NO parent likes to bury his or her own child. Imagine then, the devastation of 100-year-old George Thompson who lost his two youngest children to gun violence five years ago.
“I almost drop down over the tomb to see the two of them burying at the same time,” Thompson told the Sunday Observer in an interview at his home in Greenwich Town. “When the bwoy kill them mi brain just start sing. A pure religious music just singing in my head. Mi head just a sing and that make mi relax.”
According to Thompson and other community members, the two, 34-year-old Pamela and 36-year-old Claudette, were at a call box at the front of their community on Eighth Street when a man who had recently been released from prison shot Pamela with whom he had had an argument.
Realising that her sister had been shot, Claudette reportedly ran, shouting for help. The gunman aimed at her and fired. Pamela died on the spot while Claudette succumbed to her injuries two days later.
Thompson, who said he raised all his 18 children — 13 girls and five boys — single-handedly, said the incident broke his heart and it still weighs heavily on his mind.
“All of them grew with me without any woman. It was me and them alone!” he said proudly. “My wife left when the youngest was a year and two months. And all of them advance in school.”
To support them, he said he did a number of jobs, mainly tailoring.
“I used to make their uniform and have a neighbour who love to plait hair, plait their hair,” he explained. “I used to cook for them. Yes man, me do all of the cooking.”
He declined discussing his children’s whereabouts today but said that prior to her demise, it was Claudette who took care of him. He described Pamela as an “acidic”, “warsome” girl who “used to give nuff trouble”, but maintained that that was no excuse for her to be slain the way she was.
In the 50 years he has lived in Greenwich Town, Thompson said he has witnessed much of the same type of violence that claimed his daughters’ lives.
He recalled the lead up to the 1980 general election when he saw seven persons murdered in one house. He also mentioned an incident in which three men armed with guns entered his premises. He, however, managed to give the first blow and the men retreated.
Thompson, who turned 100 in January this year, said he felt it was not God’s will for him to die by the hands of men, despite being surrounded by murders on a regular basis, a situation that has been prevalent since the 70s.
“I just feel like no man not suppose to kill me,” the centenarian said.
“…I feel if you doing the right thing and you going the right way with time and nature, you will always get through.”
Though his focus as a tailor was men’s clothing, Thompson said he also made coats and brassieres. But that was not the extent of his talent.
“I am a mason, carpenter, cabinet-maker, chef,” he beamed. And according to residents, he is also the mid-wife and doctor in the community.
“I deliver nine births here,” Thompson said. “Nine babies I deliver. And when all sorts of things wrong with people, is me they come to,” he added.
Martina ‘Munchie’ Rowe, attested to this, explaining that her last visit was a few weeks ago when she was suffering from a stomach ache.
“Him make him tea and him say, ‘Munchie, don’t ask what kind of tea, just drink it because I am not giving you anything to hurt you’, and mi drink it,” Rowe said. “All one time cold sweat a wash mi and papa boil corn pork soup and put all sorts of things in it and cut up the banana with the skin and say ‘drink it’.”
Moments later, she said, she was well again.
Everton, another community member, also testified to the healing abilities of the man many call ‘Doctor’.
“I buck off my toe one time and him mix up some things and dress it and say come back in three days,” Everton recalled. “Three days later, when mi go back the toe heal. When him squeeze it, not a pain!”
Thompson said he got the title of ‘doctor’ years ago when a woman in the community who kept visiting a real medical doctor without getting well called him to her home.
“She had all type of headache and this and that. When I reach she tell me say she going doctor but the headache and pain a murder her. So mi say ‘but mi is not a doctor, is doctor you mus’ go’,” he recalled.
“And hear what the woman say to me: ‘Just put you hand on my head, man’. When I put my hand on her head, I’m not God, but I start meditate on things in my own way. Before mi take off my hand she say to me, ‘I feel something running in mi head’. And within a short time it leave her, you know. I don’t know is what. I don’t know is who, but just like that. Just like that,” he said.
Nowadays, he said, no matter what happens to community members, they come calling.
“I feel I have a gift but mi not supposed to be wealthy or rich,” Thompson said with a laugh, reminiscing on his younger years fending for himself.
The Greenwich Town resident said his mother died before he was seven years old, and that he sent himself to school by selling crushed crackers to other students. He used the money he earned to go to school the next day, but he also had some of the crackers for lunch.
“I had one pants and one shirt and I would wash it all the time and go school,” he said.
He changed elementary school three times before he was 15. Each time he did something wrong and felt his teacher would whip him, he changed schools, he told the Sunday Observer.
“My only regret is that I am not educated,” he said.
However, Thompson loves to read and owns a variety of books. He is now reading The History of the United States.