Grandpa Ernesto woke up before his 7:00 a.m. alarm went off. Swinging his legs from underneath the blankets, he glanced at the framed photograph on his bedside table and smiled. Making his way into the kitchen, he saw that everything was laid out on the counter as he had left the night before. He was hoping the breakfast preparations would not awaken anyone too early. Pats of butter sizzled away on the griddle, filling the house with a wonderful smell. Max shuffled into the kitchen and asked, “Are you making what I think you are, Grandpa?” A smaller figure peaked from behind. “Are we having pancakes for breakfast?” asked Kevin while rubbing his eyes.
“Only an aroma like that could get these boys up so early on a holiday!” joked Mom as she and Dad entered the kitchen. “Good morning! Do you know what day it is? It’s Family Day! Have a seat everyone and get them while they’re hot!” “You outdid yourself, Ernesto” complimented Dad. “Wow! Cool!” exclaimed the boys as they saw Happy Family Day written in chocolate sauce on the pancake platter. “It should be Family Day everyday!” Max announced. “Well, it is certainly nice for all of us to have an official day off especially in the middle of February, one of the coldest months of the year”, said Dad.
And with that the family conversation became animated with stories from the boys about a gigantic snow fort that was being built at school and the ski trip that was coming up next week. Kevin lay down on the kitchen floor and demonstrated how to make a snow angel. Grandpa was fascinated. He had never experienced snow back in the Philippines. This was also his very first Family Day now that he was living in Canada. “So, what does everyone have planned for today’s celebration?” Grandpa asked eagerly.
Mom explained that not much had actually been planned. Since it had been a busy time at work, she thought it would be a good day to catch up on a few projects. The boys had been invited to a friend’s house to watch a new DVD and Dad was thinking about catching up on some newspaper reading and a few chores. “Oh…well…I guess I’ll use the time to write a few letters to my friends back home,” Grandpa added. “Do you want to email them instead? I won’t need the computer until I’m back from dropping off the boys,” Mom offered. “No, that’s okay, thanks. I’ll do it the old fashioned way,” Grandpa replied.
Even though he had never experienced a Family Day holiday, Grandpa had assumed it would feel more old fashioned too. He had envisioned a whole day filled with time spent with loved ones, bringing family traditions alive, revisiting fond memories and creating new ones, together. Walking slowly back into his room, Grandpa sat gingerly on the side of his bed. He picked up the frame from his night table. My dear Anna, he thought, how I miss you. He listened to the noises in the front hallway, boots clomping, and the door firmly shutting after a quick “See you later” call from his daughter and grandsons. The wind slammed the door with force. It swooshed the snow higher and higher against his bedroom window.
Grandpa caressed the edge of the frame then began in a whisper: “Anna, the grandchildren bring me such joy. I’m so proud of our daughter and son-in-law. I’m very well cared for…but I miss you. I wish you were here so I could tell you how much I love you. The day you went into the Lord’s hands, I thought my heart was going to stop, too. Growing old without you is not easy. I guess I was hoping today would make me feel closer to you because I could share some of our good times together with the family.”
Grandpa paused and closed his eyes. When he opened them again the nightlight by the bed suddenly went out. Time for a new bulb, he thought. Dad nearly bumped into him as he walked into the hallway. “Hey, it’s a little dim out here,” he said. “You’re right, Ernesto, the power in the whole house just went out. Maybe the wind took down some wires in the neighbourhood. Let’s sit in the family room near the window and watch the snow.”
The window was awash with white. Snow squalls seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Just then the front door blew open and quickly slammed shut. “We’re back!” shouted three voices in unison. “The roads are horrible. We skidded at the end of our street and cars couldn’t make it up the hill on Miller Avenue. We thought it was best to turn back and come home,” Mom explained. “Well, we are glad you are safe and sound again. But guess what? The power is out!” Dad announced. The boys looked at each other with a gleam of excitement in their eyes. “Awesome! Let’s get our flashlights in case we don’t have any power by night time,” Max directed. “And remember the last time?” Kevin added. “We slept in our sleeping bags on the floor in the family room like we were camping! Let’s get our stuff!”
The boys returned after a few minutes with their arms full, dragging a pillow and blankets behind them. They plopped on top of their sleeping bags and buried their faces into their favourite video games. Grandpa started looking in a nearby cupboard. “What are you searching for, Ernesto?” asked Dad. “Oh, that puzzle the boys got me for Christmas. Here it is.” he said and placed it on the coffee table. Kevin and Max looked up and saw Grandpa sitting by the window just gazing out at the snow again. They whispered something to each other and dashed out of the room. “We’re back!” they announced and placed an assortment of games on the table. “We figured we would start with Grandpa’s puzzle, then Jenga and some card games. Is everybody in? Grandpa, you do remember how to play Crazy Eights, don’t you?” Max inquired.
Grandpa laughed and replied, “I most certainly do! And have I got a card game to teach you. Grandma Anna and I used to stay up past midnight playing it!” “What? No more electronics?” Mom asked. “No!” the boys exclaimed. “We want an old fashioned Family Day!” After loads of laughter and some good-hearted game challenges, Mom made a cold lunch of peanut butter and jam pinwheel sandwiches and fruit kabobs. By mid-afternoon, Grandpa was ready for his usual nap. The boys covered him with their sleeping bags and tucked him in on the couch.
“All that fun wore me out but I bet Grandma Anna would have been the champion player today!” chuckled Grandpa. “Now remember, if the power comes back on, wake me up. I’ve got a great meal of lumpia and pancit planned for dinner.” “Mmmmm! Spring rolls and noodles! But what if the power is still out?” Kevin wondered. “Well, wake me up anyways. We’ll have some more sandwiches and I’ll tell you about all the wonderful dishes your Grandma and I used to cook together back home!” “Have a good nap,” said Max. “I will,” replied Grandpa “but it will be a short one. I don’t want to miss too much of our Family Day fun!”