When I first learned that my father was ill, there was no question that I would need to return to Croatia. Of course in an ideal situation, I would have had Abby and Joe go with me, but that was impossible, there wasn't time, at least not at first. Without knowing how severe Tata's condition was, or what he would be needing as far as tests and treatment, it seemed unfair to ask Abby to put her life on hold and to potentially sit in a hospital for days on end with Joe while Niko and I sat with our father. In the end, the decision was made that I would go back to Croatia alone, and with luck, maybe I could convince my father to return to the States for his treatment.
So much for good intentions. My initial stay in Croatia with my father lasted almost six months as we learned that his condition was far more grave than any of us initially thought. Despite my attempts, I couldn't convince my father to leave Croatia while he was under-going treatment, and between over-seeing his care, complications that arose from the treatment, and then the arrangements for his rehabilitation, time seemed to just get away from us.
When it seemed that Tata's health had stabilized I jumped at the chance to return home to Abby and Joe, and as a surprise I brought my brother Niko with me. For far too many years we had barely spoken, but, our father's illness had offered us a way to repair the rift between and now was my chance to introduce him to my new family. The family he had always told me I would one day have, even while I refused to believe him. I wasn't sure how long I'd be staying, and while I missed them while I was away from them, what I wanted most was to finally take my family home to meet my father. Unfortunately, that never happened, and before anything could be done, the call we had dreaded most came, Tata was gone.
How do I begin to forgive myself for all the years I wasted wallowing in my own grief? How do I forgive myself for not realizing that his grief was just as great, if not greater for he had not only lost a daughter and two grand-children, but, surely to him, he had lost his son as well? How now, do I begin to forgive myself of denying him the chance in his final months to know his new grandson, and daughter? To know the family he had only dreamed would ever become a reality? How could I be so selfish? I'm sorry Tata.