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Kim Gamble

Kim Gamble
Location
Australia
Birthday
July 13
Bio
dad, children's books, gardens, the ocean, coffee with a friend.

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JANUARY 9, 2010 12:30AM

Old man Hendo

Rate: 14 Flag

None of us knew Hendo too well. He was old, he lived alone, and he drove a grey Morris Minor ute. There was a mandarin orchard out the back. Canna lilies and black-eyed susan down the sides, and a neat lantana hedge out front. He was a gardener.

Why does my throat tighten now ?

We'd visit, in a group, and he'd welcome us with sweets. Seems to me, when I begin to write - about anything - that forgotten images and feelings surface. Partly why I'm careful with what I choose to write about.  But here I am, with Hendo.

 I swear I don't know what I'm going to write next. A mandarin orchard.

 The fragrance of this orchard in blossom, and the afternoon light in stripes along the rows, and kids barefoot in shorts and t-shirts crazy on  his jellybeans and lime or rasberry cordial weaving their game in it all.  This feeling in my throat is longing, maybe.

Still. White butterflies. Deep, bottle-green shadows.

Not old Hendo, or orchards or sweets, but just plain longing. For a time when I was closer to the truth of things, and felt that life would be anything that mattered, or nothing much that didn't.

Hendo was a veteran of the first world war, was gassed, and spoke funny, sort of through his nose.

He had an oak tree in the front yard, and hung a swing on it for us. We all had Hendo's in our lives - old folk, alone with a history that if you were old enough to understand, might make you cry - and as kids, we ran through their lives laughing.

As a grown-up now, I find myself listening more. Bringing fruit, sometimes a bottle of wine. We sit on the verandah, and crazy kids run through. Lookout for the TOMATOES !, we might sometimes yell.

He was eighty then - he's way gone now -  but he's every bit my life, and when mandarins are in blossom, Hendo : a swing, an afternoon-sun-striped aftenoon, are here, now. As real as a dream, as the war he survived, and the wars we wake each morning to.

He built a little house, and made a garden around it, and up the back he planted mandarins, a lemon, and some orange trees. We kids loved that place, though there were many others like it 'round here.

No-one else talked through their nose, but, and no-one else thought to hang a swing in the front yard, just for us.

 

 

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Diggers, we called these people, who went to Europe and died in their youth in their thousands, or came back maimed, came back shocked, for the Empire. There was nothing angry about Hendo.
"We all had Hendo's in our lives - old folk, alone with a history that if you were old enough to understand, might make you cry - and as kids, we ran through their lives laughing."

I remember my Hendo, but he was a she. I wish I had spent a little more time listening, and less running through.
"The fragrance of this orchard in blossom, and the afternoon light in stripes along the rows, and kids barefoot in shorts and t-shirts crazy on his jellybeans and lime or rasberry cordial weaving their game in it all. This feeling in my throat is longing, maybe."

The imagery in this is beautiful, haunting even. Thanks for remembering Hendo and the beautiful garden he made, and for sharing it here.
Nat & Nan : thousands of miles, and yet just nine minutes apart, you two.
Considering what else is going down tonight I'm so glad to hear from you - either of you - anyone, for that matter, but especially you two.
Thanks.
You have no idea.
Nor did Hendo, and isn't that exactly why we love ?
( Me, anyway, because it's a kind of a yearning, too ... )
It's all the same. I've got to come back to this ...
Kim, thank you.
"Not old Hendo, or orchards or sweets, but just plain longing. For a time when I was closer to the truth of things, and felt that life would be anything that mattered, or nothing much that didn't."
It looks like I'm the third one to comment, unless someone comes along before I click, and isn't it interesting that each of us found a different little piece to be the one that touched us enough to copy. In any art it matters almost as much where the reader or viewer is in their life as it does the artist, don't you think?
A tribute to you that you can reach out in so many directions or layers.
Can you tell that I enjoyed this very much?
This touches me deeply Kim. Your imagery takes me right there in into the orchard and onto the swing with you. My throat tightens in empathy for the longing, but also for the regret I personally feel for not knowing more about some of the kind and gentle older people who enjoyed and enriched my childhood. For not knowing their stories that are filled with lifetimes of experiences I'll never imagine.

My 88 year old Aunt (who of course I know better than you could have known Hendo) has embarked on writing her life story. I do what I can to encourage her by making sure her computer runs properly and she knows how to use it.

Thanks for sharing. Your writing is very special.
Beautifully written story. I could actually smell the mandarins and see my wonderful grandfather who fought in WWI as I read. Powerful imagery.
Hi Sharon. Thankyou for being here, and for what you said.
I just came back from a place where I could stand two feet away from a painting Vincent made of his bedroom in Arles - blue ( he called them lilac ) walls, two chairs, a bed ... I turned toward the person standing next to me, and unchecked tears were running down her face. I'd been marvelling at his colour instinct, and the brushes he used. The lady next to me had no such defense - she was in the right place, and at the right time.
Yes, it happens all the time. Like you and sunrises.
We have no idea what we're doing here.
Harvey the Cheeseburger Wrangler ( I'd trust my daughters to your care in any restaurant in Johannesburg ) - you have a touch of the Hendo's youself, I think.
No comment on your age, mind you - just that demeanor of yours.
Young Kelly, I think our lives are far better informed than we imagine. And never forget that your precious childhood was a gift to them, as well.
I love that you're there for your Aunt - her story becomes our annals, doesn't it ? She's done well to have a niece like you.
So good to talk to you normally again, Kelly.
Rainee, thankyou. Our granparent's lives were so much more than what we knew, weren't they ?
I get the feeling that your little ones won't be left with too much imagining - please tell Orsi that a famous australian ( ! - tell her that, anyway ... ) loves the banner, but thinks maybe the typography could be reversed out, and sans serif. Could be. The design is devine, but.
Thankyou, Rainee, for coming by.
'If' I win ? Stellaa, it's MINE - this is where the meaning of my entire LIFE becomes clear - this is what I've LIVED for !
I know this to be true - ask ... well, I don't know ...
But ASK someone !
$25 - what does it matter ?
Apology from Zaj ? Priceless.
Sharon when I said : We have no idea what we're doing here ...

I was thinking that when Vincent made that picture ( one, as you say, of three ), that he had no idea that he had less than three years to live. That St Remy awaited, and some of the finest work a human hand has ever done would be by him, just along the road.
No-one knows. Each of us, with every word, is saying : here. This is what I have, just now. Hope it resonates - hope it finds a home in your heart.
That's what I meant to say.
You must know the feeling. You find a writer that you want to read again and again. I want more from you each time you write. This was prose poetry for me and beautiful.
Poignant memoir for a beloved friend. r
Hi scupper - yes, to that feeling, and some people just don't write enough for me - and I'm as slow as they go - thanks for being here, and for what you said.
Hello Rita - thankyou too - what are all these poets doing here ?
This is meant to be a place where I can talk about old men & mandarins, and silly stuff like Jaimot's stupid contest, and Stellaa's thing with antelopes, and painting and stuff - Old man Hendo would love you people.
There was a woman across the road - Ann ( I've mentioned her here before ) - she used to dress up like a witch, sometimes, on weekends, and leap out at us in the night, and run off cackling.
When she shopped, she'd dress up as Robin Hood - full gear, tights, quiver, bow and arrows. She wrote a brilliant children's book series - The Land Behind the World.
One time, as a witch, she went down to old man Hendo's, and knocked on his door, at the side.
Full witch : conical black hat, cape, wig, powdered face, blackened teeth. And broom.
Old man Hendo opened the door ( it was like nine or ten at night ), took one look, and said ( through his nose ),
Piss off, yer bloody old witch.
It was the only time I ever heard that he swore.
This is worth much more than $25.

Men didn't complain about going to war back then, they thought of it as, and were raised to believe that it was their duty. They returned and rarely talked about their horrific experiences. Shell shocked eventually became PTSD. Most of them just carried on.

I can smell the scent of mandarins.
Thanks for coming by, you.
Someone here thinks we're the same person.
We're not, isn't it ?
My dad was like that, and it was between us.
Wish it wasn't, but. Wish it never was.
Lovely post, Kim. Your prose just flows!
The same person? This multiple identity crap is making everyone paranoid. We don't even have the same color hair, and I was born in Melbourne, not Sydney. Pshaw.

Craving mandarins, they are on sale at the market, Clementines, 5lbs, $5.
Thanks for clearing that up, ablonde - I get so confused.

Hi Larry ! Great to hear from you - thankyou.
This is a lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing your memories of this gentle soul and people who took time for each other.
Thankyou, mgimn i'm glad you enjoyed it. I look forward to following up your posts.
kim,
indeed as grown ups we listen more.
i don't think i listened to a damn thing the firs t 25-30 yrs
of my life. now i self-efface-erase
and go all voidlike and make
a space for the Hendos...and i learn...
ps...when you rate, it goes up. when you rate again
cuz you forgot you rated before
because yre a space cadet,
it goes down...
Thanks, James.
I'm learning so much here.
I made it back inside last night, thanks for asking, but I've lost a shoe, I think. Either that or I found one.
It is strange when you think of all the history that dies with a person, at least in the earthly sense. You wish you could ask them many things, but you can't. It makes me want to stockpile videos of every older relative I have.
Delia this is a seriously sound thing to do.
If only I had the presence of mind - even the interest ( god ! ) to talk to my dad on camerea - to catch the voice, or the expression while he went looking in his mind for an answer - my children never met him. Theirs will only wonder.
Thankyou - power to your elbow. Or like Kelly : encourage them to write. Because otherwise yes, their history dies with them, in the earthly sense, and all we have are memories.
Okay, I'm late, I know. But your writing, it was good before, now it just soars. I know about this fear of writing where it teeters on the edge of a nameless place and your throat tightens and you don't know how many pieces you'll be in by the end and where they'll be. You're going there and it shows. You have a gift. I will try to follow this example.
Gail, you're not late - you've been on Halong Bay.
Halong you been, on Halong Bay ?
Do not try to follow my example.
I started reading the Emmerling person's works and it would be a good idea if you didn't. The man's a fruitcake.
What you said is lovely - thankyou.
Kim--I love the way the sensory takes over the narrative! A lovely remembrance shared with all of us!
It was a couple of months ago - I was on a path and smelled the blossoms, and tried to track the feelings they created to their source - thanks for your words, Julie.
Hi Anne - thankyou. I like the way people meet here - you'd have to say it's organic - the way things grow. I have now met your Psalms !
Kim You meant Emmerling! He didn't mention alcohol at all. What is his problem?
PS My Os blog is my oral history in writing because they don't want to listen to grandma's embarrassing stories. Orsi actually told me my poem The Goddess Smiles (I'll re-post it later on) was "kind of dirty, Grandma". This from an 18 year old American? Give me a break! Do they think we died when we turned the ancient age of 30?
I forgot! I have an re-post called "Cougar". Check it out!
Rainee I SAID Emmerling. I don't think he has any problems.
It would appear that he's a serene soul, resolved to the search.
Problems for James dissolve, like an aspirin in a glass of water.
Or evaporate, like a dewdrop on a leaf.
Ask him, though - he'll tell you.
Hell, don't even ask him - he'll tell you.
If you visit, though, take a stick.
Kim, I didn't know of you, but loved your comment to Cary so much I looked you up. So glad I did, new Favorite friend! And lovely writer.

Thank you. I have known a lot of Very Old people and your story of Hendo touches me very much.

I lost such a friend recently and you remind me to write about him.
We're about to lose a lot more of them.
Sadly it seems to be how things work here.
Listen to them and love them very tight, Petuunia.
Tell us their stories and share their recipes - tell us how they made you feel. OS can be about people on tv, or in politics, but it's also people who take the time to share a meal, or a poem, they enjoyed.
Welcome.
Oh Kim ...

“Why does my throat tighten now ? ...

This feeling in my throat is longing, maybe. ...

Not old Hendo, or orchards or sweets, but just plain longing. For a time when I was closer to the truth of things, and felt that life would be anything that mattered, or nothing much that didn't. ...

As a grown-up now, I find myself listening more. ...

He was eighty then - he's way gone now -  but he's every bit my life, and when mandarins are in blossom, Hendo : a swing, an afternoon-sun-striped aftenoon, are here, now. As real as a dream, as the war he survived, and the wars we wake each morning to. ...
He built a little house, and made a garden around it, and up the back he planted mandarins, a lemon, and some orange trees.
We kids loved that place, though there were many others like it 'round here. ...

No-one else talked through their nose, but, and no-one else thought to hang a swing in the front yard, just for us. ...”

“Diggers, we called these people, who went to Europe and died in their youth in their thousands, or came back maimed, came back shocked, for the Empire. There was nothing angry about Hendo.”

“Listen to them and love them very tight ...”

How lucky we ... to be allowed to share the thoughts ...
of the child ... this once child ... now man ... whose life ... this man ...
this once old one ... so indelibly ... touched ...
Somehow here ...
in the quiet ...
as we listen to your rememberings ...
you pass his touching ... on ...
annaliese came by here, so I followed and found this. That tightening and grip of a memory keeps me from writing sometimes. If I would, I'd hope it were as good as this, I'll be remembering dark green stripey shadows.