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‘Real-life Love Actually moment’: Daughter captures emotional reunion with dad

Love Actually is one of my all time favourite movies, I must have watched it literally dozens of times.

Without fail, floods of tears flow at the closing scene where loved ones share heartfelt hugs at the airport.

I’ve just had the privilege of living out my own version of those emotional reunions, finally seeing my darling dad after two years apart due to covid restrictions. It’s by far the longest we’ve been apart since he moved to LA 25 years ago.

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Travelling to Los Angeles after a very long time.

A life threatening heart attack earlier this year and a degenerative muscle disease made my sense of urgency in seeing him even more profound. So as soon as it was announced that Victorians no longer needed an exemption to travel or quarantine on returning home, I jumped online and grabbed the first Qantas flight out.

From the moment I arrived at Melbourne airport to begin my journey, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude. Though I felt anxious too, the requirements for International Vaccine Passports and other appropriate paperwork were confusing not only to me but the staff who were checking them all for the first time.

I talked to fellow travellers onboard. It felt like we were all on this incredibly powerful journey and everyone seemed to be carrying emotional baggage which threatened to unravel at any moment.

When I arrived in LA and the customs officer asked me the reason for my trip I burst into tears, explaining that I was there to visit family. Eighteen months of pent up love, fear and frustration began to erupt.

Eighteen months of pent up love, fear and frustration began to erupt.

LAX customs can be intimidating at the best of times but there was an unexpected tenderness in the customs officer’s eyes and a recognition that these first few flights were special. It was the signal of a return to some semblance of normal life. 

Even though you couldn’t see the full expressions on people’s faces due to their masks, there was a scrunching of the eyes that suggested a smile on many people I passed in the terminal. 

Stepping out of the airport was surreal. I’ve lived in the US so it’s familiar to me, but I felt like a kid visiting for the first time. Excitement and butterflies flipped in my stomach as I imagined the first hug with my dad.

I’d decided to make my visit a surprise, checking with my stepmother that the timing suited and that just turning up on their door step wouldn’t give my dad another heart attack.

Pulling up to his house in a cab, my heart was racing and my hands were shaking. I saw my stepmother peering through the front window and she quietly opened the front door so my dad would not hear me arrive.

He was sitting in their pretty kitchen nook watching the news and didn’t hear me approach until I shakily said “Hi Dad”.

His expression of surprise and happiness will stick with me forever. I couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around him. It was the most beautiful hug, filled with overwhelming joy, relief and love.

Me and Dad, Barry Wilson, at the Santa Monica Beach Club on Nov 6, 2021. Picture: Supplied

Me and Dad, Barry Wilson, at the Santa Monica Beach Club on Nov 6, 2021. Picture: Supplied

Happy tears flowed and once we sat down, he kept looking at me in disbelief and laughing. We both remarked it was one of the greatest highlights of our lives. 

My beautiful family back home had asked me to film these first magical moments so they could share in the experience, knowing how much it would mean to dad and I and wishing so much to be there in person. I’m so glad I did because the look on dad’s face and the emotion in his voice is something I want to revisit and cherish for years to come.

I shared the video on social media and the feedback from friends and followers was genuine and  overwhelming. It felt like a universal acknowledgement of all that we have collectively lost and an appreciation for the return of something we once all took for granted.

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