Sharon Randall: Staying close from a distance as kids grow up

McClatchy-Tribune News Service Published:

They grew up on opposite coasts, have never met and most likely never will.

But they share something in common (aside from the fact that they're both 18, seriously good-looking and recently graduated from high school) that I hope they'll remember.

It's simple. They are much loved by an aunt and uncle who weren't often present in their lives but delighted in watching them grow up from afar.

Jack lives in California. He is my husband's sister's boy. I met him when he was 4, after I started dating his uncle. We were sitting on the floor playing with Legos, Jack and I, when he suddenly stopped, looked in my eyes and asked straight-faced, "Is Uncle Mark your dad?" I've had a soft spot in my heart for that boy ever since.

Kiowa lives in South Carolina. She's my sister's granddaughter, the child of a nephew I claim as one of my boys.

I met Kiowa when she was 2, when I went "home," as we say, to the Carolinas for a visit. My sister was so proud of her first grandchild she was fairly foaming at the mouth.

My husband met Kiowa some years later when I took him back to the South before we were married to see if he could pass muster with my family.

He's had very little real time with Kiowa, but feels as if he knows her, mostly because he listens -- hanging on the words, laughing in all the right places --to the Kiowa stories I tell him.

Some of those stories I've collected like souvenirs while visiting my family. But most of them, I've heard from my sister when we talk on the phone. It's surprising how close you can stay by talking long distance.

My husband collects similar stories about Jack, some on visits, but mostly from talking on the phone with Jack's mom.And somehow, though I get to spend so little real time with Jack, I feel as if I know him.

Stories do that. They keep families and friends connected across miles and over years.

When we talk about the everyday, ordinary events in our lives, we build bridges that can span any distance.

Our stories remind us that we are not alone, that we're all on this strange road of life together, propping each other up and cheering each other on.

Jack figured out a long time ago that Uncle Mark is not my dad. They are all grown up, strong and good and beautiful and shining. They will forever hold a soft spot in our hearts and a for-sure place in our prayers.And we'll keep waiting to hear the next chapter of their stories.

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

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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