“A Book with a Message for All Ages,” column for July 26, 2016

The package was addressed to “Papa Mark.” That’s what our grandkids call him. I wanted to open it, but forced myself to wait until he gets home. It’s the least I can do. He deserves the credit for the contents of that package. My only credit is being smart enough to marry him.

It was a second marriage for us both. I was a widow. He was divorced. We share five children, three who are married, and five grandchildren. Some people go to Paris. We go to kids’ birthday parties. Who needs Paris when you can be a bouncer at a bounce house?

When he asked me to marry him 11 years ago, I didn’t ask what kind of grandpa he’d be. He was a great dad to his boys. And his dad was a great father and grandfather. I agreed to marry him on one condition: He’d keep getting more like his dad. So far, he’s kept the deal.

We live hundreds of miles from our grandkids and can’t be as much a part of their lives as we’d like to be. But we try. When a FedEx truck stops at their house, the kids shout, “Look! It’s Nana’s truck!”

One day last summer, soon after my husband retired from a career as a newspaper editor, he looked up from his crossword puzzle and said, “I’m going to make books for the kids.” So he bought a sketch pad and some colored pencils and went to work on a book for our oldest grandchild.

Randy is 5 and loves superheroes. His book was about a superhero named Randy whose favorite adventure was hanging out with his family. Papa Mark stapled it together and sent it to Randy, who gave it five stars and a very happy face.

Next came books for Charlotte and Henry, age 4 (cousins, not twins, born a day apart); Wiley, age 3, and Eleanor, 18 months. Henry loves animals. Charlotte is a warrior princess. Wiley is wild about monster trucks. Eleanor likes her hairbows and her shopping cart.

Each book featured each child as the star of his or her own adventure. The kids (and their parents) loved the books, much the same way they love Papa Mark.

Then Randy (with his mom’s help) made a book for Papa Mark, a serialized story with lots of blank pages for future chapters. He wrote Chapter 1 (about an unnamed superhero) and sent it to Papa Mark, asking him to write Chapter 2.

Papa Mark wasted no time. He wrote Chapter 2 (revealing the superhero’s name was “Super Randy”) then returned it to Randy with a pre-paid envelope for the next installment. That’s the package that arrived today _ the much anticipated Chapter 3.

Papa Mark better get home quick or I might open it and read it without him. It reminded me of a gift my grandmother gave me long ago when I was about Randy’s age.

After my parents split up, I fell into the void that was left between them and could not seem to find my way out. So my grandmother made for me a beautiful thing _ a rag doll with blue eyes and a knowing smile very much like hers.

“She will be your doll,” she said, “and you will be her girl. And she will tell you good things, all the things you need to know.”

From that day to this, I could hold that doll close and hear her whisper (in a voice much like my grandmother’s) whatever I needed to know. Eleven years ago, when I asked her if I should marry the man I now call “Papa Mark,” she said, “Yes, but only if he promises to be more like his dad.”

Papa Mark plans to do “serial” books with all of our grandkids. The stories will vary, depending on the child, but the message will be the same. It’s a message that children of all ages, young and old, need to hear from books and toys and birds and trees and especially from the people who care for them. I’ve often heard it whispered by a rag doll:

“You are loved.”

Listen. Did you hear that?


  1. I loved your story. I never miss your columns. So enjoyable.

  2. Thank you for your lovely story. Two of my grandchildren do not live close and one does. This is a great idea. I appreciate you so much Sharon!!!

  3. What Connie said…..

  4. Sharon, your grandma was one smart lady. A couple of years ago, Chuck saw Bert, Cotton and Doug. He mentioned that he thought you were the “most well-known and gifted” person from Landrum. They said, “she’s just Sharon”. Isn’t it nice to know you’re still part of “the gang”?

  5. Adrienne Thomas says

    Another beautiful message, thank you Sharon!!

  6. I am so glad to have found your stories again! So uplifting! I was lucky enough to have been taught by your late husband and am happy to know you have found another great man. Blessings to you and family!

  7. He is really great ! A nice grand father!

  8. Great idea! I might just have to copy it for my grandchildren who live out of town. 🙂


  9. Sheila Torres says

    That was so beautiful ❤️

  10. Sharon,
    What a marvelous idea, and an inspiring column.
    Thank you so much.
    (P.S. You are loved.)

  11. Nancy Quackenbush says

    Love this story…love you!

  12. Debbie K says

    What a great idea with the books & glad your grandma helped you make a good decision.

  13. Taska Maybry says

    Beautiful story.

  14. Jeannette Buck says

    Oh, my goodness, lady! You make me laugh and make me cry so close together I can’t always tell which is which! Thank you!

  15. Connye Neal says

    Crying..,just beautiful !

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