As Ma Bea handed me the mystery missive from my father she then continued saying, “You write ya fada chile, For I have this letter a long time and Albert he keep telling me he could not find you no where. You write to ya fada, you hear!” She implored making me become the sole witness to a part of my life that I had sooner forget than rush into. I, however, would listen to that saintly woman, who had witnessed the opening of paths in my life and I would have never disregard what she had been saying to me.
That day I found myself standing and responding to her plea, “Sure Ma Bea, sure,” to everything she said to me. “I will write to him!” I said and left in a hurry, hoping that I would still be able to see Albert, for I surely wanted to see him again. He had been the only Westindian artist that I remembered being so close in my life. It again dawned on me that I had grown up in that neighborhood of Calidonia and that it would all change completely some day. And so l walked away hoping that my trying to find Albert Schantlebury, my hero, artist, and boxing champ, and even one of my favorite neighborhood uncles. It was a day to remember for the rest of my life.
However, I was left thinking of returning another time to see Ma Bea and Albert, more prepared to prove to them that I might end up in Bocas teaching school. But my handiwork as an artist needed some additional skills for getting into creating “placards” that I admired so much as a gift from Albert whose work was posted on the plate glass of some stores on Central Avenue. But, on that fateful afternoon I couldn’t help but feeling that I would never see them and a sense of great loss came over me, thinking that Albert and Ma Bea would disappear from my life forever.
Regarding the letter from my father, however, it still remained a mystery to me how that letter got to Panama City. Hoping that Albert would see me again I went back to the Chinese restaurant and ordered a meal, thinking that as l ate by some miracle Albert would reappear in my life.
Meanwhile, the thought of ever living with my father brought back sharp memories. I remembered him as Cobert Reid, a very cruel sort of man, especially with me. Me who he had virtually rejected all together. I looked back on how, as a growing tyke, he had never been patient with me to even directly teach me anything that could be useful to me. On the other hand, I had been growing up remembering maternal grandfather, Seymour Green, who had made me to understand what it is to be a Black Man.
In fact, my father boasted of having a trade and often showed off his automobile during a time in history that most White men could not even dream of having. That was what I believe had made him a target for the racist Zone criminal Justice system. However, I thanked God that he had left Panama when he did and had been gone for more than a decade out of our lives. He had, by then, bought a home away from us in Panama somewhere in Brooklyn, New York. The return address on the mystery letter spoke to that-Brooklyn, New York. Now according to this letter from him he offered me a space in Jim Crow United States, as close to him, in his home.
I really preferred the opportunity of staying in Panama, working as a bona fide teacher in Bocas Province, or anywhere in the Republic of Panama. I was really praying for the opportunity to get the additional training as an educator. I reasoned that this opportunity to gain knowledge of knowing the United State would complete part of my training. The letter in my hands might mean possibility of finishing my Secondary School Education and eventually equip me to be able to live on my own in Panama or the United States. An event which could be sooner than later, as I planned to find work and have means of paying my own space and to find out for myself what it means to be a Black educated man in a university atmosphere.