Adlyn Thompson, 104, hopes God will intervene and save Jamaica
BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter email@example.com
NOT only does she possess a sharp memory, but at 104, Adlyn Imogene Barnes Thompson's quick wit was evident as she recalled how she met her child's father, getting 'saved' 80 years ago, even while giving her account of what she believes is the only thing that can take Jamaica out of the situation it is now in.
"The condition that we are into right now in Jamaica, is only God can change it," a pensive Thompson said as she sat on her verandah in her Mt Oliphant district home in South Manchester on Friday.
"I see no other way. The prime minister is saying she is trying her best. But she can't do it. It take the spirit and the power of God to change the condition," she said.
She recalled that as a youngster growing up in Mt Oliphant with both parents, three brothers and three sisters, how strangers would pass through the district from St Elizabeth and Old Harbour selling tobacco, cloth and hats and when they were tired they would enter anyone's home and spend the rest of the night, as no one was concerned about being murdered or robbed by these strangers.
"They stayed until they were ready to leave and householders did not concern themselves that they would be harmed or robbed. Those higglers would be on the road for days until their goods were sold off before going back home, and every night they stayed at a different home in another district and nobody would trouble them," the centenarian said.
Thompson, who celebrated her 104th birthday on April 10, said that men now take pleasure in committing murders and do so for no apparent reason.
"You don't do him anything but he wants to try out him knife or him gun. And it's not because him want something. Man don't kill for wants again. Sometimes they break you house and kill and they don't take one thing from the house, so it's not necessity why they killing and just hack you like goat or hog. Is only God can stop it, because man take pleasure to kill. And unless the Lord God do something for us you soon can't walk on the road. Things can't stay so!" she said.
As a result she said she spends countless nights unable to sleep, but is up praying for the nation.
Thompson, who is the only one of the seven children still alive today, attended the Campbell's Castle school in the district.
After leaving school, she said she worked hard doing a number of things for a livelihood.
"I wash and iron plenty," Thompson said. "I did some dressmaking, I went out and did domestic work, I did higglering all the way in Coronation market in Kingston. I worked hard," she said.
In her witty way, Thompson explained that though she was not deaf, her hearing was "lazy", while she is not able to see as clearly from her right eye.
"Otherwise mi alright ... so mi seh," she declared.
Alhough she still moves around on her own, she said that she feels pain in one of her legs occasionally. Apart from that, she is still independent and does things on her own.
Thompson said that as a child she loved attending dances, even though it was sometimes against her father's will as he was a deacon in the Anglican church.
"I go to house dance and we call that ball dance and I went to booth dance. But mi daddy never love when mi go to booth dance because he was a Christian and booth dance too loose. But house dance now, they would write him and invite the girls to come. So in that case they were responsible for us, but the booth dance nobody nuh responsible because that was common dance ... everybody on their own."
Thompson has only one child, and recalled with humour how she met her child's father .
"He was looking a wife and I was looking a husband," she said. "We weren't boys and girls, we were two big people. I was fully 22 and he was about four years older."
But she said that there was another young man living in an adjoining community who was interested in her at the same time. Both of them were good suitors.
"Both young men were gentlemen. But the second one decided that he was not living over the hill where I was living," she said. "So I said to him 'if you come over the hill my father have enough land that you can get piece and I have my portion that he gave me'. But him say him not living over the hill, so I said 'oh yes? Neither am I living under the hill'. But he didn't know that I mean it.
"Just two weeks after that I get pregnant with my daughter. It was not my intention but it happened. So I cut off the one that never want to come over the hill and when him find out that I was pregnant he decided that I must call his name to say that it was his child and that he will accept her and nobody would know. But I said then 'what will I do when the child comes of age' and he said he would work that out. But I said 'no sah. Not so. I don't have dealings with you so it can't work'. And him cry over it because him really did love me. And it wasn't nuh boy love, it was man love," she said. "But if him did love me so much him shoulda did come over the hill, a so mi seh!"
However, she said that she never married her daughter's father as he was 'trapped' by another woman. He, however, was more able to be a family man.
"Her father was in a better position because he went abroad and was more able to buy land and build house," she said. "But is really somebody plot for him and tief him from mi. Bigger portion there that I can't even tell you about," she added with her usual wit. "Lawd him never satisfy! But he was a decent and respectable person. He was a district constable and his parents and everybody in the district called him 'Uncle' because he was respected. But he was trapped and caught up," she insisted.
Thompson was quick to make it clear that she was not a street girl, and lived a decent life.
"I was looking a husband. I never keep any boyfriend. I was confirmed at an Anglican Church. My father was a deacon at the Anglican Church and he in a sense forced me and I was confirmed there, but that couldn't stop me. Confirmation couldn't help me until one Good Friday like this I went to a church and the minister speak and really said some things reasonable. At the closing, he asked who want to go to heaven and I held up my hands and I tell you the light of the gospel took me."
However, despite her conviction, Thompson said that she could not get baptised because she was pregnant, and felt that it would not be the appropriate thing to do.
"People would say is because I got pregnant and so I just leave it. So me and my daddy was there and we fight and fight and him beat mi here and there with his mouth and the Bible because I was pregnant. But he didn't put me out," she said.
It was not until her daughter was one year old that Thompson got baptised and became a Christian. That was 80 years ago and she never looked back.
"I was a true Christian. When I was in my 40s I met and married Joseph Thompson. He died 24 years ago. He was 83 when he died, and I was 80," she said.
Thompson's daughter, Hyacinth Cowan described her mother as a devout Christian who was a hard worker handling a number of tasks at the same time.
"In our days you would have visitors to the church (Church of God) from different parts of the country and they would come to our house and she was the one responsible for the food, the washing and the ironing," Cowan said.
"If they spent a week she would be responsible for them, if they spent a year she is the one responsible for all of that. But she would also find time to teach people to sew. She taught many young ladies to sew, including myself. And she would pack her load and go to the market and sell and come back. I don't know how she managed, but she did all of that," Cowan said.
But when it came to discipline, Cowan said that her mother was fierce.
"She was a cross little woman," she said, laughing. "Sometimes I wasn't even sure that she loved me. I would feel that she preferred my first cousin - that is her sister's daughter, because three of us grow together, her sister's two children and myself. I was in the middle, but she would show more favouritism to the bigger girl than to me. But still she never beat me much. She just talked, but she was loving and kind."
Cowan said that up to last year, when her mother was 103, she was still sewing.
"She could no longer use the machine but she used her hand to make adjustments and she told me that she could cut any style same way," the centenarian's daughter said.
Thompson's grandniece Doreen Francis remembered the centenarian for her delicious puddings and her dedication to serving God.
"She was a great pudding maker. What I remember from in the 60s, it was the potato puddings on Saturday nights or the hominy corn or bammy," Francis said. "One thing about my aunt, she has helped a tremendous amount of women. I met a lady in December and she told me that every child she had for the nine days following birth, every morning my aunt would bring her porridge to make sure she had a meal. So if you lived in the district and she know you had a baby you would be sure to receive your porridge, or whatever meal, for the nine days. Women back then, they kept them indoors for nine days and the men didn't always remember that their wives needed care. That woman who was telling me had seven children so she would have done it for the nine days for all seven births," Francis said.
"She wouldn't be here and know that somebody was in need and didn't help them," she went on. "And even if she just got some money, according to her, she never believed in putting money in prison, she taught me that one... that if somebody want money and she has it she would not lock it away or put it in the bank".
But Francis said what she remembered most of all was the freedom with which anyone could come and sit in the house and get whatever fruit was on the land, while the values of the centenarian's life to her were the relationship she shared with God, her many encouragements and her ability to pray.
Today, Thompson has one desire.
"If I could see almighty God blow his horn for Jamaica and Jamaica come back come stay like when I was 30 or 40 years old I would be so glad," she declared. "Because we love one another and we stand up for each other, we fight for one another. We were like peas in one pod."