When I was a little boy, I could always hear my dad sing the chorus to one of his favorite songs. It was the Doris Day classic, Que Sera, Sera. It was only later in life that I realized, the meaning of the song was really his motto in life “What will be, will be”. So this is a tribute to my dad – 94 years old and still doing well, and to all the dad’s (and my father-in-law as well).  You may think you haven’t made an impact on your kids, but you have! 

When my mum and dad came to live with us, my daughter – about 8 at the time, heard him sing the chorus to Que Sera Sera, and thought he was singing of another girl and got very upset, after all, he was married to grandma. I had to explain to her it was a song and what the words meant.  (My dad doesn’t live with us anymore, sadly he needs more care than my wife and I could provide). I think he will never grow old because of this song. Very little worries him, much to the annoyance of my mum. I guess he knows the secret to life – what will be, will be. He is fierce in his views on politics and had no problem being heard!  When we attended social gatherings, mum would often tell him to avoid talking about religion, politics and sex – “what else is there?” he’d ask.

At his Long Term Care unit (he thinks of it as a hotel), he politely refers to his caregivers as the maids, the nurses as Sisters (from his heavily influenced days of growing up under British rule in Goa and later Tanga, where a lot of nurses were in fact nuns) and of course the others as part of “the team”. The team that is there to make sure he is having a good time and enjoying his “stay” with them. He constantly wants to tip them all and provide them with gifts. A very generous man and I think, characteristic traits of a good man. Yet he does – still, have typical old fashioned Indian male ideas. He still gets fascinated with the idea of my wife driving on the highway – “on her own?!?” – he often asks me. But that has slowly changed over the years with the addition of his grandchildren, more specifically his granddaughters who just happen to be strong and independent women.

My dad was an extraordinary athlete, a gentleman in the field of sport and life.  He passed his athleticism on to 3 of his 4 sons (okay, guess who the 4th is?!).  Since coming to Canada almost 50 years ago (actually it was the last time the Leafs won the Cup), he has become the biggest diehard Leaf’s (and later), Jays, Raptors, and sometimes Argos fan – although he won’t admit to loving the Leafs publically. Any sport (and really any team) fascinates him – even curling (my apologies to the curling fans out there). Many times I would go visit and he’d have the TV on a baseball game, a football game on the radio and the sports section open on the table. He’d moan about “his Leafs” at any opportunity, yet watch and defend them to anyone who said a bad word about them. But more than an athlete, what I admire most is the care he gave to my mother. My mum started to become disabled with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after coming to Canada. She still maintained a home and was responsible for feeding and maintaining a household of men (between 6 and 8 depending on who was staying with us). This is where my father, who never ever changed a diaper on any of his 4 children or entered a kitchen to make a cup of coffee – let alone cook a meal, showed his character.

He became mum’s caregiver. As her disability worsened and we all grew older with lives of our own, he would – under her supervision, make a meal, several meals, and he would develop his own style. He was meticulous in how he did his cutting of raw ingredients. I used to be in awe of that – every piece of onion cut perfectly into a dice, every piece of meat for Sorpatel – a traditional Goan dish, cut perfectly square. Truly a work of art – his training I think from being a Draftsmen, and mum’s drive for perfection. I wish I’d picked that up from him (them). But he’s more than that, well into his 80’s, he would bring mum breakfast every morning so she could have her medication, same for lunch and of course tea time and dinner. It was prepared perfectly and with love. I used to tease my wife about becoming my dad – you know, just the bad habits – napping in front of the TV, leaving my socks on the floor etc., but I will be so much better a man, if I could get the gift of these habits. So “here’s to you Pop!, 94 and still going strong!  And to all the Fathers out there!”  Que Sera, sera – what will be, will be! Much love not just today, but everyday from all of your children!

Here’s a dish that my dad perfected. It’s called Chili Fry. I don’t know why we call it chili fry, but it is so tasty, you must give it a try. The primary ingredients are left over roast and lots of caramelized onions, cilantro and of course – chilies (maybe that’s why we called it Chili Fry!). As a trained Chef, I still can’t make this taste as good as his but that’s okay, as every time I make it, I know he is with me.

2 cups leftover beef roast – or chicken, pork, turkey etc. – (I sometimes make this in my cooking classes at Loblaw’s and use the rotisserie chickens from the deli department)
3 cup sliced onions
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 Thai chilies or jalapenos

Chop/dice the left over roast into small pieces
Saute the sliced onions in a little olive oil, brown
Add the chicken, chilies, cilantro and stir to combine – allow to heat through and cook to blend the flavors
Serve with Basmati rice, flat breads, on toast or in tart or pie shell!
As always – enjoy!

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