I had no idea what to wear. The biggest event of my young life. I had to look the part.
Uncle Tom was taking me to the cricket. He was a Sydney Cricket Ground member. He knew I was a cricket nut. He decided that I needed to see an Ashes test.
Dad might have been more excited than I was. What a thrill, he said. Clearly, I was one lucky boy.
Mum told me to take a jumper. In January. I could have been selected for a space shuttle mission, and she would have insisted I take that bloody garment.
I didn’t own a tie. Just my good jeans, and my only buttoned shirt. Uncle Tom said that would do just fine.
I don’t remember the cricket. Just the surrounds. We ate lovely food. Uncle Tom knocked back a few beers. In fancy glasses I’d never seen. Everyone was in a jacket.
When I got home, Dad pumped me for details. Every little bit. He loved his cricket too. He was thrilled for me.
A few years later, I was back at the SCG. A league semi final. Newtown v Wests. A full house. Those rarified surrounds again.
This time, I soaked the action in. The most exciting afternoon I’d experienced.
It’s what Uncle Tom did. He made us all happy. I can’t remember him ever being cranky. Not one cross word.
With his beloved Aunty Heather, he made sure no-one went without. We were so lucky, those in his extended family. They did so much, and asked for nothing in return.
I had never been to a house with a pool. The first time we stayed at their place, I wouldn’t get out. A little blonde boy with prune-like skin. So different from our backyard.
Uncle Tom was a successful businessman, but he would never tell you that. The conversation about who should bat at number three in the baggy green was much more fun.
When we lost Dad, he looked after my family like a guardian angel. So much support for Mum. I know she was forever grateful. And it wasn’t the first time. It was just his way.
He died last week. He’d been crook, but had no intention of going anywhere. Fought it all the way. Was still working from his hospital bed, into the final hours.
I feel like I should have told him more how much we all loved him. How he made such a difference to all our young lives. He would laugh that off, I know. What he did, he did because it was the right thing to do.
He left us, a few days before the Aussies scored their historic Ashes victory at the SCG. There’s something right about that. He would have clapped, politely, with that great big smile.
Farewell Uncle Tom. Thanks for showing a country kid what could be. And letting all of us see that there is no greater love, than family.