50th Birthday Weekend
NB. I have taken a long time to get around to blogging about this because I really wanted to do a good job on it and do justice to what turned out to be a fantastic event. Consequently, it will be quite a long post. No apologies though, it was worth every word. I will add pictures as soon as I can.
Several months ago I sent out a tentative invitation to a small group of family and close friends inviting them to join me in celebrating my 50th birthday, June 21 2011.
Having moved to Victoria in October and knowing that the majority of invitees live in WA, SA and Qld, I was not expecting a big response. In fact I wasn’t very hopeful at all but 50 is a “special” birthday and I figured I should at least put it out there. The plan was to make it a footy, friends and family weekend on the 17-19 June. We would host people who were able to come, have a BBQ lunch on the Saturday as the main “celebration” and all go to the footy at the MCG on Saturday night to see Geelong play St Kilda.
One of my mates, Cam, a colleague from school chaplaincy days was already going to be in Melbourne for a conference in the week preceding so when he said he would stay on for an extra day and join me for the footy I knew I had at least one guest for the occasion.
I was not prepared for what happened next and that was to become a recurring theme!
Another mate, Grant “Collo” Collins said he was coming and that Tiger Airlines had a really great fare available. We weren’t to know the troubles that would engulf Tiger at that stage and Collo sent out an email to all my CFFL (Chaplains Fantasy Footy League) mates encouraging them to join the party.
Next on board was St Steve, so named because he is truly saintly in his role as CFFL Commissioner and because he is a St Kilda tragic. The Cats v Saints game was all the incentive he needed.
Then Birchy said he was coming. He’s both an ex-chaplain and ex-CFFL coach and one of my closest friends, having spent the last few Summers together on team at Augusta Beach Mission.
By now I was getting very excited. The response was way beyond my hopes and although a few people said that much as they’d love to come they just wouldn’t be able to, there were still more positive RSVP’s to come.
Chris, my friend and former youth work colleague who lives in Esperance signed on. Chris has a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to football. She purports to be a West Coast fan but interestingly in recent seasons has declared her love for the Saints. I’m not going so far as to label her a fair-weather fan but…!
In her defence Chris was actually at the MCG for the famous 1966 Grand Final to witness St Kilda’s only ever premiership so her Saints credentials are bona fide but she does love to party on with the Chardonnay set now that she lives in WA. We love talking footy and stirring one another up so I was rapt to hear she was coming.
As soon as Alex heard about the event he made plans to be there although, with Alex, making plans and following them through are not always the same thing. However, he assured me he was coming and my delight and expectation continued to grow.
On the family front the first to RSVP was Mum. I always knew she would be there but she seemed even more excited about it than normal and asked unusual questions about the plans and arrangements. I would only discover why later. Mum actually arrived 6 weeks before my birthday and enjoyed several visits and excursions of her own with family and friends around the eastern states in the lead-up to the event including meeting up with her closest friend from school whom she hadn’t seen in over 40 years! She tracked her down via FaceBook and they had a lovely couple of days catching up, picking up as if they’d never been apart!
Mum had also been busy working away behind the scenes on a special project, putting together a Birthday Book for me containing messages from friends and family from around the country and beyond.
My sister Vicki was coming from South Australia which shamed me a little bit because even though I was in SA when she turned 50 I wasn’t able to be there for her birthday party as I was running a footy trip for a group of kids from Busselton at the time and had my hands full.
My older brother Alan (Big Brother the Accountant) surprised me with the news that he was coming. I say surprised only because I had tried for years to get him to join me for a footy weekend to Melbourne when I lived in WA and he had never taken up the offer. Again, I was rapt to hear he would be joining me for the occasion.
My younger brother Bruce was not able to make it but we did share a special phone call on the day which really touched me as did the things he wrote in my birthday book.
The final WA guests on the RSVP list were very special, being our sons Zachariah (The Heir) and Jordan (Spike). Carolyn (Mrs Holt Press) really misses everything and everyone from WA and especially feels the distance from the boys now that the rest of the family are living in Victoria.
The last of the known guests was my Dad. I was quite worried that Pop wouldn’t make it because of a recent episode of Bell’s Palsy which has had a serious impact on his health, particularly his eye and mouth, making all sorts of everyday things liking seeing, eating and drinking quite challenging, not to mention driving. Because of these limitations he decided to fly down from Queensland and hire a car to get around in once he got here.
There was quite a bit to organise in readiness for the weekend which was done against the backdrop of Carolyn’s Dad’s on-going health problems and the need for her to be available for him.
To be continued