles away. My job, when summoned, will be to get there as fast as I possibly can to help out with their boys, who are 4 and 2.

Fortunately for them, and for me, they have my daughter-in-law’s family living close by and a wealth of friends who’ve offered to help in all sorts of ways.

That doesn’t mean I’m off the nana hook. I took the bait the day my first grandbabe arrived, and with each new arrival, the hook sank a little deeper.

Once you fall head over heels, hook, line and sinker, you’re done. There is no turning back. I fell long before I was a nana. The day I became a mother, I became a nana in waiting. It’s a package deal, like a credit card that charges no interest for a while, and then one day, look out, it’s time to start paying up.

I could go to California today and wait with them there. But I don’t want them to get sick of me. They’ll need me more after the baby comes, not so much before.

A big rule of nanahood is never outstay your welcome. Remember Kenny Rogers’ old song, “The Gambler,” about knowing when to hold ’em or fold ’em? Being a nana is like that. You’ve got to know when to hold the baby; when to fold the laundry; and when to pack up your nana stuff and go home.

When my babies were born, I had no family nearby. But we had a lot of great friends from church and from the high school where my husband taught. They babysat for my older children; ran errands to get diapers; did laundry and dishes and other chores. One guy even showed up to cut our grass.

Best of all, for a week or so after I came home from the hospital, they took turns bringing us dinner. Usually it was a casserole, something simple, but it always tasted like the best meal I’d ever had.

After my third and last child was born, I was tempted to have a fourth just for the free meals. And yet, those helping hands kept showing up, not just when I had a baby, but whenever we needed them, especially in the years my husband was battling cancer and at times after he died.

We were blessed to belong to a large and caring community. All too often, families live far apart and good friends can be hard to find.

But community begins with just one willing hand reaching out to help another. It’s not hard. Look around. Someone will need a casserole. Or just a helping hand.

I’ll keep waiting for that phone call. I want to be there for my son and his wife and their boys, to be part of their lives, welcome this new baby and help in any way I can. That’s what nanas do.

But I’m not worried. With or without me, they’ll be fine. Lots of people love them and….

Wait. Was that my phone?


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Just now getting a chance to catch up on your columns…. Had nana duty a week earlier than expected… Got to “fly over the hill” from Carson City to the Bay Area while everyone else was heading my way to enjoy the MLK JR three day weekend…. Lots of “brights” blinding my eyes but I made it (well, almost – actually another son, DIL and their 3 were at the house tending to my little charges… All of them enjoying pizza and running around when I arrived…). Nana duty is the best – especially after you leave and your DIL texts with the message that the grandkids want to know “where is Grandma????” And I will recover from putting them in and out of car seats in that big SUV of theirs…. I know I will! The back massager I got for Christmas last year will surely help 🙂

  2. Jo Ellen Tiscornia says

    A gift like no other, and we have a NEW role! The nana hood of all nations join in nana hearts to cheer you on! May this new place in your heart that a grandchild creates put springs in your “gently used” knees. Do you think that if “I believe” I too will hear my phone ring?? I have heard it six times ….yet you have caused me to remember those miracles and Icould handle a rerun.
    Please hold that precious one for all of us in the nana hood…..and together we sigh. Ahhhh

  3. Enjoyed reading your column again, as always, Nana. I have been lucky to be with my daughters when they had their babies, although I waited outside until the little ones had arrived. But, what a rush of joy and love when I first saw those brand new eyes, watching and amazed by their new environment. Is there anything more endearing than those wails crying in outrage about leaving the warmth of their safe cocoon? Before they know it, we grandmas will be there, with Mom and Dad, to replace it with hugs and kisses. What a wonderful profession for those of us with cranky knees and insatiable hearts!

  4. Sharon,
    I love everything you write. I can relate to your stories so much. You just have a knack of putting it all into words. Thank you for that. It becomes a short break in my day to read your writings and think about and remember different times in my life. We all need those breaks. I have even cut some out and sent them to my daughter. There is nothing like this grandma job tho. I love it. Thanks for sharing and keep the stories coming.

  5. Read your column today and I could relate to the column, it matched my circumstance exactly ! But it also made me feel I was not alone in my feelings, my grandchildren call me BABCIA
    ( Which means grandma in Polish ), I love them all equally and love to relate stories about their dad growing up in our loving home., My 3 sons grew up losing their father and again their loving step father, since we are such a close knit family I love the fact that they can rely on me for help. Again thanks for the column and glad there are other grandma’s out there who share the same experiences.

  6. Sharon, you have a knack, as no one else does, of putting into words what so many of us are saying, “That’s exactly how I feel!!” Isn’t it amazing how long our “patience bones” are with our grandkids, when we couldn’t even find if with our own! They’ve taught us, or me anyway, that it’s worth getting old just to be a small part of their lives.

    Congrats on the newbie on the way, Sharon!

  7. May your phone ring soon! You’ve just taken me on a lovely walk down memory lane. I dropped everything (including my job – thanks to a wonderful boss) when the phone rang at 0-dark-thirty on three occasions. Two out of three, I made it from Monterey to L.A. in time for the arrival! Those grandsons are 17, 15 and 12 now, but it seems like yesterday. Love to you, Sharon. More wonderful memories in the making!

  8. That waiting time is so hard….my third grandson (and fifth grandchild) took three days to arrive, and finally his mama had an emergency C-section. I got to be in the delivery room and was the first person besides the doctor to see him. What a miracle! My fourth grandson (and sixth grandchild) was supposed to be a girl, and I’ll never forget the text my son sent me from the delivery room seconds after they realized he wasn’t! He and his wife already had a daughter, and having a son was wonderful, if a bit inconvenient. Lots of little pink things had to be replaced with other colors! The grammas did a lot of shopping!

  9. When the first in our group of friends became a Granny, she made a statement I will never forget: “I never knew I could fall head over heels in love with a baby I had not given birth as quickly as I did the instant I held my first grandbaby. I knew it would come with time, but it was so strong and all encompassing the first moment I saw her.”

    Yep, happened just like that for me too. With the first, the second and the ones to come….Maw is right here, ready to love them up!

    Ps. Funny how there are now so many Grandma names. I grew up in the Midwest and it was most often Grandma. 🙂

  10. Great post as always ,lot of wishes for new arrival ,a new baby always brings joy to family and nana gets free kisses from all grand kids and she always has lot more to give to no. one, two or number three, does not matter they are all fun and loving grand kids . Congratulations !! and we are waiting for good news and God bless mom and baby good health along with nana and her family to go and help anyway ,there is always something to help .

  11. Weldon Walker says

    Once again, a very good piece that I enjoyed so much. I didn’t have grandkids until I was 57 and it was a little boy named “Walker” of all things. I had 2 darling daughters whom I love very much and wondered if I would ever know the joy of a grandchild and oh what a joy it has been. Well now Walker has been promoted to “big brother” come July. I’m sure he’s ready for the task at hand- not so sure about papa and mimi. I don’t know why I share this with you, I guess because you share so much with me as a reader that I almost feel I know you. I truly love your stories- hope to read more like this one this year. Thank you, Weldon

  12. Congratulations! (in advance)
    I’ve said since before I was even a mother that my goal in life was to be a grandma. It still is.

    I’m so glad for your son and his wife that they have lots of helpers. We live away from family, too, and it’s not easy.

    Thanks for being willing to drop everything and run.

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