“Part-Time Grandmas Love Full Time,” May 9, 2017

Last week I flew to Monterey, Calif. (my home for decades before I moved to Las Vegas) to attend a funeral for a woman I knew mostly through her son.

I met Gary a lifetime ago. I was a rookie Young Life leader and he was a tall, skinny high school kid with a big grin and an Afro the size of Texas. Little did we know we’d be friends long after his ‘fro had gone gray.

Gary became a teacher like his mother. My oldest gave him fits in his first pre-kindergarten class. My kids grew up believing (we never corrected them) that Gary was their godfather. We taught Sunday school together. He and my late husband were prayer partners. I could tell you lots of stories about him. Suffice it to say, after all these years, I still think of Gary as my kid brother.

So when he called last week to tell me he’d lost his mom just before her 90th birthday, I started packing. She had devoted her life to her family, to teaching, to her church and her community. She had left a beautiful mark on the world. And she had shared her wonderful son with me and my family. I wanted to pay my respects.

The service was lovely, both a celebration of her life and a tribute to the God she served. It gave me a chance to hug the necks of friends I hadn’t hugged in ages. Why do we wait for a funeral to tell someone “I love you” when we feel it every day?

One of those necks belonged to Joyce. Years ago, before I moved away, Joyce and I spent hours together, solving the problems of the world. Now we seldom talk at all. No wonder the world is in such a state.  I was so happy to see her. We sat together near the front of a packed church, hoping Gary and his family could sense the love we sent them across the pews.

The next morning, Joyce emailed me to pick up where we’d left off after the service. What do old friends talk about when they finally reconnect? Mostly, we talked about our grandchildren. We had both been deeply touched at the service by the love Gary’s grown children showed for their grandmother. His two boys told great stories about her. And his daughter wrote a poem that was sure to make her the envy of every grandma in Heaven.

Joyce and I, like a lot of grandparents, live far from our grandchildren. We see them as often as we can, try to make the best of it, and pray somehow, by the grace of God, it’s enough. But it’s not the same as living nearby to pick the kids up from school and cheer for them at all their games and be there, day or night, if they need you.

We would like to be that kind of grandparent. But we’re not.

Neither was my dad’s mother. She lived on a farm miles away from me. I spent only a few weeks with her each year. Yet she was one of the most important people in my life.

Why? Whenever I was with her, she made me feel special.

She spent time with me, just the two of us. We went for walks on the mountain, waded in the creek, caught lightning bugs, picked berries and gathered eggs. I dried the dishes that she washed, and held the dustpan for her broom. She taught me how to whistle and crochet and paint sunsets on stones. To love books and birds and biscuits and the Bible. She read to me, talked to me and heard every word I said or did not say.

She made me feel safe and wanted and good. Every time she looked at me, her face lit up like Christmas. She was a part-time grandma, but God picked her out just for me. She was more than enough. Even a part-time grandma can love a child full time.

I hope to do for my grandchildren all the things my grandmother did for me, in one form or another. I’m not good at everything, but I learned from the best. I’m a whiz at lighting up when I look at them.

I’ll bet Joyce lights up at hers, too.

Someday _ if we are half as blessed as my friend Gary’s mother _ maybe our grands will write poems about us.



  1. Janice Hare says

    I, too, was honored to attend Willie’s memorial celebration and LOVED it! I saw you near the front, but didn’t get an opportunity to “hug on your neck”. Gary’s family is extraordinary and so are you! God bless you and your precious grandchildren!

  2. Kim felton says

    Grandmothers are truly a gift…love the article…

  3. How fun to hear of Gary again. We remember him as the Young Life kid who was very important in your family. And then meeting him later in his life with Randy and you. A great guy! Well deserving of a spectacular grandma.

  4. My grandmother was so special. She died at 92, and I still feel the loss at my 84.

    Thank you for a beautiful story of life. I lost contact with you for a few years, but so happy to have found your blog.


  5. We’re not close to our parents, and let me tell you, there’s a lot of love in this house for the “part-time” grandparents. And often, there are tears because those grandparents are missed a bunch. I’m sure it’s the same with your grandchildren.

  6. Oh, my . . . thank you so much! Our grandbabies are far, far away and we don’t get to see them often enough. It’s so good to know that it’s quality of time that counts. I hope mine will remember special moments too!

  7. Gary R. Williams says

    Dear Sharon,
    Thank you for your kind words. Our God used your family in my life in so many ways. I feel so blessed to have been included in your family even though my juvenile, frontal lobe deficient tendencies didn’t make it easy for you. It’s been great to know the Bocks as well. Diane and Joyce have become pretty close.
    Love You,

  8. Marty Perkins says

    Sharon, I love reading your columns. They speak of normal things that happen in life that are really important! Many things from your life seem to parallel mine. I also lost my husband to cancer and now am remarried. I am also a “part time” grandmother trying to have a special relationship like I had with my grandmother. Thank you for your writing. ?

  9. Kate Sciacca says

    What is it about old friends that we can solve the problems of the world in fifteen minutes (ok, maybe thirty) and move on to the next topic? Which these days is almost always the grands…. Funny, but I love just as much hearing about those awesome grands of my friends as I do telling them the latest wonderful thing one of mine did. Gives a whole new meaning to “life is grand!” ?

  10. Marilyn Johnson says

    I am a Grandma nine times…this story touched my heart in a GOOD way…the book you write has a title…Birds, Biscuits and the Bible…Thank You for being YOU

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