Present and future

Reginald Dumas -
Reginald Dumas -

I haven’t been at all well this last month and more. I’m not a sickly person, so to physical discomfort has been added psychological irritation, an unfortunate combination. I’ve had medical tests done in Tobago – no covid, thankfully – and been transported to Trinidad for more – and more sophisticated – examinations.

I’ve been CT-scanned, ultrasounded, colonoscopied and endoscopied, among other things; results of two other tests remain outstanding. One or two physical conditions, of which I was unaware, have been identified; they will have to be dealt with. But at least nothing fatal, or potentially so, has been discovered. That, at least, whatever my loss of energy, has been a great relief.

The reality of advancing years obtrudes even more. I’m an old man now; sometimes I think I’m giving Methuselah a run for his money. I’ve had a good life, I think largely productive; I’ve done what I could for TT, the region, and even the UN. But reality cannot be escaped. To the extent possible, I’ve made, and am making, arrangements for my final departure. What to do with my many books and documents had been bothering me somewhat, but I think, given an unexpected proposal some months ago, that I’ve managed to sort that one out.

I have few personal regrets, though I can’t say, as Frank Sinatra sang, that I did it all my way. What former public servant could truthfully make such an assertion? My great disappointment now – and disappointment is morphing into despair – comes from my observation of TT’s deepening societal descent.

My immediate post-independence generation of young adults, a number of us fresh out of university or law school, didn’t foresee this. We were confident we could help make TT’s mark in region and world, and for many years we did. What has happened? When will our university sociologists closely examine the matter, looking at cause and effect, identifying shortfalls and proposing remedies? In the meantime, could the senseless finger-pointing, the personal invective, the loud and counter-productive blame games, please be sharply reduced – we know they will not stop – in frequency and intensity? We look and sound puerile and immature. And I speak of both Trinidad and Tobago.

Perhaps some of what I’ve said so far might sound like a farewell message. No, not quite. But at my age reflection becomes more necessary. Mind you, it’s always necessary, and it’s a great pity that we in TT so easily rush to malevolent judgment – some of what I’ve heard over the years about myself, for instance, or have had done to me, coming from persons I thought were my friends, has been nothing short of bizarre. Why do we do it? Pointed, though balanced, criticism is one thing; fabrication and embellishment are quite another. This unwillingness – surely not inability? – to step back and ask questions, to plunge beneath a comforting superficiality, to reflect, does us no good at all.

For nearly all of the last several weeks I didn’t have the energy to follow events closely, whether. local or foreign. I think I must have looked at newspapers only two or three times, and television had no appeal. I hear that my silence was criticised by a politician. More than that I shall not say, except that I may now have attained a special zone, where some politicians actually await my comments, if any. But what do they then do about them, I wonder?

I obviously couldn’t be getting through my current difficulties all by myself. Doctors and other medical personnel have played their part. So have some friends (especially a PoS couple who shall be nameless, and to whom I bow in gratitude), though I’ve told very few people. But it’s essentially family that has been rallying around – my sisters (and one in particular, whose hospitality I have perhaps overexploited), nieces abroad, a couple of Tobago cousins. And, above all, my daughter, who has been a pillar of care and attention in both Tobago and Trinidad.

I shall never catch up with Methuselah. But, especially with the support I’ve been receiving, I expect to be around for a little while yet.


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