Trevor Thwaites

by Nisha McIntyre

When my mother died, dictating her countless accolades was easy. My entire life, I’d thought about that inevitable day, and somewhere deep down in my unconscious mind I’d scripted my thoughts of remembrance. To me she was like every other man – finite; a transient being, whose timed, earthly journey would someday expire. My father on the other hand, was the immortal youth – my fearless superhero, who was a pillar of strength and health. He was seldom ill, always active, and just too carefree to give a damn about anything long enough to be stressed.

He was the unconquerable lion, and as a lion he somehow believed that his cub was birthed with this innate, fearless ability to withstand the toughest of battles – both natural and man-made.  It was this mentality that led him to believe that the best way to teach a seven-year-old to swim, was to take her out to the horizon, and leave her there to find her way back to the shore. Needless to say, I did not learn to swim that day, but best believe, he and the whole of Grand Anse came to know the strength of my vocal cords. 

Truth be told, I was no lioness. But in the presence of my father, I felt invincible. His belief in my ability to win, coupled with his bold, voracious thirst for living life in his own way and by his own rules, empowered my younger, very introverted self, to do things I would never imagine doing on my own. Our home was always filled with cases of drinks – trophies from the many dance competitions he’d enter me in at village feasts. He’d say “Nisha go and whine. Show them how it’s done.” And best believe with my daddy’s blessing, I’d do just that, and I’d be winning – and boy was he proud.

See for daddy, dancing was as natural an action as breathing. It didn’t matter where he was, what he was wearing, or where we were going, once that reggae beat dropped – even if it caught him in the middle of the street, or at an official event – which it often did – his characteristic skanking would start and that broad smile would emerge. We’d cruise the country blasting Patra, Tony Rebel, Anthony B, Richie Spice and the lot at full volume, singing at the top of our voices and dancing every time we stopped in traffic.

We were a kind of Bonnie and Clyde – us against the world, and against mommy too. He let me have my way when she wasn’t around, and would often say, “don’t tell mommy,” and I was only too happy to oblige. There were many of those moments, including the times he let me sit on his lap and steer the car, or the times he let me drink beer, or eat potato chips, or go to the movies – all before the age of ten, and all of which she highly shunned. As a teen, I remember often telling friends that if I ever told him I was going to dye my hair red, he would let me commit – not because he didn’t care, but because he knew it was important for me to set my own path and learn from my choices in my own timing. In many ways, I think he thought I was half mad, but in his mind, it was okay because he was full mad. I idolised him. His unconventional ways and atypical approach to childhood parenting continually left me mesmerized, and I enjoyed every moment of being doted on by him – and being his one piece of freshness.

Daddy fretted often, but as grumpy as he’d be, and even with the longest of pouts, best believe, most times he’d let me have my way. When I told him, professional men wore ties and that he has to start dressing the part, he immediately started adding ties to his wardrobe. When we went shopping and I insisted that all the fine men wore slim fit shirts and pants, he allowed me to change up his wardrobe yet again, going as far as bringing his baggy pants to Mrs. Noel, his landlord, telling her Nisha said slim fits were the thing and that he needed to get rid of the ones he had. When I told him that he was aging and needed to take vitamins, and gave him a bottle of one-a-days, he started taking them and continued to do so until his death.

However, when I told “the man,” as me and mother affectionately called him that he needed glasses, because he was visibly squinting, and his normal reckless driving became a daily session of driving Ms. Daisy, he quickly objected. Refuting the suggesting, seeing it as tantamount to accepting he that he had become an old man.  

At home the man kept us in perpetual amazement. He was a certified couch potato. He would lay on that couch for hours with his eyes pinned to the television screen. Often times, Sportsmax was his poison, but occasionally when you suddenly heard the shouts “Kill the batch,” you knew he was watching a good ole Clint Eastwood western or a Kung Fu movie.

Daddy was spoiled. He was a big baby, who enjoyed troubling and nagging mommy just for the heck of it. He found humour in the most senseless of things, including hiding her cell-phone in a bag of rice for days so that he could provoke her to stop leaving it close to the kitchen door. That was his habit, hiding things from you and then forgetting he’d even done so, or worse yet remembering where he put them.

He was perpetually forgetful, and at least three times a week his landlord will attest to his mid-morning cries for assistance in unlocking his apartment because he’d misplaced his keys. Today, he is still the only man I know to have had two cars stolen at different times in his life. In-fact, my mother often told him that he would put down his behind and that the only time he would remember it was when he was ready to ‘shit’. Every time she said this he would do what he did best – laugh out loud and go about his merry business.

Trevor Michael Thwaites, Big T, Melo, or Lion, as he was affectionately called entered this world on the last day of the year 1958. We liked to say he nearly wasn’t born. He was the fifth of seven children born to Pearl Parke – the second child she bore for her then husband Norman Thwaites. When his parents migrated to England, Trevor found himself in the watchful hands of his dear aunt Sheila Alexis and his dearly loved mammy Dora in his beloved hometown of Morne Jaloux. He’d often talk about getting his backside cut by mammy Dora for allowing other children to beat him up and take advantage of him. It was this ‘cut ass’ as he’d call it that instilled in him the fighting spirit that everyone, who encountered him quickly identified.

Daddy was always quick to boast about his Mammy Dora and how she taught him how to be a man – including how to wash his clothes by hand – a practice he still insisted on doing to this day, despite obviously having the means to do otherwise. He’d often say, “Nisha leave me alone, I’m a cave man.” For him, there was nothing too much to do for his Mammy Dora, and even when she became a shut-in and was under the watchful eye of a caretaker, daddy still took the time to bathe and clean her pampers, and spoil her with typical requests, especially that for KFC.

As a boy, he was mischievous; always running away from school and taking great pleasure in raiding the fruit trees of his neighbours with his boys – including the late Keith Bowen. It didn’t matter to him that his deviations were usually followed by a good whipping. What did matter to him though, was his sports, and very early he exhibited promise in cricket, football, and boxing. As a matter of fact, his talent as a batsman caught the eye of Tyrone Sandpat Harbin, who brought both him and Ossie Hall to town to play cricket. The two later went on to hold the opening partnership record for Grenada’s national cricket team. This love for cricket never left him. And to the very end, he was president of Morne Jaloux’s Sports club and a staple in cricket club competitions.  Too many times I would hear him fretting and telling off God whenever bad weather inhibited his ability to get a good sweat.

A sportsman at heart, he also excelled in boxing, and was a staple in Grenada’s boxing fraternity for well over ten years; representing team Grenada regionally and internationally in boxing competitions. In 1984, he made the national Olympic team and was headed to the summer Olympics in Los Angeles, but saw his dream ripped away after damaging his hand in a bicycle accident. His fighting spirit encouraged many to attend his matches, even those, who were convinced he wasn’t going to win, but were assured that regardless of the outcome, Lion was going to put up a good fight.

Sports was part of his DNA. If he wasn’t watching it, he was playing it, and if he wasn’t playing it, he was reporting it. If you wanted to activate the Lion’s rage, just attempt to change the sports channel while he was watching. I can tell you from first-hand experience, the outcome was never pretty. I would often tell him that he was sick. It was unfathomable to me that one could be so inundated and immersed in the same things all day, every day.

To recount my father’s addiction to sports, would be like extolling the rising of the sun – an irrefutable and identifiable truth. So instead, allow me to focus on the soul of the gentle giant that was all bark and no bite.

To the ill-exposed, my father was an ignorant, and at times disrespectful individual, who had no notion of time or place. On the contrary, what he was, was a man who believed that no one man’s thinking was superior to that of another, and that nothing should be accepted at face value. He had no respect for ideologies and fascism.  He understood that ever so often, the system needed to be challenged and he took pleasure in doing so. He knew that blind acceptance of the status quo was the death of societal growth and that conscious exploration of facts, and the indelible quest for truth was the only way to ensure the evolution of an empowered society. To him, right was right, and wrong was wrong. It didn’t matter who the culprit was, he would very easily, and very loudly vocalise his position. It was this quality that often put him at loggerheads with the police and with administrators, and perpetually kept me in a constant state of angst waiting for the day I’d have to post his bail.

In his quest to ensure the resurgence of an informed public, he devoted countless hours to representing objective press. Many of his associates can testify to his monopoly of press conferences – always wanting to ask a million questions – and not just the expected, but the uncomfortable ones that sometimes landed him just short of being removed from settings. His dedication to his trade was unlike any other. Daddy was disciplined and believed in meeting deadlines. Regardless of the time of day, if news was happening, he was your man. I remember being ill one day while at school and the teachers calling him to carry me home to rest. As my sour luck would have it, an elderly man decided to hang himself in Morne Jaloux. The minute daddy found out about the incident, our leisurely journey home suddenly took a detour to the crime scene. For days, I’d see the gentleman every time I closed my eyes, and for days I complained to daddy about it. To him however, such was a small price to pay for the proliferation of information. Many would remember that faithful Independence Day when his insistence on getting the right shot almost got him hit in the head by an American soldier, who was parachuting down on to the grass as part of the ceremonial fanfare. He and all of John public laughed about the incident for days. And that faithful picture of him dropping and rolling while just slightly missing the soldier’s foot was passed around from town to country. If you asked him, he’d tell you he was in full control of the situation, that his training with the militia back in the day had him prepared to deal with impending danger. We all knew it was nothing more than pure luck.

As the second cousin of Maurice Bishop he prided himself on being part of the stock of revolutionary minded people. And would often talk fondly about his conversations with Maurice, and about the time Maurice spent living in England with his mom, who was Maurice first cousin. He was of good stock he liked to say, and everyone, who knew him, particularly those, who he laboured with at GIS knew of his die-hard work ethic. Daddy was often the first to be seen in the office and the last to leave as well. To him, complacency in the workplace was a misnomer, and he very vehemently let all who revelled in this behaviour know his position on the matter.

In 2000, daddy’s aptitude and commitment to his journalism landed him a full Chevening scholarship to the University of Sheffield where he achieved a master’s degree in Print Journalism. Despite having opportunities to remain in the UK, he returned to Grenada, and took up the post of Senior Information Officer at GIS. Though GIS was his base, daddy served as a communications representative for the National Disaster Management Agency, and also worked as a free-lance journalist, covering beats like Waggy-T’s football competitions, Spicemas and contributing on a weekly basis to many of the nation’s newspapers.

Despite his infallible dedication to the press, daddy had a playful, loveable side that led all, who were fortunate to experience it, fall in love with his spirit. He was always quick to play pranks on people, and to smother them with his unsolicited, but enjoyable bear hugs. If he liked you, you were assured that he had your back and that he was willing and able to fight down anyone who troubled you – all you had to do was call him.

In many ways, he was a simple guy. Never one for excess or for show. While many scuffled to accumulate material possessions, he scuffled to accumulate and share good feelings. I’d never forget him returning home one Saturday after his usual beach runs, and telling my mother and I that he had displaced $1,000, which he had stashed in his pants pocket. After questioning him profusely, my mother and I rushed to search his car thinking that the cash had fallen out in the vehicle. After an unsuccessful search, we returned to the house, only to find daddy sprawled out on the couching laughing hell hard at something that had happened in a football game. We were shocked, and somewhat appalled that he was so relaxed while we were both obviously stressed. With one fleeting glance – because it was a mortal sin to remove thy eyes from the TV screen during a match – he said, “so wha yuh want me do? Ah go dead for that?” And with that one phrase, he was back to his regular programming.

See to daddy, the value of money lay, not in its quantity, but in its ability to create lingering memories for himself and for others. To this end, he religiously spent many of his pay checks buying food for the needy and giving stipends to some of the older, shut-in members of his Morne Jaloux community.  Whenever there were cricket matches, he would also make sure to get tickets for his uncles and other elders in Morne Jaloux, such as Mr. Fitzroy James – taking the time to pick them up at their homes, bring them to the stadium, sit them down with drinks and food, all before going to do what he did best – cover his sports. When the games were done, he would collect them and return them home until it was time to repeat the process at the next game.

His love of children was unparalleled, and he forever put his money where his heart was in that respect. Growing up, I was often disappointed to know that some of the gifts I saw were not my own but that of other kids, he’d met and liked. Just recently while in the mall, a lady stopped me and recalled for me how my father bought her daughter her first sewing machine, after casually discovering she had developed a fascination with sewing. It was this love that allowed him to accept my mother’s first child, my brother, as his very own, never once discriminating between us two, and always providing for us equally the same.

Daddy’s ability to give off himself without ever expecting in return is a quality that I will always praise and forever remember. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, he personally donated 57 cases of water, and was himself planning on spending two months on island volunteering with the rebuilding process after spending Christmas with me. To date, he is the only person I know, who may be running late to a function, but will still turn around his car and drop a complete stranger in the other direction.

He was a motivator and a die-hard supporter of personal growth. He believed in fighting to the end, and would often tell me, “Nisha you have to fight. Hold yourself up. You’re a warrior. You are not a quitter. I did not make a quitter.”   He was very proud when I decided to follow in his footsteps and earned myself a degree in print Journalism, and although I later opted for an MBA in Marketing, he never once criticised my decision for leaving his much-cherished profession.

There are many, who are seated here, who can attest to him pushing them to persevere in the very same way. My friend Tornia always talks about him recognising her ability to write and cover press, before she even knew she had it in her, and recalls him encouraging her to pursue it consciously. Today she holds a master’s degree in marketing communications and forever remembers the confidence he gave her to write her blogs while she was an employee at GTA.  My other friend Nekoyan and my cousin Teddon can also attest to the many times daddy pushed them to continue with their musical careers – consoling them many a times after disappointing soca monarch competitions and trying his best to garner for them, the media coverage he thought they justly deserved.

I can go on and on extoling the goodness of my father’s heart. Instead, I’ll leave my sharing with you my greatest takeaways from the man I proudly call daddy. Today, I stand tall because when I look at where I came from, I know I can only be blessed.

Because of my father, I cannot and do not accept the truths of others, but thirst instead to discover my own.

Because of my father, I believe in the power of advocacy,

Because of my father, I believe it’s okay to let my voice resonate amidst deafening silence to echo the values of my beliefs.

Because of my father, I believe that all men are equal and are of value.

Because of my father, I recognise that forgiveness is necessary and critical for self-preservation.

Because of my father, I understand the value of hard work and the importance of meeting deadlines in the continuum of life.

Because of my father, I believe in objective press and currency of information.

Because of my father I know that the greatest joys of life come, not from getting but from giving

Because of my father, I understand the meaning of unconditional love

Because of my father, I understand that in this life there are no absolutes – no absolute ways to exhibit love, no absolute ways to teach and no absolute ways to learn.

And because of my father, I now have a greater appreciation for the beauty in differentiation and the power of self-assurance, and self-acceptance. It was such a pleasure being the apple of his eye, and knowing that he was my biggest protector. He never wanted ill for me and even in his final days, did everything in his power to shield me from pain. He was convinced that I had experienced an unnecessarily tough year, and wanted nothing but a positive turn around for me. To this end, he spent every living day chatting with me and enquiring about my many travels and my well-being. When he fell sick, he continued to speak to me from his hospital bed, for days never telling me of his circumstance, but instead begging for the gory details of my presentation, provoking much introspection on my part as to whether I was doing the best I could.  He believed in me wholeheartedly, and trusted my judgement on matters of finance and health management. His confidence in me, formed the backbone for my continued success in the aftermath of what I thought was the greatest loss of my life – the passing of my mom.

Today, as I stand before you, I stand as a shattered human – porous and wounded; bewildered. I bleed for my father – for his unfinished work; and for our ill-achieved plans. Yet amidst this sorrow that I have been unwilling forced to face in this post loss reality, I am comforted in my belief that today he is reunited with my mother; and that the hurt and displeasure with life that he expressed following her death – most recently in the days leading up to his passing – have been resolved through their reunion.

In this after death reality, I have chosen to live my life in moments, and in this moment, though I grieve, I feel damn good knowing that I now have two amazingly caring angels batting in my corner.

To my dearest father. God alone knows the depths of my love for you. I feel the strength of your spirit pulsating through my very veins. You are my one in a million exception; my biggest champion; and I, I am overjoyed to say confidently that I am no other than Trevor’s only child.

 

Trevor Thwaites died on November 18, 2017 at the age of 58. He was buried on December 4, 2017.

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