The first time I laid eyes on Gordon I was working as a check-out chick. I was doing a Bachelor of Visual Communication at uni (majoring in Photography & Digital Imaging), living at home with my folks and paying my way through uni with 7am starts on the check-out. I remember seeing this little old white-haired man that reminded me of a garden gnome. I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly, and so immediately had one for him. How pale and frail he looked. Though he was so sprightly, with a real twinkle in his eye.
One day whilst doing a quick stop-off at the shops, there was Gordon pulling his little trolley full of groceries up the hill. Without a second thought I walked over and offered him a lift home. He was delighted at the idea, and even called me his “angel”. And that was the start of a beautiful friendship. From that day on I began visiting Gordon weekly, taking him groceries, and just hanging out in his backyard having a good old chat.
Gordon never invited me inside his house. I often wondered why, but figured perhaps he thought it was too messy. He was always very happy to see me though, and soon became reliant on my visits. If I missed a week, he would be quick to let me know of his disapproval. He wondered why I was so busy all the time, what could I be doing with my time all week, why did I not have more time to see him. I learnt that his wife had died some years ago, and his daughter lived in Sydney, though apparently not close enough to visit very often. He also had another daughter who was disabled at birth and put into a centre full time to be cared for. He had not seen her for many years.
I finished my uni degree and worked as a Digital Retoucher for a year. Then I got my first job as a Professional Photographer doing studio portrait photography. When I first started at the studio we would shoot with medium format Mamiya 645 film camera’s. Now that’s really old school! When the studio went digital, I acquired myself an old Mamiya. I took my new baby over to Gordon’s house, and asked him if I could take some portraits of him to test it out. He was chuffed at the idea, and happily posed for me.
One Friday afternoon, just before sundown, I drove over to Gordon’s place. When I arrived Gordon came to the back door like always, though this time things were different. He told me there was a bad man in the house. He was scared, and then so was I! He seemed to be acting a bit eccentric and I knew something was not right. I doubted whether what he was saying was real. Then he invited me into his house. This was the first time since we had met that this had ever happened. I followed him in, not knowing what I was about to find.
There was no electricity in the house, and as the sun had now gone down, the house was in darkness. I then discovered that Gordon was a hoarder. I had to literally step over things the whole way through the house. He led me to his bedroom and sat on his bed, in complete darkness. He then began freaking out because of the water that was flooding his bedroom. But the thing is, there was no water. Gordon was hallucinating.
I learnt that Gordon was actually quite sick, and had been all week. I don’t know how long it had been since he had eaten or drunk anything, but it was probably days. No one knew, he had no one. An ambulance came and took him to the hospital, and the next day I went to visit him. He was in a bad place, and all I could do was hold his hand and pray for him. He died later that night.
At Gordon’s very small funeral I said a few words about loving your neighbour. I don’t know how Gordon’s life began, but I felt sad for the way it had ended. Gordon had neighbours all around him, yet no one knew how sick he was, and that he needed help. As I write this I am reminded of these words… “love your neighbour as yourself”. Wow, powerful words to ponder. Imagine if everybody truly did this, how beautiful would this earth be. x