A Grandfather's Love Runs Deep
The following is a representative story based on a real family. To protect each individual’s privacy, the names and photos used are for illustrative purposes only.
Boris was napping in his favorite chair, the one in the corner of the living room by the window that overlooked the street, when he heard the familiar commotion that occurred every day in his house at approximately 3:45 p.m.—the slamming of the front door, so powerful it made the windows rattle, the thud of backpacks hitting the floor and the pounding of feet down the hallway. It was his signal that nap time was officially over. Boris pried himself out of his chair and winced as he stretched his 70-year-old arthritic limbs. He picked up his glasses from the coffee table and pushed them up his nose. It was go-time.
He entered the kitchen to find his three grandsons in front of the refrigerator, their broad, muscular backs to him. They were so busy searching for food, they hadn’t heard him enter the room.
“Ah-hem,” Boris cleared his throat loudly, startling the boys. “Looking for something?” he asked.
The boys turned around in unison and although he saw them nearly every day, Boris found himself once again struck by their beauty. They seemed to grow taller every day, and Boris thought of his son, Alexander. The boys were the spitting image of their father—shaggy hair always in need of a good trim, peanut-butter brown eyes, long, lanky legs, toothy smiles.
“Grandpa, grandpa!” The youngest one, Mika, who was seven, squealed. He ran to Boris and hugged him. His brothers, Henri and David, who were identical twins and 12-years-old, offered a “Hey, Grandpa,” but kept digging through the fridge. It was a familiar scene.
Searching for snacks was the first thing they did when they arrived at his house after school. Although his wife, Penka, didn’t like the boys to eat anything late in the afternoon for fear it would spoil their dinner (it never did), Boris felt bad for them. He knew what it was like to be a growing boy and hungry all the time. Even though they received free breakfast and lunch at school every day, they still wanted to eat when they got home, so he allowed them each one snack. (What his wife didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.)
“OK, boys, grab some water and you can each have a banana and a handful of crackers from the cupboard. The box is hiding behind the oatmeal.”
“But Grandpa,” Mika pleaded, arms still wrapped around his legs, “What about those yummy boo-berry muffins we had last week?”
Boris swallowed hard. “I’m sorry, Mika,” he said. “Those were a treat your grandmother baked. We can’t afford to buy fresh blueberries every week.”
He wished he could offer them muffins again, or anything besides crackers and bananas, but he and Penka had to stick to a strict budget for groceries ever since they began caring for the boys. It was expensive to feed three growing boys. And between their own dietary needs, co-pays for doctor appointments, prescription medications, rent and utilities, money was tight. If it weren’t for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), he knew he wouldn’t have enough to feed himself and Penka, much less the boys. The box of nutritious food he received every month from Second Harvest Heartland ensured he had just enough to feed his family.
Letting the boys stay with them in their small apartment after school each day and feeding them a modest dinner—usually canned fish, rye bread, pickled vegetables or soup—was all they could do to help their son and daughter-in-law, both of whom worked long hours and still struggled to get by.
After the boys finished their snacks, Boris tapped Mika on the shoulder.
“Why don’t we take a walk over to the food shelf while your brothers do their homework?” he said to Mika. “They’re getting more fresh produce delivered every week. Maybe we can find some blueberries—or at least some apples.”
Mika’s face broke into a wide grin. There was that toothy smile again.
“Yes, yes, yes! I’ll walk with you, Grandpa.” And before Boris could tie his shoes, Mika was on the front porch, anxiously hopping from one foot to the other.
As they walked the two blocks to the food shelf, Boris thought about how lucky he was to be able to see his grandsons every day and help his son provide for them. He loved them and his son and daughter-in-law so much, and although he didn’t have a lot to give, thanks to Second Harvest Heartland’s food assistance programs, he could at least be sure they’d never go hungry.
This Father’s Day, one way to ease the burden of dads and grandads like Boris is to help make sure their families can get the nutritious food they need to thrive. Here’s how you can help.