Dad and faithful companion TobyIt’s been a year since Dad left us. The time has passed so quickly. This time last year I was in Mongolia, getting ready to return to Australia to visit my family and I know that Dad was looking forward to my visiting him. I was looking forward to spending time with him and mum. Sometimes we do not get what we want. One year ago Dad left us and my trip changed from one to return to see the family to a rush to get back in time for the funeral.

I flew back into Sydney Airport on Wednesday morning, 14 June 2006. Picked up a hire car and then waited at Central Railway Station for Jeff and Steve to arrive by bus from Canberra. We then drove to Macksville for Dad’s funeral on Thursday morning. The whole family was there, all Dad’s children and grandchildren. There were about 60 people at the funeral and Mum was still receiving cards a month afterwards. So many cards, so many people, so many people who thought my father was a special kind of person.

My sister and mother both asked me to speak at the funeral about Dad. I did. It was hard though. How do you compress 80 years (well all right Dad, 80 and a half years) of life into 20 or 30 minutes of memories? So many things, so much laughter, so much help and assistance, so much of Dad but too little time to talk about it.

Dad was born on the 1st of December 1925. He was christened as a Presbyterian with the name Frank Leslie Weston Thompson. His father was Harry Herbert Thompson and his mother Edith. For years I always wondered about Dad’s four names when most people only have three. It was whilst looking through the notebook that Harry H kept whilst serving in the Australian Army in the First World War that led to the history of Dad’s name.

I was checking the Australian War Memorial service history for Pop Thom (the name I called my grandfather) and then asked about other family members. Various relations were uncovered and there was a reference to Uncle Frank. Investigating further I uncovered Frank Leslie Weston who was killed in France in the First World War. This was Edith’s brother and Dad ended up carrying his full name through his life. The Leslie part of the name I carry and as does Steven.

When he was at school Dad was known as “Piggy”. A cruel nickname perhaps, although apparently he was a chubby little bugger, weighing 14 stone – 90 kilograms – at the age of 12. I am sure this helped develop his sense of humour at least. If you had to name one thing about Dad it would be his sense of humour and sense of mischief. That is one thing I appear to have inherited from him and that I am grateful for.

Pop Thom was a gardener and Dad appeared to have inherited Pop’s green thumb. He loved growing things, vegetables, trees and flowers. His favourite though, was orchids. He loved them, loved growing them and displaying them.

Dad married Mum on the 3rd of October 1953. He had known mum for a few years before that when he worked as a bus driver in the Turramurra/Wahroonga area of Sydney. I came along on the 29th of July 1954 and yes, that means I was probably a honeymoon baby. My sister turned up on the 22nd of July 1956.

Dad had six grandchildren born in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1996. Jeff (his first grandchild) remembered him recently.

When I was recalling Dad’s life I recalled his heart attack in 1968. This was just before my Confirmation. Judging from the comments from his recent doctors, it seems that he was very lucky to have survived that day in 1968 (or as he described it himself earlier in 2006, 38 and a half years ago).

He worked for the Australian Gas Light Company for 25 years and under the house in Macksville is still his retirement board. When he an mum retired, they moved from Toongabbie in Sydney to the small country town of Macksville in the north of New South Wales. They lived here for 15 years before Dad passed.

I guess that one way to get a sense of the man was to note that at the age of 80 (and mum at 73), they were both still delivering Meals on Wheels once a week to the old folks of the area who were unable to cook for themselves. I worried about an 80 year old driving (so did mum from the passenger seat) but Dad was generally OK, still enjoying driving at 80.

Dad was a good man and always ready to help. To help me with some plumbing, to help fellow train enthusiasts, really, to help anyone who needed it.

Dad was infected with the Happy Hormone. It did not matter how desperate times were, Dad would go to sleep, then wake the next morning and the Happy Hormone would kick in and Dad had no more worries, just buckled down and did what needed to be done.

He was a great guy to have as a father. Patient, happy and always calm, especially with his kids and grandkids.

I said this at his funeral and after a year I know it to be true. Whenever I think of my Dad I think of him with Tears in my Eyes and a Smile on my Lips. There are so many things that make me think of him too. The sound of a train passing, an ice cold beer at the end of a hard day, a good joke, a random thought.

One of my treasured memories of my Dad was during his wine craze. This was the early 1970s and Dad was buying some good wines (the odd Grange Hermitage) and some less expensive ones. He had a sort of wine cellar under the house at Roseville. He had purchased some rather dodgy vintage red. This was in 1975 and the bottles of red only bore a label that said “1968”. That was all that was on them. The bottom fifth of the bottle was full of a sediment and they were a very full-bodied wine – no light penetrated it. He said he had bought a carton – 12 bottles. I had drunk one or two bottles of it. A friend came over to visit one night and Dad produced a bottle of this “vintage” with the words “see what you think of this Wal.” Wal and I drank 12 more bottles of that “vintage” over a few weeks. Wal called again. Dad produced another bottle of that red with the words “this is the last one”. We drank that. Wal came around a few days later and Dad produced another bottle of that red with the words “this is the last one”. We drank that. This happened another 20 times or so. Seems that one carton of 12 had magically become 3 cartons and yes, the wine was awful.

When I think of my Dad, I think of him with a tear in my eyes and a smile on my lips.

I miss you Dad.

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