‘We are the best family in the world’ – Donnie DeFreitas
As Donnie would say, “We are the best family in the world!” A family that rises above internal issues and loves and supports each other, our offspring; and our extended relations. This eulogy should give a little insight into the boy he was, and the man he became.
As Donnie’s siblings we share some of Donnie’s regularly repeated stories. These stories begin at the story of his birth- was its February 8th, 1957, or was its February 9th? Even now, depending on if a family member had a special affliction for the 8th or the 9th -then we would insist that one of those two dates was Donnie’s birthday. We know what his official documents say – but … we know better and would tease him saying that we knew his correct birthday; even if he didn’t. There were six of us, Mannie, Peggy, Debbie, DONNIE, Mitzie, Eddie; and Donnie, considering himself to be the middle child; liked to sing: “call me Mr. In Between”.
Our mother doted on Donnie and missed him when he when he went to study in Cuba. We saw this in the goods and goodies she would buy and “put away”, so that when he came for short vacations, he would return to Cuba overladen with all his favorites.
Daddy would have lengthy discussions on various topics with Donnie, after having him read, read, read. Thus Donnie developed an aptitude for effective debate, compromise and negotiation. This learned skill must have been the building blocks for Donnie self-confidence as he was known to quote himself during his debates and presentations; stating that he himself was: “a well-founded source of information”.
Then there was the relationship, between Donnie and Mannie (the eldest sibling). Donnie was also known as “Mr. Fix-it.”
According to Rosie and Gary, (two of Mannie’s, three children), their father was most certainly not. However, per Donnie; his big brother Mannie, was a wiz in matters financial. The children recall also that when Mannie was sick, Donnie flew from Samoa to help with his elder brother. When asked– “Why are you so nice, Uncle Donnie, why did you come all the way here to help us?”- His only response was – “that’s what we do Rosie- we are family- the best family in the world.”
Peggy also tells of Donnie’s selflessness and support. He would encourage her whenever she was concerned about various matters, telling her – “it’s going to all work out,” He was the brother that she knew loved fruits, and would ensure that she got him what he needed whenever he would come to St. Vincent so that he could partake of and enjoy…. Her daughter Karen prompted us all to Google search Donnie; as she did; finding out that: “Uncle Donnie is Smart-smart” Karen recalls that she only mentioned that her computer was broken, for Donnie to procure a new one for her; just so that there was no interruption in the pursuit of her passion and dreams.
Debbie the sister, just before him, was taught by Donnie how to play table tennis. She did beat him ONCE – and knowing Donnie very well – promptly retired a champion. Donnie left Samoa IMMEDIATELY as soon as he heard of her husband (Dr Junior Bacchus’) sudden and untimely death. Donnie showed up, after taking a much circuitous route, and many hours of travel; from Samoa to St. Vincent and was a constant strength to Debbie when she needed it the most. Donnie assumed the role of “father” to Melissa and Kahlil in their time of need- and he continued to mentor, counsel and encourage Kahlil in every and anyway way possible without fail. Donnie also “adopted“ Jahlani – (Kahlil’s son) as his “grandson” and remained an encouragement to Jahlani. Melissa may never get the pony he promised her eons ago, but she can rest in the knowledge that she could be the doctor that was called upon for expert opinion in Donnie’s last days.
Donnie followed Debbie – Mr. In-Between. To his son, he “was the best father in the world.” A dad that truly was Mr. Fix-it- who could take apart gadgets and then put it back together again. A father that taught him how to love and cherish his (Donito’s) bride Judith. A father that kept his private matters private and his cherished one’s secret- choosing to reveal to others when he chose to do so and only when he chose to. Donnie was “Top Secret”. He always wanted to be the one to share/ or- not share some aspects of his personal life to whosoever he chose. Also possibly because, (quoting Donnie): “we did not have the right answers, because we did not ask the right questions.”
Then came Mitzi (me): I recall as a tiny tot that Donnie would choose to take me to HIS SCHOOL, so as his younger sister – I could see firsthand what “learning” all was about. He also encouraged all my children: to pursue wisdom and experience; to give back to their communities and countries; to keep true to their passions and to always reach for the stars.
Eddie, the youngest brother, understood that whenever Donnie returned to St. Vincent, from one of his many sojourns to this country or that, he had to take Donnie on a tour of the island pointing any changes , so that Donnie could see it all ; “with my own eyes”. Eddie’s sons were gently steered into their current fields of expertise. Kyle tells that Donnie opened doors that allowed him to get into the telecom business, and that Donnie’s name forged the way for “huge shoes to be filled.
To us Donnie,“Mr. In-Between” was: Supplier, Self-sacrificing; self-effacing, sojourner, and searcher of the truth. Donnie we will miss you- but will never forget you. This is not our final goodbye; rather it’s a “till we meet again”. Peggy, Debbie, Eddie and I will strive to live up to your declaration, and be : – “the best family in the world!”