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.