I promised myself to focus only on good things Jamaican, today. It was going to be easier because I was due to assist in a presentation to a centenarian, in my role as a director of Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP). Ms. Esmie Mitchell was having a 103rd birthday celebration; she was born on Christmas Day 1914. My paternal grandmother would have been around the same age. That made me sad and excited.
I blotted out things that would draw me to the dark side. Notably, I hoped PICA would find a simple solution to a problem that was of their own making, having announced a 40+ percent increase in passport fees, but a week away. The swarm to beat the rise caught them by surprise. Why? It’s not hard to envisage what was likely to happen. It’s even more obvious after years of no increase. Surely, not an economist alone could figure it out? Did anyone walk through possible scenarios? How could business as usual be expected?
I took a deep breath. I exhaled.
I read my notes ahead of the presentation. I practiced some golf shots. I ate a snack. I got ready to leave just after 9:30. The time arrived. As I left, the daughter of a guard waved to me. I stopped and asked why she wasn’t at school. She explained that school had closed, ahead of Monday’s Labour Day holiday. I asked her mother if she could go with me. She agreed.
We reached the seniors home, five minutes away. Things were being set up, a little behind schedule. We waited, patiently, as chairs were set out on a covered verandah. Then, a van arrived and men emerged with more chairs. They set up a tent and added these chairs outside.
Ladies were wheeled out and seated under the tent. They all looked in good health and alert. Then, the birthday girl came out, with a walker and assistants whom she soon shooed away. She was in a simple beige and cream outfit.
We got started about an hour late. The programme was shuffled so that a CCRP colleague could make another meeting. I made a brief introduction, then we gave Ms. Mitchell a gift basket.
I also had to leave before a group of young dancers performed and cake was supposed to be served. I gave the birthday lady a kiss.
My young guest had been co-opted as a photographer and took great pictures during the event. It was education that wasn’t in the curriculum.
As we drove home, she said how surprised she was to see older people looking so well. I agreed.
We’re living longer and healthier lives. Jamaica has over 120 people older than 100; we also have the 4th oldest person in the world, aged 115; her son is in his 90s, the oldest child with a surviving parent.
I’d found some good things in Jamaica, today. Let me bask as I enjoy reflecting on them.