"Oh Mein Papa, to me he was so wonderful, Oh Mein Papa, to me he was so good."
"Gone are the days when he would take me on his knee And with a smile, he'd change my tears to laughter.
"Oh Mein Papa, to me he was so wonderful, Oh Mein Papa, to me he was so good."
Picture at right taken at the time of his marriage to Isabel Thornborough Russell, 24 Jun 1918. The one on the left taken while he worked for ANA - Australian National Airlines - at Essendon Airport probably around 1957.
Music, love, laughter, fishing, hard work, sparkling eyes and tremendous patience.
That's what I remember most about my grandfather. Thomas Easter Fasham wasn't rich by the world's standard, but my goodness, he was the wealthiest man I knew as I grew up by his side. He gave to all around him. He loved to laugh, yet he was tender and sensitive. He loved to play, but hard work had been his lot all of his life. He had laboured in the tough and uncertain timber industry, at mills and as a sleeper (railroad ties) cutter. My mother remembers going with him on some of his trips to cut timber and watched him set fire to huge gum tree stumps. They would return weeks later to find them still smoldering. It was a great place to barbeque your sausages and lamb chops! Nothing like the flavour of gumwood in your meat - absolutely nothing - and absolutely delicious.
My greatest regret about Grandpa was that I didn't have him very long. Neither he nor my grandmother tarried long on the earth. I lost my grandmother when I was just eight years old. It was a very difficult time for me - she was such a constant in my life and although firm, very fair and very loving. She taught me a love of God, for which I am very grateful, it certainly kept me going through the dark days after her death. But it was Grandpa who rallied me and made me laugh again. Even through what must have been the most horrible days of his life, he was there for me and although he didn't stay long, he was just what I needed to get me through my own sadness and loneliness.
We did so many wonderful things together. We went fishing of course. We would go to the banks of the Murray River and sit and fish for hours. I was a pretty good fisherman too - thanks to the persistence and teaching of my father and grandfather. I often caught more fish than anyone else, much to the chagrin of others with us - especially because I was a girl! My grandmother was an incredible cook - she could even make trout taste good - and for me that was quite an undertaking. I loved to fish, but I hated to eat the things! Of course Grandpa's greatest triumph was catching the mighty Murray cod - one weighed over 75lbs!! (The famous fish is pictured below).
The cod would be smoked and then eaten with great relish, except by me - it was worse than trout!! But for grandpa I would try anything, so I nibbled a bit here and there. This picture was taken at Barham, NSW, about 1958.
One of the most outstanding things I recall learning from grandpa was how to "tap" a tank. Because we lived in areas where water was always a precious commodity and a scarce one at that, we used rainwater that was caught in large galvanized and corrugated iron tanks. In order to know how much water a household still had, the tanks would be "tapped". When my family lived with my grandparents on the same property grandpa showed me the value of checking our water supply by tapping the tank. First he stood me in front of the tank on a ladder and instructed me to begin tapping or knocking the protruding corrugated iron. "Always knock on the part of the tank that rolls out," he said. Logical, as it was nigh on impossible to fit even my small hand into the the part that rolled in. Tapping loudly I learned to tell the difference between the sound of water against the inside wall of the tank, or emptiness. It was always a solemn occasion when I would tap and tap and tap, gradually moving down the tank until I was only a few inches above the tap on the side. That meant very little water and extreme measures to conserve what we did have until another rain filled the tank again. Although grandpa never said the words, I always thought we were a bit like tanks ourselves - sometimes we are full to the top with good things, other times we find ourselves lacking considerably. I've been a pretty constant "tapper" of my own well-being ever since those days - taking stock of what I might lack and determining to fill my well or tank with precious things. See, that's the kind of influence grandpa had on me. He didn't have to talk a lot, but he certainly taught a lot.
The absolute love of grandpa's life was grandma. Hands down. He adored her and every look, action, deed and support, showed that adoration and love. I learned alot from his attention to her needs and I determined at a very young age that I wanted to marry someone like grandpa, who would take care of me in such a gentle, kind way. He was respectful and devoted and did his best to fill each of grandma's needs.
The second greatest love of his life was his daughter, my mother, Joyce.
Grandpa was a very talented man, not only with a fishing rod, but with a hook and rug wool. He hooked several rugs - the one I loved best of course, was the one he did for me with three teddy bears and a balloon. I remember it on my floor beside my bed for some years. He also hooked his famous "Tiger Rug" while we lived in Echuca and he was in Melbourne. We had it for many years until it simply wore out and it was like losing a friend when it could no longer be salvaged. Thank goodness for photos!
Grandpa was a wonderful singer and each evening we would spend time singing around the piano, or he would get out his knee harp and play it. I loved the sound of it and wonder if anyone still plays them. He could play the spoons equally as well and the faster the song, the more he loved the challenge! He often played the mouth organ as well and it was fun to sing along - even today the sound of a mouth organ brings back memories of winter nights in front of the fire, snuggled against grandpa's legs while he played song after song. Almost a haunting sound, but lots of fun when he went fast! Probably the instrument he played the most, however, was his button and then piano accordian. I am privileged to have his piano accordian in my possession and even though I can't play (can barely lift it somedays!) I love to get it out of its case and run my fingers across the keys and push the buttons and remember. He was really a very gifted man and often in demand as a younger man to sing and play at weddings, dances and get-togethers. He and grandma sounded lovely when they sang together, perfect harmony in song and in their relationship.
When my grandmother died, the light went out in grandpa's eyes. I spent a good deal of time with him at his home in what is now Airport West. We lived across the paddocks, so every day after school and weekends found me at grandpa's. One of the things he decided to do to try and lift his own spirits was to learn to play the guitar. He bought himself an instrument and began to teach himself. Within just a few days he was strumming and humming and I was right beside him, adding my voice to his. Grandma had always told me I could sing because I had Welsh blood running in my veins - a bit of a stretch I've discovered - although her grandmother (my ggmother) was born in Wales, it was to English parents from Devonshire and Lancashire. Still, I'll accept the compliment and try to live up to the reputation! Grandpa tried to teach me some simple tunes on his new guitar and I was soon able to play one or two from old radio shows of the day. I never could master it like grandpa though. I remember one day in particular - a Saturday. Grandpa was alone and I went over to the house to be with him. He was in his little bedroom (he had moved out of the one he shared with grandma the day she died), and he was really quiet and seemed very sad to me. I sat close by him and asked him to play me a song on his guitar. He got it out and began the "Anniversary Waltz". It was his favourite song to sing to grandma. I began singing it softly while he played, it seemed he was a million miles away, I am sure with grandma. When we finished the song I snuggled up to him and he put his arm around me and cried. He was so lonely for my grandma and even though we shared a very special bond, I could not assuage the deep sadness he felt without her. I think it was on that day that my ten-year old heart realised my grandpa would not be long with me and I felt it breaking in a hundred pieces. How I would live without him was beyond me. He had always been there for me - such a constant in my life and I didn't want that to change.
Grandpa had a heart attack a couple of years after that and children were not allowed to visit in the hospital. So I sent messages instead and he responded as he could. Mum was our deliverer and it almost became fun, and would have been if it were not for the fact that my grandpa was in a hospital and I couldn't see him. BUT, I could remember him and I did - every single thing about him - every single thing that made him so special to me and every single thing that made me special to him. When I would talk Mum into giving me a strong, sweet cup of tea (without milk, thank you) I would remember grandpa. When I would pick up his guitar and strum some notes I hoped were in order, I would remember grandpa. When I smelled the smell of a fire burning in the fireplace and knew it was gumwood, I remembered grandpa and a million, million other things that would touch my sight, sound, feel or smell helped me remember grandpa. It was such an exciting day when Mum was off to the hospital to bring him home. I could hardly wait, he would come and live with us and I could scarcly believe how good that felt. And I had so many plans! But he never did come home to us. As Mum was helping him prepare to get ready to leave the hospital, he suddenly looked up with a radiant smile on his face, his eyes alive and sparkling, reached out his arms and said, "Belle, Belle, I'm coming" and he went.
My beloved grandfather, Horace Easter Fasham, died the 19th day of September 1959 in Melbourne. I spent the day of the funeral (another thing children could not go to in those days) at home, thinking of grandpa. Knowing he was at last with grandma and he was happy. I know he was happy, I was blessed to know many things that day and although I have missed him all these many years, I have often felt his arm around me and his wonderful, sparkling eyes watching over me. We will be together forever one day and I will never again have to say good-bye to my precious grandpa. "To me he is so wonderful, to me he is so good" and one day he will again sit by my side and we will sing the wonderful old songs that brought me so much joy when I was a little girl. I know it, for that is a blessing that awaits me. Bye grandpa, until we meet again.
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