There’s stage of life when nothing beats licking grandpups

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I’ve got a bruise on my arm made by a woolly mammoth. It came running out of nowhere and stabbed me with its tusks.

There’s a scrape on my shin from an emergency rescue mission and a bump on my head from the collapse of a cave.

But I am not complaining. Being a nana is an adventure. It’s not for sissies or whiners.

My grandchildren live with their parents in California. I live in Nevada with their Papa Mark. Papa Mark has a job that keeps him chained to a desk. I have a job I can do most anywhere — on an airplane, in a tent or even a hospital, if need be.

Actually, I’ve written columns in all those places, and more.

Usually, I work at home at a window with a view of the desert outside Las Vegas. Millions of people fly to Vegas every year looking for adventure. I wave at them on my way out of town.

Adventure is where you find it. In this lovely, long-awaited phase of my life, I find it not in the neon lights on the Strip, but by being with the people I love.

There’s a lot of them. My sister ranks high on the list. She has been here almost two weeks visiting from South Carolina.

Last week we flew to California to see my kids and grandkids and to celebrate the birthday of my oldest grandboy.

Randy is 4. He likes cowboys. He had a pony at his party. He and his guests took turns riding. I asked if I could ride, too, and he belly-laughed and said, “No, Nana, it’s a just little pony!”

So I spent most of the party chasing after his brother Wiley and their cousin Henry.

Wiley is almost 2. He likes trucks and trains and Batman. And food. The boy loves to eat.

Henry is almost 3. He likes animals of every kind. He can tell you not just their names, but their species and habitats. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from an almost 3-year-old.

At the party, I took a break from chasing the boys to eat a birthday cupcake. It was good.

Wiley spotted me and came barreling across the room, curls bouncing, cheeks jiggling, eyes on the cupcake. I didn’t see the mammoth in his hand until he tripped and accidentally shoved its tusks into my arm.

If it hurt, I didn’t notice. I was too busy smelling the back of Wiley’s neck. The smell of love is a powerful painkiller.

I also didn’t notice the scrape on my shin that I got rescuing Henry from a freefall off the slide. When I caught him mid-air, he grinned his sweet Henry grin and said, “That was fun, Nana! Let’s do it again!”

So we did. Until I could no longer make my arms work.

The head bump came the next day. Randy and I were hiding from bears in a cave we had built with chairs and his “nana blanket.” He calls it that because I bought it for him. Also, he says, it’s big and cozy like me.

Wiley was the bear. When we heard him growl outside the cave, Randy threw his arms around me to protect me and knocked over a chair that hit my head. It didn’t hurt a bit, thanks to those arms around my neck.

For the record, I didn’t hog the boys all to myself. I let my sister “lick on them,” too. That’s an old Southern expression taken from the way a dog licks on her pups. It’s only fair that I share my grandpups with her. I’ve been licking on hers for years.

She was thrilled when Henry decided to call her “Grandma.” I didn’t mind. He knows I’m his nana. Grandma, nana, grannie, nonna, gigi, mimi, whatever. A child can never have too many.

It’s always hard for me to leave my children and grandchildren. It was hard for my sister, too, knowing she won’t see them again soon. At least she has a fresh supply of memories.

Who knows about tomorrow? All we have is today. Bumps and bruises and scrapes will heal. But the marks that a child leaves on your heart never fade away.

Sharon Randall is a columnist for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).


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