“For the Love of Wiley,” Sept. 12, 2017

Why do people get married? Most of us, I hope, would say that we married for love. Love is no guarantee that a marriage will last. But without it, the chances for happiness _ let alone for fun _ are pretty much slim to none.

I married twice for love. My first husband was a teacher and a coach. It was a good marriage that grew better and stronger over time. It lasted 30 years until he died of cancer.

It gave me three children who will always be the crowning achievements of my life. It also gave me a gift I never wanted: For four years, I was a healthcare advocate, spiritual cheerleader and end-0f-life caregiver for someone I could not imagine living without.

Getting married is like being a parent. It’s best not to know at the start all it might require.

I was pretty sure I didn’t want to get married again. I missed my husband, but never really felt lonely. I had a full life, three great kids, family and friends and a job that I loved. I traveled, published a book and read more in two years than I had since college. I learned to make my own decisions and spend my own money. And I began to figure out who I was, now that I was no longer who I had been for most of my life.

Then one day, my editor and good friend found the nerve to tell me he had carried a torch for me for a while and thought I should give him chance.

So I did. Five years later, I married him. Yes, for love.

I loved, not only him, but the way others loved him. My kids. My friends. My cat. His family. Even my sister, who told me if I didn’t marry him, she would.

I never thought about future grandchildren, or what kind of grandpa he might make. Neither his kids nor mine showed any signs of reproducing. But after we were married, grandbabies started coming out of the woodwork. We now have six, ages 7 years to 7 months.

They all adore Papa Mark. And why not? He’s one of them. He plays video games, watches cartoons, builds Legos with them for hours. He takes them out for ice cream and knows all their favorite flavors.

Henry, who’s 6, said, “Nana, are you older than Papa Mark?”

“Just a bit,” I said. “Why?”

“I knew it!” he said. “Papa Mark is such a kid!”

If I show up alone at their door, they give me hugs, then ask, “Where’s Papa Mark?”

They like me, too. But I’m a mama person. I feed them, kiss on them and tell them to quit doing whatever they’re doing before it breaks their necks.

Papa Mark is all fun. And no one likes fun more than Wiley.

Wiley is 4. He suffers no fools.

We recently spent a month in California, visiting Wiley and all our family. My husband had to go home to Las Vegas before I did. The next day, Wiley stood at the fridge, staring at a photo of himself with Papa Mark.

“Nana,” he said, pressing his finger on the photo, “can you take me to see Papa Mark?”

“Sorry, buddy,” I said, nuzzling the back of his neck, “he’ll come see you again soon.”

“Oh,” Wiley sighed. “I just really, really want to see him.”

The following week, I flew home and spent the evening watching my husband’s eyes light up as I told him things the kids had said about him.

And if that wasn’t enough to make him want to move back to California, there was this: The next day, as Wiley dressed for preschool, he asked his mom if he could take the photo of him and Papa Mark off the fridge.

Why? Because he wanted to share it for “Show and Tell.”

There is no sweeter gift than the love of a child. It’s a blessing not just for the one who is loved, but for the entire family:

For Wiley’s parents. For his brother and sister and cousins. For the grandpa he is named for and will never know. And for his nana, who is glad she married someone her grandbabes adore.

I married, yes, for love. And for a little boy named Wiley.


  1. Mildred Hogue says

    I have read your columns for years in our local Daily paper, and fell in love with you and your family. Your columns are funny, touching, uplifting and just plain wonderful to read. I came to feel like I knew you personally and looked forward to reading your words every week. I recently stopped subscribing to the newspaper and knew that I would miss you, but I got a copy of my sisters paper and tore out your column so that I could find you on-line, I have just now found your site and I am thrilled that I can continue my relationship with you and your family. My best wishes to you and your family

  2. Oh, Sharon. On most days I’m able to read your column with nary a tear. This column, which I read in the Arkansas paper yesterday, moved me so. Unlike you, I’ve married three times; twice when I thought it was love and once, the last time, when I couldn’t imagine NOT marrying. My now husband and I had been dating a year or so. He’d met all my children. He’d met most of my friends. Everyone, I mean, everyone loved him. (even the former boyfriend who ultimately hosted his bachelor party.) From everyone I heard variations on the comment, “if you break up with this man, I’m going to be his friend/daughter/son, not yours.” One dear friend, who has become Handsome Husband’s closest guy friend told me, “we love Art. We put up with you, but we love Art.”
    Then, my first daugher, the eldest of our five children, had a baby boy. Conor, as all babies, was perfect. When he was 12 hours old, my then-boyfriend was nuzzling Conor and observed, “Oh, Conor. Papa thinks you have poopy pants. Let Papa change your poopy pants.” I knew I would never ‘get rid’ of him then. We married six months later, just days after Conor spit up, as babies are wont to do, but place said spit-up directly in the pocket of Papa’s shirt. He commented ‘there’s nothing wrong with baby spit…’ and put a paper towel in the pocket. Conor is now 9, a whopping 5’1″ tall and adores his Papa. Sharon thanks for the memories!

  3. Love you Sharon. I just stopped every chore which I love to do. But I read such loving stories often. Thank you.

  4. Another one of your special stories. And how true it is. I remember when my Mike and Mark became special friends in Lincoln School. Mark has and is a truly special person. You are both special. Thanks for all of your stories……Liz

  5. Sherry Winkle says

    Sharon, once again you share such a sweet tale with your readers. Thank you for putting a smile on my face after a long week of hurricane recovery.

  6. “And if that wasn’t enough to make him want to move back to California”. Could that be a strong hint Sharon? Sure would love you out of “Las Vegas of all places” and back in beautiful, cool Pacific Grove. Loved this article! Are we so blessed with the best Grandbabies in the world?!

  7. No ice cream, but he did introduced me to scotch. Fair enough.

  8. Dolores Daley says

    You won’t remember me, but I am a long time friend of Marie and Bob – high school and college and sorority with Marie, traveled in Europe and through the Canal with them, and I still live in OConnor Woods. I read the column with great joy, and so wish that Marie could see it. She gave me your book, which I have read more than once. Always lovely to read of such happiness.

  9. Emily Partain says

    My dad (who died in 2016 at almost 90 years of age) pointed out your column in the Anderson Independent and I have been reading it ever since. He said, “She’s our kind of people.” He loved the columns you wrote about growing up in a mill village. Thank very much.

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