One morning on "nana duty," I awoke in a panic. It was 7:30 a.m. The house was quiet. No baby crying. No dogs barking. No patter of 2-year-old feet.
Where was he?
Every day for two weeks, my wake-up call had come knocking by 7 a.m.
He'd jump out of bed and run to his parents' room, where his daddy would stop snoring long enough to say, "Good morning, Randy. Go tell Nana you want pancakes. Don't tell her I sent you."
Randy would run to the guest room and knock on the door.
"Who's there?" I'd call, playing dumb. I'm good at it.
Then he'd laugh and shout, "It's ME, Nana! It's ME!"
And with that, the sun would rise, the day would begin and all would be right with my world.
Occasionally I'd spend time rocking his baby brother, or laughing with his mama, or sitting with his daddy watching the Warriors get beat on TV.
Or I'd go over to his baby cousin Henry's house for a while just to smell Henry's neck.
"Nana duty" means doing whatever is needed most. I've done other "duties" in my life, not just as a nana, but as a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend. I'm not alone.
Most of us have done some kind of duty.
Some are harder than others.
Making pancakes for a 2-year-old is a lot easier than listening to a friend cry her heart out because her marriage is failing; or sitting by your mother's bed watching her struggle to take a breath; or having to explain to your children that after years of fighting cancer, their dad is finally losing the fight.
Easy or hard, they're all labors of love.
That is why we do them. Because we love. And we want to be loved in return. And we hope to be remembered.
The older I get, the more I'm aware of how little time I have left to spend with those I love. It doesn't matter how long it might be; it won't be long enough.
Someone asked me, "What's on your 'bucket list'?" -- things to do before kicking the bucket.
I had to think. There are lots of things I want to do, places I'd like to go.
But if I had such a list, it wouldn't be places and things; it would be people that I love.
I want to see their lives unfold. I want to hold my husband to his wedding vow to be more like his dad.
Watch my kids fulfill their dreams and be profoundly happy.
See my grandkids grow up to change the world and call their nana every Sunday.
If I can't do all that, I'd at least like to be remembered. Nana duty is about making memories.
The morning Randy didn't come knocking, I found him sitting in his high chair eating Panda Puffs. I guess his dad thought I needed a break. I tasted a Puff. It was cold.
"Nana's sorry," I said. "Want me to make you pancakes?"
He shook his head "no" and downed another bite. Then his eyes lit up and he began to sing.
I wish you could've heard him. It was a song I hadn't heard him sing before, one that I made up when he was born. I've sung it countless times -- to him and to his cousin Henry and even to his baby brother -- but I had no idea that he had learned it.
He sang it perfectly, word for word, just the way that I do: "Nana loves you so, Nana loves you so, Nana loves you so, don't you know, don't you know?"
Then he reached up, smiling, and patted the tears from my face.
"Dat's 'Nana's Song,' " he said.
In years to come, I'll add more verses for him and his cousin and his brother: "Nana thinks you're perfect." ''Nana will have a little talk with your parents/teacher/coach/girlfriend/boss." ''Nana will buy you a car." ''Nana needs a strong arm to lean on."
Maybe, if I'm lucky, they'll remember the whole song.