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Sharon Randall: Making life grand for children

By Sharon Randall

Based on the crowd waiting to board, the flight from Las Vegas to Monterey, Calif., would be full, as it often is whenever I visit my children and grandchild.
I was surprised to find an empty row near the front of the plane with room in the overhead bin for my bag. Maybe I could keep the whole row to myself?
I put my purse under the seat, shut off my phone and settled into an aisle seat to begin “The Judas Field,” the final novel in Howard Bahr’s fabulous Civil War trilogy that I’d been reading for days and could barely stand to put down.
“Excuse me,” said a woman, nodding at the seats beside me, “is anyone sitting there?”
She was pleasant-looking, fiftyish, gray-haired and smiling, if a little frazzled. With her was a child, a little girl, 7 or 8 years old, with dark hair and wide, wondering eyes.
Something told me the Civil War would have to wait. Not because the woman would insist on talking. She wouldn’t. But I would. When I meet interesting people, I can’t resist finding out their stories. They’re like a novel I can’t put down. And I meet them everywhere I go.
Her story was fairly simple. Her granddaughter had just gotten out of school for the summer and needed either child care, which her single-parent mother couldn’t afford, or she’d have to stay home alone.
So her grandmother, God bless her, had flown to Vegas to take the child home with her to Monterey for a month.
I remember the summer days I spent with my grandmothers. One lived on a farm in the mountains where I could eat tomatoes off the vine and catch tadpoles in the creek; the other lived on the main street of a very small town where I could know everybody’s cousins and all their stories. I can’t say which place or which woman I loved more.
I honestly don’t know. The one thing I can tell you is they both loved me. And their love made all the difference in my world.
The hours we spent together wrapped me in an assurance that I felt when we were apart — the fact that I knew, come what may, I would always have a home if I needed one, a safe haven with them.
Assurance isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. Sometimes it’s enough.
Grandparents are good for assurance. They’re good for all sorts of things, really (including advice nobody wants to hear.) That may explain why God gives children two sets of grandparents apiece.
Unfortunately, even two sets aren’t always enough to make sure one of them will always be there when they’re needed.
That’s why I think we all ought to double or triple up. You don’t need to have a grandchild to be a “grandparent.” You can borrow one or even a bunch.
You can volunteer as an aide in a classroom, teach Sunday school, coach Little League, be a Big Brother or Big Sister.
You can baby-sit (all summer or for an hour) for the child of a single parent who lives nearby.
If you have more money than time, you can make a donation to an organization that provides services for children.
You can be present for every child who comes into your life, regardless of age.
You can listen to all of their stories.
I hope to stick around as long as I can to provide that same assurance for my grandchildren. If I can’t, I hope someone will step up and do it for me.
I watched the woman beside me with her granddaughter, their heads touching as they studied a work sheet.
The child asked a question. The woman answered patiently. I smiled.
It was going to be a good summer for them both.
• • •
Contact Sharon Randall at www.sharonrandall.com.

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