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​Service Ace

Pictures courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Curtis Gopie and I am an x-ray technician. The old English term is radiographer.

Gopie is G-o-p-i-e. The rich Gopees have the double-e.

I come from San Juan – or, as people in San Juan like to say, “Sah Woh.” As Denyse says, “I was born here, I grow here – well, when I had hair – and I stay here!” I lived Maraval for a while but I’ve [mainly] lived in and around San Juan. Right now I live Barataria. Boy days, school days, family days, all in San Juan.

I was an only child and my parents, Ena and Basdeo Gopie, particularly my mother, were very protective. She would have all my friends come over to our house, to keep an eye on me. But also to judge my friends. She would make sandwiches, drops, cupcakes so all the children were happy to come to my house because they know they getting juice. So I had nice boy days.

I was nine years old when I found out I was adopted at the age of six weeks. I was outside – and you know it always have a fast neighbour – and she said, “You know, that lady is not your mother? A lady who used to come here, that’s your mother.” It was over the August vacation – not the summer vacation, eh! And I’m, like, “What craziness you telling me?” I was very close to my mother – and when I say “mother” and “father”, I mean my adoptive parents. I knew who my [biological] parents were but the love, respect and honour of parenting goes to Ena and Basdeo. I grew up calling my [biological] parents Aunt and Uncle.

Mummy and Daddy, married over ten years, couldn’t have kids. At the market one day, my mother jokingly said to my [biological] mother, “Give me the baby, nuh, he so nice!” And I’m still nice by the way, eh! During the week, she came and asked if she could leave me with them. My father said, “No, no, no! If you want to leave the child, you have to sign papers! You can’t leave the baby and come back for the child.” So they went through the whole adoption process, social worker coming to visit the home and all of that. I’m at peace with my [biological] parents but my mother and father are Ena and Basdeo.

My mother unfortunately died when I was 17, which took a toll on me. And Daddy died when I was 24. So, yes, if BC Pires says I had it hard emotionally, I have to agree I did.

My father struggled with education because he grew up in an Indian household whose ideal, back then, of a good son was one who would go in the garden and plant cane and rice! And my father wanted an education. So he got licks when he went to school, not when he didn’t go! They hide his shoes, he went to school barefoot. He had to sleep two, three nights in the park stand in Tacarigua because his father didn’t want him in the house because he was a hardened child.

My parents had a true love story. My mother was a hefty woman and my father loved fat women. She always said, “If you see your father with a skinny woman, don’t worry. But if you see him with a fat woman, come and tell me!”

When the Central Marketing Agency offered my father the job of foreman mechanic, he was ready to turn it down, because of his lack of education. My mother said, “Bring home the book!” And she studied with him and taught him and he [became] the master mechanic for Government vehicles.

My father tried to get me into the auto repair trade but I hated it! So I end up having to spend money to service my car now.

I always said if I had the fortune of having half the love relationship that I saw my parents had, I’d literally be a happy man for the rest of my life. I’m presently divorced and single. I have two daughters [from previous relationships].

Life prepares you most times but we don’t realise it at the time. I went to an Adventist primary school. I passed for Malick Senior Comprehensive. But my father insisted I had to go to a private Adventist school. Which worked out well because now I’m a Seventh Day Adventist although, back then, I didn’t think I was going to be.

It took me a long time to get here but I am a believer. I got baptised in 1991.

My father died when I was 24 but he gave me so much. He wasn’t well and didn’t want to tell me but every two, three days he was going to the hospital. He passed by the office where I work now and spoke to one of the doctors. “I have a son, he’s a nice boy, he’s looking for a work.” So the doctors said, “Send him down!” So I became a dark room technician at a radiology centre. I did the course at NIHERST, which the company paid for.
Dr Abraham Alexander saw my potential and my love for helping people. Back then, there was no school teaching radiology in Trinidad and Tobago. They brought in people from England to train me privately. November coming will be 34 years ago I’m talking about. I was only ten years old when I started. I was trained one-on-one by the best, Ms Sandy, from Canada and Ms Wilma Collins and Ms Florence Rickets from Trinidad. They eventually started off the radiology school in Trinidad.

Radiology has afforded me a good life.

We start at 8am-3.30pm. Mornings are always busy. You see different people every day although we have people returning over the years: “Boy, you still here? You have shares?”

The great part of my job is when we are able to help somebody feel better at the end of the day. And find out what is wrong. And help in our little way with the treatment. That joy I see in helping people has never changed. It’s not pushing paper.

The bad side of my job is when people come to us too late. Probably we are about 85-90 per cent successful.

To a woman, a breast is part of her sexuality. Sometimes we have family members, husbands, who unfortunately, instead of encouraging the removal, say something negative.

God centres us in a particular way and my life has evolved around service. My relaxation has to do with service also. Because I’m a proud Rotarian of the Rotary Club of St Agustine West. I have been club president twice and am presently the PR officer.

Our club focusses a lot on children. We adopted a paediatric ward at Mount Hope Hospital. Our team was decorating a Christmas time. Most people had to leave at 9.30pm. By 10:30, I was there alone – but I was determined to finish that day! At 11:30pm now, I’m just finishing putting up decorations. This little eight-year-old girl, not well at all, came out of her room. “You here whole day!” she said. “You must be getting plenty money!” I said, “I’m going to take out the bright lights and test the Christmas lights.” When I put on the lights, she said, “Ohhhh! I feel like Christmas!” I told her, “You just paid me!” My pores rose. My tiredness vanished. The parents and the children loved them so much, those Christmas decorations stayed up until the end of January.

All my services tie in.

As bad or negative as things might be in the country, when I step out of my home is still able to say, “Good morning!” That social aspect, when you go by the river and a stranger say, “Take a drink! Look a roti!” That to me is what a Trini is.

I think Sniper, Rudder and Denyse said best what Trinidad and Tobago means to me: Trinidad is my land, of it I am proud and glad. David said, “Come, come, come! Let us dance! And Denyse says, “I born here and I will die here.” I am proud to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.