Gene at 90
My father, Gene Adams, turned 90 on September 11. He lives in Walla Walla, in remote southeastern Washington state. I usually visit about four times a year but because of COVID, I hadn’t seen him since early February. I couldn’t stand the idea of not being with him to celebrate such a big day, but I also wasn’t comfortable flying there and potentially picking up and transmitting the virus to him. So I drove. It was a 4,000-mile roundtrip journey and I had a great time despite the weirdness of COVID-era travel. (I promise a post on the trip and the precautions I took.)
Perhaps the greatest part of the whole birthday was the gift I gave him. I say this as someone who is not a gift person. I rarely think of giving them and when I do, I have a hard time coming up with good gifts. The fact that he doesn’t need anything ratchets up the degree of difficulty. I was telling my friend Geralin Thomas about my quandary and she came up with a great idea that was a giant success.
Because of COVID, we couldn’t have a birthday party, which is what I probably would have done in lieu of a gift. Instead, I reached out to dozens of people from various parts of his life, asking each of them to send me a 30- to 60-second video wishing him a happy birthday and marking the occasion any other way they wanted to.
I used Trello to track my invitations and responses, which made it really easy. It was such a joy to communicate with these folks and receive their wonderful videos. People jumped at the opportunity to participate and I ended up with forty videos. I purchased an older iPad for him so he can watch the videos when he wants. (He’s a Luddite with no computer and no internet access and no desire for either.)
I put the individual videos on the iPad and also used iMovie on my Mac to string them all together into one video, which I put on the iPad. That turned out to be the way he likes to watch it most. Finally, I bought a lightning-to-HDMI adapter so that he can watch the video on his TV. I did everything manually and found it quite easy. (Since then, I have found out about a service that will send out the invitations and the compile the videos for you for a small fee, VidHug.)
He was blown away. Because he’s a Luddite he thought it was a lot harder for me to do than it actually was, though I tried to set him straight. He really enjoyed hearing from so many loved ones. The video was just plain heartwarming.
If you have an elderly relative you need a gift for, I heartily recommend this. Honestly, it was quite easy—and very enjoyable—to organize. Feel free to reach out if you need advice or tips!