As I said in Part I of Repatriates’ Tales, the reception encountered by most repatriates back to their island homes in the decades following the completion of the Panama Canal, especially the 50’s and 60’s, was far from warm. Most readers reacted to Part I with sadness, distress and even disbelief but we received no anecdotes or stories relating to a friendlier, more benign reaching out to their returning brethren who had undergone the rigors of life as economic refugees in Panama. We are still waiting for such stories.
The second story comes from a descendant who pursued better opportunities in the United Kingdom and, as she approached retirement age, she decided to return to Jamaica to settle down to her golden years in the island that saw her birth. She, much like in the first story, had spent years working hard in England, sending monthly allotments to her only son whom she’d left behind to be cared for by her mother and the rest of the family. As a small child, the boy wanted for nothing and his mother sent generous amounts for him as well as for his caregivers to send him to the best schools, clothe him, feed them all and see to his health needs. His mother, whom we’ll call Mrs. K., even sacrificed vacation trips to Jamaica so as to send larger amounts for the care of her son and her family.
Yes, the boy wanted for nothing; but in our day today we are seeing too many of these virtually abandoned children who, although their mothers (and fathers) see to it that the children they left behind want for nothing material, they want for everything spiritual and the warmth of their mother. Such is the world we live in today and such are the grave problems of resettlement encountered by repatriates. Too many of these children grow up bitter and resentful towards their parents.
Mrs. K had kept up correspondence with her only son throughout his formative years into manhood and recruited him to help her build her retirement “dream” home which, by North American standards, would seem modest but for Mrs. K it was a dream she cherished. One fine day she received the anxiously awaited news. “The house is almost ready,” he reassured his mother, “I cannot wait for you to see it.” He even sent his mother photos, copies of receipts etc., so that she would know that he was being honest in his dealings to have her house ready for her.
Mrs. K was overjoyed and, after receiving his last letter telling her to come home, she promptly booked a flight for Jamaica. She purchased many gifts for her son and the family members who had been so supportive in raising her son for her. The day of her flight arrived and Mrs. K was ecstatic on the entire trip across the Atlantic. Her son had told her that he would send a friend to pick her up in his sedan, the one she had paid for, at the airport and would drive her straight to her new home where he’d be waiting.
The young man arrived promptly at the airport and Mrs. K was overjoyed to be attended to like a returning Queen. The man ushered her into the car and gingerly placed her luggage in the trunk. During the ride to meet her son and the house of her dreams Mrs. K bubbled over with joy and loving words of gratitude for having such a wonderful family. She was profuse with her words of kindness towards the stranger who was chauffeuring her to her destination. The driver, however, was surprisingly silent, glancing back nervously every so often at his passenger.
Suddenly, as if he were ready to burst, the young driver interrupted Mrs. K with a shocking revelation that would send a chill through her very core. “Mrs. K, I must tell you the truth of where I am supposed to be taking you!” “What..what’s that?” said Mrs. K, perplexed by his interruption. “I am supposed to be taking you to your grave in a place that your very son paid me to dig to bury your body and luggage after I had done you in and gotten rid of all your belongings. But, as I was listening to you talking in my ear with so much love in your heart, I could not bring myself to do such a foul deed. Your son may want to kill me but I’ll not lay a hand on a lady like you!”
He had been right. His revelation had sent a chill up her spine and all the color drained from her face. She was mute. The young man drove her to the open grave he had dug for her body and allowed her to peer out from her seat in the car so that she could see that he wasn’t lying. Her mother’s heart was broken.
The young man climbed back into the car and Mrs. K immediately told him to please drive her right back to the airport where she would take the next flight back to merry old England never to return to the land of her birth. The young driver obeyed her, returning his would-be victim to the life of exile she had grown accustomed to. Although wiser, she was now heartbroken but thankful that God’s mercy had penetrated into a young man’s heart to deter him from committing a horrible act against an innocent woman.