If you could ever go back in time and stop at one point in your life and make it different would you? What would you want to stop happening and where would you hope it would make your life go?
It's funny that I should come across this question at the point in my life that I'm at now, if only because I seem to finally have reached a point where I can honestly say I'm happy. I think of all the years when that wasn't the case, all the years I wasted wallowing in the depths of self-blame and depression.
This is so hard, because were you to ask me this even as recent as six months ago I would have lept on the chance to erase the last fifteen years and reclaim the life that should have been but never was.
Going back to the question though, the time is one that I've replayed over and over in the years since it happened, a time that forever changed who I am and not necessarily in a good way.
It's been fifteen years now, but it might as well be a lifetime for the changes that have occurred. It was 1991, Danijela and I had been married for just five years and were parents to two children. Jasna our daughter, was barely five, and our son Marko, was just 18 months old. I hate the way they were forced to live in those final months of their lives, hate all they were deprived of. I know, there was a war going on and we all had to make sacrifices, but to ask two so young to give up so much, even now the memories of how things were tear me apart. How can there be any doubt that the thing I would most like to change was the very thing that ripped all three of them from me.
I'd gone to the market on the day that it happened. There was never much to buy but I had hoped to find some bread and cheese to break the monotony of the thin soups we'd been surviving on. Jasna had begged me to let her come with me and I refused, I told her it wasn't safe, never knowing that had I said yes.
I heard the shrill whistle in the air as I rounded the corner to our street and in that next moment I saw the mortar hit our building. The rest comes in the slow motion of a dream, and I remember running across the street and up the stairs toward our apartment. I passed neighbors I should have stopped to help, but all I could think of was reaching my wife and children. I knew my son was dead the moment I stepped through the door, his small hand reached up through the bars of his crib as he lay buried under it. I think I would have remained frozen there had I not heard my wife's cries for help and as hard as it was I left him to go to her. When I found her I also found my daughter, they were alive, but their injuries were severe. I don't remember how many hours I fought to save them, I only know that I failed, and in the end I lost them all.
I've tried not to think about how our life might have been, could still be...but, now. Jasna would be be a young woman, maybe even a mother herself, and Marko, he would be the age his mother was when we first met.
I didn't think this would be so difficult...the what ifs.
I've no doubt that we would still be living in Croatia, maybe not in Vukovar, but close enough that Danijela's parents and my own family could still share our lives. Danijela was a wonderful mother and she loved every moment she spent with Jasna and Marko, so I know there would have been more children in our future. After that, what can I say? We would have watched our children grow, we would have watched them marry and raise their own families, and most importantly, we would have grown old together.
I would have liked that.