parent opinion

'This year, Father's Day hurts.'

As many families around Australia celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, for many of us, waving to our dads on a screen is the best we can expect for yet another year.

For me, it has been 19 months since I last hugged my dad. 

We were standing at Broadmeadow train station and after visiting us in Newcastle, my parents were off to Sydney before flying home to the UK.


Video via Mamamia.

My dad is famous for his generous and ultra-squeezy 'bear hugs' and the best ones are reserved for our numerous and emotional airport hellos and goodbyes.

Unlike the dozens of other times I’ve stood crying at a busy train station or airport departure gates, I had no idea that this time would be such an open-ended farewell.

I wished them both a safe journey home, thinking I would see dad again for his 70th birthday celebrations in October 2020. And well, everyone knows what happened next.

As COVID took over, the world shut down, and international journeys became a thing of the past. 

Where once I imagined airport goodbyes to be the very worst; I soon found out there is something much worse than an emotional departure – closed borders and no departures at all.

And with no international departures on the cards for us Aussies just yet, this Father’s Day will be just another milestone where we all wave at each other on a screen. 

I don’t care about a fancy brunch or celebration, I would just really like to see my dad and give him a hug. He turns 71 next month and we have already missed so much time together.

When my sister and I were growing up, my dad worked long hours and he would often come home quite late. He was known to doze off while lying down beside us, listening as we chatted about our days at bedtime. 

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Image: Supplied. 

His late arrivals to our school plays and events became the stuff of family legend, after he appeared in a couple of school VHS recordings sneaking into his seat well after curtain-up.

I know now as a parent, that after a lengthy day in the office he could have chosen not to come into our bedrooms to hear our childish tales, and he could easily have escaped coming to school events. 

Yet while he might have often been late, he was always there to give us his support and show us how much he loved us both. I appreciate this so much more now than I ever did back then.

One of the things that makes me miss my dad the most when I am with my two boys, is his sense of silliness and fun. My parents always made a big fuss for our birthdays, and my dad had a reputation among our friends for playing the music loud and joining in with the ridiculous party games. More recently for my 40th birthday, he donned a wig and orange flares for my 1970s themed party. He and mum were the first on the dance floor and possibly last to leave.

As we currently face weekends in lockdown with yet another living room disco party, I think of my dad dancing away in my childhood lounge room to one of my pop records. I have inherited many idiosyncrasies from my dad, but this one might just be my favourite.

Any overseas immigrant to Australia will tell you that moving away from loved ones is not a decision made lightly.  

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I hated missing birthdays and other big family occasions and I envied friends here in Newcastle who could simply 'drop in' for a cup of tea with their parents. But I made my peace with the long-distance relationship because we have always put money aside for me to visit home each year. 

But in 2020 and with this option removed, it has become a sort of strange and desperate limbo with no definite plan to reunite in sight. Just a never-ending stream of phone calls and messages. We stopped talking long ago about when we might be able to see each other again – it is simply too distressing.

Image: Supplied. 

In years gone by, as we played out our long-distance relationship on the phone, I have said hellos and chatted with dad about the news of the day, before he passed the phone to my mum for a proper deep-dive. 

As technology moved onto screen based chatting, we have spent more time chatting as a family and this has been a good thing for all of us, but specifically, dad. He has at least been able to see my boys as they proudly show off favourite toys, or tell him about their day.

A couple of weeks ago on my weekly FaceTime with mum and dad, my youngest son Leo started crying because he didn’t want to say goodbye to 'granny and grandad'. I began crying too, partly from the exhaustion of another day in lockdown, but also because I didn’t want to say goodbye either. 

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As I watched mum and dad’s sad and teary faces on a screen, thousands of miles away, I wished I could give them both a hug. Or at least say something cheery such as, 'Oh well, we’ll see you in a few weeks/months'.

But with so many unknown factors at play, there was nothing left to say. It was the first time we had all wept on screen, but there have been many tears off-screen these last 19 months. I hope I won’t have to wait too much longer to counter those tears with an optimistic comment about an actual forthcoming trip.

While most of the time I try not to think too hard about possible future airport reunions, I occasionally let my mind wander to the start of the movie Love Actually, which includes real footage from arrivals at Heathrow Airport. 

I imagine myself walking through the gates pushing my trolley and seeing my parents in person, for what could be the first time in around two years.

I hope that in that moment, the years of sadness and frustration all played out on screen will fall away. And that first real bear hug with my beautiful dad will be the best and longest one yet.'

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Feature Image: Supplied.

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