Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

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Family Day, 2021

Family Day 2021

Happy Family Day to the Assist community!

This year, I am expressing gratitude for Family Day, and for family.

When I entered the workforce, Alberta did not have a February long weekend. It was a shock to the system having to get through the long winter months without a break. As schoolchildren, we were used to Teachers’ Convention which created a 4 day long weekend mid-February. And as university students, there was winter Reading Week, a wonderful week off from the routine of classes during the dark days of winter. It was originally designed as a mental health respite for university students, and it was so well-received that many universities have added a Fall Reading Week as well.

But in 1990, Premier Don Getty introduced an annual Family Day. It was not universally well-received. Businesses were concerned about the cost of an extra day of paying employees who weren’t working. However, like Reading Week, it was popular!

I don’t remember what I did during Alberta’s first Family Day in 1990—February 19th. I was an associate at a national law firm at that time, so I think there is a good chance that I was working.

Our second Family Day weekend—1991-- was more memorable for me but not in a happy way. Leading up to the long weekend, I was on bed rest, hoping to stave off a miscarriage (kind of a Hail Mary pass when things aren’t going well.) But like many Hail Mary passes, it was unsuccessful and had a sad outcome. I had a bitter taste in my mouth on Monday, February 18, 1991. Our third Family Day in Alberta—February 17,1992-- was much happier—I became a Mom that weekend, almost exactly a year from the date of my miscarriage.

So Family Day, for me, tended to involve my offspring.

However, we all serve several roles in our families. I am a mom, but I am also a daughter, a sister and an aunt. I was even a wife for more than 20 years! 

This year, my Family Day has a different focus. One of my elderly parents had a fall, resulting in a pelvic fracture. I am working on home supports, from inhouse care to meal services to safe equipment.

Equipping a house for a new baby is fun. You are buying a crib, a stroller, and baby monitors in anticipation for a new arrival. It is happy and full of positive expectations.

Equipping a house for an elderly person whose mobility is impaired is not fun. You buy walkers, bathtub transfer units and Lifeline monitors. While you are grateful that your elderly person survived a mishap, it is not a happy time and you don’t have positive expectations beyond crossing your fingers and hoping that you have homecare supply companies are honourable and only supply good quality merchandise.

I would revel in my role as a sister, if only my sister could come to Alberta to help. Unfortunately (in my opinion), she lives in the US and would have to quarantine for 14 days before being able to provide any assistance. I would happily house her for her quarantine, but she also doesn’t drive, and much of the assistance I am providing involves the use of my car. However, she has stepped up to do all of the phone calls to various resources which is really helpful since I have a day job, and she doesn’t.

What will your Family Day be like this year? It’s cold and we are in the midst of a pandemic—not ideal conditions for the types of gatherings and activities that we would normally associate with Family Day.

I am hoping to be back in Calgary and spending the day with my adult children (and my furry child who I had leave at home since they don’t allow her kind at hospitals). My adult children understand that I have to be where I am needed, but I am not sure the furry one does.

I have one idea for a Family Day activity that reflects both the pandemic and the frigid temperatures. At least, if you like road trips. My idea for a Family Day activity that most people in Edmonton and Calgary could do with their immediate families, if they have a car, is a tour of the ring road in their city.

Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive has been complete for a few years now. Sixteen years in the making, the Henday now circles the city with 78 kilometers of road. According to Wikipedia, Mile 0 (or Kilometre 0 to be more Canadian,) is where the Henday intersects Calgary Trail. The exits are numbered sequentially as you move clockwise (West.)

Driving the Henday takes about an hour if you don’t stop, but you can explore new areas of the city, staying in your car if it is cold, but at least you will see neighbourhoods you didn’t know existed.

Calgary was slower to get its ring road going. Most sections are now completed(except for the leg near my house) and it is called Stony Trail, continuing Calgary’s tradition of naming its major thoroughfares after Indigenous groups. Officially, the ring road begins where Deerfoot Trail intersects with Highway 2 (Queen Elizabeth II) and the exits are numbered as you move clockwise (West.)

Both ring roads have 78 exits—no doubt a cosmic coincidence and not a feat of engineering to ensure equity between the two large city. With that many exits, there are many opportunities for exploration.

With temperatures in minus 20 range, staying in the car is probably wise unless you and your family bundle up well. You can include school-age children in researching interesting exits and landmarks.

For other Alberta areas, pretend that you are new in the area and go to places you would take a visitor.

Would I rather have a big family gathering involving food and perhaps cake? Absolutely. But we can still have a meaningful Family Day with the modifications we have become used to.

Family is what holds us together during trying times like we are in. And “family” in 2021 is not defined as a mother, father and 2.1 kids. We have all kinds of families, some of which are biologically related while others are family through choice.

Whatever your family is, I hope that you can take time this weekend to relax and enjoy some socially-distanced company.

Happy Family Day, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Lunar New Year!