There are some things in life that are unforgettable. Ask a man to tell you the most interesting aspect of his life and he will tell you some strange thing like, “There were many interesting things.”
Press him or her and you could get one or two reactions—either a large smile or an angry visage. Some people remember things that happened to them as a child. A few days go a friend remembered his father beating him for tapping a classmate.
He remembered going back to school and beating the boy, going home to another licking, and continuing the cycle for two more days until his father gave up.
Nobody really talks about their first day at work or the day they got married or their first pay cheque. For them those things are not really as exciting as other things. Instead they would remember really pleasant experiences like a surprise. Some would remember a really horrible experience like nearly drowning or saving some child from a horrible fate.
Birthday surprises are almost always unforgettable. I was in the midst of one just a few hours ago. I can’t give details, because at the time of writing the surprise had not even occurred, but I can predict with deadly accuracy how it went.
The victim of this surprise was the same person twenty years ago. The occasion was her fiftieth birthday. She was living in Guyana at the time. I remember leaving work after promising to take her to dinner to observe the occasion.
Back then things were beginning to look up for me financially. I had some disposable income. My wife and son had migrated and my other children had moved out to start their own lives.
I took my sister, the victim of the surprise, to a nice place. I asked one of the waitresses to allow me access to their phone which stood on the receptionist’s desk. The cellular phone was not as ubiquitous as it is today.
So there we were, my sister and me, chatting about how fast time flies. We talked about the days when we were children in a very poor household but full of love. We spoke about the most exciting things to happen to us.
She remembered running from a masquerade band with a mad cow. She recalled that the fear stemmed from the fact that a small bull had butted her. We laughed. But every now and then I would use the phone to call home to find out whether the surprise was in place.
Of course my sister kept asking me about my frequent visit to the phone and I told her some bull about checking on a story that was breaking at the time. Back then I worked with The Evening News. Kaieteur News was a once weekly publication.
We eventually left for home in D’Urban Street Lodge (now renamed Joseph Pollydore Street). I followed her to the back of the lot because that was where she lived. The house was in darkness. This evoked some surprise from her because as she said, the household would not retire to bed once she was out because they would want to know how her dinner went.
We went upstairs and she opened the door. A split second later she nearly knocked me over the verandah railing. The surprise had been sprung. She cried like a baby.
Saturday (last night) was her seventieth. Her children planned the surprise, this time away from their home in Far Rockaway, New York. Her son told her that he was getting an award that night and he wanted her there with him.
“Take the day off from work. Dress fancy. It is going to be a big night.”
What started off as a gathering of her siblings and close relatives simply got big. The surprise party was one thing. The other surprises were that her mother, her sisters, one of whom lives in Canada and the smallest in Guyana, and me being there.
In fact, she spoke to me on Friday to wish me ‘Happy Valentine’s’ and not knowing that I was already in the United States.
There is a saying that ‘donkey ears big but it don’t hear its own story’. That was my sister. She is going to enter the hall to shouts of ‘surprise’. She is going to scream and cry. Then she would see me, and her visiting sisters and her 96-year-old mother sharing the moment with her.
I don’t know if an ambulance was needed because at this time I am a few hours in the future.
There were eight of us and we grew up as a tightly knit unit. I was the first to leave home for Bartica. My pay cheque helped out with food and rent. It helped with my sisters’ examination fees. It helped the family drag itself out of poverty.
This sister coming after me, was the one who helped my mother raise the others. To this day they talk of how strict she was. She didn’t go too far in school, but she knew right from wrong.
When my other sister left for New York, leaving her four children behind, it was Evelyn who brought them up. When my second daughter got her only child, it was Evelyn who trudged from Lodge to Tucville to bathe the baby.
So it was that everyone agreed that we had to be there for her. Life is funny. My other sisters have done very well. And they have reached out to her. It was their contribution that made last night’s party the event it was.
Why talk about this mundane thing when there are so many more interesting things? Love is sadly missing from our society. We have grown selfish to the point that our younger siblings are often left to their own devices.
Teenagers roam the streets with weapons to rob people; some beg and many no longer see the need for education and have no one to guide them. Families are no longer the nuclear unit they should be. Those in a position to, no longer help their struggling siblings.
They fail to realize that theirs is the duty to help their siblings along the straight and narrow. Even some parents fail in this regard. I see the mothers outside the jails or in court. I see them rushing to borrow money to help an errant child when that money could have gone toward improving their lives.
But then again, who am I to lecture anyone?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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