When you are little and the world seems so big, it’s hard to understand why someone you love is here one day and gone the next.
Actually, that can be hard to understand at any age. I’ve been trying to make sense of it all my life, and I still don’t get it. Or like it. But I’ve come to accept it as one of the harder facts of life.
Randy doesn’t accept it a bit. He is 3 years old and smart enough to notice that his nana — that would be me — shows up at his door unannounced, only to disappear later like the UPS guy dropping off a package.
Yes, there are differences. The UPS guy wears a crisp brown uniform. I dress mostly in rumpled black. And he never sticks around to play with Randy, even for a minute.
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I always stay at least a few days, long enough to make Nana pancakes (they’re the best), read stories (about Curious George) and trick his parents into letting him stay up late.
The UPS guy never does that.
But sooner or later, I always drive away, not in a big brown van, but a little rental car. And I’m gone for a very long time. A month. Or two. Or three.
Then I get messages on my voice mail: “Nana, can you go to the park with me today?”
How do you keep saying no when all you want to say is yes?
Randy lives in California with his parents and his brother, Wiley, who is almost a year old. Wiley doesn’t care how long I’m gone. I can’t prove it, but I think he likes the UPS guy better.
Their cousin Henry and his parents live only a few miles away from them. Henry is 2 and likes me a lot, but he’s not quite old enough yet to take issue with how long I’m gone.
Henry’s mama says when he sees an “older woman,” he will point to her and smile and say “Nana!” She tells me this, I know, to make me feel missed, not old. Either way, I love it.
The reason for my vanishing act is simple, but not easily explained, especially to a child.
My husband and I live 500 miles from our children and our grandchildren, in the desert overlooking Las Vegas, with an interesting array of wildlife and all sorts of things to do.
Like many of our neighbors, we didn’t plan on the job change that brought us here. But after a few years of trying to make the best of it, we’ve been surprised to find how much we like it.
The only thing we don’t like is the 500 miles between us and the people we love.
I was almost Randy’s age when my parents divorced. I lived with my mother and will never forget how much I missed my dad. But when I visited my dad, I’d miss my mother, too.
My grandmother helped me come to terms with it.
“When someone loves you,” she said, “you don’t have to be in the same room to know you are loved. Love stays forever, even when they’re out of sight.”
I remembered those words years later when I lost in slow succession my grandparents, my parents and my first husband.
My grandmother was right. You don’t have to be in the same room to know you’re loved. She’s been gone some 30 years, and I still feel her love every day.
I want my grandchildren to feel the same way about me. So I am teaching it to them, starting with Randy. The last day I was with him, I held his face in my hands and said, “Where is your nana when you can’t see her?”
He studied my eyes, waiting for me to tell him. So I did. I told him and showed him, then I made him show and tell me.
“Will you remember?” I asked.
He nodded and smiled.
Then I left. Again. The next day his mama emailed to tell me this story:
That morning Randy came out to the kitchen to ask, “Mama, where is Nana?”
“She’s gone home, honey,” she said, “with Papa Mark.”
“No, Mama,” he said, grinning and pointing to his chest. “Nana is right here in my heart.”
Take that, UPS guy.
Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.