My First Father's Day Without Dad

04/09/2015 10:03 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

I lost three pretty important men in my life last year. Rik Mayall, of The Young Ones fame, Doc Neeson, lead singer of the Angels, and Geoff Jones, or as I liked to call him, Dad.

This Father's Day will be the first without him. It's going to be tough.

At 47 years of age, I'm at a stage of life where people I look up to are going to start dropping off the twig. That's life, no big surprises there. And maybe I'm just getting old, but this recent realisation has got me reflecting on the importance of heroes.

Rik. Doc. Dad. Their influence on me was very different, but all played some part in shaping me into the man I am today -- albeit in varying degrees.

I never met Rik, but ask anyone who knew me in the 80s and they'll tell you there's no doubt his unique style of comedy made a big impact on me as a rowdy 20-something guy. Doc Neeson's music and his larger-than-life presence, on and off stage, was infectious and inspiring. I was privileged to get to know him over the course of my career in radio and I am grateful for that.

And then there was Dad. He wasn't famous, didn't dabble in comedy and couldn't really hold a tune like my other heroes, but every word I've used to try and describe how this fun-loving, strong, whip-smart and compassionate man has influenced me feels like an understatement. And one year after his death he is still a guiding force in my life.

baby brendan being held by his dad

Baby Brendan being held by his Dad

For most of his 71 years Dad was a Qantas airline pilot and he loved every moment of it. We always knew it was more than just a job and we wondered what Dad would do with himself in retirement, so much so that my sister once joked: "He'll be dead in three years!"

Well, Dad showed her. He lasted five.

When I realised this was my first Father's Day without Dad my first thought was, "well, at least I won't have to go looking for a gift". But actually, there's nothing I'd rather do.

I then caught myself reminiscing about all the Father's Day presents that I gave Dad over the years.

Aside from countless ashtrays, which I tell my 10-year-old self wasn't the source of his lung cancer, there was the brilliant papier-mâché St George Dragon that I made, even though Dad supported the Swans. One year I crafted a great pencil box that he used it to store loose change, which proved quite handy for us kids when in need of some quick cash. And of course there was the golf tee holder which, if I'm honest, was pretty much a rubber thong cut into a rectangle with some holes drilled into it.

But the one Father's Day gift that really stands out was the one I spent the most time creating (read: more than 45 minutes), a tie rack.

Not just any tie rack. This tie rack was one of the greatest things I had ever made in all my 12 years. Starting with the finest plywood, it involved using an array of power tools including something I would develop a lifelong obsession with, a Jigsaw. (Years later I'd actually buy Dad a jigsaw for Father's Day, he didn't share my obsession. I think he might have used it once.) When my masterpiece was finished I gave it a customary coat of '70s-green paint. I was so proud of my handiwork I contemplated perhaps keeping it for myself but as I only had one tie, I thought better of it.

geoff jones headstone

I can't remember what Dad said when I gave him the tie rack. Being a pilot, he was probably away on the actual Sunday of Father's Day, but I do remember when I gave it to him he was genuinely pleased. And until he moved out of the old house, it faithfully held up all his ties and I'd like to believe it's still mounted on the back of that cupboard door in that house.

I have three children of my own, aged 22, 18 and 13, and over the years they have all given me things that they have made. I still use the spatula my eldest made me for the BBQ, the self-portrait drawn by my youngest hangs over my tool bench in the garage. Unfortunately, the treasured pasta picture of me created by my daughter didn't stand the test of time, a victim of the great mouse plague of '03. But they are all treasured, and mean more than any gifts I've ever received.

Last year was one of the hardest of my life, but I did inherit that jigsaw I got Dad all those years ago and so, at the risk of going all "Lion King" on you, the circle of life continues.


Brendan 'Jonesy' Jones is co-host of Sydney's #1 breakfast radio show, Jonesy & Amanda, on WS FM101.7's. Amanda Keller and Jonesy's 6pm Afternoon Delight show airs nationally every weekday on the Pure Gold Network.

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