Another cemetery, another good-bye to someone who was taken too soon. Why is it we only realize how little time we have spent with those who mean so much after we lose them? It wasn't that I didn't know that my father would die, I'm a doctor, I understood exactly what he was facing, but, I thought we had more time, I was wrong.
I look back now on all the years I wasted, years when I was too busy running from my own life to think about anyone elses. Standing at my father's graveside with my small son in my arms, for the first time in my life I found myself ashamed, and in those minutes I wished I had the power to turn back time and undo all the hurt I must have caused him over the years.
When I was a child I idolized my father, my tata. Tata was a train conductor and one of Niko and my greatest joys as young boys were those times when during school breaks, he would allow us to ride along on his runs with him. If we were together we would chase each other from one end of the train to the other, proudly bragging to any and all that it was our father driving the train. Our greatest pleasure though came on those times when we had time alone with him on those trips, when we would sit on his lap as he steered, and he would let us pull the chain to sound the whistle at the crossings.
Tata was a proud man and while we were never rich, he always made sure we had everything we needed and as difficult as it might be, he even managed to find a way to afford those few extras. As we grew older, our tata became our adviser, making sure that both Niko and I knew what it meant to be men and the responsibilities that came with that. It only made sense too, that when I met Danijela and knew that she was the one I would spend my life with it was he I went to before anyone else.
I don't know that I ever saw my father happier then I did on that day when he first learned he was to be a grandfather, a djed, unless it was on the day that I first laid Jasna in his arms. Tata loved my baby girl so much, and she in turn fell in love with him, becoming his little princess, delighting us all when on our visits to see him she would follow him everywhere. But, as much as he adored my little girl, when Marko came along I was sure his his heart would burst for the joy he felt. If only I could rewind time and erase the look on his face, the grief that enveloped him when I broke the news to him that they as well as my beloved Danijela were forever gone. Never again would he hold his princess in his arms, never again would he hear their laughter, or turn to find one or both following in his footsteps. If only I could rewind time, but, at the time I wasn't thinking of his grief, I was too busy being consumed by my own.
I think it was my time in the IDP camp that made me realize that I had to leave. As hard as it was to leave him and all I knew I had to find a way to forget, and I couldn't do that where there were so many memories around every corner. It took time too, for me to realize that despite what Niko said, my leaving didn't make me a coward.
It took time for me to finally talk to tata about the choices I'd made in my life, time for me to finally go back and face the ghosts that lurked around every corner. I wish I could rewind time just far enough that tata could hold Joe in his arms as he had held Jasna and Marko. He was so happy to learn he was once more a grandfather, to learn he once more had a daughter-in-law, if only I could rewind time enough so that they could know the man that he was. I only wish I could rewind time so they could have the time to love him as I always will.
I'm so sorry, tata, I thought we had more time.