Sunday, June 29, 2008

Prompt 5.3. Alcohol, drugs and sex/ On the Couch

Congo collage

A number of years ago I went through a difficult time, Abby and I had broken up after our first time together and she was seeing someone else, and I wasn't handling it very well. I found myself thinking too much of the life I'd had with Danijela, and without even realizing it, I began comparing the success of my marriage, to the failures I seemed to experience when I ventured into relationships with first Carol and then Abby. I couldn't tell you exactly when it happened, but, somewhere in the midst of all of that I decided I didn't deserve to have anyone care about me anymore. I started drinking too much, living fast, sleeping around with different women, but, worst of all, my carelessness cost a patient his life, and it almost cost a medical student hers as well.

I woke up one morning and I realized that everything I thought I had was gone, gone or broken, and I knew I had to get away. I don't know that I consciously had a death wish when I went to the Congo, but, I do know that I was taunting it. In the beginning, even there I didn't change my behavior all that much. I would work 16 hours straight, then I would drink whatever was handy until my mind was numb before I would head for bed, and I rarely ended up there alone.

I'd lay awake in those early morning hours, and I would sometimes wonder what Danijela would think of me if she were to see the man I had become. The answer inevitably would lead me back into whatever bottle was closest because I had no doubt that I would disgust her, everything I'd become was what she'd been warned against in those earliest days of our relationship. I began to wonder why Gillian would want my company, until I realized she was just as lost as I was, she just hadn't recognized it in herself yet.

My capture by the Mai Mai and the murder of Patrique changed me, even now it's difficult for me to talk about. To know that Patrique forfeited his life to save mine, to know that Sakima put her life, and that of her daughter's at risk to protect me after all they had endured. I'm alive because they saw something of value in my life, something that I hadn't been able to see for far too long.

When John found the three of us in that windowless shack I was near death. I suffered from not just physical injuries inflicted during my captivity, but, the effects of dehydration, and malaria. While I didn't know it at the time, I found our later that he'd come to claim my body, somehow word had gotten back to County of my death, and he felt he owed it to me to bring me home.

Home. I had plenty of time to think about what I'd been doing with my life and what the future held for me as I recovered. I knew that I couldn't keep going the way I had been, Patrique had given his life for mine, Sakima had risked hers and her daughter's, I owed it to them to turn my life around. I couldn't undo the mistakes I'd made in the past, but I could do my best to make sure that no more lives were lost because of my carelessness, to make sure that no more innocents were hurt. Because they had seen the value in my life, I could once more become the man Danijela would have been proud to call her husband. I'd been given the chance to once more start over and I wasn't going to waste that gift.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

2 C. 4. Have you loved as much as you have been loved?/True Writers

Danijela and Jasna

The first time I saw Danijela I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend my life with. I know, most people don't believe in love at first sight but, there is no doubt in my mind that those are the feelings I felt for her on that very first day. Danijela was only 16 when we met, I was barely 18 myself, we were sure we'd have a lifetime to spend together so we thought nothing of waiting until she herself turned 18 to get married.

In the two years we waited to begin our lives together we talked about everything and nothing, we made plans for our future, and shared our hopes and dreams. We talked about the children we knew we would have, my career, the importance of our families to each of us, and yes, we even talked about sex. With both Danijela and I being Catholic, and her age at the time we met, we both agreed we would wait. What was our rush, we had a lifetime to be together? If there remained any doubts in our sincerity, they were gone by the time Danijela turned 18, and within days of her birthday we were husband and wife. We had our entire lives ahead of us, and we couldn't have been any happier.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Prompt 4.2. Justify your actions/On the Couch


This last year has been a difficult one for my wife and I, both for personal and professional reasons.  Even before we had a chance to take our honeymoon, I received word that my Father was seriously ill, and without really discussing it with Abby, I knew I had no choice but to fly back to Croatia to be with him.

I've been living in the States since 1999, in the time since I've only been back to see my Father twice, and even then, there were things left unsaid that I knew needed to be dealt with.  As difficult as it might be for me to leave Abby and Joe, I wasn't willing to take a chance of something happening to him before we had a chance to smooth over the differences between us.

In a perfect world I would have been able to take Abby and Joe with me to see my Father. In a perfect world I would have been able to use the trip as a way to allow my family to meet them, for my Father to meet the grandson he thought he would never again have. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and when the time came for me to leave, I went alone.

I don't think either Abby or I realized what might happen in the time I was away, I know I certainly never intended to be gone as long as I was, but, I also had forgotten how stubborn my Father was. I thought I could go back home, I could see what was wrong with him, and after talking to his doctors I could convince him to return to the States with me for treatment.  Did I say that I had forgotten how stubborn my Father could be?

My Father had other plans.  He knew his time on this earth was running out and he wanted to spend it among friends and family in the land he had been born on.  No matter how much I pleaded with him, or how hard I argued, he refused to budge, and all that I was left was for me to stay, at least if I was there, I knew he was getting the care he needed.

It wasn't just my Father's physical needs that kept me in Croatia though, there were ghosts hanging over us, issues that we had avoided facing since I'd left Croatia for the States, and some even longer then that.

When I arrived in Zagreb and saw just how ill my Father was, I knew that I couldn't just arrange for his care and leave again.  As much as I missed Abby and Joe, I knew that the time I had left with my Father was timethat I would never have again, and there were things that needed to be said, amends that needed to be made.  Most importantly, was making peace with Niko, something that I knew would not come easily for either of us.

In those first months when I came home after losing my family I was lost, I wanted nothing to do with anyone from my past, and the very thought of being anywhere that I'd been with Danijela or my babies left me sick.  At the time that I made the decision to leave Croatia I knew that I had to go if I had any hope for moving forward with my life, but, my brother saw it only as running away.  The arguments we had in those days leading up to my departure were angry ones, we both said things we didn't mean, we both said things that even now cause pain to us. I couldn't take back what was said anymore than he could, but, by going I knew I could try and explain why I felt as I did and as hard as it was, I could listen to him as he explained why he felt as he did.

Six months.  It took six months for me to reach the point where I felt that my Father's condition was stable enough for me to return to Abby and Joe. Six months. In that time there had been successes in Croatia, with my Father's health, with my relationship with Niko.  In six months I had been able to do more to find peace with the ghosts of my past then I'd been able to do in almost 17 years, but, at what price?

I have to believe that my staying there with my Father was the right thing to do.  I have to believe that the mistakes that Abby made, are ones I can forgive her for.  I have to believe that our love is strong enough to survive all of this.  Even as I try to believe all of these things, I struggle not to blame myself for not being there in those final moments of my Father's life, but, I have to believe that God had his reason's for that as well, and in the end that is the greatest change that has come over me in all this time.

So, once more I returned to Croatia, only this time I did not go alone.  This time I had the support of my brother, the comfort of my son, and in time, my wife as well.  We're a work in progress, but, I have to believe that given the choice to do things all over again, I would change nothing, except perhaps to have found a way for Joe and Abby to have joined me.  If I have any one regret above all others, it's that my Father never had a chance to spend time with Joe, and that is the one that will haunt me, even as I know it was out of my hands to control.

Step Two: 4. "When we forget God, He remembers us." L.M. Montgomery/aamuses

For almost ten years I turned my back on the Church. I denied my faith, but, if I am ashamed of one thing more than all others, it is the hate I held in my heart toward God for taking Danijela and my babies from me.

I was raised a Catholic in a country where religion plays a very large part in our lives. I  remember as a child going to Church with my Mother and being mesmerized by the music, and I sometimes think if I hadn't become a doctor, she would have wished either my brother or I had become a Priest. It didn't happen for either of us, but, our faith still played a large part in our lives. It was as natural a part of who I was as breathing or eating, and if someone had told me I would ever think differently, I would have called them crazy.

When I met Danijela, it was a surprise to no one to find that she too was Catholic, and as we discussed our future, there was no doubt that our children would be baptized and raised as Catholics as well.  I don't know that either of us thought about how much our faith meant to us, or even influenced our lives until the war began, and then we found ourselves calling on it for strength far too often.

On the day our apartment building was hit, I prayed more then I had prayed at any time in my life.  God had already taken my baby boy from me, I'd seen him the moment I'd entered the ruins but, he could still save my little girl, he could still save my beautiful Danijela. For hours I did CPR on Jasna, knowing that if I stopped I'd lose her as I'd already lost little Marko, too late I realized that my wife was bleeding out, and when exhaustion finally forced me to stop, she was gone too.  Why had God deserted us? What terrible things could my family have done to cause him to desert them when they needed him so desperately? 

I buried my family on a cold November morning.  There was no one there but the Priest and myself, and on that day I swore I would never again set foot in a church.  If he cared so little for us then I wanted nothing more to do with him either.  Feelings of hate began replacing my faith, and if I prayed for anything in those final days before I realized the futility of it, it was only that he would find some way to claim my life so I could once more be with my family.

It neverhappened though, and for over nine years I wandered lost, and alone.  In those years I turned my back on everything that reminded me of those I had lost, everything that made me feel anything but my anger. I survived that way for nine years and I'd almost convinced myself that I had succeeded until that day I met Bishop Stewart, and somehow he found a way to see inside me. 

Some would say God sent Bishop Stewart to me, the Bishop himself felt it was his calling to take the pain I had carried inside me for so long with him as he moved on. I'll never know how he knew all he did about me, how he saw what I thought I concealed so well, but, in time he opened the door I had closed so long ago.  On the day he offered to hear my confession, I admit to being afraid, I'd told no one all I had gone through that day.  I'd kept that nightmare for my own, and now, he was asking me to turn it over to him and the man I had held responsible, and I did.

How do I describe the feelings I felt when it was over?  Relief, sadness, loss, they were all there, all but the one I had held so tightly for those nine years, the blame was gone.  Finally I saw things through his eyes, the hopelessness of it all, there was no way I would ever have been able to choose one over the other so all he could do was take them both. It's my destiny to live so that their memories stay alive, and that too was a piece of the puzzle I'd failed to remember.  More importantly, I was meant to live for those who were still to come, for Joe, for the life I would one day have with he and Abby, God knew that even as I was grieving for my first family.

I'm reclaiming my faith now, slowly, small pieces at a time, and while it may not work for Abby, it's a part of who I am, who my family was, that I want to share with my son.  We baptized Joe when he was still in the NICU, one day I'll explain all that to him. I'll share other parts of the Church with him as well, and as my Mother did with me, we'll go to Mass, and maybe, just maybe, he'll enjoy the music as I did, and within it, he'll find his faith, and know about the special angels that I'm sure are watching over him. 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Prompt 19.2: My partner will always have to understand that I..../Couples Therapy

Danijela and Jasna

My partner will always have to understand that I....will always love Danijela.

This has always been a sore spot between Abby and I, in fact, I have no doubt that it was one of the key reasons behind our breaking up the first time we were together. I know that Abby wanted to be sympathetic the loss of my family, even if it was a subject we only tiptoed around in the time we were first together. In fact when we were hurling insults at each other, one of the worst things she could think to say to me, was that I was married to a ghost.  In a way, I wonder if she wasn't right.

I rarely spoke of my family to anyone, and in my first two years at County, I could count on one hand the number of people who knew any specific details of Danijela or our children.  Sure, in time, people knew I'd lost my wife and that I'd lost children as well, but few knew the details, and even fewer would dare to ask me anything about them.

Danijela was my first love.  We met when she was just 16, and we both knew that we would one day marry.  We had two years to get to know each other, and when she turned 18 with our parent's blessings, we married. I have no doubt that had the war not taken Danijela and our children from me, we would still be married, we would have watched our children grow, and shared their joy as they found their first loves.  We weren't given that chance though, and while they were ripped away from me, my love for them, for Danijela, remains.

Abby's initial reaction was not an isolated one, I went through the same thing, if not worse when I dated Sam, and in the end, she too found it too much. Things with Abby this time are better though, and while we don't talk often about Danijela and our children, I no longer feel like I have to keep everything to myself.  It's a start, and as with anything else, we can only hope things will continue to get better for us as time goes on.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Prompt 1.5: Only Child/True Writers

Hey Joe

I  remember the moment that Abby asked me if one child would be enough for me. We had nearly lost Joe, her own life had been in danger, and she was worried that I would somehow be disappointed in finding out that she could no longer give me another child. How do you answer someone when they ask you something like that? She had already given me the gift of a son, a son I never thought I would have and of all the things she should be worrying about, her concerns were for me. How do I tell her that her decision to keep Joe meant more to me than anything she's ever done? How could I possibly show her how much I love her?

For as long as I can remember I've wanted to be a father. In the two years before we married, Danijela and I often spoke about the size of the family we wanted, how quickly we'd start trying after we were married, and how important it was to both of us that we stay close to our families. I'm sure it was no surprise to anyone when within a month of our marriage, we broke the news that Danijela was pregnant with our first child, and nine months later Jasna was born. It would be almost three years before Danijela became pregnant again, and while we had desperately wanted Jasna to have brothers and sisters, in the years she was our only child, she was loved and spoiled by grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides of our families.

When Marko was born, we knew we had been twice blessed and the joy we had felt at being parents of our daughter were now doubled with the birth of our son. At 3 1/2, Jasna delighted in her new role of big sister, and where once she was content to spend her time mothering her favorite doll, it soon became clear, especially in those early months, that none of them compared to her new baby brother.

I wish I could say that our lives from there only continued to get better. I wish I could say that all of the hopes and dreams Danijela and I had for our future, and that of our children's came true, but I can't, and they didn't. I had 7 years with my first love, Danijela, 5 with our baby girl, Jasna, and only a mere 18 months with our little boy before the war stole them all from me. After 17 years all I have left of them is a small black and white photo of my wife and daughter, my memories, and the gaping hole that seems only to grow larger with each passing year as time steals away pieces of those memories.

So, as Abby asks me if Joe will be enough for me, she may as well be asking me if life itself is enough for me, for in a sense that is what she is giving me, she is giving me back the part of life I thought was lost to me forever. Every moment I spend with Joe, no matter how small, is a gift to me, and if my life were to end tomorrow I can now say I am once more whole, I am once more a father and of all the things I might be in my life, I can think of none that makes me prouder.

Prompt 235: Show us where you live/Theatrical Muse

selected userpic

We've decided to leave Chicago, for the sake of our marriage, for the sake of our family, we've decided we have to start fresh.  It wasn't an easy decision, but, when Abby and I sat down and looked at all we had been through, when we looked at where we were with our marriage and our lives, and where we wanted to be, we realized we had no choice.  If there was going to be any hope for us moving past the things that had happened over this last year, we have to to start over again. 

I'm not exactly sure how we decided on Boston, though now that we have I find myself looking forward to it.  Before that can happen, we must first say good-bye to things here in Chicago, and that means packing up the apartment and saying good-bye to the friends we've made while working at County.

I've been in Chicago for almost 9 years, and in that time I've only lived three places, when I first arrived I was what they called a "moonlighter." I worked at County only when they were short a doctor and I lived on a boat, as the weather turned, I pulled up anchor, and like the birds, I headed south. I think in a way, it allowed me in those early years I was in the States, to keep a connection to some of the happier memories I had of life back in Croatia.

When I made the decision to settle permanently in Chicago, and sold the boat, I moved into one of the downtown hotels, which seems strange to most people, but, for me it was a good deal.  In exchange for me acting as an in house doctor for any guests or staff who needed one, and they gave me a discounted room rate.  So, being single, I got not just a place to stay, but, room, maid, and laundry services. It seemed like a perfect arrangement for both of us.

When I first found the apartment we have now it was just a huge empty space.  I remember when I the first real furnishings I bought for it in fact were my Sony Play Station and a large aquarium, coincidentally, it was also at that same time that Abby and I broke up the first time we were dating.  In a way I think I used the renovation of the apartment as a means for me to keep distracted, but, it didn't work real well, and I went through some very dark times in that year including my making the decision to go to the Congo, which almost cost me my life.

I don't think their would ever be any doubt that the two bedroom apartment was decorated by a man, it's colors are mostly earth tones, and it leans heavily to dark greens. Except for the short period of time that first Nicole, then Sam and Alex stayed here, I'd always lived here alone. I opened my door to Abby the first time before we started seeing each other again. When one of her neighbors attacked her and she didn't feel safe in her own apartment, it made sense for me to me to make the offer, but, it wasn't until she'd broken up with Carter, and I with Sam that she started spending more time here again.  As we became more serious and she learned she was pregnant, it  seemed like the right time for Abby to move into my apartment and in time Neela moved into hers.

Now though, it's time to let it go, it's time for us to let all of this go.  There are too many things here that we both need to forget and we can't do that if we are constantly surrounded by reminders of the mistakes we've made. I can't say I won't miss the apartment, it's been my first real home since the one I had with Danijela all those years ago, but this one was always mine, and now it's time that Abby and I got one that is ours.  Yeah, it's more then time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Prompt: Step One: Powerless

Mamas gone

I remember the feeling eating at me as Joe and I stood there in the street watching Abby drive away from us on that night she had decided to enter Rehab. I didn't know then just how bad things had gotten for her while I had been away nursing my dying father. I didn't know then that she had not only cheated on me, but that she had put our son's life in danger, these were things I would learn much later. All I knew that night was that in her mind, because I had chosen to go to my Father's side when I learned of his illness, because I had stayed longer then I'd intended, she had decided that the only way she could get by was by drinking.

I wish I could say I understood how it was my fault that she choose to drink while I was gone, how she could possibly use my being at my dying father's bedside as an excuse to sleep with her boss, but I can't. I don't know that I ever will understand how she made that leap in her mind. It wasn't like I had a choice over where I wanted to be. How she could possibly believe I could choose to miss six months of time with she and Joe. My father was dying, I'm a doctor, I couldn't ignore that, I couldn't just walk away from him and go back to my family and wait for the phone call I knew would come sooner rather then later.

It had been years since I'd seen my father, when I'd left Croatia after the war, it had created a rift between my brother Niko and I that I know my father was sure would never be healed. I had to go back not just for him, but to try and fix those things before it was too late. I'd have given anything if Abby and Joe could have been there with me, as it was that wasn't possible, but, it didn't justify what she did, not to me or our family.

I can't undo any of what has happened all we can do now is struggle to repair the damage and hopefully we'll come out with a stronger marriage for our efforts. I love my wife, and as difficult as it is for me to accept what she did, I can forgive her, trusting her again may take a little longer.

Prompt 18.3: Intolerance/Couples Therapy


Talk about something that you have no tolerance for in a relationship.

I will be the first to admit that I have kept things from my wife. I'm not saying that these are necessarily things that impact our lives now, but they are secrets none the less, parts of my past that for whatever reason I've decided are mine alone. Even as I admit to this, I also have no doubt that were you to ask my wife, she might very likely admit the same herself, for we both we married before, we experienced love and loss, and so much more, but none of which has bearing on where we are now.

As readily as I admit and accept that there are and will be secrets between us, there is one thing of which I have no tolerance for and that is lies. I would far rather have Abby keep the truth of something from me, no matter how difficult that may be, then to have her lie to me about it in order to spare me whatever perceived pain that truth might cause me. I don't care how strong your relationship is, or how long you've been together, as soon as the lies begin, the foundation everything is built off of can only begin to crumble and it isn't long before other aspects begin to decay as well.

Let me clarify something though, just because you make the decision to tell the truth doesn't mean your marriage will be free of problems. No, I'd be lying myself if I said that. If anything it's more likely that things will get worse before they get better because those things which might tempt you to lie are often far worse then those which you choose to keep forever a secret. Abby and I are working through that hard truth at this very moment as we deal with the consequences of her having revealed the truth of a drunken one night stand to me. Do I wish she had kept the truth a secret? I don't know. Though, I think I sensed that there was something wrong between us even before she told me, and I have to accept some of the blame because her indiscretion occurred while I was out of the country for an extended period of time. All we can do now is give things time, and pray that eventually it'll work itself out and our relationship will be the stronger for it when we finally do.

Prompt 41.5: Father's Day/Writers Muses

5. Ficlet: In honor of Father's Day, have your muse write a fic about fathers or fatherhood. Who is a father figure for them or who in their lives might they play the father to? Or, talk about the relationship of your muse to their father in detail.

This Father's Day comes with a mixture of both sadness and joy for me, for while I have my beautiful son to share the day with, there are shadows hanging over the day that I can't ignore. For the first time in my life, I'm without my own father, having lost him earlier this year after a hard fought battle with cancer. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't see my father as often as I should have since I came to the States, but, it was never because of anything he did, and I know he knew that.  When the news came however of his illness, there was no question of my going back, he was my father, I'm a doctor, I had to know that the care he was getting was the best it could be. I tried to convince my father to come back to Chicago where I knew there would be specialists we wouldn't find in Croatia, but he refused to leave his home, his friends and family.  I think without saying it he knew there would be no coming back from the journey he was starting on, and if his time was coming he wanted it to end in that place that had taken my mother and others before her. I wasn't with my father when he died, and that's something I will never forgive myself for.  However, if I have that as a last regret, I can find comfort in knowing that my father knew that Niko and I had at long last reconciled, and if asked to choose between the two, I have no doubt which he would have selected.

It seems a lifetime since I'd thought of Father's Day as a holiday I could look forward to, perhaps because it's arrival only served to remind me that for almost 17 years my children had laid buried a world away from me. I know it wasn't fair to my father for me to look at it that way, but, how could I feel any differently?  Each year as the holiday rolled around I would see the stores beginning their promotions, see the ads on television, and I would know that I would never again know that sensation of feeling my child's hand in mine, I'd never again share a story with them, never listen to a whispered secret, or chase away the monster that hid in theshadows or under the bed.  Even as I thought of those perfectly normal things I was missing out on, I couldn't help but remember the hell Jasna and Marko were forced to endure in those final weeks of their lives, the sacrifices we asked of them, and the all too real fears I wasn't able to protect them from.

As hard as it is living with my losses this Father's Day, there is an undeniable bright spot in the day for me and while there are times when my thoughts drift to those no longer here, I only need look at Joe to find what I need to go on.  I don't know how to explain how much my son means to me, how much he has given back to me. He is my life, my reason for waking up in the morning, and I would do anything for him.  I can't explain how hard it was being away from him for those six months I was in Croatia nursing my father anymore then I can explain how full my life was when he was with me for those weeks when we went back to bury him.  I look at Joe now and I am fully aware that he is just a month older then Marko was when he died, and I can't help but find myself making comparisons between my two sons. 

There are times though when I find myself holding my breath, when the fear creeps in and I wonder if God will find a way to take this child from me as he took my first two.  I can't help but think that this is likely to be something that will stay with me until Joe passes the age Jasna was at her death, and only then will I be able to really let go of their ghosts.  I want Joe to know his brother and sister even if it is only their memories because they are a part of me, and as such they are a part of him.  So, on this Father's day, I'm finding a way to celebrate not just my father, but the father I was to those long gone, and the father I am now, for I know each are equally important, and without those who are now gone, I wouldn't be the man, I wouldn't be the father I am today.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Prompt 3.3: How are you?/One the Couch


How am I?  That is the big question isn't it?  My father has just died and I wasn't there with him because I decided to leave his side to go to my wife and son who I had neglected for the six months I was with him.  In the time I'd been gone, I find out that my wife had begun drinking again, she'd put our son's life in danger at least once, and she'd betrayed our vows by sleeping with her boss. If it were possible for me to ignore all of those things, I'm also coping with having had to return to Croatia with my son to bury my father while my wife entered rehab.  When we came back to the States I thought that space to think would be enough for me to come to terms with everything, but that wasn't the key, I can't run away from this, Abby and Joe mean too much.

 So, back to the question, how am I? I'm hurt, and wounded, I feel betrayed, and at the same time ashamed. I know there should have been a way for me to be there for both my father and my wife and son, I just didn't see it, and I'm not even sure I see it now. I don't want to lose this family and I'm afraid that unless I find a way to fix this Abby might just decide to leave us, and I know I couldn't survive that loneliness again. You tell me, how should I be?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Prompt 232: Unkind?/Theatrical Muse

Is there a situation where it's appropriate to be unkind?

Skyes 3

Who is the one to decide what is or isn't unkind? What gives anyone the right to make that judgment call just by looking at another person's actions? How can you know what took place in the moments, days, weeks, months, or even years before the point that you are witnessing and deeming that individual "unkind?"

There have been many times in my life that someone likely saw me as such, times when I most probably would have strongly disagree and others when I would have used words far harsher to describe the place I had reached in my head.

I think of those days after my family died in Vukovar, the way people wanted to offer comfort, and how I shoved them away. I didn't want their sympathy, I didn't need their pity, neither of those things were going to bring Danijela or our babies back to me. I wanted the hatred that was welling in me, I needed to feel that anger because with my mind on that, I could forget how much pain I was in. Did that mean that the words I hurled at those who only thought to help me through those days was justified, to me it did, to them, likely not.

What of the violence I have been capable of in my life? I think of the death of the mugger, the threats I have made to those who have harmed those close to me, were any of those incidents justified, were my actions appropriate? The mugger, the wife beaters, the man who held a gun on my wife and child, who threatened me with death, yes, I was unkind, and if I had to live through those days again I am not sure that my actions would be any different.

I don't know that we can ever second guess ourselves, we do what we have to do because we have no choice. Life isn't always roses and sugar, life is blood, and violence, and sometimes it steals lives from those that have barely had a chance to taste it, and that isn't appropriate either.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Prompt 2.18.1:A. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…amen./TBS


"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…amen." The Bishop's words were soft, and as they faded, he allowed his hand to linger on Luka's head, giving the man time to gain control of the emotions his confession had raised.

"Amen." He repeated the word automatically before giving into the grief that reliving the deaths had raised. For eight years he had kept the memories of that day to himself, bearing the shame of his failures as punishment for his own survival.

"Luka, it's my burden now." He would never know if Bishop Stewart knew those would be his final words, but, within minutes of reaffirming what he knew to be the power of the confessional he was gone. It took Luka another minute to realize the man had crossed over and as he did, he rose and began switching off the various support machines.

Why now? When Danijela and their children's lives had been taken he had turned his back on the Church, now, after so many years he finally has someone he can talk to and he too is taken, it made no sense, or did it? The dilemma placed before him left him struggling, but, he couldn't deny that the Bishop had opened the door for his return to the Church. Was that the plan he had in mind for him all along?

"Doctor Kovac, how is he?" Father Joe's voice broke into his thoughts and he turned toward the door to see the Bishop's Aide standing there, the look of concern clearly etched on his face.

"I'm sorry, Father, he's gone." There was nothing he could say that would soften the blow, a loss was a loss, the pain the same no matter how prepared you thought you were for it.

"I'll give you some time alone, and, Father, maybe, in the next couple days if you have some time, we could talk?" It was a start. Bishop Stewart had opened the door for his return to the Church, if he were going to step through it, anything else was up to him.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Prompt 2.1: Life Changing Event/On The Couch

2.1 Talk About the One Event In Your Life That Has Effected You the Most

Danijela and Jasna

I don't know why, but Danijela and our children have been on my mind a lot lately. That's not to say they are ever far from my thoughts, it's only that it seems lately more and more things seem to bring up reminders, and all to often those reminders end with the day I lost them.

If I look back at all of the things that have happened to me in my life, if I look at the times I have cheated death, I have to wonder why am I so lucky? What makes my life so much more valuable then those who have died around me, who have died to save me? Even with those questions, I still believe that nothing in my life has impacted me more then losing Danijela and our babies.

I look at the person I was all those years ago, I think of the innocence we shared, and all of the plans we had for our future and then I look at the things I have done, the man I have become, and I wonder what she would think of me. If we were to meet now, with me as I am, would she even look twice at me?

I recently reconciled with my brother, we had exchanged little more than pleasantries in the 14 years since I'd made the decision to leave Croatia and come to the United States. In my brother, Niko's eye I was a coward, I was running away from my past rather then facing it, and he just couldn't forgive me for that. I on the other hand saw it differently, and I know if I hadn't left, if I'd had to spend my life surrounded by all the memories of those I had lost, I very likely would have taunted death until she found me and took me to be with my family.

So, despite what my brother might have felt, I wasn't running away. As difficult as it was for me to admit, leaving was the only option there was for me, it was the only hope I had to survive. For as hard as it was to say good-bye to those I would leave behind, I knew I was running toward life, and the only future I could see if I had stayed was my own death.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

May Prompt 38.5 nightmare Ficlet/Writers Muses


Ficlet: You're troubled by a dream, or a nightmare, tell us about it and it's lingering affects as you wake from it.

He shifted slightly, nestling deeper into the cushion of the feather pillow, there was some kind of an argument filtering in...gentle coaxing ignored by the protests of his daughter, louder then she intended as she struggled not to wake him.

"Jasna...stop playing in that and eat." Danijela's voice, still quiet but growing firmer.

"I hate it." The sound of chairs scraping on the wood floor...and what else? He was drifting away from it.

"Eat." The single word enforcing her demand followed by the little girl's cries as she expressed her own futility.

"Jasna..if you wake Tata." Another warning and sleep was lost, he pushed the pillow aside and rolled to his side to watch them.

"Jasna, listen to Mama." Propping himself up on one arm he lifted his other hand to wipe the sleep from his eyes.

"But, Tata, I hate it...." He almost let the smile break as she exaggerated the word in emphasis, and might have had he not seen the look on his wife's face as it deepened to stop him.

He lay in that mist of half sleep, the pillow bunched up, under his head, the noises in the room barely registering. He'd been working 12-16 hour overnight shifts for close to two weeks and in the confines of the small apartment he took his sleep when he found it. On those mornings when he wondered where he had found the strength to walk home, let alone climb the stairs to the apartment, sleep came easily, the voices of his children unheard. He pressed the heel of his hand into his eye in an attempt to break the last tendrils of sleep that held him.

" have to eat." He couldn't fault the little girl, rations had been tightened and for three days there had been little more then the watered soup flavored by cabbage and turnip, with not even bread to supplement it.

"Jasna...come to Tata." He forced himself to sit, resting his back against the wall as she came and crawled onto the bed with him. Folding his arms around her he drew her onto his lap, letting his fingers run through her hair before he spoke.

"How about I make you a eat the soup Mama fixed and Tata will go and find some bread and cheese for dinner." His smile broke as he watched his daughter's reaction.

"Cheese?" Her own face brightened in disbelief.

" spoil should sleep before you have to go back to the hospital." Danijela scolded as she scooped their sleeping son up from where he had fallen asleep at the table and tucked him into his crib.

"I can sleep later, with luck it will be quiet tonight...this is more important." He kissed the top of his daughter's head before releasing her.

"Tata, can I come with you?" He shook his head in refusal.

"No, go eat your soup...let Tata get dressed." He scrubbed a hand over his face in an effort to wake himself up more.

"But, I hate it, and I wanna go with you." The five year old draped herself across her father again, looping her arms around his neck as if by holding onto him, she could convince him to let her go with him.

"Jasna, you know it's not safe, you need to be my big girl and stay here with Mama and Marko where nothing will happen to you." The words seemed to echo in his head as he kissed her again.

Nothing will happen to you. How could he have been so wrong? A cry of anguish broke from him as his own questioning of his actions put an end to the dream.

"Luka, what's wrong?" Josip Kovac appeared in the doorway of his son's room, the look of worry on his face unavoidable. It had been over a year since the day he had seen his son, his daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren off to start their new lives in Vukovar, and now Luka was back, a mere shadow of himself, and his family was gone. Seeing his youngest son's face, and the tears that wet his cheeks, said enough, in an instant he was to him, and after taking a seat on the bed he pulled him into his arms.

"Luka, I'm so sorry." Luka had only arrived the day before and he had said almost nothing about what he had been through, but, knowing his family had been lost, and seeing his physical condition, he could only imagine. He had seen the reports on television, read everything he could get his hands on as he'd waited for news on his son and his family, but, he'd always held out hope that they'd been among the lucky ones. Lucky, his son was alive, but at what price? Josip laid his cheek against Luka's head as he rubbed slow circles on his back, what else could he do but be there for him, offering comfort, the only thing he knew he could give in a time such as this.

May Prompt 16.3. Discuss your expectations in a relationship./Couples Therapy


How do I not make comparisons about what I want from this marriage and what I had with Danijela? How is it, that I can have achieved so much in regard to my career, and yet I feel like I've lost so much when I make similar comparisons to my marriages.

When Danijela and I married we were both young, naive, and inexperienced in the ways of the world. Everything we knew about life and the world in general had come from our parents, family, friends, and probably most importantly the Catholic Church. I was 20, Danijela had just turned 18 when the day of our marriage came, neither of us had lived anywhere but in our parent's homes, we had known no other loves but that which we shared between us, and our venture into intimacy consisted of no more then holding hands and stolen kisses. As much as we loved each other, we both knew that our marriage would be difficult in those first months, and possibly even years, as I had just entered medical school and we'd already decided she would stay home as both of our mothers had. When Danijela almost immediately became pregnant there was no turning back on that decision and we struggled to make ends meet on the little I made working shifts at the hospital, when not in classes. As difficult as things might have been they only seemed to strengthen what we had between us, and when first Jasna, and then three years later Marko joined our family we couldn't have been happier. We both knew we were living our dream and while times were tough, all we had to do was hold on until I finished medical school...and then the War came.

My marriage to Abby was so different then that of mine to Danijela, we neither one of us had family with us when we exchanged our vows, in fact, Abby didn't even know it was happening until maybe an hour before the ceremony. It wasn't that she didn't want to be married, but, it just seemed like there was always an excuse to delay things, and I know it was because she was afraid, though of what I'm not quite sure. Joe was almost a year old, and I guess I thought if I didn't do something myself it might not ever happen.

It's funny how a piece of paper and a ring, changes things. Even though Abby and I had been living together since shortly after she learned she was pregnant with Joe, suddenly being married seemed to change thingsbetween us. It wasn't anything huge, just little things, not even things you could put your finger on, but you could feel the strain and then came the phone call about my father. I didn't have a choice about going back to Croatia, and as much as I hated leaving Abby and Joe behind, there was no way they could go with me. Looking back on it now, I know there are things I should have dome differently, but, at the time all I could think about was how sick my father was.

Even though I made mistakes in how I handled my father's illness, and being away from my family, the ones Abby made put Joe's life in danger, and it took me time to come to terms with that. So, what do we do now that we've both acknowledged that we both could have handled things differently, more importantly, how do we insure it doesn't happen again? I think the biggest problem Abby and I have always had between us, is that we don't really talk. If we've gained nothing else from this, it's that we need to talk to each other.

As Abby and I get ready to try and rebuild our relationship, I have to tell myself not to set goals for us that are too high, failure can't be an option for us. So, for now we will work at rebuilding the trust between us, making sure that we find time to talk not just about what is happening between us now, but where we see ourselves going, and if we're lucky, one day we'll find it coming naturally, and then I'll know we have finally found our way fully back to each other.

Monday, June 2, 2008

April Prompt 226: Three Things/Theatrical Muse

Name three things that you're looking forward to in the near future and why.

we three

As I look back over this last year, there is no denying that Abby and I both made our share of mistakes.  I'm not sure that either of us saw what we were doing at the time it was happening, and as easy as it would be to use that as an excuse, I'm not saying it for that reason. I don't think there is any doubt in Abby's or my mind that we want to fix the parts of our marriage that are broken, and regardless of the difficulties we've had, the love we feel for each other remained. I think it's that which is allowing us now to take this next step, the step we know will restore what the last year has stolen from us, but, more importantly allow us to finally look to the future.

If I were to pick the three most important things I was looking forward to, I would have to start with both Abby and I being able to share in Joe's growth.  One of the most difficult things for me in his last year has been being separated from he and Abby, and I know she feels the same, having experienced a similar separation when I took him to Croatia with me.  I think about the six months of time I lost with Joe, how I left this little baby when I went to take care of my father, and I returned to find this little person.  I wasn't there for his first step, and I don't want to miss anymore times like that.  I didn't have a choice about being able to share in Jasna and Marko's lives, they were stolen from us before they had even had a chance to start living them.  Even before that though, they were denied so many things because of the restrictions placed on them by the war.  I never want Joe to know that kind of hardship, that kind of suffering, and I'll do anything I have to, to prevent that happening.

The next thing I'm looking forward to is starting over. Abby and I both have realized that we've done things that we shouldn't have done, and as long as we remain in Chicago, those reminders will always be hanging over us. Nothing we have here is worth our marriage, our friends, our jobs, our home, all those can be replaced and so, we've decided it's time to move away from Chicago. Of course, my first thought was to take Abby and Joe back to Croatia, but I know that wouldn't be fair to them since the point of moving is to start fresh, and I can't do that among the reminders of Danijela and my father. No, the place we choose will be new to both Abby and I, allowing us to start with clean slates and enabling us to work on strengthening the bond between us.

If I had to pick a third thing I was looking forward to after reconnecting with my wife and son, it would be doing the same with my brother, Niko.  When I originally came to the United States, he had accused me of running away from my life.  It was not long after the War, I had lost my wife, my 5 year old daughter, and my 18 month old son during the siege of Vukovar, and while I myself had survived, the emotional toll on me was devastating.  I had barely escaped the City with my life when it fell, and only learned later that many of those at the hospital I had worked at were killed in a massacre.  But,I was one of the lucky ones, I escaped, and I'd spent several months in a displaced person's camp before finally returning to my father's home to recover. I couldn't stay there though, there were too many memories, too much pain, too much grief, and through it all, my brother's anger at me because I was running away. It took our father's illness for us to heal the wounds that had festered between us for over 15 years, and now that he has died, I don't want to lose my brother again. I want Niko to be part of my family, more importantly, I want Abby and Joe to know the big brother I grew up with.  I love Niko, and I don't know that I realized how much I missed him until I was back with him again. I'm so glad my father was able to see that we had reconciled before he died. I know it was something that meant a lot to him, and I know I would never have forgiven myself if I'd thought we had denied him that final wish.