Sharon Randall: Randy’s good heart

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2022

The good thing about a long drive is it gives you time to talk.
My grandson, Randy, is 11, soon to start middle school, that turning point in life when being with friends is a lot more fun than hanging out with Nana.
   I’m glad to say he still seems to like being with me and playing video games with Papa Mark.
   We try to see Randy and his family as often as we can, but it never feels often enough.
   That’s how it is with people you love. No matter how hard you try, there’s seldom enough time to say all you want to say and hear all you need to hear.
   I often think of questions I wish I’d asked my parents and grandparents when I had the chance. Unfortunately, the answers to those questions now lie buried with the only people who could answer them.
   When Randy and his brother and sister take turns spending a night with us, I like to pick them up so we can talk for half an hour driving to our place.
   This weekend it was Randy’s turn. He’s old enough to sit up front in the car, but I made him sit in back because it’s safer. (That’s one of the facts the kids like to cite when we play a game we call “Name the safest thing you can think of and Nana will tell you 50 ways it can kill you.”)
   On the drive, we talked for a while about everything and nothing. Then Randy said, “Nana, how do you decide what to be when you grow up?”
   I glanced at his face in the rearview mirror. He was serious.
   “Well, buddy,” I said, “that’s nothing you need to decide just yet. Do you think about it a lot?”
   He nodded. “People in my family all have important jobs they’re proud of. I want to do something I’ll be proud of, too.”
   “Like what?” I said.
   “I might be a mechanical engineer, but I’m not sure. I think a lot about Grandpa Randy. So many people looked up to him. I want to be like him, but I don’t know if I can.”
   My first husband, for whom Randy is named, was a chemical engineer when we met. But he decided he wanted to teach and coach. So that’s what he did for 30 years, until he died of cancer.
   Randy never met him, but he’s heard lots about him and he’s seen the gym at Monterey High School that bears his name.
   “Actually,” I said, “both you and your dad are a lot like your Grandpa Randy. You both have a good heart, just like he did.”
   I told him the story of how his grandpa’s decision to trust his heart and change careers made such a difference in his life.
   Randy listened, then sat for a while, staring at passing cars.
   How do you explain to a child how to follow his heart? How do you define indefinable concepts (like faith or hope or love) if you don’t understand them yourself?
   Some things can’t be defined. They can only be felt. I couldn’t explain it. Finally, I said this:
    “Just trust me, buddy. I’m old and I know stuff. You have a good heart. It will lead you where you need to go. You’ll be a great person, do great things, and your family will all be proud of you. Especially me.”
   He grinned at me in the rearview mirror. I wish you could’ve seen him. Minutes later, we pulled up to the house and he bolted inside to play video games with Papa Mark.
   The next day, when it was time for Randy to go home, Papa Mark offered to drive him because I needed to work.
   Before they left, I held Randy’s face in my hands and asked him the questions I’ve taught my grandchildren how to answer:
   “How much do I love you?”
   “All,” he said, laughing.
   “And where is your nana when you can’t see her?”
   “In my heart,” he said, placing a hand on his chest. We hugged long and hard, then they left.
   Life is full of mysteries. I’d love to see what Randy will do in life. For now, I get to listen to his questions, help him look for answers, and bake his favorite peanut butter cookies.
    And I hope I will forever have a place in his good heart.
Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or