A disabled mum’s will to make it
With just one foot, determination and a will to survive and succeed, Lucina Skeete raised three children. Not only did she have to fight to overcome the challenges of being disabled, but she also faced the reality of being a single mother.
Sitting over a bowl of flying fish as she cleaned them on a busy afternoon in the Six Men’s, St Peter fishing village, Lucina declared to Barbados TODAY that despite the odds, she had made it.
Ahead of Sunday’s Mother’s Day celebration, Skeete was thankful that she had parented three children –– Sharon, 40, Donovere, 35, and Tennille, 31.
“As a single mother, and disabled too, I think I did a very good job in raising my children. Sometimes they think that my way to them is the wrong way because they believe that I am too firm and too outspoken, but that is just how I am, and I can’t change. I love all of them,” she said.
At age 16, Lucina was involved in a serious road accident in Holetown, St James, some 42 years ago.
At the time, she was riding her bicyle just in front of the St James Parish Church, on her way back home from running an errand. She recalled that in the blink of an eye, she was knocked off the bicycle she was riding by a drunk driver.
Having lost her foot as a result, her life instantly changed. She was out of school and her new disability also meant she could no longer work with toddlers as a play group assistant.
But, Lucina did not intend to feel sorry for herself; she was determined that her life must go on.
“Why feel sorry when life goes on? It really didn’t change my life. I decided that if this is the way I have to live my life, then this is it. I did it the best way that I could. I know that there were some limitations, so I worked within them.”
Conceiving her first child two years after the unfortunate accident occurred and then going on to produce two others, the 58-year-old knew that like any normal mother, she had to work hard to supply the needs of her offspring.
“I worked hard supporting them as a single parent right through. They knew who to depend on. I gave them my best,” she said. The mother, who is a self-confessed disciplinarian, said it was important to her that her children were brought up the right way, becoming independent citizens.
“I was a very strict disciplinarian, so they knew what Mummy wanted, what Mummy liked, and what Mummy didn’t like. You abide by the rules or you pay the price, and the price wasn’t easy. I use to share licks,” she said.
“When you run, you get double share. At school, the children use to tell them, ‘Wunna mother got one foot and wunna gine let she lick wunna. Wunna can’t run?’ Yeah right! My children use to tell them, ‘No, boy; my mother would beat we too bad’. I ain’t running behind you because you got to come in my house to sleep,” she recounted with a stern face.
A former prominent advocate for the local disabled community, Lucina says some people still see people with disabilities as nobodies and sometimes “tend to want to push you in a corner”.
However, she cautions that “at the end of the day, [persons with disabilities] are still human” and capable of functioning independently. Throughout her life she has proven this point, especially as she goes about her daily activities –– whether it be at her fish shop or at home. Skeete once worked in a garment industry; and at one time could be seen on plantations digging ground provisions to eat and sell.
“A lot of people usually look at me and tell me that I don’t get on like I am disabled. That is because I don’t sit down and pity myself. I get up and help myself. When fish season out, I go in the ground and I dig potatoes, dig yams, sell nuts and I even roast corn and sell, because life goes on.”
You may even see her on the road driving.
“In this business you need transportation and I always wanted to drive. I had a friend who teach me. I put my all into it and the first try I got my licence. People always want to know, ‘Wait, that is a special vehicle?’ and I say, ‘No, ordinary automatic and it easy for me to drive too’,” the Maynards, St Peter resident said.
A founding member of the Barbados National Organization For The Disabled (BARNOD), Skeete has been working to achieve greater acceptance for members of the community.
“. . . To be fully accepted you have to be aggressive, and I was aggressive from [the start],” she said.
“I started BARNOD when I saw a woman and a man one night, and this woman had a hump in her back. She was with this guy and they were sharing an ice cream cone and you could see that they were in love.
“There were some men on the sideline dropping remarks like, ‘You think I would let somebody see me with she?’ Then I also found that at that time, disabled people didn’t really have anybody to speak out for them. They were cast aside, at home in a house and don’t want to come out.”
It was also around that same time that Lucina became an entrepreneur.
“After forming the organization, I then started to represent Barbados in the region and worldwide. It meant that six months out of the year you had to travel. So you working and nobody ain’t going to want you to take that kind of time out. I decided I have to work with myself because of the organization.
“I use to lime by the market and people would come and they would ask you to do some fish for them, and you would make a dollar doing it. So I decided [that] if I could make a dollar with this, let me go ahead. Twenty plus years later, Lucina boasts that her business pays her bills and puts food on her table.
“It helped me to raise my children, send them to school and buy school books,” said the proud mother.
In her capacity as a member of BARNOD, Lucina was privileged to travel regionally and internationally where she learned that her worries were small compared to others.
“I am happy and I am thankful to God. The first congress I went to was in the Bahamas in the early 1994. There was a man in a wheelchair and this wheelchair was a very big wheelchair because he [could] lie down on it. And he had to be on a respirator 24 hours a day. And from that wheelchair in that condition, he went to university and gained a degree.
“To me, that is something very exciting to see: that a person in that condition can do that. Why should I wallow? He has to have a nurse 24 hours; I don’t have to have a maid. I do everything for myself.”
Skeete advises other single mothers to make use of what they have.
“You know what you have. Don’t live above your means and you would make it. If you want to live above your means, you won’t make it. Put God first, because He says He is not going to leave you nor forsake you. If you put God first, everything will work out for a good.
“God gave each and everyone of us a talent; find your talent and ask God to help you to use it, and you would get through. Just don’t come home and holler, ‘O Lord, I lost my work; I ain’t going to get no work’. There is something out there that you can do to make money. If I was to sit down and say, ‘O Lord I got one foot’, I would be dead.”
Life is good for Lucina despite her disability. The grandmother of five simply beams when she talks about her grands, whom she loves and adores.