where the writers are
Measure of a Man
Orlando & Opal

Measure of a Man

(For Orlando Melhado Palmer)

 

We get to know you

through slips and patches

each of us guarding pieces

of the puzzle that make up your life

each of us wanting more than we got

 

Your first born Keith remembers:

as a boy he went to Town Moore

to watch you compete in races

your face tight and serious as

you pedal the bicycle furiously

riding to win

Then when he was twelve years old

you taught him to drive

and at fifteen he often accompanied you

to the bar to taste a liquor

Keith loves that you

taught him your passion --your work

the chemistry of sugar and at

seventeen when you resigned

from New Yarmouth Sugar Estate

you left your son skilled  and with

a job there

 

Dawn recalls how you made

her feel beautiful and special as a girl

and how many nights you would lie in bed

with her and tell her stories until she fell asleep

Then several years ago when she visited you

at your home you walked to the park together

just the two of us she emphasized

 and you talked and talked

and shared things that warmed

her heart and made her feel closer to you than ever

 

Shola your granddaughter

remembers all the letters

you wrote her and how

important it made her feel

when none of her friends

were getting letters

and like everyone else

she remembers visiting

and you feeding her

 

And I your youngest daughter

your little mus-mus

as you affectionately called me

remembers heart-felt talks over meals

telephone conversations about Italy

places from where I had just returned

places you had wanted to visit

I know your gratitude

after you received photos of my travels

 

you would call and ask about each place

especially Morocco and Egypt

and in the summers we swapped stories

about each other’s garden

comparing tomatoes and watermelon growth

 

Each son, each daughter has

his and her own memories

stored in their heart and burning

in their chest about what you gave

and what you withheld

yet each understands that

you loved all your children

even when you did not tell us

even when you did not visit

and we loved you in return

with all your imperfections

and your abiding patience

we love you

and know you will be

with us forever

in our hearts where it matters

where no one can  keep you

from sharing your love

 

 

Opal Palmer Adisa

3/20/12

 

My father was born Orlando Melhado Palmer, son of Edith and Ezekiel Palmer.  He, like his sister, was born in Cuba, where his parents went to work, but returned to Jamaica when he was six years old.  He spoke Spanish and also wrote proficiently in that language.

He went to England from Jamaica where he studied and became  a licensed chemist.

In Jamaica he worked at Bernard Lodge, then on several sugar estates, responsible for the conversion of sugar into rum. After leaving the sugar industry he was one of the first Jamaican chemists to work at the University of the West Indies when it opened, working with the first set of doctors there. Then he went into City Planning and worked with the Public Work Department of Jamaica that sent him to Belize for which he did the city planning, and elsewhere.  He left Jamaica in the early 70’s for New York where he worked as a Chemist until he retired from Lannaman Candy Factory.

 

He is survived by six children, Keith, Stratton, Marva, Leonie, Opal and Patsy, sixteen grandchildren, Paul, Stacy, Ricardo, Althea, Antoinette, Sarah, Shola, Jawara, Teju, Sherene, Shanique, Strattene, Gregory, Jasmine, Daryl and Georgia and four great grand, Kathryn, Patrick, Posydon and Oren. Also, he is survived by a brother, Rue, and three nieces, Precious, Doreen and Lydia.