“Love at First Sound,” column for Jan. 1, 2013


He was due to be born on Christmas Eve, the birthday of his late grandfather, for whom he would be named: Wiley. But like most babies, Wiley had a mind of his own.

Two weeks before Christmas, he showed signs of arriving early — signs strong enough to put his mama on bed rest, his daddy on red alert and his nana (that would be me) on a nonstop flight to California.

I showed up. We waited. No baby. So we celebrated Christmas together, I and my three children, their others and my grandsons: Wiley’s big brother, Randy, who is 2, and sweet cousin Henry, who is 1.

It’s surprising how much fun you can have, if you’re willing to have it, when you’re waiting for something else to happen.

Still no baby. So on Christmas Day, I kissed them all a dozen times, patted my daughter-in-law’s belly and flew home to Las Vegas, to share Christmas dinner with my husband.

Meanwhile, in California, “Big Brudder” Randy kept shouting at his mother’s belly, “Come out, Baby Brudder! They’s owls in there! It’s scary!”

Wiley ignored him. But four days after Christmas, he grew tired of the owls, apparently, and decided it was time.

And so it began, the birthing dance. Calls were made. Bags were packed. Nerves were frazzled. Big Brudder went to stay with RoRo and Papa, grandparents who live nearby. Neighbors agreed to feed the dogs and cats. Daddy drove Mama to the hospital. And far away in Las Vegas, Nana waited by the phone and prayed. For hours. And hours. And hours.

Finally, there came a quick, sobering phone call from my son, my baby, sounding ever so grown-up. They were going into surgery for a Caesarean section, he said. He would call again afterward, soon as he could.

Have you ever second-guessed a decision — wished with all your heart that you had chosen to go, not wait? There was nothing I could do for them, had I been there. The only difference is that I would have been there. And sometimes being there makes all the difference.

Even so, without any help whatsoever from me, Wiley Robert Randall entered the world — 9 pounds, 3 ounces, 22 inches long — a fine, strapping baby, if ever there was one.

No owl feathers in sight.

I haven’t met him yet, but will soon, Lord willing, when I fly to California to help out for a bit while his mama is on the mend, and his daddy goes back to teaching and his “Big Brudder” starts spelling out the rules.

(“Baby Brudder no touch my dogs. They’s MY dogs.”)

We often stand, you and I, in that holy doorway between life and death, welcoming newborns with open arms, and letting go of loved ones we thought we could never live without.

I wonder. Do you think they wink at each other in passing?

It is always a gift, an honor, to stand there on that threshold for either reason. But having done both, I will say this: One makes the other bearable. Babies are a balm for a broken heart.

I haven’t seen Wiley yet, but I could hear him squawking like a rousted rooster as I spoke on the phone with his mama.

I wish you could’ve heard him. Talk about love at first sound.

“He has your feet,” she said, “long, skinny toes like yours.”

I laughed. Better my toes than my nose.

Someday, when he’s older, I will tell Wiley about the day he was born. I’ll tell him that while I was not there in body, I was surely there in spirit — in that part of me that will always be with him, wherever he goes, even long after I am gone.

Maybe his mama’s right.

Maybe he has my toes.

But he flat-out owns my heart.


  1. Ella Holsinger says

    Beautiful column! I hope that there IS a cosmic wink between those coming and going. Welcome little Wiley.

  2. Sheila Gahagan says

    Read your column every week in the Record Courier, Kent , Ohio. I have saved some of your columns that were very touching to me. “Not losing a son, gaining a daughter” appeared in the paper shortly after my 1st son was married. “Last dance”, after my 2nd son was married and on Jan 1st, 2013 My 4th grandson was born in New Jersey. He’s the first grandchild born and I couldn’t be there. I cried that day, but your column 2 days later made me feel alot better.
    Thanks for all of the great stories. A Happy and healthy New Year. Sheila Gahagan

  3. Jo (Mawmaw) says

    Congrats on your new addition to the family, Wiley!

    I have been blessed to be at the hospital with all 3 of my grandchildren when they were born. (In the birthing room with 2 of them.)
    Now my youngest is pregnant with the 4th! He/she should be here by the middle of March. (They didn’t want to know the gender.)

    Since they live out of town, I’m hoping my ‘blessing’ holds out for this one too!

    Love the story from a Nana’s heart!

  4. libby nowSell says

    so happy for your brother that Clemson won their game…personally, I am a ROLL TIDE fan, but I so wanted Clemson to win, even beating a SEC team, just so he would be happy. my husband didn’t know why in the world I wanted Clemson to win, but I told him about “monkey boy” and he laughed…it was just LSU anyway…congratualtions on your new grandbaby..

  5. Debbie Fortune says

    Oh, Sharon, I loved it! I wonder if they do wink at each other in passing…I know Randy would have snuck in a hug of that new little Wiley on his journey into this world! I especially liked how you said, “We often stand, you and I, in that holy doorway between life and death, welcoming newborns with open arms, and letting go of loved ones we thought we could never live without.” Truer words were never spoken…

    Congratulations, Grandma Sharon, once again…

  6. Vicki in Monterey says

    Happy New Year, dear girl…to you and all your “chicks” = ]

    hugs 2U,


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