Nita Johnson

The bright dawning of Monday morning with a layer of fog rising from the cool night temperatures was a beautiful picture that somehow depicted my own mood.

The dawn with the sun lighting up the clouds in an array of color represented hope of a bright day - a bright future, with the beautiful hues of orange and blue highlighting the clouds so strategically placed behind the morning shadows of the treeline just past my home. It is a view I cherish - one that highlights the place where my grandmother raised her four children after her husband passed away while my mother and her three brothers were all under age 10.

It is a view that represents the past just as much as it represents the future - the beginning of a new day that brings hope for a new start and new experiences.

The fog rising from the cooler night temperatures also has a symbolic feature - it represents the changing of the seasons into the fall and winter months, the continuance of life and the hope for the future.

For me, the fog represents the emotions that dominate my life this week. Fog can be beautiful, but it can be blinding. It displays the trials that we face in life, the struggles to overcome obstacles.

It was on Monday that my granddaughter Hannah left for her induction into the Air Force - the official ceremony, the official mark of this child whom I've raised spreading her own wings and facing her future. It was an emotional experience.

It's ironic how the days of our children's adulthood affect us. We as parents - or custodial grandparents - spend our lives preparing our children to find their place in the world. We look forward to seeing their successes, try to be there in their challenges, and lend the emotional and financial support when possible to see them achieve their dreams. We watch them grow up, we see the evolution of a child into a teen, we teach them to drive, worry when they are out on the roads, worry until we hear the vehicle pull up outside home, we push for high school graduation and all the challenges and glory of that achievement.

Then they launch on their journey toward adulthood.

Such is the situation I have faced this week. While proud of her decision to join the military, it represents the reality that this child I have raised is leaving for an extended period. And I have to reflect on how we got to this point.

I recall all the memories of her infancy - how, at just 4 months old, she knew to kick her legs in the baby seat to make it rock, of the hundreds and hundreds of trips holding her hands and walking up and down the hallway when she wanted to walk. Hannah, unlike some children, had no interest in crawling. She showed her individuality early on - she wanted to walk - and did so at 9 months. She learned to crawl at 13 months!

Her wardrobe of the first couple of years was dominated by pink. Although the gleam of that red hair showed early, it was sparse and I got so tired of hearing people call her a boy that I dressed her in pink in hopes that people would relate the pink to her being a female. Many didn't. I once thought the entire world would know her name because the constant references of that inspired me to call her name so they would realize the difference. Some still didn't. The evolution of that baby into the young woman she is today has not come without its challenges. Those who have known Hannah over the years will readily admit that. The determination she exhibited early on transformed into her own translation but despite the trials that have occurred, she managed to rise above some mistakes and look to her future with a positive attitude.

Seeing her off to her future, however, is an experience that causes deep emotions to rise to the surface. This child who has been a day-to-day fixture in my life has set off on her own. Gone are the phone calls of "Nana, I need ......." Gone are the days of her bursting out of her room to head out to meet her friends or go to work. Gone is childhood and the roller coaster ride that has brought us to the point of saying goodbye for months at a time. Now Hannah is gone to find her future, whether it be a six-year stint in the Air Force or whether it becomes a career.

The sunlight of the early Monday morning signifies the hope of the future. The fog rises from the cold ground and disperses into the atmosphere, contributing to the cycle of nature that we should cherish with each passing moment. The horizon is clear, creating the landscape for a brilliant future that looms ahead.

This roller coaster ride that we call Life has been filled with ups and downs and curves and bumps. Even a few unexpected stops along the way. We gear ourselves for the day when our young ones reach adulthood and make the choices to determine their future, regardless of how difficult it is to bid farewell for a while.

Hannah has spread her wings. Her future lies before her. I am confident that she will find her place and excel.

Now if only my heart will stop breaking...

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