If I had blinked, I might have missed it.
Heather was on the phone. That meant my eyes were on our not-quite-one-year-old niece Riley, our regular Monday lodger, to make sure she didn’t crawl out of the living room at warp speed and into the kitchen, long established as Not For Babies.
No worries. Riley was standing still.
No. No, wait.
“Honey …” I said softly, trying to get my wife’s attention.
Slowly, carefully, Riley had taken a small step forward. Then another. Then stood still again. No pratfall. No leaning.
Her first steps. My first “first.”
And like that, a trying day became glorious.
I’ve always said life’s as much about the journey as it is the milestones. But there is something powerful about being there, then. Of course, many of those markers can be seen a long way down the road, from the first day of school to the wedding day.
Powerful moments to be sure. But it’s the ones that come out of the blue that can sandbag you, turning your world upside down in an instant. They don’t look to any calendar, don’t keep to any schedule.
You’re unprepared. And as you get pushed from the high dive, the rush can be spectacular.
Curiously, for a moment, I couldn’t help thinking of Twinkle.
Twinkle was our old cat, and an old cat she was in the end. Seventeen years she lived with us, queen of all she surveyed and terror of shopping bags and loose pieces of paper.
But for a while, we feared the run would stop at 13.
She stopped eating. We weren’t sure why, though a mini-stroke was the best guess. Feeding her became a daily chore of mashing food and medicine into a liquid and squirting it down her throat, while managing the trick of holding a wet, bedraggled cat in one place.
When my folks left on vacation and left me with her, they didn’t fully expect to see her again. We hadn’t given up – we still set food in her dish every night, just in case – but the trend wasn’t good.
The first night they were gone, I sighed. Gathered up the stuff to feed Twinkle. And looked in the dish.
There was food missing.
I blinked. And out of nowhere, hope came rushing in like an express bus.
No warning. No time to prepare. Just, BAM!
And all the more wonderful for it.
Riley’s first unaided journey didn’t last long. She soon grabbed for the furniture again, side-stepped over, helped herself down. It didn’t matter. Her walking had us flying.
And it was the best unscheduled takeoff we’d ever had.