The past 48 hours have been a roller coaster. You know, the kind in Disneyland, Orlando Florida. Except this is a real-life roller coaster of various emotions and unlike 1986, my Dad is not by my side for the ride.
My Father, Martin Anthony Fernandes, lovingly called Tony, the ace cricketer in our very humble, albeit multi-cultural family, has always taught me to enjoy the ride. From Chembur, Mumbai to Marcela - Goa, Kuwait, Los Angeles, Portugal, Singapore, France and Spain; he travelled to more countries than I can ever list.
I remember calling Daddy in March this year to mention that I was making my regular plans to visit during our summer break. Who knew that two weeks prior to my flight, Dad would make a swift departure. While my sweet sister held the phone to him and he called out my name, I cried out knowing he was slipping away...
Despite 25 years as a writer I haven't been able to put in to words how much I am going to miss my father. His deep love for his wife, Rita has made all of us siblings so sure that indeed, Love is all you need.
Despite having six daughters, Dad always swore that his wife was the evergreen beauty and there is definitely no contest there. No matter how hard I try, I would never be able to fill my Mother's shoes. She oozed class. Carried her confidence in her stride and offered a hand and a listening ear to all my friends. To this day they have nothing but compassion when they speak of the good times we shared growing up.
Her generous spirit definitely lives in all of us in some form or the other and I see her in every single turn of phrase that we siblings make. Dad ensured that this was the case. In the 8 years since Mum passed on, every celebration echoed his beloved wife's name. I would often catch him reminisce about the good old days and there is comfort in the fact that he is finally with Mummy after all these lonely years.
My sister Valencia and I have always looked like Dad and to me, that is the biggest gift I could ask for. Despite a fairly long life of 86 years, all my cousins, siblings and indeed anyone touched by Dad's generous spirit, feels as if he has gone too soon. As many of his friends and siblings passed on, Dad would sigh and say, 'Ba, what to do, we have to carry on.' It is a phrase that has made the past few days a little easier to bear.
The International Cricket World Cup is on and somehow this year Dad didn't have his heart in it. Perhaps he was preparing himself for a much bigger game of life. The more important runs have been made when he worked ceaselessly year after year, to provide not just for his family but also for other people.
It makes me so proud to know that my Dad won the Times of India Crossword puzzle and got a letter of recognition during Neil Armstrong and team's landing on the moon. He patiently listened to the news on the radio and brought my sisters, their husbands and their children out of harm's way during the Kuwait invasion. It was a turbulent time that Dad recounted with uncanny detail. He has always told us to respect the values that my departed mother ensured we grow up with.
Dad joked about being an outstanding Catholic. This meant that he stood outside Church while his wife was much closer to the pulpit. Of course it didn't take long for him to be by her side, reciting three Holy Rosaries in the Kuwait Holy Family Church compound. Father Dominic who has witnessed many of our family occasions including my parents 25th anniversary, mentioned that Dad and Mum (and his late brother in law, Diago Lobo) were one of the first few people who started the tradition of the Holy Rosary recitation which has brought comfort to so many.
While I wait to board my flight to bid my Dad adieu, there's a nagging feeling that no matter what, Daddy will never really leave us. Every time India secures a victory in cricket or hockey, I will feel Dad cheering them on. Despite how rotten I feel to have to say goodbye, the game of life will continue to have significance for me and my family.
No picnic will be the same without his legendary games which always ensured that everyone had a good time.
When we last met in January, it was in Dad's beloved Goa. Dad and I had breakfast together and I am so glad that he told me how 'wonderful' he believed my speech was at a cousins's wedding.
Thank you Daddy for always being so proud of me. For ensuring that my wedding caterer served only the best Basmati rice. For teaching me to fish, donate to worthy causes, and drive with caution.
There are countless memories to note down, enough to last a life time. Till we meet again I know you will be keeping score and just like the opening batsman you've always been, you will be ready and waiting for me to hit the winning runs. Daddy if you could hold all of us from Canada, the UK, the UAE and countless other cities in the palm of your hand, you were indeed a genie of epic proportions.
I will miss you every day of my life but I want to celebrate the fact you lived life to its fullest extent, despite the hardships along the way.
When people were down, you sang a song, When the cards were dealt, you played like a pro. When my choir sang, you cheered from the front row. Dev borem korun to the proudest Goan I have ever known