Features — 07 August 2019
No fear of the intellectuals

Once every three months my parents’ youngest son (of an original seven boys) comes home from Phoenix, Arizona, for a week, to do some work with the KHMH and La Loma Luz hospitals, for three days, and then, for the next four days, to spend time with his family and with his old friends. This quarter there’s a special, because both he and Grace Grant, one of our aunts, have birthdays around the first week of August, and to put icing on the cake at least two of our first cousins, Maxine and Jo Ann, are planning to fly home from the States to be here to celebrate the occasion.

My youngest brother tells me that in Navajo culture – his wife is Navajo – a grandnephew will call a granduncle, grandpa. I didn’t ask him if the same goes in the female side of the culture. I’m perfectly in sync with the Navajo there. I think that all our uncles and aunts fall in the category of ancestor, which means they are royalty.

In that vein, Aunt Gracie is one of my mothers. She is 93, going to celebrate her 94th, and she is the youngest of four remaining elders in my family. My mom is 94 going on 95, my dad just recently celebrated his 96th birthday, and I have a 101-year-old uncle. My mom is battling that Alzheimer’s kind of thing, but the other three are still good for a stimulating, enlightening conversation. No, all my ancestors didn’t have such long life.

Our party this year could be even more special than in other years because I overheard my siblings talking about inviting the Vernons over, those members of their family who are in Belize at this time. Mr. Telford Vernon was one of my dad’s great friends, and his family, his children and their cousins, and my dad’s family, his children and their cousins, spent a lot, a whole lot of growing up time together, so there’s mucho brotherly, sisterly love we share.

We don’t get into serious matters at our family gatherings. It’s all eating, a little drinking, a lot of banter, mucho mush. That’s how it is when we get together.

My brother’s wife, Bernadette Freeland Hyde, is home with him on this trip, and you can bet they’ll be doing a lot of visiting fantastic places around Belize. I might tag along on a trip, maybe even two, but my two sisters will be with them most everywhere they go.

We don’t have many dull moments when we are together. We’ll leave the books and magazines at home, but we’ll bring along our music to enjoy when we are not engaged in charlar. When we get into our discussions things can get heati, sometimes. One of my sisters is a born-again, and I’m a hoverer who will never get to that state. My other sister is into her God, but she is no born-again. My two sisters have a lot in common, but on some things they take different paths.  My parents’ youngest son is wholesale into this light years science, a scientific explanation for everything, and he is a big apologist for LGBT.

I am the least educated member of our family, on paper. Ron is a nephrologist, Christine is an economist, and Francine is an agronomist, entomologist. Bern is a pediatrician, and a readaholic, but she always remains on the periphery of our conversations. I guess we get too animated for her sometimes.

My parents’ three older children, who are still here, don’t have the letters of those three I just mentioned. Evan X, the Amandala publisher, as you know, is a Phi Beta Kappa. Nelson didn’t go to junior college, but he did a number of courses abroad in telecommunications technology. Charles passed two science “A” Levels at St. John’s College Sixth Form during the early 1970s, and he also did some training abroad in shrimp management. He had everything in place to go to university to specialize in biology and chemistry, but the government didn’t like him. Charles, Jr., was too much into the UBAD vibes.

I have an allergy for four walls and an authority figure. I don’t know if I really hated learning when I was a child, because the environment didn’t allow for me to find out. Four walls and an authority figure that can stop me from going out through the doors when I want to, make me very nervous. The only way I can handle that situation is if I become very disrespectful, which I don’t like, or become very angry, which I don’t like either. Please noh try control mi.

I wasn’t supposed to go to formal high school. No one with any sense puts a lot of stock on what children are thinking, so I’ll just say that from my side there were physical, mental and political health reasons that figured into my decision. My dad would have to say why he concurred.

I ended up at high school, at glorious, unforgettable, super special Compre, because the same year I graduated from primary school my dad had to follow his job to Belmopan when the new capital opened in 1970. My mother, who has bullied me on occasions, insisted that I would not be left with my grandparents or other family members in Belize City, because I would run, wild.

So, I went to live in Belmopan and I ended up at Compre, probably the only high school in Belize that wouldn’t drive me out of my mind. I knew about the environment at high schools in Belize City because I listened to the conversations of my elder siblings. The sense I got was that high schools were even more stuffy, constraining hells than primary schools. I don’t know about Compre of today, but Compre of yesterday was designed for children with minds like mine.

There were a number of ways Compre was different from primary school, and what I believed other high schools were, but I’ll tell you this one important difference for today. At Compre the teachers were the prisoners, not the students.

 Compre’s classrooms had four walls and an authority figure, but you didn’t stay in one cell for the entire day. For the most part the teacher didn’t come to you: you went to the teacher. At the end of most classes you packed your school books and took a nice stroll in the sparkling sun and refreshing wind, to a new cell. This little break, short as it was, restored the spirit, gave you the fight to survive for another forty or forty-five minutes, in another cell with a boss.

I said in the topic here that I’ll be getting into intellectual discussions with my siblings. These will involve a lot of science, science-based, so I’ll share my science background, the leg I’ll be standing on to defend my ideas, and fight back any of their quackery. My support structure does not come from formal schooling.

I don’t recall ever being disrespectful to my teachers, but I was given to mischief, lots of it, and I do believe I went too far with my woodwork teacher, an Englishman named Gregg. I was terrible at woodwork because I didn’t have the patience for it. I was not very precise. If you don’t cut a joint well, it doesn’t fit. I was terrible, and I was disinterested.

I hope Mr. Gregg didn’t take home many negative thoughts about me. I liked Mr. Gregg. He did PE too, and I liked that. But I was terrible at woodwork.

My math teachers, Keith Arnold, and an American named Al Holst, didn’t get anywhere with me. I passed math — arithmetic, algebra, and geometry — but my grades weren’t special. I used to ask Mr. Arnold a lot of questions in class, to appear interested, but my mind wasn’t there. He wasn’t boring. I was bored. Mr. Holst was my second math teacher, taught me trig, and I didn’t learn a thing. By the time he taught me I was like flat out fatigued. I scraped through my math “O” level without doing the section on trigonometry.

Aha, after I left school I actually took up math as a hobby, but I couldn’t keep it up. You need free time for hobbies, and after I left school I didn’t have much of that.

My physics teacher was Mr. Sangster (I think Stephen was his first name). My dad didn’t help Mr. Sangster with his charge. I asked my dad why I should bother with physics and he asked me if I wasn’t excited about finding out why a stool didn’t fall over. Really!

My chemistry teacher was Kathy Levy. I should have liked chemistry. My brother, Nelson, bought me a chemistry set for a Krismos gift and I had a lot of fun mixing up stuff. As I am writing this it comes to me that my brother, apart from having a concern for my education, might have been on a guilt trip for a wicked thing he did to me. The excitement didn’t last.

Sister Mary Diane was my biology teacher, and a number of my old school chums would lay into me if I blamed her for my lackluster performance. She wasn’t. Sister Diane was a real friendly person, nice, fun, but in my world she couldn’t escape the habit she wore. She represented authority and there were four walls: I was not in my comfort zone.

Whoa, if I depended on my science education at Compre to hold me up, I’d have to duck the intellectuals. I’ve long exceeded that. In some areas I’ll defer, but I’ve got some territories, areas where I’ve done my research. They enter there and we cross swords. I respect their achievements; they have their letters. But I have turf I can stand on.

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Deshawn Swasey

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