Not easy for mum
As Margaret Knight celebrated her 80th birthday on Friday, her one regret was the absence of her son late Prime Minister David Thompson to share the milestone.
“My first thought is, it is so sad he is not here for my 80th birthday, which is kind of a landmark. But, oh, it would have been so nice if he had been here,” she told the SUNDAY?SUN at her Mapps, St Philip home.
“Don’t you know that last year when he was lying in his bed so ill, when I walked through the door he said right away, ‘Happy birthday, mum’.”
Two days later he was dead.
Life since then has been “quite difficult” for Margaret.
“It has not been easy. When I am in the public arena I don’t show any emotion; I just like to show a smile on my face because it is not right to burden people with your own grief.
“But people come up to me in the supermarket and other places, people I don’t even know, and they come and give me a hug and say, ‘I could not hug your son, so I am hugging you’. It is overwhelming.”
Such public response means a lot to Thompson’s mother, who over the last year recognized the depth of the admiration people hold for her late son.
“To know that you brought a child into this world, and look at what took place [his ascendancy to the highest political office of the land], I was actually surprised to know that he was loved and known by so many people. Because he did go through a stage when he was first in politics, when he got a lot of stick and he just took it. He just took it on his shoulders and I used to worry about him at times. But he would always say, ‘Don’t panic’.
“When I would get agitated he would tell me calm down. I would say, ‘I can’t understand how this person has got a knife in your back and you are still smiling with him’. But he would tell me, ‘Well, it is my back. I can deal with the knife’.”
She says he never turned to her in moments of frustration in his political life. Instead, she believes he turned to his wife Mara.
In the year since David’s passing, his mother has found strength in the public’s support and that of her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, who are constantly around her. She lives in the adjoining apartment which her son built for her after he and his wife had shared her home in the early years of their marriage.
“When I retired from work, David, God bless him, he built on a part for me.”
Now as she looks back, she appreciates what this has meant in terms of the exposure and access it afforded to her son and his family.
Margaret admits missing out on “a lot” of those years when her son’s hectic political life kept them apart. The memories of her once-a-month personal breakfasts or lunches with him at Ilaro Court are prominent in her mind.
So too are the odd nights when her fear of night driving would see her stopping short, overnighting at Ilaro Court and getting yet another opportunity to be with David and his family.
“We had such a rapport between us; many people did not understand it,” she observes, pointing out that the banter between them was often misinterpreted by others.
Margaret tells the story of David, the university student, installing his own telephone in his room and often sequestering himself there to work, entertaining interruptions from no one, not even his mother, to the extent of her one day having to resort to calling him from her own phone in her adjacent bedroom to alert him to an important telephone message.
“David, this is your mother. I live next door to you. Could I please have an appointment to see you?” The terse response: “Yes, you can come,” and the door’s opening finally indicated permission to enter.
“This sort of thing went on between us all the time . . . . It was really a wonderful rapport that we had.”
Margaret realized she had a gifted son as early as age three, when on “a warm, summer’s day” he shocked her with the words “I am fixing the snail’s antennae”, as he played with a snail in their garden in Britain. This and others are treasured memories that have helped to sustain her over the past year: the Christmas Day birth of her late son, being taken out to lunch by him on occasions such as?Mother’s Day and her birthday, among them.
She tries not to dwell on the memory of his ailing, though she admits that in the final days “I just went to pieces”.
“Of course, I couldn’t dare let him see that. He used to always tell me, ‘Don’t come into my bedroom with tears in your eyes. When you come in smile’. He was adamant he was going to survive . . . . No tears, but of course when I came out of the bedroom I just went to pieces.”
Had he been here for her 80th birthday, David’s mother surmises she might have been his luncheon guest at a first-class restaurant in a place like Sandy?Lane hotel or some other upscale eatery, considering the lavish party he had thrown for her 65th birthday.
“At that party he pushed aside the person who was going to cut the cake with me and said, ‘This one is for me’.”
This time around she is content to be showered with the love and kisses of her three granddaughters.
“Like me, the girls [Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie] don’t show emotion in public. But I know they miss their dad and especially Osa who was nine at the time.”