Monday, September 29, 2008

September Prompt 001: Cemetary Picture/Artistic License

"Would it have been so hard for you to have waited for me to come back?" The anger in his words surprised him, almost as much as the fact that he was standing in front of his father's grave in the middle of the night.

"Did you know when Niko and I were making the plans to go that you wouldn't have much longer?" The questions were only two of far too many that had been swirling around in his head since the call had come, telling them that Josip Kovac was gone.

"I'm sorry, Tata." Luka sank to his knees at the graveside, his anger fading almost as quickly as it had surfaced.

"We should have been here." Should have, but, weren't. He should have known there wasn't enough time for them to go to Chicago and make it back before something happened, why hadn't he seen the signs? 

"I'm sorry, Tata.  When I think back on all those times when you tried to tell me that I'd find someone else who would make me feel what Danijela made me feel. We missed so much because I wasn't ready to move on.  You tried to tell me that it wasn't too late for me to be a father again, and because I didn't want to hear it I stayed away."  As he spoke, Luka brushed his fingers across the top of the headstone before leaning a copy of his and Abby's wedding photo against it.

"I see so much of Marko in Joe, I wish you could have seen it for yourself. If only I had gone back for him sooner, you could have seen for yourself.  I'm sorry, Tata, I wanted you to see you were right, and I was too late." His tears were falling freely now and he rested his forehead against his arm as he whispered the prayers he'd turned his back on for so many years. Once done he crossed himself before standing.

"Watch over Danijela and my children, Tata, tell them I love them, and how much I miss them, make sure they know that not a day goes by that I don't think of them. I'm going to miss you so much, Tata, but, I promise you this, even though Joe will never have the chance to meet you, he will know you, I'll make sure of that, I promise."





Friday, September 26, 2008

Prompt:248 Would you make a good spy? Why or why not? /Theatrical Muse


Me, a spy? That is an interesting thought. In some ways I suppose I could very easily fit into the life of a spy, or I could have before Abby and Joe became a part of my life. Maybe I should explain.

When I first came to the States, I was accused by my brother of running away from my life, when in truth I think I was searching for a reason to keep living. In order to do that, I found that I had to bury my past away. I suppose you could say I became an enigma. I didn't share more than the bare minimum of details about who I was or where I came from with anyone, and I never let anyone get close. I made a point of never staying too long in one place,and it wasn't unusual for me to pick up and leave on a moment's notice. Secrets became a way of life for me, and I became an expert on finding ways to evade the questions that seemed to come far too often when I found I'd stayed too long in any one place. All traits that would have served a spy well, but did nothing for the person I longed to be.

All that has changed now of course, and I no longer find I have to hide from my past. I have a family again, and I long for the stability of a permanent home, a place that my wife and I can grow old in together, a place where we can watch our son grow into a man. So, no, these days I would not make a good spy, the man that would have is no more, and I can't say I miss him.

Prompt 51.6: Tribute/ Writers Muses/Spoilers for 15.01 Life After Death


I  wish that I were anywhere but on this plane right now, I know my head certainly isn't into preparing for a job interview, but, it's too late to cancel so, on to Boston I go. In truth I'd rather be at Ike's with Abby and our friends and co-workers from County, I owe that much to Greg after all the years I've called him friend. Then again, I know that I couldn't have handled listening to all the stories of how he has touched everyone without numbing myself first with far more beer than is healthy.

Even now I find myself wanting to signal the stewardess as the feelings start to pull my thoughts places I'd rather they not go. Just like that, Greg's gone and with him, all of his hopes and dreams for the future, why? Why him? What did he do to deserve having his life cut short? I still don't believe it, but, there is no denying that it was his name on the headstone. Seeing his brother, his father, hearing the words of the Priest as he offered the eulogy as tribute to the life ended far too early. Maybe if I had seen him with my own eyes it would be easier for me to accept, then again, I've watched what that's done to Abby. I've listened to her describe the effect it's had on all of those who tried and failed to save Pratt's life. Would I really have wanted his blood on my hands? It's times like this that I truly struggle with my faith. He had so much to give, so much good to offer, why him? It just doesn't seem real.

I can't stop thinking about the last time I saw him, about how happy he was, everything was finally coming together for him, both in his career and his personal life. He was so excited about applying for the position as Chief of the ER, and I know he would have been perfect for the job. I think about how far he had come from his first days at County, and where he was on that last day when I saw him, it was like night and day. So, why did this have to happen now?

I should try and reach his brother, I can only imagine what this is doing to Chaz right now. All the years they never knew the other existed and just as they are beginning to really know each other, Greg is taken away from him. I know he is going to need someone to be there for him, someone to step in and mentor him as his brother would have. Do I dare offer myself as that substitute?

Oh, God,I need a drink, or two, or three. I should have stayed home with Abby, I should have been there for those who needed to talk instead of here. I hate that this might now be seen as running away, then again maybe it is. Chicago holds too many memories, too much sadness, too much pain, too much loss, not just Pratt, but, Gallant, The Bishop, Carter, Carol, too many others to count. As much as I hate to admit it, we need a fresh start, a new beginning to our lives, just Abby, Joe, and I.

So, Greg, I'll miss you my friend, but, remember, in the words of my father, "we part only to meet again," so be sure and keep the beers chilled.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prompt 17.2: Does anything make you cry? If so, what?/On the Couch

Danijela and Jasna

Does anything make you cry? If so, what? Reminders to Danijela and our children, birthdays, the anniversary of when we married, the day I lost them.

Letting go makes me cry...

You would think that I would have reached a point after so long where I could mark these dates without all the emotion they bring, but, I can't. This year would have marked 24 years since Danijela and I first met. We would be celebrating 22 years of marriage. Our little girl, Jasna would have turned 22 as well, and Marko, our baby, Marko, would be nearing 19. None of those things happened though, because of what happened on that one fateful day, all of the tomorrows we had planned for had been stolen from us, leaving me only with one more anniversary to remember.

I've never really sat down and told Abby much about Danijela and our children, I've certainly never told her about the war, or about the day I lost my family.  It's funny, I've only really told three people more then the bare minimum of details of that time, and none of them are here now. I can't say why, other then it's just so hard to go back there and realize how much they missed.  I look at Joe now, and I realize that he's very near the age Marko was when he died.  I hear his laugh, and at times I can swear it's Marko's, and as proud as I was of him when he started to walk, a part of me grieved because Marko never did. I hate that I'm looking at each milestone my son makes as one that Marko never did, and I'm afraid it'll only get worse as Joe nears Jasna's age. All the things that a father looks forward to with their daughter, I never had a chance to do.

The move to Boston is a new beginning for Abby and I. We've realized that neither of us are ready to give up on the other or on our marriage.  We are determined to repair the damage that's been done, and that means finding a way to heal the emotional wounds brought on by all that has happened over this last year. As much as I want to give 100% to my wife and my marriage, I don't know if I can unless I find a way to finally put Danijela and our babies to rest. I know I can't continue to lessen Joe's accomplishments by grieving for what Marko and Jasna will never be able to do. I know too that as much as I will always love Danijela, it isn'tfair to Abby for me to cling so tightly to my feelings for her. Abby will never replace Danijela, anymore than Joe can replace Jasna and Marko.  In my head I know that, I just have to find a way for my heart to reach the same understanding. I know it'll come, it just takes time, I can only hope Abby has the patience to wait for me to get there.



Prompt 29.2:2. What is one mistake you keep making in your relationships?/Couples Therapy


I'm not really sure when it started, if I think back now on how things were when I was young and with Danijela it seems like we talked about everything.  We didn't have secrets, we talked about not just what was going on in the moment, but, our dreams for the future as well.  I know I'm not like that now, it's something that Abby has complained about more then once, and it bothered Sam enough that she arranged for us to see a therapist.

No, that's not true, if I'm honest with myself, I do know when it started, and why. Losing my family was like losing the best part of who I was and for over seven years I didn't look at another woman.  Danijela had been the love of my life and without her and our children I no longer had a reason to live. I shut down, it was the only way I could go on without my family, and part of my shutting down was closing off the doors to my past, and anything that might let anyone see anything deeper then the image I was projecting.

I'd like to say that knowing what I've been doing is enough to make me stop, but, it's not. I can try, but, there are no guarantees that there still won't be things I keep to myself.  Things that are still too hard for me to face, even with the woman I want to spend my life with. I guess all I can do is hope she's willing to give me time, one day, maybe I'll feel the time is right.  One day, maybe I'll feel safe enough to open myself up to her completely.  One day.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prompt 14.4: There is too much at stake./ True Writers

Luka and Joe with Niko

If I thought watching Abby drive away from Joe and I that night she'd decided to enter Rehab was hard, it didn't begin to compare with how difficult things would get once she revealed the rest of her betrayal.  Of course at that time I didn't know there was anymore to what had happened then just the drinking.  I know too that it isn't exactly fair for me to call her back-slide into drinking a betrayal, though I admit, it does feel like one now. 

I've never felt it was my responsibility to keep Abby from drinking, she's an adult, and more then capable of taking control of her own life.  I also don't think, despite what others might believe, that I should stop drinking just because she has a problem.  In the time that I've known her, I can't remember ever seeing Abby drunk. So, if she had the major drinking problem that she now claims to have, she was either doing a really good job of concealing it, or it progressed into more then it was in the time I was away. Now, if that is the case, and I'm not saying it isn't, there is no way I could have known about it.  So, yeah, having her tell me just how much she'd been drinking while I was away was a surprise, but not as much a one as hearing that she put our son's life at risk while doing it. Nothing in this world means more to me then Joe's life, and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. Not our marriage, not my life, not her life, nothing. I've already lost two children, to think that I could have lost him, that we could have lost him. I just don't understand how she could have put his life in danger like that.

I was separated from Abby and Joe for close to six months. As if it wasn't hard enough just being away from them, I was also dealing with my father and everything that revolved around his cancer diagnosis and treatment.  In an ideal situation I would have simply arranged to bring him back to Chicago for that.  Unfortunately, my father was a stubborn man and set in his ways, and he wasn't leaving his home and friends. I'm sorry if I couldn't pick up on the hints Abby might have been dropping in her phone calls to me, I'm sorry if I didn't hear what she wasn't saying because of all the other distractions going on around me.

I can't begin to describe how relieved I was when when my father's health showed signs of stabilizing.  I grabbed hold of that ray of hope and made the decision to go back to Chicago long enough to convince Abby to take some time off so we could take Joe back to Croatia.  I'm not naive, I knew that my father's illness was terminal, but, I wanted to give him the chance to meet my wife and to see my son, his grandson, before he died.  For the longest time I know my father believed I would spend the rest of my life alone, and it was important for him to see that I had finally healed enough to move forward.  I'm not sure why I decided to bring my brother back with me.  I think part of it had to do with the differences that have existed between Niko and I since I made the decision to come to America in the first place.  I don't know if I'll ever completely forgive myself for making those decisions, and knowing that Tata died alone because of them. Niko and I had been in Chicago less then 24 hours when we received the call of our father's unexpected passing. How could we know?

The loss of my father has been difficult for me to come to terms with, having Joe with me, and being able to reconnect with Niko and my home, my language, has helped somewhat.  I'm not sure if it's because I'd been away for so long, and then, having come home, and having spent the last six months with him, essentially 24 hours a day, realized how much I missed him. I don't know, I just wish he could have had the chance to see Joe, to hold him, and to meet Abby.

Niko and I buried our father before Abby arrived in Croatia, her time in Rehab was something she had to do for her mental and physical health, and while I wished she could have been here I understand why she wasn't. In the days after the funeral Niko and I worked at rebuilding our relationship, while at the same time taking care of the business end of our father's estate. 

When Abby arrived in Croatia I went to the airport with the expectation of finally being able to put aside all that had happened while we'd been separated. I was ready for Abby, Joe, and I to focus on re-building our lives together, instead of shaping it around work. I had all of these expectations for our life together and in an instant they were shattered when Abby confessed that she'd been hiding something besides her drinking from me. Abby confessed that in the midst of her drinking, she had slept with her boss, and I'm supposed to be able to just forgive that because she's been through Rehab and is no longer drinking.  I wish I could say I could do that, but I can't, it's going to take time, this isn't something that can be rushed, there's too much at stake for that. I'm willing to try and work things out, I don't want Joe to have to choose which parent he wants to be with. I still love Abby, but, I don't know what this is going to do to us, I just don't know.



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Prompt 53.6: Recovery/Writers Muses

Congo collage

I don't remember my rescue, our rescue. The truth is, I remember very little of the time I spent with Chance and her mother in that small window-less shack we were kept in after leaving Matenda. There are times I can remember the oppressive heat as it turned the hut into an oven. I can sometimes remember how it felt when my untreated malaria sent my temperature soaring, leaving me shivering under a blanket that was little more than a rag itself. There is so much though that I don't remember, so much that I know I should.

There are times I think I remember the ride to the clinic. If I try to retreat into the blackness where all of the mysteries of those lost days, those lost weeks hide. If I go there, sometimes I think I can snatch glimpses out again. But, more often then not, the memories that surface are those of what happened at the hands of the Mai Mai, and far too often, they're the memory of Patrique as his life was taken while he was begging them to spare mine. It's then I find myself counting the minutes until they bring the next dose of sleeping pills. The next dose of anything that will let me stop remembering, the next dose that will send me back into the fog of nothingness.

I'm not prepared to talk about what happened to us but, now, with my arrival at County I know it's coming. How many times will I get away with feigning sleep when someone shows up at my room, full of questions and wanting to talk? They thought I was dead, and now, here I am, how can I not expect there to be questions? Even as they have questions for me, I still can't get escape the questions I have for myself and they play through my thoughts like they're on some never-ending loop. What made my life worth more then everyone elses? I'm not just talking about Patrique's, Why would Sakima have risked not just her own life, but that of her daughters as well? How could she know they wouldn't rape her again, or worse, drag Chance into that tent? What could she have done to stop them? How could she have thought my life was worth putting that little girl in anymore danger than she'd already been placed in?

It's hard to know how long my recovery will take, I know it involves more than just how I come back from the malaria. While Gillian hasn't said anything outright, I can see on her face that she'sworried about what will happen once she goes home, and I'm left to do all of this on my own. I haven't said anything to her, I have my own fears, and I know I'll have to deal with those for my recovery to really be complete. I owe that much to those who I've hurt, that I've killed, and far more then that to those who sacrificed their lives for mine. The very things that drove me to the Congo in the first place, now become just one more symptom among all of the others that I have to find a way to conquer before I can honestly say I've recovered. I don't know if I can do all of this on my own, and at the same time I know I have to, but that'll come later, for now, I just need to sleep, 'cause I'm tired, so very tired.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Prompt 16.2 I should have.../On the Couch


I've made it through another year. It's so hard to believe. Has it really been sixteen years since I lost them? It's not easy being so far away from anyone who understands what I'm feeling, so, I'm left to honor the date on my own. I thought about calling Niko, but, I couldn't do it. It's too close to Tata's death, and there are still so many raw wounds between us when it comes to Danijela and the decisions I made after I lost her and our babies.

Sixteen years...a lifetime in too many ways. The age Danijela was when first we met, the age she was when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I'd never believed you could really fall in love at first sight until that moment when I first saw her. I never believed I could lose myself so completely to one person, but I did, and I know she felt the same.

I remember so clearly the expression on my parent's faces when I told them that I'd found the girl I wanted to marry. I remember their concerns over our age, and all we'd be giving up, by tying ourselves down before we'd even had a chance to experience life. I remember so vividly the looks Danijela and I exchanged because words weren't even necessary between us. How could they think we were giving anything up? No, far from giving anything up, we were filling the emptiness that had been lurking inside of us for longer then either of us could remember.

It wasn't an easy decision for us to move to Vukovar for my residency. We had Jasna by then, and we would be leaving our families and friends, but, we knew it had to be done. I knew how hard it would be for Danijela, spending all those hours alone with just our little girl to keep her company, I should have let her stay with her parents. Even saying that now, I know she never would have done it. We were married, she was my wife, for richer and poorer, sickness and health, til death do us part. If only she could have foreseen what was to come, if only I could have, and then she became pregnant with Marko and travel became even further from our thoughts.

It's funny though how a new baby changes how you look at life. I don't know if either of us could have ever been happier then we were in those early months when we were getting to know our new son and watching our baby girl adapt to her new role of big sister. Jasnaloved "her baby" so much, and would have sat for hours holding him if Danijela would have let her. I wish there would have been a way to bottle those months up so I could keep them forever. We managed a trip home for Jasna's fourth birthday, thrilling both sets of grandparents, and allowing Danijela and I a chance to catch up with old friends before work beckoned me back.

Neither of us wanted to believe the war would reach Vukovar, things like that don't really happen, or so we wanted to believe. I seemed to be spending more and more hours at the hospital and Danijela was kept busy with two active children, but, we should have seen the signs. I don't know when we first realized how bad it could get, I tried to convince Danijela to take the children and go to her parents, but, she refused to leave me. I should have forced her, I should have taken her to the bus and put all three on it despite what she said, but, I didn't, and then it was too late.

Sixteen years since since I stood alone in front of those three coffins. If only I'd forced her to take the children and go. If only. What a world we could build on if onlys. Sixteen years and I still miss them as if it were yesterday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prompt 27.2 Negative effect /couples_therapy

Mamas gone

2. Discuss some aspect of your relationship that you feel has had a negative effect on you as an individual.

No relationship is perfect, I know that, I'm not some naive love-struck teenager swept off my feet by the first girl who smiled at me. Well, maybe once I was and she was perfect, at least in my eye, and yes, she was my first. I look back at my courtship and marriage to Danijela and I'd be hard pressed to find anything in it that has had a negative effect on me, unless you count how it ended, and the lives that were lost with hers.

I was 25 when my family was lost to me, Danijela was just 23, our daughter was 5, and our son was 18 months old. I'd proposed to Danijela when she was just 16, and we became husband and wife shortly after her 18th birthday, and we both truly believed we would spend the rest of our lives together. We were wrong, and it would take me close to ten years before I would even go so far to even ask another woman out for coffee, let alone consider dating. Danijela had meant everything to me, and when I buried her and our children it was as if I'd buried my reason for living with them.

Abby was only the second woman I went out with when I finally decided to give "living" a second chance. There was a time when I wondered if what happened on our first date wasn't a sign that it wasn't the right time for us, but, if it was, neither of us listened. By the time we both realized that there were things in our lives, both past, and present that made our being together "wrong," we'd both already said things to each other we couldn't take back.

Abby and I were lucky, despite the things we said to each other, despite what we might have felt when our relationship ended, our friendship endured. We didn't see it at first, I guess in a way we both had to find our way out of the maze we had created for ourselves, and that took time. We did it though, and eventually we found our way back to each other, and then came Joe, and marriage...and then things began to unravel a bit.

I couldn't have planned for my father to get sick, and it wasn't as if I didn't try to get him to come to the States for treatment, but, he wouldn't and I was left with no choice but to stay with him. I never planned to be gone as long as I was, and if there had been a way for Abby and Joe to join me, she had to know I would have made arrangements for them to be on the next plane. She had to know I would have done anything to have had the situation different than it was, but, there is nothing she can say, that can justify what she did while I was gone.

I can't think of anything more important in a relationship then trust, and Abby took that away from us. Not just because she chose to start drinking again, not just because her drinking put our son's life in danger, I don't even know if the fact that she cheated on me is what fully stole it. I think maybe it's the knowing that while I was away worrying about how much longer my father had to live, while I was wondering if he might have the chance to meet her and Joe before he died, she was lying to me. Even when I managed to come back with Niko, even in those few days, while my father was still alive and we still clung to hope, she still couldn't be fully truthful with me. I have to wonder now, how many other things will be hidden in half-truths as we go on with our lives together?

I'm not ready to give up on our marriage. I love Abby, despite her betrayal of our vows and me. I would like to think that the vows we spoke to each other on our wedding day were more than just words on a piece of paper. I'd like to think that what we have between us is strong enough to withstand any obstacle that fate might place before us, but, now I'm not so sure. My father died while Niko and I were back here in Chicago, I'll never get those final days with him back. Joe returned to Croatia with us to bury him, I would have liked Abby to have been with us, to have had my wife at my side as I said good-bye to my father, that too is something I can never reclaim. There is no way to deny the damage that Abby's betrayal has done to our relationship but, with time and work on both of our parts, I think we can heal.

Abby and I have both decided that an important part of our recovery is a fresh start, as much as going home has made me long for a return for Croatia, we've decided to stay in the States. There is no question that changing jobs is a necessity, especially where Abby is concerned. We've talked it over, and if we want this to work, we have to make a clean break from everyone and so, that means changing cities as well. We both want this to work, it has to, not just for us, but for Joe. We can find our way back from this, I know we can...we have to. I refuse to believeanything less. This is our life, there aren't anymore second chances.

Friday, September 5, 2008

August Prompt 005: Memory Box/ Creative Muses

005. You are allowed to place three items from your lifetime into a box that will be opened in fifty years. What do you put in, and why?

Wedding Picture

I've heard of these boxes before, how towns and families would fill them with things meant to remind others of who they were, or what they stood for, only to then bury or seal them away in the cornerstone of a building for another generation to find. It's hard for me to know even know what I would include, only because I've never really been someone who has much, and what there is, I'm not sure I'm ready to part with. As I think about it more though I realize there are things I have that are much more important then the physical reminders I'd first thought they must mean.

With that in mind, I would have to say the first item I would include would be a copy of my photo of Danijela and Jasna, and attached to it would be my memories on the siege of Vukovar. As young and happy as my wife and daughter are in that photo, I would want people to know that their lives were cut short. I would want people to know that they died that day with baby Marko, and the devastation was so great that all I could salvage of our lives together was this one small photograph. I would want people to know, that for far too many, that even that was more than they were left with when the shelling and killing was done.

For my next additions I would include vials of the vaccines and antibiotics, and a mosquito net, things that are so desperately needed in the Congo, along with a photograph of Chance and her mother. Once again I would have to include a letter of explanation, and here I would have to talk about my shock at finding out that medicines that cost less than lunch in a fast food restaurant are often standing between a child living or dying in the Congo, and violence is often seen as a fact of life, with rape a far too common reality for even the youngest girls.

Finally, I think I'd include a copy's of Joe's Birth Certificate, Abby and my Wedding Certificate, and our wedding photo. The reason for this is to show that no matter how grim life may seem, you can't give up, there is a chance for a new life, you just have to believe, and one day it will find you. For a long time I didn't want to believe it was possible, I even had myself convinced I was being punished for things I had done in my life. But, I was wrong, and once I realized that, once I accepted that I was allowed to make mistakes and the world wouldn't fall apart because of them. I was allowed to be happy again, and I am.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Prompt 15.1: Time in a Bottle/ On the Couch


It's hard for me to talk to people about how I feel. It's something that caused problems for me when Abby and I dated before we were married, I'm sure it's part of what led to the end of things with Sam. I'm not sure if it would have led to problems between Danijela and I, we weren't married long enough for me to know, then again, I was a far different person then.

Spending so much time back in Croatia this last year has forced me to re-visit parts of my life that I had buried deep inside of myself. I wish I could say that I welcomed the reminders, but, I didn't. In fact, in those first weeks I was back I went out of my way to avoid anyone and anything that might stir them. The longer I was home, home, it's funny how I still think of Croatia as my home after so many years away, but I do. Anyway, the longer I was home, the harder it became for me to avoid and so, little by little the past that I thought I'd so carefully buried, began to again come to life.

It came with the trip to the market and though I had left my father's house alone, I couldn't shake the feeling that Danijela was at my side for much of the journey. How many times had we walked these same cobbled streets together in those two years before we married? How many times had we splurged on fresh pastries and hot coffees, only to take both to the tables outside where we would sit for hours and talk of nothing and everything?

It was worse though when I allowed myself to visit with old friends, for in those times I was forced to listen to their memories of Danijela and I together. I don't think I ever realized how what we shared between us might affect others, I know I never thought about how our feelings might be seen by them. Listening to those stories now, seeing the tears in their eyes as I realized that they feel the grief of her loss just as deeply as I do, even after so many years. How do I begin to apologize for all the years I denied them the chance to share in my losses.

When I buried Danijela and our children, I buried them alone. I know that part of that can be excused because of the on-going siege, but, I could have waited at least until I'd reached our parents. As risky as it might have been, I could have, I should have at least given them the choice of saying good-bye. I didn't though. In my mind, at that time, Danijela was my wife, Jasna was and my daughter, Marko was my son, no one else mattered. How could I have been so wrong? How could I have forgotten that they were more than just my wife, and my children? How could I not have realized that others would grieve the loss of them just as deeply as I was?

I have to credit my father for my being able to finally pull myself out of the past and starting to "live" again. My father never gave up on me, and now he was battling cancer. I wanted to bring him back to Chicago with me, I wanted him to meet Abby, and to spend time with Joe. Maybe I was being selfish, but, I wanted him to see for himself that he'd been right. All those times when he'd told me that I could find someone again, that I'd have another chance at being a father...he was right, I wanted him to see that, to meet them. He wouldn't leave though, Croatia was his home, his friends were there, his home, and nothing I could say would change his mind.

I wish I could have frozen time for those last few weeks, I wish I could have gone back to Chicago for Abby and Joe. I wish he could have met them, that he could have held his grandson in his arms just once, but, he never had that chance. I'd give almost anything to undo that final week, there had to be some sign I missed. There had to be something I could have said to Abby that would have stopped her from making the mistake she made, but, that's another story, something for another day.

For now, I want to remember the good things, I want to remember the sound of Danijela's voice as she lay sheltered in my arms while our children slept. I want to remember Jasna's smile, and how it seemed to brighten an entire room. I want to remember Marko's laugh, and how contagious it was. Above all, I want to remember how Tata never blamed me for the words of anger I threw at him in those early months after I'd lost them. I want to remember the comfort I felt when it all was too much and the only thing he could do was hold me as my tears finally broke free. I look back now at his strength, his compassion, and I wonder if I'll ever be capable of anything close to what he had, and even as I do that, I can't help but regret all the years with him I missed because I felt the need to run away. I miss him, I miss them all, and I know I always will, it's just a matter of finding a way to live with the losses without closing everyone off or running away again, and that I'm still workingon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Prompt 003: Michel de Montaigne quote/License Artistic

Congo collage

"I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of." ~Michel de Montaigne

What's wrong with me?  What person in their right mind uses a place like this as a means of escape? But, that's exactly what I'm doing. I've reached the point where there's nothing left in Chicago for me. I might as well be working among strangers at County these days for all of those that want anything to do with me.  Come to think of it, can I really blame them?

I can't deny how badly I've treated anybody, and I'm not talking only about those I was sleeping around with, or those like Erin who I very nearly killed. When was the last time I treated anyone with any sense of respect?  I don't know how to go about undoing any of it,  it's not like I can just show up and ask everyone to forgive me for what I've done, let alone trust me if I say it won't happen again?

Even if I get past that, there's still the decline in how I look at work in general, and I wonder when it stopped being important to me.  When did I become the doctor that would think it okay to leave a patient alone to take her mother into the supply closet for a few minutes of my own pleasure? I used to look forward to my shifts, I'd look forward to whatever experiences and challenges my patients would bring me,  not anymore.  During these past weeks, all I did was show up and go through the motions. It didn't make any difference if I was setting a broken leg, or fighting to keep someone's heart beating, I couldn't seem to feel anything for them. I don't see my patient's faces anymore, I don't see them as anything but the condition they present to the ER with.  What's wrong with me?

If only this downward spiral were isolated to work, I could change jobs and everything would be fine, but, it's not, and it won't. Outside of the hospital my life seems to only have crumbled just as badly if not worse them my career,  and when I think of the depths I've sunk to in order to feel something, anything, I hate myself. If I hadn't left Chicago, if I hadn't come here now, how much lower would I have been willing to go?  Drug, alcohol, something far worse?

Laying in the darkness on his cot, Luka begged his thoughts to quiet.  Pushing his damp bangs back off his foreheadwith a sigh, he realized just how pointless it was.  Between them, the heat, and the sounds of those fleeing from the fighting sleep was impossible to find.

As he sat up and dropped his feet to the floor, he couldn't help but envy those around him. How many hours would he need to put in before his body would decide he deserved the luxury of more than a few stolen minutes? It was as pointless for him to stay sitting here as it had been for him to try and force his mind to shut down and let him sleep.  Grabbing the pack of cigarettes and lighter from the wooden crate that served as a nightstand, Luka rose and quietly made his way to the tent's doorway.  

Shoving the tent-flap aside, he was met by a waft of stale air as he stepped outside.  He'd have given anything for a cool breeze, but,tonight that too seemed out of his grasp, and he was left with the feeling that it was all part of some master plan. For the short period of time it took him to light his cigarette, Luka managed to distract the thoughts that had kept him from sleep, the reasons that had brought him to this place.  In that brief moment of peace,  he drew the smoke deep into his lungs, savoring the burn of it before releasing it around him.  When John had asked him about his smoking, he's told him that he wasn't a smoker.  Even here he'd been unable to stop himself from lying.

It was funny how quickly something so simple could undo everything, but in that moment of realization his haven of peace had disappeared.  His mind was already looking for ways to torment him, forcing him to relive those things that had led him to escape to the Congo in the first place. 

Drawing deep on his cigarette, Luka was torn by the irony of his situation as he watched those fleeing the fighting move through the compound. What sane person sees a place like this as an escape? The Congolese themselves were evacuating and here he was, looking for answers that he had no way of knowing he would ever find. So, what choice did he have but to wait, wait and hope for a sign, or for answers, or both.  Taking a final pull on his cigarette, Luka pinched the butt off before flicking it away.

He could only hope things would turn-around, they certainly couldn't get much worse, but, nothing was going to happen if he didn't get some sleep.  Taking a final look at the passing line of weary villagers, Luka turned and pushed the tent-flap aside.  Maybe he could learn something from them, like them, if he could manage to cling to just a single thread of hope he too could start to find his way to a new life.  It was that thought that he clung to as he disappeared back into the stifling darkness of the tent. It was somewhere to start.