Happy Birthday Dad – a Covid-style virtual birthday

That’s him on the left, not the creepy guy in the santa suit

Yesterday was my Dad’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday, Dad. My Dad is a kind, hard-working, fit and intelligent guy who can contribute on any topic and can always fit in dessert, no matter how much dinner has already gone down.

Originally we’d planned to celebrate his birthday when they were in Austria earlier this year. Secretly I was entertaining the idea of being in Australia for it. Obviously neither of those things happened. Instead, we had a group Whatsapp call with the family, a mess of technical difficulties and waving kids and laughing and catching up. My mum and I both had a cake and candles to sing happy birthday – and my brother was coincidentally on his way to a birthday party. It was lots of fun. It was also a little bit heartbreaking.

Because all this Covid crap really starts to hit hard. Up until now, I’d always had in the back of my mind: well, if we can’t go somewhere cool like Asia for our big holiday like we’d planned, at least Australia for Christmas is a good back up. Unconsciously I knew I was kidding myself, but I still had hope. The hope is gone now. This week I heard a story on Hack on Triple J, about some of the people who are trying to get back to Australia, being bumped from flights and rescheduled to three months later, spending thousands just to go home. So no, there is no way I’m going to be let in for a simple holiday.

My parents, who had still thought that they could simply move this year’s trip to next year, are now alluding to 2022 for their next OS holiday rather than 2021. Right now they are not even allowed to visit my brother, who lives across the border. Living on the beach they’re allowed to go 5km into the sea… but how useful is that?

On the beach in Safety beach, Australia

I was in Australia in January. It is not like I need to go home. It’s not like I haven’t seen my friends and family for years and years. But it’s a kick in the guts to know that even if I needed to, I couldn’t.

Not going on a cool Asian holiday this year sucks. Not being able to look forward to summer on the beach sucks. Not having any visitors from overseas sucks. But that’s all manageable. It’s all just first world problems. It’s the deeper knowledge that something that seemed easy before is now essentially forbidden, that hits the hardest.

And if someone like me, with first world problems, and no real problems, is struggling, then I can’t even begin to imagine how others out there in far less ideal situations are going.

So I count myself lucky. I take a deep breath. I am grateful that I can visit friends or drive to the office, and venture further than 5km. I am grateful to have a large house with a spacious garden and a fair amount of my sanity still.

Celebrating my Dad’s milestone 70th birthday in this way was not ideal, but we still celebrated. We all virtually saw each other, and though there was a tinge of sadness after the call, the overwhelming feeling was happiness.

Happy birthday, Dad, you’re awesome. Your long hair in lockdown is a sight to behold. Love you lots. See you in person sometime, somewhere. Until then, here’s a virtual hug.   

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