Sisters 100 and batting strong
TOGETHER THEIR LIVES span over two centuries, bridging the gap between how Barbados used to be and how it is today.The SUNDAY SUN spoke to centenarians Viola Verona Broomes, 101, and her “little sister” Glendora “Germie” Cyrus, 100, in Broomes’ Upper Carlton, St James home on Thursday.The interview started with recollections of the siblings’ lives over the years but included a mini sermon and ended with a prayer session.Cyrus recently played host to Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands in her Sion Hill, St James home on her birthday. She is slightly more alert than her elder sister and has excellent hearing. During the interview, she often shushed her sister for interrupting her when she spoke.“Barbados was a nice place back then. There was proper food and drink; there is only husks now. I remember [running] after my sister to her work rather than go to school,” she said.If this sounds confusing, then realise Cyrus was not speaking about the sister sitting next to her. Their family has a history of longevity and there are two other sisters who would have been older then they, were they still alive: Viola White, who died at 100 and Rhonda Delcina Millar, who lived to see 101.Broomes said she remembered their father as being a strict but nice man, who did not allow them to go anywhere “just so”.Both sisters have worked in agriculture, although Broomes can also boast of being a midwife and a seamstress. They are devout Christian, who raised their children and grandchildren in the church.“I raised four children and told them ‘don’t steal, don’t tell lies’ but I had to beat this one,” Cyrus said, referring to granddaughter Marcia Babb, who was sitting beside her.Babb, 54, said it was a pleasure to take care of her grandmother now in her old age as Cyrus had raised her.“It can be very tiring but I am happy because it is not many people who still have a grandmother at my age. She’s still a disciplinarian. Her great grandchildren shy away from her because she chastises them and encourages them to go back to the house of the Lord,” she said.Annette Stuart helps take care of Broomes, her grandmother. Like Babb, she said Broomes was a disciplinarian who kept them rooted in the church.“We always had to go to church and Sunday school, and we couldn’t go anywhere until we were grown. We had a good upbringing, and I thank God for her,” she said.Also in attendance was Broomes’ 84-year-old daughter, Damsel Thompson, the eldest of nine surviving children, who said she and her mother often engaged in discussions and singing.In addition to her children, Broomes also has 47 grandchildren, 76 great-grandchildren and 20 great-great-grandchildren while Cyrus has 50 grandchildren; 40 great grandchildren and ten great, great grandchildren. Cyrus said she loved ground provisions and cited banana, breadfruit and cassava cou-cou as her favourite meals but said she wanted nothing to do with rice. She also showed how big pig tails were then and gave a mock demonstration of what she used to do with them.Her sister was less discriminating about food. She, too, was raised on ground provision, but these days she said she “did not pick out” but ate what she was given.Broomes will be celebrating her 102nd birthday on August 5, an event Cyrus does not want to miss. At this point, the interview took a religious turn as Cyrus gave advice to young people and the SUNDAY SUN team.“I does talk with them and show them the Word of God; some of them are walking around half-naked. I teach both young and old. I am not afraid because God is coming soon.“You have to accept and serve God or you will burn in brimstone and fire,” she admonished.For her part, Broomes also encouraged the young to live for God.“They must live as I lived – righteously. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. I hope to see my family there (in heaven),” she said.Broomes then broke into song. Patting her little sister on the knee, she sang “when the roll is called up yonder”, adding they would meet each other up above.