Life has never been easy for my father and like many of his age he's made sacrifices to his own dreams and desires for the good of his family. It was always my father's dream to be a painter, and while I can always remember his having canvases around the house when my brother and I were growing up, if asked he was always an engineer, for it's that which put food on the table.
My father was a strong man, a man who somehow always managed to keep his emotions to himself no matter how serious the situation he found himself in. I don't think I ever realized just how difficult that was for him until I lost my family, and he in turn lost his daughter-in-law and his only grandchildren.
I couldn't bring myself to break the news of their deaths to him right away. I didn't know how to tell him they were gone. How did I tell him that the dreams we'd had for the future would never happen? I stood alone at their graveside, and even as he begged me to come home afterward I stayed behind hoping that death would find me too.
When Vukovar fell I barely escaped the City with my life, after several days on the run I finally collapsed, wounded and exhausted and sure I would at last be joining my family.
I was wrong, instead I awoke to find myself in a displaced person's camp. As I struggled to regain my health, I also fought another battle, and that was the one with myself over how I would tell my father.
In the end it was he who found me first. Where I had expected to hear blame for my failures to protect my family, instead I received reassurances that I had done all I could have for them. That what had happened wasn't anything we could have planned for so, where I thought I might find rejection I instead found comfort.
I wasn't ready to hear everything my father had to say then, it would be years before I could accept it. He never gave up on me though, and he never let me give up, no matter how badly I might have wanted to.
As my father grows older as I grow older, I find myself beginning to see sides to him I couldn't when I was younger and I realize just how little I knew him. My father is more than just my father to me now, he is also my by best friend, despite the miles and worlds that separate us.
I treasure the times we have together in ways I never thought I would, and I can't wait until the moment when I can lay his new grandson into his arms. That moment is one I was sure would never come. The gift one I was certain I would never be able to give him. The truth is, I know I would never have been able to even think about it without having him standing beside me, offering his support and encouragement, and whatever else I needed even when I wasn't aware of it at the time.