“How much deception was there?” he asked…
“A bit”… although I prefer to call it preparation for a successful surprise.
And it did lead to one of the best hugs I have ever received – I still get goosebumps when I tell the story and tears in my eyes when I look at the photos. About how we held each other and how happy it made us both.
I wasn’t in favour of the idea at first. I had wanted to tell my Dad that I was flying from Germany to South Africa to visit for his 70th birthday. But after some persuasion from my Mom, I grew to love the idea of making it a surprise.
I was soooo excited – like a child! My colleagues and friends must have got tired of my grinning and planning and jumping around excitedness.
The most amazing part of it all is that over 60 people who knew about my coming all kept stumm and didn’t say a word – I’m very impressed ☺
You see, as my gift to him I had asked friends, family, colleagues and students of his to send me memories, stories and photos of their time with him. Of things they taught each other, of anything memorable fitting a 70 Year memory book.
It snowballed quite quickly, and in no time at all the 40 page booklet I had expected to hand over grew into a 150 page hard cover book!
Compiling these stories made me truly understand the phrase “A Labour of Love”. It took several hours to edit and put together – but every minute, every tear, every smile was worth it. I learnt so much about my father. And I had tears rolling down my cheek when I wrote my contribution.
I arrived in Cape Town 2 days before his birthday, and needed to “hide” in our city for a while – which I did at a super beach house in Kommetjie. But not before meeting my “brand-new” niece – I went straight from the airport to meet Anna, and promptly fell deeply in love. How is that even possible??
2 weeks before his birthday I had sent an e-mail saying how excited I was that I was off to Senegal in 2 weeks for a business trip! To cement the idea, I called on the morning of his birthday, and left a message on the machine. But that would not have been good enough for me on such a big birthday – wishing him in person is a must.
So I called back an hour later, and had my mom on the phone. She was all “but you called already?” – knowing full well that I was to arrive soon, she was surprised that I was calling again. Me, on the other hand, I wanted to keep the act up, and insisted on speaking to him, “I’m calling from Senegal, Mom!”
We had a great chat about my busy day ahead, his lunch party, and me not yet having met Anna who would also be there. He ended up by asking me to bring him any literature about Senegal that I might find in English.
The Actual Surprise
2 hours later I arrived at the restaurant, and on instruction of my brother, I parked and arrived from a pre-determined side of the table. Everyone knew I was about to arrive – so it went quiet as I got to the table, and stood still about 3 metres away.
He must have sensed the change in the mood, looked up and saw me.
There was a moment of “No compute” in his brain before his jaw dropped in disbelief. (“but you’re in Senegal, how are you here?”)
And then we hugged. We hugged as tightly as never before. I still smile at how he held me, pulled back and asked “how much deceipt?” and smiled and held and smiled.
I love that guy.
Later that afternoon, back at my parents’ house with everyone for coffee and cake, I handed over the book. I explained the journey of making it, and what it means before he unwrapped it. I had the title on the front in gold embossed letters: “The First 70 Years”.
It is not something he could read instantly, of course, but he did make time a few days later and told me how much he loved the book. The memories, the stories he hadn’t thought of in a while.
It is so precious to get this type of feedback – especially if you have touched so many lives in your time. Thank you to each and every one that contributed!!!
Happy Birthday Daddy ☺