REMEMBERING DAVID: Ever the family man
HE MADE FAMILIES FIRST A MOTTO and a platform, because for David Thompson this embodied his concept of family.
He believed to embrace family and to follow its precepts, could only result in bonds strong enough to avoid the deviance that plagues many of Barbados’ youth.
Thompson once stated: “Family values are crucial and the role of fathers and mothers is vital to children’s development.”
This he demonstrated in his own home with daughters Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie and wife Mara. There is evidence that he practised what he preached, setting aside whatever sparse time he could amidst the demanding duties of Prime Ministerial office to engage in activities that delighted his children, especially the youngest Osa.
After a gruelling 2005 general election campaign in which his Democratic Labour Party was defeated by the Barbados Labour Party, his own family was one of the priorities to which Thompson publicly vowed to devote attention.
About his wife and daughters he conceded: “They have taken the rigours of my 15 years of representation in stride, but nevertheless they need a little time from me as well.”
No one understood the significance of these words like his wife Mara who often-times found herself being the buffer, shielding her daughters from the cruelty that is part of political life, filling in when public duties prevented her husband from being there for their girls.
Mara once revealed that David was drawn to her because “he wasn’t looking for, or needed a glamour girl”, and indications are he maintained a commitment to the wife he married in her native St Lucia 21 years ago.
On the night of January 7, as they both hosted a reception for repeat visitors at Ilaro Court, the couple took a few minutes to share a tender moment, nestling against each other in the living room, as cameras flashed away. It was the night of their 21st wedding anniversary.
When Thompson became Prime Minister, Mara confessed she had always harboured a fear about her husband becoming a high-profile politician because such elevated status “might separate us a bit, and I just figured it would get in the way of my marriage”. But Thompson did not allow it to do so, and in a subsequent interview his wife spoke of tangible assurance of Thompson’s
Deep love for family love and attention, giving this example.
“I noticed this morning that he left without telling me goodbye, and he actually made the policeman who was driving him turn around and come back to the house so he could give me a kiss.”
Yet Mara said she had learnt to accept long periods of separation.
Thompson’s mother Margaret Knight too attests to the depth of love her son had for family.
She holds dearly her own memories of the baby boy she watched grow up to lead a country.
“As a mother I can’t help going back and thinking when he was born. I’ll never forget because he was a Christmas baby . . . . I’d had him at home . . . he was born at 4 o’clock in the afternoon,” Knight reflected, when her son lay critically ill in a United States hospital.
Charles Thompson also remembers a young son growing up in England “quiet and wicked, but a very nice boy”, a boy whom he always knew “would make a proper Prime Minister”.
David moved to Barbados with his mother at age eight, but when father and son eventually reunited in Barbados it was “a glorious time” of bonding between the two.
The loss of a brother is no less painful to Elizabeth, Paul and Steven.
Paul smiles when he recounts the youthful years together.
“We got into anything and everything. From little, when we were living in St Thomas, we used to run about in the gully playing cowboys and Indians . . . .We had livestock and we all used to look after them.”
Their adult paths set them in different directions, but these brothers remained close, and Paul always looked forward to the London visits from his brother who by that time had become a prominent political figure in Barbados. Steven is already missing the younger brother for whom he worked as his first campaign agent in of St John.
“We developed a closeness . . . . He moved next door to me in St Philip . . . . When he first went into Parliament, when he came out of Parliament on Tuesdays, I had to sit in the gallery and wait for him to come home, because he could not go into the house, he was so keyed up.
“We used to sit down, have a drink, talk some foolishness – and then he went home.”
There is no mistaking the painful void that the death of son, husband, father and brother leaves in the Thompson family.