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Topic: Endurance (03/22/04)
By Phyllis Inniss
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The ability to withstand hardship, adversity or stress is the definition given by Longman Family Dictionary for endurance. To have this ability is a requisite for living in these harsh and brutal times. Some people have the fortitude to withstand the rigours of life without complaint, either because of their early upbringing, or because they feel nobody owes them anything and they must fight for whatever they want. Some are not so inclined and depend on others to help them through the difficult times or they fall to depression and misery. The apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”
My mother had the endurance to withstand a difficult time in her life with her three children. Her husband, our dad, was not a responsible person and with three young children on her hands it was evident that life would have been an uphill grind. Her family persuaded her that it was better to leave him while there were only three of us, and while it was easier for them (the family) to help her. That did not work out. My grandmother was willing to take my brother and myself and bring us up as her own; my mother was having none of that. She sent us down to her mother’s for a short time to get things settled and kept our baby sister with her.
In those days where my grandmother lived was as country as you can get. Parry Land was in the heart of the oil belt and Pitch Lake area. My mother had spent most of her teen and young adult years in one of the nicest parts of the capital city of Port of Spain. City life offered so much to her young mind that she wanted her own children to capture most or all of it. Most of all the schools, elementary and secondary; the churches of different denominations; the stores with interesting goods, mostly of British manufacture; the cinemas, The Public Library, the Princes Building, which hosted a variety of activities, such as museums, artistic renditions, ballroom dances; the different parks, The Savannah or The Oval for sporting activities. There were many events that came to the city that never reached the country places in those days.
My grandmother was determined to keep us and fixed up everything for my brother and myself. We had one each of nearly everything. I would overhear my mother say she didn’t want her “children to grow up to be country bookies.” She travelled all the way down south to get us amidst all the strain that her action caused in the family. There was also the problem of other members of the family scolding us in their old-fashioned way. Mother couldn’t handle this and I would hear one aunt in particular say not her “and Doris Corbin children.” So whatever help my mother might have got was not forthcoming.
The church, however, came to the rescue. “All things work for good for those who love the Lord and who are called according to his purpose.” One of the members who sang in the choir with my mother offered to allow her to stay with her and her two nieces at their residence in close proximity to the church. The school was next to the church and most of the teachers were also choir members who knew my mother. We were part of an extended family and were in church three times on a Sunday.
Mother worked hard and long hours to support her three children. In those days Saturday was a working day. She got a half day off on Saturday when she worked late on a Thursday. I never heard my mother complain. She got her strength from the church and from God in whom she put her entire trust. If she did not attend service on a Sunday morning, she would attend at night. She found time to take me to the museum, to cultural activities, even to the annual ball, as I was the eldest, but still very young. She found time to visit her friends and sent my brother and myself on vacation at different relatives to make sure we had “some fresh air and lots of fruit” for our health. This was what the country was good for – providing a healthy life. While doing her washing and ironing, she would sing some of the classical melodies they sang in the choir. She never failed to pass on the values of honesty and respect and love for others to us.
When I reached the age of twelve, my brother Carl ten and my sister Marina almost eight,. my mother thought it was time for us to get a place of our own. We were growing older and needed more space and opportunity to express ourselves. She had got a better-paying job, but a more demanding one. She had to leave much earlier for work in the mornings, but hard work never daunted her.
Her kindness was really remarkable and even women with husbands would come to her for assistance of one kind or another. She never refused anyone.
Her faith in God gave her the determination and courage to do what other women in her position would not have dared. She sent me to a private secondary school at a time when most girls stayed at home until they got married, or were apprenticed to a seamstress in order to have a profitable skill. Her relatives disapproved. She could barely afford this. My mother lived long enough to see me get through my Cambridge School Certificate Examination with a Grade 2. At the age of 16, this was indeed success. I was really thrilled to bring my mother so much joy and not let her down before our relatives.
Exactly a month later Mother died in an explosion at her workplace with three other persons.