|Ernest "Mick" Johnston aka 'Gramps"|
I got to say Goodbye in person just over ten days ago when we stopped by the nursing home to introduce him to great grandchild number 12 and number 13, Matilda and Emily pictured above. The room was full of cousins, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sons and daughters-in-law and Gramps was over-joyed to see everyone. I went from there to the airport to fly back to Ireland.
He had a long battle. As you may have read I rushed over to Australia just over 6 weeks ago to say goodbye but he rallied that time, and I was glad. This time when the end came he was calm and as prepared as a 92 year old body that fought in Tobruk and New Guinea in the Second World War could be.
He was also a lifelong Carlton Football Club supporter and appears on their website here after they signed a card for his 90th Birthday. I printed off a screenshot of that website and framed it for his 92nd. My Uncle Danny made sure it went up on the wall in his room in the nursing home.
He was a wonderful Grampa, and absolutely indulged all his grandchildren in a way that might have annoyed his sons. My favourite memory was being picked up and held on his hip while we rang the little bell that he had on the wall beside his beloved bar. He also had a little chinese lantern hanging above a doorway that we would "dingle dangle" before returning to the ground. He always smelled of a mixture of Old Spice, Muscat and the spicy meats and olives he ate every day from his little side table beside his Jason Recliner chair. And if his longevity is anything to go by I suggest you all go out and buy fortified wine, hot cabana and olives to consume every day at 11 am.
He was covered in colourful tattoos from his war years which he explained away to us by saying "too much bloody jungle juice" - my favourite was the Rat of Tobruk. For as long as I knew him, he had a section of hair that he grew a bit longer, in order to comb it across the front. A lot of men do that but my Gramps had no problem with letting us comb it out when we were playing hair-dressers and even letting us put rollers in. I have many many happy memories of visiting Gramps and Gramma's house and playing with my cousins all over their enormous garden and house. The smell of a roast in the oven, cauliflower cheese and there was "World of Sport" on the tv in the morning.
In recent years I always felt that Grampa "got me" and he was so encouraging about the Grace App and what I was trying to achieve. When I was home in February he asked me what Australia needed to do to make the App profitable enough for me to be able to come home. Because that was all he wanted, to have every one of his kids, grandkids and great grandkids on home soil.
He leaves behind my wonderful Granma who looked after him so well in his declining years. Granma did everything for Gramps. She is a continued inspiration to me and I am thinking of her tonight.
I am also grateful to my Uncle Danny and cousin Kel who did so much to make Grampa's last days more comfortable.
One of my Gramps' favourite exclamations was "Tremendous!"
I think he had a most Tremendous life, so please refill your glass with muscat and join me in a toast to my Tremendous Gramps.