When Christy Clark was campaigning for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party back in 2011, the one plank of her platform that I could get behind was her proposal to introduce an annual provincial holiday called “Family Day.” The B.C. Chamber of Commerce was never a big fan of the concept; and, indeed, the preceding Liberal government had rejected the concept altogether.
But for thousands of British Columbians, Family Day, first celebrated in February of 2013, has become a welcome respite post Christmas from the dreariness of winter and, hopefully, a chance for hard-working citizens to spend time closer to home, away from the pressures of work, with those closest to us.
I spent the day with my mate Wendy. After a sweet lie-in we decided to take advantage of the time off to take a trip south to Penticton where we were pleased to find a hard-working immigrant family eschewing the holiday in favour of serving other families at Lachi Restaurant, where the smiles are always welcoming and bright, and the curries are complex and satisfyingly spicy. Although Main Street, ordinarily a steady stream of traffic and pedestrians, was virtually empty, inside the restaurant was bustling but you could tell folks were more at ease than usual.
Happily, Wendy and I are blessed to have mothers still very much alive and residing right here in the central Okanagan. Despite the sad loss of their husbands and our dearly loved fathers in the last few years, we are constantly checking in on them both, and spending as much time with them as we can. And on Family Day, we decided to drop in on them both with gifts of perennials to brighten their days.
We found my mum at her home knitting scarves and smiling broadly as we walked in with the plants. For my mum, the last several months have been spent learning how to live without the man who lit up her life for over six decades. She continues to volunteer at the local hospital and participates in her church’s quilting circle; she knits the aforementioned scarves for the Okanagan Gleaners to send overseas. But after two years of watching her man fade away, she’s tired, and misses my Dad terribly. She sometimes talks to his portrait, hanging framed over an easy chair in her sitting room, but so far he hasn’t replied. In the meantime, we talk together, remembering Dad.
As evening approached, we headed over to Wendy’s mum’s place for dinner with a family friend, Jimmy. Jimmy is a member of the family as well. And again, with Wendy’s Dad’s sly fox, smiling portrait taking us all in, in the place that he so customarily once presided over with his inimitable stories, we all remembered George. Again, a widow once so enlivened by the life imparted to her by her mate, continues to chat with the portrait on the mantle. And continues to grieve her loss.
We know that with time healing will come to us all. But we are also ever more aware how important those remaining in our family are to us. Because families are perhaps the most potent signifiers of survival. To be held in the hearts of those who are our family is a blessing that one cannot blithely gloss over. And when one’s family is diminished, each loss is keenly felt.
My hope for our readers is that you too experienced a genuine sense of familial connection, of belonging, of love. It is so easy to take these things for granted when we are buffeted by the pressures that so often predominate our busy working lives. And irrespective of the contrivance of an official day devoted to the family, I can say that this past Family Day was a very good day indeed.
— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night