Saturday, October 25, 2008

Prompt 22.4: How well do you get along with your family?/ On the Couch

For a long time my brother and I didn't talk, we'd had a falling out years ago over my decision to leave Croatia and come to the United States. I wish I could say that it was no more then one of those stupid arguments that happen between brothers, arguments that are forgotten after a couple of days as quickly as they began. I can't say that though. The words my brother, Niko and I hurled at each other all those years ago caused wounds that ran too deep for any quick fixes, and it took our father's illness to even prompt us to talk.

I left Croatia in 1997, it had been six years since I'd buried my family and I still missed them as much if not more then the day I had lost them. As hard as I'd tried to move on with my life, I finally realized that it wasn't going to happen unless I was able to get away from the constant reminders of them, and I couldn't do that in Croatia. As difficult as it had been for my father to lose his daughter-in-law and grandchildren, he was willing to accept my decision to do what I needed to do to rebuild my life, but, my brother was different. Almost from the first day that I broke the news of my decision to go, Niko began to accuse me of running away instead of dealing with my losses and no amount of talking to him could change his mind. I think that's what eventually proved to be the end of things between us, we stopped talking entirely. It didn't matter what subject we started the conversation with, it all came back to my decision to leave and by the time we were finished all that we were doing was yelling at each other. I think that was the hardest thing for my father to accept in all of it, for in the end my leaving was to him was as if he'd lost all of us in Vukovar.

When I received word of my father's illness, I'd been living in the United States for close to ten years, and in all that time I'd only been back to visit twice. There was no question of my going back of course, even as I knew it would finally mean dealing with the distance that had developed between Niko and I, my father's health took priority and as his son I was willing to do what I needed to do. It's funny how time softens things, what once seemed like such vast differences between us, seemed so small as we both sat together worrying about our father's fate. Maybe that's how things are supposed to work out, I don't know, I just wish it hadn't taken something so serious to make us realize our mistakes, and how important the support of family is. Over the six months I ended up being there, Niko and I reached the point that when our father showed slight gains in his condition we felt it would be safe for us both to leave and allow me a chance to go home to see my family. I can't help but wonder if our father planned things for this end, if he held on just long enough to make sure Niko and I would have each other when he was gone. We'll never know of course, but, I just wish we hadn't wasted so many years, and I can't help but feel sad for Joe when I realize he'll never have the chance to know the man he was named for.

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