By Sheila Johnson
Please understand, part of me (like, I’m sure, many of you) has never really wanted to grow up, much less older. That same part of me, I suppose, always wanted to somehow stay young forever, with my skin always firm, my mind always sharp, and my joints always free from chronic aches and pains.
That’s why, over the years, I’ve attempted to work out regularly and have always tried to eat right and keep my mind some combination of facile, well-stocked, and open to new possibilities.
But, alas, such was a fool’s errand, if not a dead end street. Father Time, as we all painfully know, remains undefeated and dust-to-dust is still, to this day, our life’s only certainty.
But then, just over a year ago, a miracle occurred. My granddaughter Siena was born and drew her very first breath on her own. From that point forward, nothing else would ever be the same for me. And all those crazy thoughts and fears of mine about growing old and grey seemed to disappear into nothingness, almost as though they never existed.
For the first time in my life, I’d become a grandmother. And, as such, I found myself introduced to a type of love that I never even knew existed.
It was a love that was as pure and deep and honest as any I’d ever known. And it was a love entirely unburdened. Unburdened by my own expectations. Unburdened by history and all those past mistakes I’d made. Unburdened, even, by the relentless physical demands of motherhood.
In fact, it was a brand of maternal love in which all those physical and emotional rigors that a young mother must face were somehow replaced, as if by magic, with a lifetime’s worth of wisdom, understanding and blank checks.
The very first time, in fact, I looked into little Siena’s eyes, tears filled my own. Because, I realized right then and there not only had I fallen in love at first sight, but I realized I was staring directly into the eyes of God’s plan for me, and the eyes of life’s magnificent cycle. And that realization tore me apart, and was as humbling to me as it was overflowing with hope.
And at that very moment, I made a promise to both God and myself that I would be everything to little Siena that I’d tried to be to my own two children, often to mixed results.
I would be her best friend throughout however many days He granted us together. I would always believe her and believe in her. I would protect her, and comfort her, and spend the rest of my life in the dogged pursuit of not so much my own happiness, but hers. And to this day, for me, to see that little girl laugh, or to laugh with her, is as good as life gets.
This November, my family and I celebrated Siena’s first birthday. It was one year ago, in other words, that all our lives changed and our collective world grew infinitely larger.
And that’s why, on Thanksgiving just a week or so ago, as I looked around the table while we all offered thanks for the many things the Good Lord had given us over the past year, my eyes stopped on little Siena in the far corner before continuing and making a full cycle around the table.
Because that little angel, along with the love and insight she made possible, was God’s greatest gift to me in a long, long time.
Happy holidays, my friends. And, as always, live and eat well!