Out of the blue I witnessed something truly special on Monday. Able at last to drive that bit further from my Greystones home, I jumped into my car that morning and took off down the M11.
Newtownmountkennedy, Newcastle, Ashford - all the turn-offs flashed past before I eventually exited at Rathnew. From there I headed inland, driving through Glenealy (where I once lived) and on out along the road to Rathdrum before turning left towards Deputy's Pass and then, a few minutes later, driving through the entrance gate and into the beautiful botanical gardens of Kilmacurragh.
A place so dear to my heart that I would normally visit every week or so, I was delighted to be back after a three-month hiatus, my joy only slightly diminished on realising that, this year, I had missed the early-May glory of Kilmacurragh's gigantic and abundant rhododendrons.
Strolling along the upper path before heading down to the yew-tree walk, I glanced towards the grassy area to my left, and that was when a particular sight caught my eye and held my gaze.
A little girl, seven or eight years of age, wearing a red summer dress and with her dark curly hair tumbling to her shoulders, was walking across the daisy-strewn meadow with an older man and woman. Walking between them, but at a distance, she kept looking from one to the other, her face alight while the older couple looked on indulgently, their own faces full of joy.
Grandparents. Reunited at last with their granddaughter. It was only then that I noticed the little girl's parents sitting further away, leaving the youngster and the older pair to their shared delight at being back in each other's company.
If ever we doubted the importance of the grandparent/grandchild relationship, Covid-19 has certainly shown us the reality.
From that endearing TV ad at the moment - "I think the monster's back, Grandad" - with the gap-toothed boy and his bearded grandad, to all the real relationships that we know ourselves, the role of grandparents is currently up there in lights. And rightly so.
We are almost unique as human beings in having a grandparental bond, for it's a feature of existence that we share with only one or two other species, such as whales. Yet time and again academic studies have concluded that the influence of grandparents can be a real force for good in children's lives. Maybe it's because, in the frenzied world that so many young parents now inhabit, grandparents simply offer children the greatest gift of all - their time.
My own maternal grandparents defined my childhood. There wasn't a day, right up until I left for university in England when I was 18, that I didn't see them. When I was still a young child, however, Johnnie and Jeanie Dean were utterly central to my world and I honestly can't countenance what my life would have been like without them.
Despite their very different temperaments and an age gap of almost a decade between them, they were a joint force of guidance in my life and crucial in helping to shape the adult I would eventually become.
They taught me so much through everyday tales of their own lives in the locality where we lived within walking distance of each other's homes - about respect for others, the importance of school, the value of friendship, about having fun. And they instilled into me from an early age never to underestimate the power of love and loyalty.
How I would have coped without them for three months when I was a child I simply can't imagine. But when I looked across that Kilmacurragh meadow and saw that little girl and her grandparents, I thought of my own, and the memory of them made me smile. Like a comfort-blanket from my childhood, my grandparents, although both long gone, are with me still.