For a great many Canadians, summer begins, however unofficially, on the Victoria Day weekend. Whatever they call it—and the May long weekend is known and has been known by a number of names—hordes of those keen to get summer started swarm up into the mountains or out to the country or off to the lake to Open the Cottage. What follows is a weekend filled with chores—the Other Labour Day Weekend, if you like—except for those of us with no cottage to open. We’re the ones who sit around for three days in late May smugly sipping cool drinks and relishing the fact that we’re not washing, sweeping, restocking, repairing, or rebuilding the family summer home away from home—even if we are a bit jealous, and as long as no one reminds us that we haven’t yet done any spring cleaning in the home we have.
For the past few decades, summer has begun for me on the weekend closest to Father’s Day, when we would all gather at Mum and Dad’s, and then, as more and more grandchildren came along, at my brother’s house. Mother’s Day was still firmly a spring occasion, but Father’s Day had a decidedly summery feel to it, with all of us sitting in the sun around my brother’s pool, catching up, swimming, barbecuing things, and feasting. And in my family, the timing of Father’s Day seemed very natural, given that it was always roughly the same weekend as my father’s birthday, so the annual June family gathering was a double celebration.
Because it was always a celebration of both Father’s Day and Dad’s birthday, it was really Dad’s Day, a celebration of him. In time, the grandchildren outnumbered their parents, and as those grandchildren became increasingly aware that we had gathered not simply to gather but to celebrate Grandpa, Father’s Day became Grandpa’s Day. We never called it that, but Grandpa was definitely the focus. And he loved being Grandpa. Anyone who knew my father knew that nothing, absolutely nothing on Earth was as important to him as his family. At any family gathering, but especially on Father’s Day (at least it seems that way to me now), he would sit in Grandpa’s chair (the chair varied with the location) and beam with joy and pride as he spent hours watching and listening to his children and grandchildren interact. I know (he told me) that he spent most of that time truly marvelling at the wondrous thing he and Mum had made, almost unable to believe that such a thing could be. Nothing made him happier than to know that we had all managed to grow up, marry, have children, and remain a close (if noisy) clan. The best possible present for Grandpa on his day was that knowledge.
Since Dad died in 2008, we’ve continued to gather sometime around Father’s Day, and he’s still there with us, but the only grandfather in our family these days is me. (For now!) It’s an odd feeling. If Dad were still here, I’m not sure I’d think of myself as the Grandpa of our family, but I’m finding more and more that I do. In addition to being the only one with grandchildren, I’m the oldest, the greyest, the Grandpa-iest. And as Father’s Day approaches, I think I know how Grandpa felt—richly blessed.
Murray Lewis, Editor-in-Chief