Joyce Mclean's 90th Birthday

Wild horses could not have kept me away after Joyce McLean's ninetieth birthday party. Joyce was the mother I never had and is the first person in my circle of family and friends to achieve this exclusive status. Joyce is a beautiful Jamaican woman with a show-stopping smile who knows what it takes to raise children. Joyce made a significant contribution to my life, Kenneth McCarthy's life, and the lives of her four children, her twenty grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. Over the years, she worked her magic with effortless grace and the patience of Job. When I saw her on the day before her party, her face lit up as she said with a broad grin, "All my boys are here."

I was eight when I first met the McLean clan of Clovis, Joyce, Lloyd, Ronald, Nancy, and Alvin. The McLean's lived on Cloverly Road, just around the corner from where I lived on Victoria Ave. Clovis, the renowned Jamaican footballer and cricketer, and Joyce, his wife, were the first people to notice that I was a lonely child that needed a little love and attention. I remember being included in many family excursions, even though two adults and six kids could barely fit in their Austin Cambridge. I became a permanent fixture in the McLean household during my young life. I would play, eat, and sleep in their home, and when they moved from Cloverly Road to the suburbs of Vineyard Town, I went to live with them and enjoyed two of the best years of my life. 

The McLeans were a sports family, with Lloyd, their eldest son, following in the footsteps of his father, Clovis. Even though I am the same age as Lloyd, I was never his peer. A good description of my relationship with Lloyd was that I was his wingman. Lloyd was a super athlete during his teenage years. He was the engine that moved our high school soccer team; he played on Jamaica's national football team at seventeen. By age nineteen, Lloyd joined the Boston Beacons, a professional soccer team in the USA, where he played against Pele. He was also an accomplished cricketer and a track star. Because of Lloyd's notoriety, he was besieged by young girls, and it was my Job to keep all those girls organized. His favorite girl would sit with me at the national stadium during football games, and it was my job to ensure she got to him after the match. This relationship had some perks for me because some girls who missed Lloyd would decide to date me.   

On the other hand, Ronnie and I were a good match despite our year-and-a-half age difference. We wanted to make something of ourselves and consciously or unconsciously decided to take this long journey together. Ronnie wanted to be a dentist, and I planned to become a college professor, but we did not know how to get there. We started our journey by studying together and marching in our high school drum and bugle corps. We migrated together to New York after high school, worked as elevator operators in Manhattan, played soccer on our college varsity team, participated in our wedding,  graduated college, and achieved advanced degrees. Ronnie is now a dentist, and I teach at the University of Phoenix. 

Nancy, the only girl in the clan, was an award-winning Food and Beverage Manager at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston for many years and is currently the Managing Director of Concierge by Nancy. Nancy is a hospitality expert with her mother's smile and patience. If you come to Kingston and want to enjoy the city, connect with Nancy because she will get you linked to the best Jamaica offers. Alvin, the youngest boy, is a musician and carries on the tradition of the Mclean football prowess. Some of my best memories of Alvin were when I watched him play midfield on our university varsity soccer team. He played with all the skill and confidence to make his father, Clovis, proud. Finally, there is Kenneth McCarthy, whose family lived in Portland but lived with the McLeans so that he could attend school in Kingston. Kenneth was always a hard-working, conscientious student who knew what he wanted. He achieved his goals because he is now a medical doctor in Canada and appears to be having lots of fun in his life today.

We were all there to wish this great woman well on her special day. The dinner party held at a Chinese restaurant in New Kingston had Nancy McLean's unique touch. I could see that Joyce enjoyed all the care and love that all her boys, her only girl, her two grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren gathered around her to sing Happy Birthday, with the entire restaurant joining in. This celebration was a moment of thanks to a very extraordinary woman, and I was glad to be there to share the time with the only family I knew.