Peace Corps Writers
I Returned (page 2)
I Returned
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Time passed. The festival was over, the Christening was over and we all went back to work and pretty soon my time was over. I had to go “home.” I was very confused.
     In the time-tested West Indian way, I went: First to my parents home and then to train new PCV’s for a summer in Maine and to graduate school in Calif. and to my “Career.” But first I had to go back and get this straightened out.
     So I returned. Four years later, 1967 and not much seemed to have changed. The terraces that I had engineered and helped to construct were still there but were not much appreciated by anyone but the Peace Corps photographer (They did stand out!). The kids that wanted to raise chickens had moved on to better things and no one had helped them pass their skills on to another generation. Oh, well.
     Palton told me my son was doing well (I had kept in touch with his mother and sent money and holiday presents). I went to see them, glad I had come. His mother and I talked. She and he would come to Washington, D.C. with me and we would figure it out from there. Jesus Christ! I realized I had a lot more growing to do and it was going to happen NOW!
     They came and he went to school and time passed and he adjusted easily. I had a little harder time of it but I was in my own element so I eventually settled into the new life. She never did make it. It was too big a jump without a decent support system. I didn’t provide that. I was mostly interested in being a father, not a husband or even a lover. I didn’t give her enough help so one day she split and left him with me — in a quick 5 months my life had REALLY changed. I wasn’t all that ready even after that much effort and warning.
     We lived and had some good times and I was happy and also burdened but we pulled together and, in time I met a woman and was married and had a daughter and my son flourished in some ways and showed a lot of stress in other areas of his life. At age 16 things came to a head and it became clear that he needed to go and find his mother.
     She had not contacted me for about two years after leaving. I had written to her father in Belle Vue several times but he said he didn’t know where she was. She was young and apparently had just wanted to be free so she had gone to Barbados. Eventually she returned home to St. Lucia and we had reestablished communication and so she knew a bit about our life and we knew a bit about hers — but not much. My son had to go and see for himself as I knew he probably would. After a 12 year long eternity he got on a plane and went by himself.
     After a week he called (which was quite a feat in those days before modernity hit St. Lucia) and asked how he was supposed to get home. I smiled and suggested he use the return half of his ticket. He laughed and decided that was a good idea. He still needed me for some things. He came back and was changed and life went on. He told me a bit about it but mostly we just went on with our life.
     At age 26 (Feb. 1989) he went to see his mother again and this time was much more open about his experiences. He had other brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and cousins and friends and was full of the new sights and thoughts and feelings. The talk was nice and warm. His sister on this end was full of questions and they talked so much!
     Then it happened — on a Wed. morning in August 1989 I got a call from his 19 year old brother in St. Lucia. She had died suddenly in the early morning. Would I please tell my son? He was somewhere on a camping trip between Denver and Santa Fe with my daughter and some friends but I left a message and breathed very deeply and decided to go back —
     Again, it happened so fast and I wasn’t ready but was on my way anyway. My son flew immediately from Denver. His sister had flown back home the next morning and we were flying the next day to St. Lucia. It was so different to make those arrangements. The travel agent knew where St. Lucia was this time but wanted to give us a vacation package with hotel and rental car thrown in. Was this really St. Lucia? I almost felt as if I were going to a strange new land. We landed and I was back at almost the identical spot where I had first set foot on St. Lucia at Vigie airport 28 years earlier. This time there was no band.
     We were met by my son and his brother and driven to his mother’s apartment in Castries and then I knew it really was St. Lucia. It was hot and not very clean and very crowded and noisy. I was told on the way from the airport that Robert Francis, a butcher in Desruisseaux who was arrested several times while I lived there for stealing and butchering other people’s animals, had just been in jail once more for the same activity. We laughed at “the joke” and I felt at home. The smells and noise and Patois (though English is far more prevalent in the streets than “before”) and vendors and heat and humidity and dirt. I felt at home.
     It was night so we ate (boiled banana’s, cocoa, bread and of course a Heineken beer now made in St. Lucia) and slept and went down to the country the next morning. There is no way to convey the feelings that went through me as we passed Kentucky Fried Chicken on Bridge St. in the middle of Castries. I knew things had changed but I wasn’t ready for that one! I didn’t know whether I felt at home or not.
     A heart stopping 53 minutes later we drove through Desruisseaux past a Shell station. Other than that addition, there were just a few new houses by the road. We stopped on the way to speak with Robert Francis who had gotten out of jail the day before. He was “by the sea” so we went on. I felt at home.
  

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