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Thursday, October 30, 2008

In Memory of Larry

Well, we knew this day was coming but we didn’t know it was coming so soon. Over the last five months, we have spent as much time with Dad as possible, making sure that he knew how much we loved him, saying all that needed to be said, and hugging him (and each other) as much as possible. We are grateful that we were given time to say our goodbyes. Dad enjoyed his time laughing over memories with old friends who were able to visit. And he cherished the time spent with his children, and grandchildren.Dad didn’t fear death. Even at the end, he was such a tough guy. Such a fighter. But he also tried to make us laugh, through our tears. He was a softie at heart.Everyone who has sent such caring, loving messages, everyone who came to visit Larry one last time, and everyone who was able to come today has their own special memories of times shared with our father. But we would like to share some of ours with you today, so that you will have greater insight into the man who was our hero.Diana: Dad originally wanted to go into medicine. But he was concerned that he would have to deal with patients. So he became a science teacher instead. Dad loved teaching. And he was good at it. If you stayed in his class, you learned something. He would pace the floor, writing and drawing diagrams on the board without ever looking at a textbook. He made science interesting, and inspired many of his students to go into teaching. We were his students too. More than once in Dad’s class, I cracked under the weight of all that silence, and broke into a giggle fit. When I did, I would hear, “Leeson! Get OUT!” When we got home, he was just Dad.Cath: Even though dad was a well respected teacher, at home he was a different person. There were many times when I had a class with him and I thought how can people be scared of this guy, if only they knew him at home. I remember once, in my teenage years, my home work was interrupted by a knock on my door. I opened it to find dad dressed in nothing but a carpenter’s belt, a red bandana and a silly grin. He matched the Chippendale of the month on my calendar on the wall. That was the dad I knew…sillyDiana: Dad was punctual. He didn’t mind being early, either. If he had to wait in line somewhere, he’d pass the time watching people. If we were planning to go somewhere, Mom would ask him what time he wanted to leave. If he said 7 o’clock, he’d be out in the car, revving the engine and honking the horn at 6:45. Cath: Dad was a neat freak. To this day I can’t leave the house without my bed made and my room tidy. He loved when the carpet was freshly vacuumed and hated to see footprints in the carpet. You had to wear slippers in the house…year round. And there were rooms you just weren’t allowed in….they were for guests only. We had a beautiful bay window on our house on Johnston Road, and I used to like to curl up with a book in chair in the sunshine. I remember being ushered out of the room many a time by dad and then hearing the vacuum going as he got rid of my footprints in the carpet.Diana: Dad was a giver. He loved surprises, and he loved to shop for the perfect Christmas gift for us. Those walkie-talkies were the best gift ever. If we needed something, he’d find a way to get it to us, whether it was a bit of extra cash, or a car to drive (he bought me the car I’m driving now right after I rolled his truck! Now that’s love). Cath: Dad was a goof. He loved to play practical jokes on us. Eventually we caught on to “does this smell funny to you?”…many a time we ended up with something on the end of our noses. And he used to love to surprise us …one minute we’d be watching TV, the next he’d pounce on us, pin us to the floor and lick our faces….he’d delight in our squeals of disgust of having cigarette breath washed over our faces. Diana: Dad loved the great outdoors, in any season. We spent many great summer vacations at Bon Echo Provincial Park. Dad would want to make the most of the day, so he would pull Cathy and I out of bed at about 4 am and put us in the back of the station wagon. We pretended we were asleep the whole time, because we liked being carried by him. He sure knew how to spend quality family time and make some great memories. Dad would spend hours giving us and our friends waterskiing lessons. Never once did he complain about the cost of fuel. Cath: Dad loved animals. We have so many memories of dad lying on the floor nose to nose with a dog. If you had a dog…he knew its name….he might not remember your name, or your kid’s name…but he knew your dog’s name. He believed that if you were going to have an animal you’d better be ready to have it for its lifetime, not just for as long as it was convenient for you. Diana. Dad was my rescuer. I ended up at a party at the flats near Merrickville one night, and it got a little out of hand. The next thing I knew, kids were running around whispering: “Leeson and Murphy are here!” Dad’s policy was to rescue first, ask questions later. I appreciated that attitude many times in my life. Cath: Dad was never one for talking on the phone. When you called home and you got that deep gravelly “Hello”…you knew mom was no where around. He wanted to know what was going on in your life, but was happy to hear all the details from mom. Lots of times I would come home for a visit and by the phone there would be note paper with my mom’s short hand with all these little scribbles interspersed with a name or a word …and those would be her notes of our phone conversation so that she could tell dad all about what was going on in our lives. Sometimes I would call and make dad stay on the phone and listen to me babble on about one thing or another….a little bit of torture for him…and then later on in the evening when mom got home…I’d get the call back from her….dad’s retelling of our conversation must have been lacking in detail.Diana: Dad wasn’t always the easiest man to live with, as you might imagine. He had a short temper, especially if things weren’t working the way they should. He’d get madder than Hell at inanimate objects. I remember him installing a screen door on the back of the house on Johnston Road. One minute he was attaching the handle, the next minute he was bashing the handle to smithereens with his hammer. We spent the next 6 years opening the door by putting our fingers through the handle hole.Cath: Dad had “two footitis”. Sunday afternoon drives are dangerous for someone with this affliction…inevitably I’d get a call from mom saying that they went for a drive to just look at boats and ended up buying something…just a couple of feet bigger than the last one. If there was any time that a snowmobile needed servicing, and dad was in a shop for more than an hour…he often ended up with a new snowmobile too.Diana: Dad had a saying for every occasion. Most of them crude. But all of them funny. And he used to delight in teaching his grandchildren his rude little rhymes when their Mother wasn’t around. I suppose we’ll let them say them now, in his memory. Dad taught two generations of students at North Grenville in his 32-year tenure, and most of them will remember that to him, “arsehole” was a term of endearment. If Dad ever stuffed your mouth with paper towel, put chalk up your nose or hung you on a coat hook, I apologize on his behalf. He just wanted your attention. Cath: Dad had it pretty rough, raising two daughters and then having 3 granddaughters. When Riley came along he was happy to have someone to instill his love of hockey. He enjoyed talking hockey to my 7 year old and was always delighted when Riley was knowledgeable and passionate about a player. Diana: Dad wanted to walk me down the aisle. I’m so grateful that he was well enough to do that, last August, after recovering from surgery. I’m glad that he got to know my new husband and stepchildren, and that he approved of our decision to get married. In fact, just four months after Jim and I started dating in 2006, Dad jokingly asked when Jim was going to “take Diana off his hands”. Cath: One of our favourite things was to watch Mom and Dad dance. They started dancing together when she was 14 and he was 17. They would go to The Lighthouse, a dancing club on River Road near Osgoode, sometimes three times a week. After forty-plus years with the same partner, you get pretty good. We tried to dance with Dad a few times, but only Mom knew how to follow his lead. Diana: In recent months, Dad has been napping on the couch. During those naps, he would dream he was in the sleeper cab of an 18-wheeler. Trucking was his other love. He drove trucks for the Kemptville Truck Centre during school holidays, and after his retirement. He hoped to drive long-haul some day. Mom wasn’t crazy about that idea, so he dropped it, but we think he would have missed us too much anyway…We laid Dad to rest in his favourite Ottawa Senators T-shirt, his boat shoes and cargo pants, and his Truck Centre jacket. He’ll be well dressed if he wants to go on the long haul now. Cath: Many couples worry about empty nest syndrome after their kids grow up and move out. Mom and Dad were never in the nest long enough to worry about it. They planned long trips with friends on their boat or snowmobile, and they were rarely apart. They set a good example for the rest of us, on how to be best friends and keep love alive.Diana: We all have our own memories of Larry Leeson. Some will make us cry, but most will make us laugh. And that is what Dad would want most of all. Laughter. I thank God for letting us have him as long as we did. We love you, Dad. Always.

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