Sharon Randall: A message for all ages

Published 11:37 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

The package was addressed to “Papa Mark.” That’s what our grandkids call him. I wanted to open it, but forced myself to wait until he gets home. It’s the least I can do. He deserves the credit for the contents of that package. My only credit is being smart enough to marry him.

It was a second marriage for us both. I was a widow. He was divorced. We share five children, three who are married, and five grandchildren.

Some people go to Paris. We go to kids’ birthday parties. Who needs Paris when you can be a bouncer at a bounce house?

When he asked me to marry him 11 years ago, I didn’t ask what kind of grandpa he’d be. He was a great dad to his boys. And his dad was a great father and grandfather. I agreed to marry him on one condition: He’d keep getting more like his dad. So far, he’s kept the deal.

We live hundreds of miles from our grandkids and can’t be as much a part of their lives as we’d like to be. But we try. When a FedEx truck stops at their house, the kids shout, “Look! It’s Nana’s truck!”

One day last summer, soon after my husband retired from a career as a newspaper editor, he looked up from his crossword puzzle and said, “I’m going to make books for the kids.”

So he bought a sketch pad and some colored pencils and went to work on a book for our oldest grandchild. Randy is 5 and loves superheroes. His book was about a superhero named Randy whose favorite adventure was hanging out with his family.

Papa Mark stapled it together and sent it to Randy, who gave it five stars and a very happy face. Next came books for Charlotte and Henry, age 4 (cousins, not twins, born a day apart); Wiley, age 3, and Eleanor, 18 months.

Henry loves animals. Charlotte is a warrior princess. Wiley is wild about monster trucks. Eleanor likes her hairbows and her shopping cart. Each book featured each child as the star of his or her own adventure.

The kids (and their parents) loved the books, much the same way they love Papa Mark.

Then Randy (with his mom’s help) made a book for Papa Mark, a serialized story with lots of blank pages for future chapters. He wrote Chapter 1 (about an unnamed superhero) and sent it to Papa Mark, asking him to write Chapter 2.

Papa Mark wasted no time. He wrote Chapter 2 (revealing the superhero’s name was “Super Randy”) then returned it to Randy with a pre-paid envelope for the next installment.

That’s the package that arrived today _ the much anticipated Chapter 3. Papa Mark better get home quick or I might open it and read it without him.

It reminded me of a gift my grandmother gave me long ago when I was about Randy’s age.

After my parents split up, I fell into the void between them and could not find my way out. So my grandmother made for me a beautiful thing — a rag doll with blue eyes and a knowing smile very much like hers.

“She will be your doll,” she said, “and you will be her girl. She will tell you good things, all the things you need to know.”

From that day to this, I could hold that doll close and hear her whisper (in a voice much like my grandmother’s) whatever I needed to know. When I asked her if I should marry the man I now call “Papa Mark,” she said, “Yes, but only if he promises to be more like his dad.”

Papa Mark plans to do “serial” books with all our grandkis. The stories will vary, depending on the child, but the message will be the same.

It’s a message children of all ages need to hear from books and toys and birds and trees and especially from the people who care for them. I’ve often heard it from a rag doll: “You are loved.”

Listen. Did you hear that?

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394 Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: