“The Best Movie I Never Saw,” Nov. 24, 2015

My husband and I love going to movies. He took me to one on our first real date 15 years ago. For some reason, I don’t recall much about that movie. Possibly I was distracted by the fact that a man who’d been my editor and “just a friend” was suddenly, of all things, holding my hand.

He still holds my hand in movies. Other times, too. But not in the last movie we saw. Somebody was sitting between us. Talk about distracting.

Randy is my 5-year-old grandson. He’s only been to, like, three movies in his whole life, but he’s already learned something lots of people never do: good movie manners.

“Nana,” he whispered as the film was about to start, “did you turn off your phone?”

I nodded and whispered back, “Yep. Better check Papa Mark.”

He looked over at my husband and got a quick thumbs up.

Then we all settled back in our seats (near the front where we always like to sit) to watch “The Peanuts Movie.”

Actually, Randy and Papa Mark watched the movie. I mostly just watched them. They sat perfectly still with their eyes glued to the screen, laughing whenever Snoopy or Lucy or Charlie Brown did something especially goofy.

Randy was in charge of the popcorn. He held it on his lap, easing his fingers into the bag to take one piece at a time, placing it, just so, on his tongue. Then Papa Mark would reach over, grab a fistful of popcorn and stuff it in his mouth. They took turns, never once letting their eyes leave the screen. They looked as if they’d been practicing those moves for years.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

It takes a lot to distract me from a movie. Especially a good one. And this one was pretty good. At least, what I saw of it.

What makes a movie good? For me, it’s the story. I want it to hook me at the start and keep me hooked until the end.

This movie might’ve done that, had I not been so distracted by the popcorn eaters. They brought to mind a different story _ one that started long ago and still keeps me hooked.

Randy bears the name of the grandpa he never met, my first husband, who died of cancer years before Randy was born. I remember feeling, the day he died, that my life was over, too. I could never have imagined, back then, all the joys that lay ahead: Seeing my children begin their careers (an actor and two teachers); dancing at their weddings; delighting in the people they married; adoring their precious babies; and sharing a big, blended family with a man who still holds my hand in movies, unless somebody sits between us with a bag of popcorn.

Life isn’t quite like the movies. We don’t get to write the scripts for our lives. We never know what joys are yet to come. All we can do is be alive as best we can, and pay attention so we don’t miss what happens next.

Charlie Brown shouted “Good Grief!” about something. A second later, Randy handed me the empty popcorn bag and came crawling over the seat into my lap. His legs seemed to have gotten longer since he started kindergarten. He had to drape them over the armrest to make them fit. He cradled his head in the crook of my arm, but kept his eyes on the screen.

I combed his curls with my fingers the way I used to comb his dad’s. His lashes fluttered like wings. Then he was out. Meanwhile on the screen, Charlie Brown was having a long-awaited, face-to-face, heart-to-heart talk with the Little Red-Haired Girl.

When the credits finally rolled, I didn’t move. I was pinned in the seat. Randy was snoring. My legs were numb. No way could I get him out of there.

“Papa Mark?”

He grinned. Then he gathered Randy up in his arms to carry him to the car.

I swear. It was better than holding hands.


  1. You are such a heart-warming, inspiring writer. I read your column regularly and always think to write you at this site, but then never do. However, this one about your grandson, husband, and the Peanuts movie prompts me to finally follow up. I am so glad that God has brought you healing and joy since your husband’s passing. Grandchildren are such blessings! They fill our hearts with a love we never understand before they are born. God is good. Thank you for reminding us of that and for sharing your life with your readers.

  2. It is better than holding hands….my granboys just left, but I got to rock my 5 year old to sleep, while running my fingers thru his hair. I could stay like that for a long time….

  3. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful story! Grandchildren really do fill our hearts with joy! I’m glad you have so much happiness in your life now; I can’t begin to imagine the pain you felt when your husband passed away. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  4. Sheila Torres says

    That was absolutely beautiful! You have such a gift for expressing yourself.

  5. Sharon ~ I’ve read your Monterey Herald columns since you lived in Pacific Grove. This story, as always!, was beautifully written. Our two youngest grandbabies just visited and we had similar times with them. Sweet memories. All the best in the coming holidays to you and your family.

  6. Beautiful. Thank you.

  7. Thanks you for this…..Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  8. What an image! That just brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

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