Before the next one can begin...
A tribute to my father
This is lovingly dedicated to the memory of James E. Thompson, beloved husband, father, grandfather and without a doubt one of Walt Disney World's biggest admirers. While our family is blessed with his memories, I wish that one and all could share his joy, enthusiasm, words of wisdom and his enjoyment of life and the pursuit of good times.
A love for Disney...
Those who knew my father, realized that one of his greatest loves outside of family was a growing spot just outside of Orlando Florida in a little town called Kissimmee. It was an entertainment marvel that held a special place in his engineering heart and soon became his favorite spot to spend time. Trips often happened 4 to 5 times a year and before long he and my mother even knew some of the performers and employees by name.
The early seventies in Florida saw a major change the day Walt Disney picked out a parcel of land in Kissimmee for his newest project, Walt Disney World. Little did any of us realize at the time, how much of an impact that would have or the amount of time we would spend there over the years. Some of our fondest family memories happened while visiting Disney World, and it soon grew to become a favorite of all of us.
It was shortly after opening day, when my parents made their first trip to visit. It consisted of just the Magic Kingdom at that time, and they were able to enjoy their stay at the Contemporary Resort Hotel on Disney property. Upon their return, Dad delighted in regaling us with stories of the Disney marvels, as the engineer in him loved to see the work of Disney's Imagineers. The same folks that brought us The Wonderful World of Color on TV had truly created a magnificent world where one could forget the outside pressures and merely enjoy the ambience of a make believe world and fantasy. It was a joy that I feel my mother and father absolutely perfected in their own way during their many trips over the years. To this day, we still refer to it as doing Disney the Thompson way, and we try to do it that way every time we go to this day.
A fan is born and continues to grow...
Dad was in constant amazement and admiration since he first stepped foot on Disney grounds. "Can you imagine" he would say, "a monorail that goes right through the hotel"! Being an engineer by education and certainly one at heart, he always marveled at the feats of the Disney Imagineers. His awe was continuous as well as contagious, from the way Disney World moved people around, to the way they entertained you while waiting in line. His enthusiasm would build just approaching the entrance while listening to the music piped throughout, all the time humming and singing along with the tunes he became to know so well. The parks were indeed a true inspiration and a model for many interested in the wonders of a magical place that everyone from young to old could enjoy!
As time marched on, Walt Disney World continued to grow and Mom and Dad continued to visit, often as many as four or five times a year. They learned their way around as well as employees (knowing many by first name), and soon developed their own routine that worked well for them. Dad, always the coffee lover, had certain stops that had to be made for that cup of java he loved so much. We still joke about the rock sugar stirrers that they served in Epcot and that none of us had seen elsewhere. Though Dad always drank his coffee black, he couldn't resist asking for extras that he diligently saved! I suppose one day we'll find a stash of them that he tucked away along with his many fond memories.
All good things must come to an end...even a trip!
My brother Tim and I grew to have families of our own, and naturally had occasions to visit Disney World with our parents. The grandchildren were even luckier as they often had the chance to go without us and enjoy the trips with Grandma and Grandpa. It wasn't long before they too learned the routine and graciously accepted the manner in which they would tour the parks and see their beloved "Me Mouse" and others! There was never a trip that was not enjoyed despite weather, crowds or attractions temporarily closed for maintenance or renovation. As the old saying goes, "A good time was had by all"!
Mom and Dad of course, had the luxury and flexibility to stay for longer periods, often going mid-week and staying through the middle of the following week. The days they spent alone were at a slow and easy pace designed to take in the beauty of the parts they enjoyed most in addition to just relaxing while people watching. Their joy was not in doing, as much as just being there, stopping to smell the roses along the way. The simple pleasures of sitting through repeat performances of singers, watching the kids enjoy the characters, or having a snack on Main Street was what really made the trip for them.
Whenever possible, we tried to go over the weekend so that we too could enjoy a few days with them as well as the parks. Needless to say, the time always flew by and as the end of Sunday drew near, the harsh reality of having to leave soon set in. It was never something we looked forward to, despite the realization that it had to be. Dad, who was ever wise in his ways, always had the same words of wisdom when that time came around. He could see the look in our eyes and would simply say "This one has to end before the next one can begin".
Truer words have never been spoken and we tried to take that away with us every time, and continue to do so when we visit.
The final trip
but the memories live on....
Sadly, my father's journey on this good Earth ended on April 4th, 2005. He was truly loved and to this day is missed by all, but we know that his next and final journey has indeed begun. As we continue to visit the places he held so dearly in his heart, those words continue to ring in our ears.
Thanks to him, we have learned to enjoy each moment and treasure even the trip coming to a close, as we know that it must end in order for us to look forward to the next one beginning. Here's to you Dad, for the love, appreciation and understanding you brought into our lives.