My earliest recollection of this is when I was 4 years old. My mother and I were living with my grandparents, and she was departing for a tour of Europe. It was to be just my grandparents and I for two months, and then I would fly alone to meet up with her. In order for my mother to get caught up on my summer when we met, my grandfather and I started a diary. Each night I would dictate the day’s events as best I could, and he dutifully recorded my thoughts, helping me fill in any blanks. We soon developed the term “the usual things” when describing the process of getting ready for bed. A bath, teeth, pajamas, the diary, and a story book or two was the typical recipe. When I got the chicken pox, we added the calamine lotion to the list. Each night as we sat at the dinner table, my grandparents and I would see the planes taking off from the airport and say in unison “Hey Air Canada, wait for me!” in anticipation of my first solo flight. A usual thing, yes, but a usual thing we still fondly recollect today.
As I grew older, the usual things in my life changed. I spent rainy days in camp at the lake as a young man, and then began work and study further. Today I am raising a family of my own. Each week however, I knew I would be able to call home and talk to Popa about the week’s events. “What’s new?” he would ask. “Not much, just the usual things” I would reply. My challenges at work; his curling scores; my assignments for school; his upcoming travel or visiting plans. Half an hour later, our usual things did not feel so usual anymore. When we talked to one another, nothing felt trivial, and nothing was taken for granted. There was just a feeling joy in sharing our lives with one another.
Last month, I was able to return to Canada with my wife and child to introduce little Hanna to her great-grandparents. It was a bitter-sweet event which we celebrated as a family knowing it would be the last one. I traveled home, and two weeks later I was saying goodbye over the phone. When I last talked to Popa, he told me that “death is the end of life, but it is not the end of love”. I will miss our weekly visits together so very much, but I will take comfort in the fact that as I raise my daughter, I will forever be accompanied by his love. When she gets older, I look forward to bringing out that little black diary, reading to her about my grandfather and I, and sharing with her how we discovered all the joy that is to be found in the Usual Things.