Suite memories of Timmy
Lorna Callender fixed her gaze on the imposing image of her late husband projected on a large screen at Frank Collymore Hall, and tears welled up in her eyes.
It was at the end of the gala opening night of the dramatic presentation of Callender’s It So Happen Suite, staged by Frank Collymore Hall to kick off its 25th anniversary celebrations.
It was also the 21st anniversary of the death of Timothy Callender.
For the widow of the outstanding Barbadian playwright, author, musician and artist, it represented a part of her gone too soon, the man with whom she had shared so much and had hoped to share a lot more.
Of greater significance, however, in Lorna’s view, Barbados had finally embraced Timothy Callender.
After watching the It So Happen Suite, a dramatisation of four of Callender’s stories, Lorna said: “It is as if Barbados has now accepted him fully for what he was. So it has been a very fulfilling experience for me.”
In a subsequent interview with the Sunday sun, Callender’s widow said: “People did not understand Timmy in a lot of ways. He seemed to be following too much his own rules and not the rules of society, but it was all part of his search to really find out what is. He searched all types of knowledge. No area was sacrosanct to him.”
This is the woman with whom Callender shared his deepest thoughts and fears, first as a fellow student at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies and later as his wife.
They had met in 1966 during orientation activities at Mona. She recalled: “He wanted to talk because he had left the Closed Brethren, and because of that he had had to leave his family. It was a new experience for him to be free, and he wallowed in that, but at the same time being cut off from his family was troubling.
“He wondered how the church could be saying something was so wrong when his teachers were telling him it was so right. He was not supposed to tell stories because they were lies, but at the same time Frank Collymore was encouraging him to write stories.
“He was not supposed to paint because he was making false images, but Broodhagen saw his talent and was nurturing him.” Broodhagen and Collymore were the two “artistic dads” who nurtured and encouraged the literary and artistic talents of the Combermere schoolboy.
Lorna remembered her husband experimenting with all the art forms.
“He was never sure which was the one that suited him best. Deep down he said he felt that sculpture was what he would have eventually been best in, but he did not have a lot of time to do that.
“Many people would ask him why he wouldn’t stick with one, and this would annoy him because he would ask them which one ‘because I like them equally well’.
“They could not accept a multitalented person. They wanted to define him; but he was very undefinable.”
A strong bond had developed between the two university students as the black consciousness movement was growing across the United States and raising its head in the Caribbean in the early 1960s and 1970s.
She related their involvement in the crisis at the Creative Arts Centre in Jamaica and their eventual marriage in Lorna’s homeland St Kitts.
It was six years before any children came, a period Lorna describes as “a continuous learning experience”, and she laughs heartily as she remembers their life together in St Kitts, as well as the period spent together in Britain. There, as Timothy interacted with West Indians, he probed their experiences and told their stories humorously in some of his books.
Lorna had by now become Timothy’s firm confidante.
“I think I was a good