When I went to Auntie Merle's funeral last February I got a huge surprise when an old bloke introduced himself to me as Danny Delaney.
"The legendary Danny Delaney"? I was shocked because I'd only ever seen photos and heard stories of my Dad's cousin and (wrongly) assumed he was dead!
But he was very much alive and standing there shaking my hand!
Sadly in the busyness of the day I didn't get to talk to him or his wife Kath for very long and when I went lloking for him later they'd already left.
Danny and Dad were great mates when they were young kids, 5-12 years old approx. before family movements etc parted them. A very long period ensued, perhaps 40 years before they saw one another again and only once or twice in total since they were kids.
Pop was in hospital in Queensland when the funeral was on and I excitedly related the encounter to him on the phone the next day. We resolved, once he had recovered, to take a trip and visit Danny and catch up properly.
And a few weeks ago that's what we did. The day after the Paul Simon and Sting concert at A Day on the Green near Geelong (a brilliant show) we set off for Benalla and had a long lunch with Danny and Kath at the bowls club. It was wonderful and both Dad and Danny had a real twinkle in their eyes as they talked and reminisced and caught up on one another's news. I loved hearing the old stories of their adventures and misadventures as kids such as when the horse they were driving with a buggy took off on them and headed for home without them. They had obviously been great friends and had a lot of fun together and for a couple of hours they were transported back to that time, circa 1940-46. a time of childish innocence and simplicity where all you needed was a couple of sticks and your imaginations to become cowboys and play in the bush for hours.
I took some great photos of them together but my phone and computer refuse to talk to one another so I'll have to add them later when I figure out how to do it. (Found a way around it).
After Benalla we headed for Shepparton and had a brief visit to Auntie Merle's grave where we were surprised to realise it was exactly a year ago to the day that she died. On to Mooroopna for a very brief visit to my cousin John and his partner Heather before heading further north to Tocumwal.
It's just over the NSW border and we stayed the night with one of Pop's oldest mates, Keith Grimshaw who along with Allan Davies made up a trio who spent more than 50 years as great mates. Keith's wife Anne died some years ago, as did Allan but Dad stays in touch with Keith and Allan's wife Jeanette who we went on to visit the following day in Yarrawonga. Keith is a funny character and there were lots of stories told and memories shared although sadly Keith's memory is starting to let him down and he couldn't remember some of the stories of their youth. We had pizzas for dinner and had an entertaining and enjoyable stay.
As mentioned, next stop was Yarrawonga to see Jeanette and one of her daughter's Carole where we also had a great time of story-telling, memories and exchanging news. Jeanette's son Gary is one of mt best mates but I hadn't seen Carole for a long time and listened with interest as she talked about her health, her kids and the journey she's been on.
We had dinner at the pub that night, with Terry Wallace sitting at the table next to us.
For the uneducated he's a former AFL footballer and coach. Amazingly I had walked past him at the concert two night's earlier.
After a night at Yarrawonga we headed back to Melbourne for a very quick g'day to Gary and Christine before I had to get back to Geelong to start work.
Something I'm very pleased about/proud of is that Pop and Allan were lifelong mates, his son Gary and I are great mates, and our sons Paul and Nathan are also friends. That's three generations of friendship.
It was a fantastic trip, visiting old friends, seeing the countryside, talking and laughing and travelling and spending heaps of time with Pop. I've been trying for years to convince him to take a road trip around the USA. He's always found excuses not to do it but maybe.....if I keep working on him.....we might just pull it off..... (I said "might" Pop!)