by barbznz

When Simon was little his best friend was Heta. Heta lived on one side of us in a three bedroom house. He had lived there for years. he had the best garden in the street. Then he moved to the other side of us to a smaller two bedroom house. Naturally he soon had the best garden in the street again. 

Heta was born in Okoroire in the Waikato but married Rene who was from Tauranga. He served in Korea. He told me that when he was overseas he could drink in any bar he could find. Once he came back to New Zealand, because he was Maori his bar choices were reduced. I was really surprised by that, I had no idea that Maori could only drink in public bars.

He caught polio on his return. He told Marty he was the only survivor from his ward. He only had the full use of one side of his body. Didn’t stop him though, he worked in the garden all day. 

Simon would go over and see him. A couple of hours later he would come back, Did you want me Mum, I would look puzzled and he would say, Heta said you wanted me, Oh I would say, yes I did. Some cold days Heta would come in and have a coffee. Simon would show him all his dinosaur books. He would talk about tyranosaurs and diplodocus and all Heta would say was, I can’t even pronounce those words. 

Simon would help him in the garden, he would have a little hoe and help with weeding. He also learnt about cooked breakfasts, something unheard of in our house, He would come home with a sausage in his hand and talk about bacon and eggs and baked beans and fried bread. 

One night when Heta had his grandchildren over from Australia, he decided to stay the night. It was his first night away from home. About 2 am, there was a knock at the door, as much as he loved Heta he missed us and decided to come home. 

Heta was married to Rene, She worked at a chicken place so we got eggs cheap which was great. He would complain to Marty that she got half is benefit but he didn’t get half of her pay. But they seemed really happy together. Their eldest son lived with his grandparents from an early age. They had three other children two of whom were in Australia. 

Heta’s son Jimmy moved in the shed in the back yard when they changed houses. It was Heta’s way of letting him know it was time to leave home. Jimmy was a nice kid and he had a full time job. It didn’t work though, he lived in that cold drafty shed for couple of years, Until Heta and Rene moved to the RSA flats. 

He was always telling the local young people to get off their bum and get a job. He always said the young need to work to set an example to the younger ones. 

They most people back then, he was a heavy smoker. Both Marty and I smoked as well. Unfortunately for he, it killed him. Heta died when Simon was about five not long after be moved away. It had a huge impact on him. We went to the tangi and a year later to his unveiling. He really missed his friend. 

A couple of months later after Marty and I had given up smoking, Simon went to visit his nana. Her friend Linda came around, She went out side and lit up. Simon followed her and started coughing. What is the matter with you she said. Well he said, You wouldn’t do that if my Dad was here. Smoking made him sick but he doesn’t do it now. It is really bad for you.

He went on about the evils of smoking. My mother was embarrassed but he didn’t stop. He went on and on.  Finally he looked very seriously at her and said, My friend Heta used to smoke, he’s dead now.  Then he walked into the house.

And the good thing is, Simon is still smokefree and remembers the lesson his friend taught him. 

© Barbara Hart 2014