Paul Martin Mohammed was born August 26th, 1932 to Faiz and Violet Mohammed, although his mother swears his birthday was 19th of August instead. So our dad had two birthdays that we celebrated. His father died when he was just 24, and his family converted to Catholicism thereby adopting their mother's maiden name – Emmanuel.
Our father became the informal 'head' of the family after that, the man of the house. It's a role he would keep until his death. He would call his siblings regularly to check up on all of them, and whenever there was a problem, his sisters and brothers always called him for advice. He would make it his duty to ensure his siblings were happy, if they needed anything, our dad would do his best to get it done. Even if he was tired or sick, our dad did everything and more for those he loved so dearly.
Our father was a family man. Mom used to say dad never wanted to go anywhere, but then again he wasn't out drinking with the boys either. He used to tell us that mom was a catch that he couldn't let get away, he met her by chance back in 1969, delivering a letter from a mutual friend, and that was it, he was hooked. But he had one small problem – his mother-in-law to be (our late grandmother – Avis Cuthbert) wasn't too fond of him, but she would eventually warm up to him, it only took 29 years.
Mom and dad lived a very simple, relatively happy life. Every year when we wished them 'Happy Anniversary' on February 7th, they would always say 'Oh shucks, it's today?' Which means they forgot every year.
When we were kids, our evenings and weekends were usually spent in the Queens Park Savannah flying kite, playing cricket, baseball or football. Sundays were beach days. Saturday nights were treat nights – KFC or Royal Castle. We did everything as a family.
Dad loved sports, he knew everything about cricket – he would watch every test match, analyzing the plays and mistakes, I always told him he'd make a great coach, but he never took it seriously. He once rang up Sir Wes Hall on the phone when there was a cricket convention in Trinidad and made a few suggestions. I asked him after if he knew Wes Hall, and he said 'Nah, but he seemed like a nice guy'. Dad was bold like that, if he wanted to call up a famous cricketer, he would. No inhibitions.
He was an avid baseball follower, any team other than the Yankees was his favourite. He loved his football, we would try to catch every Barcelona game, he always cried when Leo Messi scored. Sundays was golf, all day. He always got annoyed whenever Tiger Woods won.
Dad cried for sports, he cried when talking about horses and of course his favourite movies. Dad was very free with his emotions as he got older to which mom would say - 'stop being so emotional Paul!'
But his growing emotional side also meant that dad gave the best hugs. We hardly ever cross paths with him just outside the kitchen without being stopped with a “Where's my hug?” followed by a long, enveloping, 'I-got-you-kid' embrace.
Opera was his music of choice, he knew more about all the various composers and opera singers than anyone we ever met. Del Monaco, Gigli, Pavarotti and Bochelli were his favourites. He loved jazz, he was a huge fan of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.
Our father lived life exactly how he wanted, he ate ice cream every night, he never worried about diet. We always thought he never worried about anything much, that he was the happiest man alive. But he always worried silently about those he loved.
In the last ten years, dad became a professional practical joker. He started asking cashiers everywhere he went for 'GHD'. At Laughlin & Degannes, they made a service announcement over the PA system to see if there was any GHD in stock. There was none in store, and so when the cashier asked him what it was, dad simply replied 'Grey Hair Discount'.
He rang the bakery department in Tru Valu supermarket and asked for 'space pies', because the pies they were making had more space than meat in them.
Dad once got into a skuffle with a piper (neighbourhood petty thief) over some force-ripe zaboca (avocado) he had bought a week before and when the guy asked him if he wanted to fight over the two new zaboca that dad was claiming as free compensation for bad goods, dad simply replied 'I don't mind'. Dad came home huffing and puffing, proclaiming proudly that he had just gotten into a fight.
He sometimes parked in the handicapped spots if there were no other options available, and proceeded to get out of his car and walk with a limp, much to our distress. He once parked in the VIP section at Piarco airport, putting on a Latin American accent and pretending to be from the Venezuelan embassy.
A few years ago he had to collect a parcel of books at Customs & Excise for mom, when he arrived he was told that the customs officer was on lunch and he would have to wait an hour. He sat down, but got back up quickly, explained to counter staff that he was a heart patient and he wasn't feeling well, could he please get the package now? He was told he still had to wait. So he went and sat back down, and began to make facial expressions (holding his chest) until the customs officer rushed out with food in hand and signed the package to which dad quickly and happily paid the customs fees and left with mom's books. When he got home, he was almost crying as he told the story, as if he had just won an Oscar. Mom was not pleased at all, he just faked having a heart attack.
Our dad loved politics, he watched Fox News all the time to see what 'the Right-wing enemy' was up to. He started calling various talk show programs on TV and radio to argue points about religion and politics. He knew a lot about history and all the various wars. He was our living historian.
One day, he stumbled upon the 'Adopt A Pet' program on Power 102 FM. On that day, when they were trying to find homes for dogs and cats, dad told them he'd like to get a wolverine. He waited about two weeks and then called the show with his greatest masterpiece. He told the host that a few years ago, him and his uncle came back from an African safari, they managed to smuggle a baby elephant in his suitcase, greased the hand of a customs officer and thus brought the baby elephant to Trinidad. The elephant was very happy living under the bed, but now, it had gotten too big, had jumped up on the bed, breaking three mattresses in the process, and now it was so big it couldn't fit out the door. And so he asked the radio hosts, 'what should he do?' He was laughing until he was crying as he related the story to me, the hosts just kept laughing saying 'Caller? Caller?', till they hung up. However, he complained, they hung up just as he was going to tell them that he had eleven ostriches in the yard and the children were pulling their necks and jumping on them like horses.
So if anyone of you have time on your hands, please call Power 102 on a Thursday afternoon and ask about the guy with the elephant, I'm sure dad will have a good laugh.
Dad, I only hope you've managed to continue your great sense of humour in heaven, I look forward to hearing all about it someday in the long distant future.
Thanks to all our family, friends and to all the strangers who contributed to our campaign to help raise funds to recover dad's medical expenses. This was a nightmare for us that we never saw coming. Thanks to all our loved ones for your support at this time, it's been a real source of comfort to us. Thanks to all the doctors and nurses who looked after dad. Dad visited Cuba in 1959, and oddly enough, most of his nurses both at St. Clair and Mt. Hope hospital were Cuban, maybe they were his guardian angels coming to take him home.
The day after dad transferred to Mt. Hope the sky was dark and grey every day, and ever since his death the sky has been a beautiful, radiant blue. I can't help but think that his soul is free, and that he's smiling down on us.
Rest in peace dad. Thank you for everything. We love you.