My Dad, O lo’u Tama, Mon Papa, Edward Barry Jackson

dad

Born and raised in India to Irish/English parents, he left for England as a teen and from there, the first 2 Jacksons were born – 6 more were to come upon his move to NZ/Samoa/Fiji, 5 from my mom + my Fijian sister Talei. There may very well be more, considering that his work as a telecommunications specialist was very mobile.
I met my eldest sibling, Leigh for the first time in 2005 in Marseille. I was humbled to have met her and connect and we all look similar!


Cherelle and I don’t remember our dad as much as my older siblings, because we were only little moepis (bed wetters:) when he died, 3 and 1 years young. For years, I’ve tried to uncover memories of him, but only funny snippets are clear, like standing with Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson in the minivan (at the front seats while he drove, and playing in the cocoa plantation until we got told off. And I remember his belongings, the closed shoes(boots apparently), belts, trousers, blazers. Strange things which didn’t make sense to us since we were mainly females in a tropical Savaii, what are boots for? Other items I was intrigued with were the letters he wrote – on the old typewriter that mom used well into the 90s at Safua. I also found out that he had joined Freemasons when he was in Calcutta and had a letter of reference which said “EBJackson is of good masonic standing or something along those lines”. Strange again for me because my impression of Freemasons were very much about a cult group that worshipped skulls it a secret building in Apia., hah!
   


The people who knew my dad used to say to us, “Ma’umau pe aga soifua le kou kama”( if only your dad was still alive). We heard this a lot, particularly when one of us was coming first in something or winning something, usually my  sister Omega. Obviously when we were up to no good, the same was uttered in a harsher tone. But those who knew him retold hilarious stories which my sisters and I clung on to. Because they added to the slowly fading recollections of a man who loved us dearly. A funny story we heard a lot of is how he, and several other men – who loved their hard liquor would ‘smuggle it to Savaii on the ferry and then it would be stored at our home until an special occasion. This story is told in different versions depending on the story teller, one of whom is a prominent High Court Judge, another, a doctor who used to stay with us.  

                  While we were not from a well-off family, we never went without food – aside from the elei and rice struggle at Lalovaea (refer Cherelles hate of tinned fish). Otherwise, we were the luckiest children ever, growing up in Savaii among family, learning the beauty and the woes of our culture,, knowing who we are and being strong in our values but never feeling trapped or confined. The world was our oyster and we had much to celebrate.  So while his passing is sad, he’s given us a wonderful start in life. And be confident in ourselves. Too confident sometimes haha. Before Dad departed, he had grand plans and dreams, of building us a home that was filled with happiness, that our days was spent outdoors playing while he worked on his cocoa plantation. Together with my mom, they had a thriving vegetation garden, and odd things like an alia fishing boat, mini moke and he had bought a cow that we adoringly called Saint John. Don’t ask! But I love that he was willing to experiment and be innovative in a place where doing something different was considered “pei ua leaga ea le ulu’ (hes lost his marbles I think’
I want to say I miss my dad, but that seems strange because I don’t know what life is like, with my dad. But it doesn’t lessen my love for him. And I love that he loved my mom so much and expressed it so. I am looking now at a letter he wrote to Mom on the 10th March 1974 from Devonport, New Zealand, it reads:

“I must tell you my sweet love that I miss you every minute and I love you to distraction. I think things will work our here but whatever happens, the first rule will apply. My heart breaks for you my Sweeting and I so miss Simona. I cannot say enough about loving you – but believe me – and I know you know – I would die without you. Whatever problems and however long I will love you. Off with this now my sweetest love, love to the other beasts – Oh God I wish you were here with me – tomorrow I start the work for our future.
All my deepest love”

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