Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prompt 45.2. How close have you come to breaking up with your partner?

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I wish I could say this has never come up, but, if I did it would be a lie. The truth is, we came too close, close enough that I had to move out of the house for a period of time in order to get a better perspective on how I felt about the situation. I suppose, in all fairness, I should go back to the beginning of things because the blame can't fully be laid on one of us over the other.

Things started shortly after Abby and I were married, we were planning where we wanted to go for our Honeymoon when I received a phonecall from my brother in Croatia. Niko and I had not been on speaking terms since I'd made the decision to leave Croatia for the United States so I knew immediately that something was wrong, and it was. Our father has always been the strength of our family, when our mother died, during the war when I lost my family, and in the time after. As much as I knew the time would come, I still wasn't prepared to get the call saying his health was failing, but there it was. Tata, my father had been diagnosed with cancer, I had to go to him.

When I made the decision to leave, I didn't know how long I'd be gone. In a perfect world I would have liked to have had my wife and son with me, Tata had never met Abby, he'd never had a chance to hold his grandson. Unfortunately, we weren't expecting to travel out of the country so soon, and we still didn't have a passport for Joe, we decided I'd go alone. I thought I'd go there, find out how my father was doing, and convince him to come back to Chicago with me for treatment. I'd forgotten how stubborn he was.

My father refused to leave his home. He refused to leave his friends. My father had spent his entire life there and nothing I could say could convince him to leave. I had no choice but to stay as we first went through the beginning of his treatments, then a worsening of his condition, by the time a surgery robbed him of the ability to walk, I had been there almost six months.

I never wanted to be away from Abby and Joe that long, I certainly didn't plan for it to happen, and I understood how difficult it was for Abby to juggle her work at the hospital and Joe's care even with the nanny. I didn't realize at the time that the stress of my being away and the extra pressures were going to cause her to relapse on her drinking, and it was that relapse that caused the additional problem.

We reached a point with my father's condition where it seemed that his condition had stabilized and I thought it would be safe for me to fly home for a short visit. In the time that I'd been in Croatia I had managed too to rebuild my relationship with my brother and we thought it would be a nice surprise for Abby if he flew back with me to meet her and Joe. Unfortunately the reception wasn't what we'd expected, and Abby was angry at my bringing him back without talking to her first. We'd only been there a couple of days when the call came that our father had died, and at the same time Abby told me that she'd started drinking again. I wasn't as supportive as I should have been, I'll admit to that, but, I had to go back to Croatia to bury my father and settle his affairs. We decided that Joe would go with me, and she would go into rehab, and when she finished she'd fly over and join us. I never realized at the time that she was hiding a secret far worse then the fact that she'd begun drinking again, far worse than the fact that she had put Joe's life in danger by driving with him in the car while drunk. It was only when Abby arrived in Croatia that she broke the news to me that she'd slept with her boss during one of her drunken binges.

When we returned to Chicago things weren't the same between us. It wasn't just that I no longer had my job at County, though that was part of it. I couldn't get past the fact that she'd betrayed our vows, and I couldn't wake up every day and face her until I came to terms with what I was feeling, I decided I needed some time and space to work things out, so, I got an apartment and moved out.

I found a new job at a hospice, it was a huge change from working in the ER, but, I think it allowed me a chance to really come to terms with my father's death. Abby and I remained friendly and Joe shared time between both apartments during the separation. Eventually I realized that I still loved Abby and despite what had happened I was willing to try and forgive her, to do that though we both decided would require that we make a change. As hard as it would be for both of us, Abby and I decided to leave Chicago. We decided that a new city, new jobs, new friends, would allow us to fully put what had happened behind us and move forward. It's not easy, but, for Joe, and for our relationship we have to do this. I love my wife, and I love my son, and if this is what it takes to salvage our lives then this is what we have to do. I can only hope that it works because I don't know if I can survive losing another family.

Monday, December 29, 2008

December Prompt: 004. Good things come in small packages /Creative Muses

Small Packages

"Want me to give him his bath?" Luka glanced up from where he sat on the couch as Abby started gathering Joe's toys and dropping them into a nearby basket.

"No, that's okay, I've got him, you look like you could use the rest anyway." The day had been long for both of them, but, more so for Luka who had been forced to pull an early morning shirt due to his lack of seniority at the Boston Hospice.

"It hasn't been too bad, he's more worn out then I am." gesturing to where Joe lay on the floor, Abby couldn't help but laugh. Not quite ready to admit to being ready to quit, the toddler lay on his side by the Christmas tree, his head resting on one arm as he drove one of his new cars around in front of him.

"It's been a good day, hasn't it?" Without thinking he patted the spot on the couch beside him, inviting her to join him.

"Yes, it has." Seeing how contented Joe was, and knowing how close they had come to losing everything because of her mistakes while he'd been gone, Abby hesitated only a moment before taking the seat beside him.

"We made the right decision, didn't we, leaving everything, everyone we knew to start fresh?" Luka slid his arm around his wife, drawing her closer with the question.

"I think so." Abby bit her lower lip, considering for a moment if she wanted to say more, or simply to let him talk. Finally, as the decision was made, she took one of his hands before she laced her fingers with his .

"Luka, can I ask you something?" Instead of looking into his face as she spoke, her gaze remained on Joe.

"Sure, what is it?" Whether he was picking up something in the tone of her voice, or her manner, Luka wasn't sure, but, he found himself inwardly bracing himself even as he gave her permission to continue.

"I'm just curious about something, and if you'd rather not talk about this, I'll understand." She wasn't sure why she gave him a final chance to withdraw his permission, though if she had to come up with a reason she would probably attribute it to the rocky ground their relationship was setting on at the moment. Did she dare jeopardize the gains they'd been making by digging into things that really weren't her concern?

"Abby, it okay." Luka reached over to touch his wife's chin with his free hand, bringing her head up so that she had no choice but to look at him.

"It's okay, really." Once he had her attention he dropped his hand to cover the other.

"Luka, you never talk about your children with Danijela, and maybe it's none of my business, I just wondered." Abby's words trailed off as she struggled for the best way to say what was on her mind. When he showed no sign of stopping her, she continued.

"I was just wondering, when you look at Joe, does he remind you of Marko? Does he look like him, or have the same personality?" The longer she spoke the harder it became to look at him and by the time she finished her eyes were back on their hands.

"Joe, come to Tata." Luka wasn't quite sure why he called his son to him. Abby's questions were not ones he hadn't asked himself, in fact he had asked himself far tougher ones, and there would likely be many more as the boy grew into manhood. Joe had already passed his first milestone, and while he hadn't said anything to Abby about it, it had felt like a weight had been lifted from him when Joe had moved from 18 to 19 months of age. There would be yet another of course, and he knew the fear of history repeating itself would hang over their heads until Joe successfully marked his 6th birthday.

"Up, Tata." At Luka's invitation, Joe scrambled to his feet, grabbing a couple of the cars he'd been playing with before joining them at the couch. Once he was lifted up, he wasted no time in crawling onto his father's lap.

"Those are kind of tough, physically, they don't look anything alike. Danijela was dark like I am, so both of our children were dark as well." With his son settled, Luka slid his arm around him and kissed the top of his head. As he forced his thoughts back to his wife's question he idly ran his fingers through the boy's hair.

"Marko was just starting to walk, and he was talking very little, but, he had no trouble making known what he wanted." As the memories of the small boy who lost his life so many years before were unburied, Luka's voice grew quieter.

"He had one of those smiles that filled his face, and a way of laughing, it was almost like it filled him up and then over-flowed, he'd start giggling and you couldn't help but join him." The memory instantly brought an image of the small boy to his thoughts.

"Tata, cry." It wasn't until Joe touched his cheek that he realized that tears had followed it and he swiped at the wetness before kissing his son on the top of his head.

"It's okay, Joe, Tata was just thinking about something." He glanced over to Abby and offered her an apologetic smile.

"I guess it's a little harder then I thought." He wiped again at his eyes before gathering Joe into a hug as the toddler turned fully, clearly bothered by what he was seeing.

"Luka, we can do this later." Abby no sooner started to speak then she was interrupted by Joe.

"No cry, Tata, no cry." Luka tightened his embrace on his son, then kissed him again before addressing Abby.

"I want to tell you about him, but, you're right, maybe later is better. Thank you, Abby." Leaning toward her he gave her a kiss before boosting Joe up to his shoulder.

"How about I give Joe his bath, then we'll read him his story and we can talk about Marko after he's gone to bed, is that all right?" As he settled on his father's shoulder, Joe slid his arms around the man's neck.

"Go, bed?" The question came quietly, more for Luka then Abby.

"Yeah, after your bath." Luka kissed Joe again as he waited for Abby's response.

"That's fine, I'll go start the water, bring him up when you're ready." Abby leaned over and gave first Joe, then Luka a kiss before standing.

"I'll get his pajamas too, see you in a few minutes, and thank you, Luka." The image of Luka and Joe was one of those she knew would stay with her for a long time, he was meant to be a father. If she had ever had any doubt of it, she only need watch him with his son to know that of all the things he was, this was what he was most meant to be, more then a doctor, more then a husband. She could only imagine how losing his first two children must have affected him, and while Joe could never replace them, he had given him that gift of fatherhood back again. In a way, Joe had given him his life back. Who would have thought that good things could have come in such a small package?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Prompt 27.C.1. Coat/True Writers and 68.5.C Christmas Tree Picture/Writers Muses

Christmas in Boston

As he sat in the darkness of the livingroom, staring at the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, Luka found his thoughts drifting.

For so long the coming of the holiday season had been a time that he had dreaded. It wasn't just because their approach followed so closely on the heels of the anniversary of Danijela and the children's deaths, though he knew that likely was part of it. For so long he had held those few brief years that Danijela and he had shared as a marker, a marker that in his mind nothing would ever again equal. All of the memories of those short years they'd shared together he'd cherished for so long, capturing each fragment as a snapshot in his mind, that he only needed to close his eyes to see again. It didn't matter how many years had passed, they were there as a reminder of what he had lost, the life he was sure he would never again find.

He'd tried of course, tried only to fail. In those early years he'd foolishly thought he could reclaim the feeling by going home to the things that used to be safe. Abandoning Vukovar and then the camp that became his home in the months after it fell, he'd returned to live with Tata. He'd somehow thought that if he were with him and Niko, surrounded by the familiarity of traditions he'd grown up with he'd find again what he'd lost, but, it was too soon and the pain was too great. There were far too many reminders of Danijela there, too many memories of Jasna's smile, and later her excitement as she discovered all the holidays had to offer. There were memories too of Marko, but far too few, as he lost his life before he'd even had a chance to live it. As difficult as it was to leave Croatia and those he would leave behind, it would have been even more painful to stay. He had no choice, he said his good-byes and hoped one day Tata would understand why he had to go.

It wasn't until he found his way to Chicago that he gave myself permission to start living again and even then it wasn't intentional. He went into County expecting it to be like every other hospital he'd picked up shifts at, another place to escape his past, another place to hide, and then he met Carol. Even now he couldn't say he thought about there ever being anyone else in his life but Danijela until he met her. Looking back on that time now, it was clear he'd never seen what developed between us as anything more than a friendship until it was too late. In Carol he'd found someone willing to listen as he relived the parts of his life that were lost to him, and he liked to think his presence in her life filled a need she had. She allowed him to laugh again, and through her daughters he was given the gift of fatherhood even if it was only for an hour or two a day. Sharing that first Christmas with her and the twins allowed him to believe that maybe Tata had been right, but, then she was gone and he was back where he started, or so he thought.

His thoughts were brought back to the present as Joe's laugh drifted down the stairs. Listening more carefully he heard the splash of the bathwater, then the give and take of first Abby's, then Joe's voices as they talked about the evening to come. This would be his son's first Midnight Mass, and while Abby wasn't Catholic herself, she had agreed to share this moment with them. Turning back to the tree, he allowed the lights to draw him back into his thoughts...

He never could have predicted what came next, Abby was so different from Danijela, so different from Carol, and maybe he'd needed that. He couldn't help wondering if things might have turned out differently had they not been attacked by that mugger on that first date. He had no doubt that his actions that night changed him, they had to, He had another man's blood on his hands, he took someone's life to protect theirs, to protect Abby. He'd replayed that night so many times and he'd wished it could have ended differently, but, the fact remains, he'd killed him, and his death forever bound them together. He wanted things between Abby and him to work, but, the truth was, he wasn't ready for a relationship, she was right, He was married to a ghost, and until he could come to terms with his past he couldn't begin to think of a future with anyone else.

It was easy to see his mistakes now, he couldn't then and because of that his life had begun to spiral out of control. It wasn't enough that he became someone that even he no longer recognized, he became someone that he was ashamed of. He was out of control, in every sense of the word and he'd reached the point where his actions began to affect those around him. If there was any bright spot in all of those months of darkness, it was seeing Abby happy, because, as hard as it was knowing they'd had their differences, it couldn't change the fact that he still had feelings for her. He was sure that was why he bought the snowglobe that year, there was something about the world inside of it that gave him hope and there'd been so little of it during that time. Abby wouldn't know it came from him until much later, but he would know, and it gave him something to cling to in the weeks and months that followed.

When he'd left for the Congo, he honestly believed he had gone as low as he could go in his life. Everything he had worked for, everything he had believed, he'd betrayed it all. If he were to look back on the man he was then, it wasn't just that he didn't recognize myself in what he'd become, it was how much he hated him. While he hadn't even admitted it to himself, he welcomed the threat of danger he was going to face, and went so far as to taunt it, without even caring about the consequences. In his mind, he had nothing to lose, he had already lost everything and he was ready to die. If only he could say he knew the moment that everything changed, but, he didn't. It might have been when Patrique sacrificed his life to save his, it could have been when Sakima risked the lives of both herself and her daughter. He honestly didn't remember much about those last days, those last weeks. There was no question that he was there, or that it changed him. It was only that he owed far too many people to begin to thank them all.

Could he ever have imagined that he would be where he now was? The question lingered as he climbed to his feet, Joe's laughter drifting down the stairs, too much of a draw to avoid any longer.

"What are you doing Joe?" The words were out of his mouth before he reached the stairs, and it took barely a moment more for the toddler's answering squeal of delight to reach him.

"Tata...Tata! Escaping his mother's hold as she tried to finish dressing him, Joe darted to the stairs, only to wrap himself around his father's legs as the man reached the landing.

"Joe, come back here." Abby appeared in the doorway, the boy's coat and tie in her hand.

"You're not helping you know?" She gave Luka a look of exasperation as he picked their son up.

"We've got time yet, but, if you need to finish getting ready, I'll take over here." Shifting Joe to his hip, he extended his hand for the boy's coat and tie, then, as Abby came close, he leaned in to kiss her.

"You smell nice." He gave her a smile as he straightened again.

"I smell like bubble bath thanks to your son's joy of splashing." The smile on her face betrayed the anger in her words.

"Well, I like it. I'll take him downstairs with me. You want to go down and see the tree, Joe?" Ducking Abby's answering swat, he turned his attention to his son as he carried him down the stairs.

"Tree." As he caught sight of the blinking lights Joe pointed to it, then attempted to wriggle free of his father's hold. "Joe, down, Tata."

"Okay, but, let's finish getting you dressed." Setting the almost 3 year old on the ground in front of him, he knelt so he was close to his eye level.

"Stand still now so Tata can do this." As he caught his son's eye, Luka clipped a red and green striped tie to his shirt, then helped him into a red double breasted suitcoat.

"Go bye-bye?" Joe pointed to the door as Luka finished and released him.

"Pretty soon, we're waiting for Mama. Do you want to get your book while we wait?" He pointed to a chunky book that sat on the coffeetable.

"Book." Joe offered the word as confirmation before picking up the treasured picturebook, but, stopped short of carrying it back to his father as he noticed something new on the table. Almost simultaneously Luka and Joe both seemed to register the appearance of the compass, though the toddler couldn't know the significance of the object. As it caught his attention he let the book drop. though as he went to grab for it, he found his efforts thwarted by his father.

"Mine..." The wail went up as soon as the item disappeared from view, and he moved closer to Luka in an attempt to snatch it away from him.

"No, Joe...it's Mama's."Luka tried first to hide the compass behind his back, then slid it away from view into his pocket, as Joe continued his attempts to get it away from him.

"What's Mama's?" Abby's voice on the stairs announced her arrival, while at the same time providing the distraction Luka needed to move the compass out of his son's reach.

"Mama!" As Joe saw Abby, his interest in the item was forgotten, and he ran to greet her as if it had been hours instead of minutes since he'd last seen her.

"Hey, Joe, did Tata get you all dressed up?" As her son stretched his arms up to her, Abby picked him up before giving him a kiss.

"Are you ready to give Tata your surprise?" Abby leaned her head closer to the boy's to whisper in his ear.

"Santa, Santa...down, Mama." At her son's demand she set his feet back on the floor before going to the bookshelf and retrieving a brightly colored paper bag which she handed to him.

"There you go, Joe, give it to Tata." Abby's smile began before she finished the instructions, as her husband knelt so he was at Joe's eye level it only grew broader. When Luka pulled it from the bag she lost it, they had come so far, been through so much, and now, to experience this moment. It was hard to know if the tears that were wetting her cheeks were ones of joy or ones drawing off the sadness of how close they had come to losing it all. Watching Luka now as he hugged his son, the child's gift in his hand, she was left to wonder, could their life be any more perfect?

Joe's Gift to Luka...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prompt 24.5. Give a little love to a child, and you get a great deal back./True Writers

Give a little love to a child, and you get a great deal back. - John Ruskin, The Crown of Wild Olive, 1866

It's hard to believe that we finally have Joe home, but, here he is. After all those weeks of worry, of the endless hours spent listening to the hissing and beeping of the monitors and vents in the NICU. I can't stop thinking about all of the times that I kissed him good-bye and wondered if it might be for the last time. Or how many sleepless nights I spent worrying over whether his fate would be the same as Jasna and Marko's? But, here he is, all of my fears were for naught, he's finally home, and he's healthy, and happy, and that's all that matters.

Sitting here, now, in the quiet darkness of the early morning, with him in my arms, it's hard to believe he's real. I've dreamed about moments like this for so long, and now that it's here, it's hard to explain how it makes me feel. I keep thinking I should pinch myself to make sure it's not a dream, but, then he smiles at me, or coos, or he grabs my finger and whatever thoughts were in my head are gone and all that remains behind is my love for him. How can someone so small command so much power over me? But, he does, and I think he always will.

As much as I love Joe, I worry for him. God, please tell me how do I get past my fear for him? I look into his eyes and I can't help but wonder if he knows that as much as I love him, there's a part of me that is still afraid of losing him. I look back on those weeks he spent in the NICU, I look back at his surgery, and I have to force myself to believe that he will never know anything worse then that in his life. I never want Joe to know the sacrifices that Jasna and Marko were forced to make, I never want him to know that kind of hate, I never want him to experience that kind of fear. A father's supposed to protect their children from harm, and while I know what happened to Jasna and Marko wasn't really my fault, I still carry the guilt of having failed them. I don't want Joe to feel like a caged bird, I want him to experience everything life has to offer, but, there will always be that part of me that wants to shelter him, and to keep him safe. Please, God, help me know when to stop, I couldn't bear it if at some point my over protectiveness were to chase him away.

I want to believe that my need to protect Joe will fade as he gets older, as he passes the ages that Marko and Jasna were at their deaths, maybe then I'll be able to finally let them go. As I look at my son's face, and into his eyes, I realize that we have so much to learn from each other, and this time, I know that we'll have a lifetime to do it in. Please God, please don't let me be wrong.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December Prompt: Sweets from October 005/Artistic License

A Sweet Surprise

(Vukovar 1991)

"Mama...there's nothing to do." Despite the consequences that she knew would come from her actions, the five year old's voice altered to more of a whine as she gave in to the frustration that had been building for far too long

"Jasna, lower your voice before you wake Tata." Danijela offered the warning to her oldest child with barely a glance up from the laundry she was sorting and folding.

"You've got plenty of things you can do, if you can't figure something out yourself, you can come help me or play with Marko." At the mention of her youngest child, she immediately glanced to where the toddler was sitting on the floor, an assortment of cups scattered around him.

"I don't want to play with Marko, he's a baby. I want to go outside." With her anger peaking her chair very nearly toppled over as she shoved it backward in her haste to vacate it.

"Ou'si'" Marko almost immediately echoed his sister's word, and as a smile spread across his face he abandoned his own play to scramble to his feet so he could follow her.

"Jasna...now look what you've done. You know you can't go outside." Danijela's voice held mixed emotions in it, as angry as she might be at her daughter for fueling things, she understood only too well how hard it must be for the children to be confined to the small apartment day after day. With a sigh she lay the stack of clothing on her lap to the side before rising.

"What's going on?" Danijela had just scooped Marko up, when she heard her husband's sleepy voice over her young son's protesting cries.

"Tata, we want to go outside." Jasna immediately changed her target, and before Luka had even sat up she was climbing onto the bed where he was.

"I'm sorry they woke you, Luka." Danijela offered the apology as she continued with her efforts to calm Marko.

"It's all right." He gave his wife a tired smile before turning his attention to his daughter as she finally settled beside him.

"Tell me what's going on, Beba?" After wiping the last of the sleep from his eyes Luka sat up and slid his arm around her.

"I just want to go outside, Tata, we don't get to do anything anymore." Whether it was because of her closeness to her father, or simply because the anger that she'd seemed to hold had been released, the girl's voice no longer held it's earlier anger.

"Jasna, we've talked about this, you know it's not safe for you to be outside. I wish it was different but, it's not. How about if I get dressed and you can take your jump-rope into the hallway, would that be okay?" As he offered the compromise, Luka idly stroked his daughter's hair.

"It's not the same thing, Tata." Even as she voiced her discontent, the five year old realized that what her father was offering her was likely going to be the only option open to her other then playing in the apartment.

"What do you say, Jasna?" Luka dropped his hand to her shoulder as he asked for her final decision.

"I guess that's okay, but, just me and you, not Marko, right?" In that moment it seemed equally important that her escape from the apartment be something that she alone experience.

"Marko can stay here with Mama, besides, I have a surprise for both of you." Tossing aside the blanket that still covered him, Luka climbed off the bed and went to retrieve a small bag from the pocket of his coat. With the sack in hand, he motioned for Danijela to join the as he returned and took a seat on the side of the bed closest to his daughter.

"Tata, Marko, up." As soon as he got close to his father, the 18 month old's mood brightened.

"What do you have, Tata?" Jasna's curiosity grew as she saw the bag, and by the time he had it open she had almost draped herself over his shoulder to get a better look. As he withdrew a red sucker she elicited a squeal of delight, which was echoed by Marko.

"Let me give this one to your brother, okay?" Pulling the cellophane off he handed the sucker over to the toddler before reaching again in the bag and producing a second one.

"Here you go, Beba." Luka handed the second one to his daughter and wasn't surprised to see that it went immediately into her mouth. Realizing almost as quickly what she'd forgotten, the girl removed it and rose up to kiss her father's cheek.

"Thank you, Tata." She followed the words up with a smile, then, with the sucker back in her mouth, she climbed off the bed and coaxed Marko to follow.

"You're welcome, Beba." With the children now occupied, Danijela moved to the spot her daughter had just left.

"Where in the world did you find sweets?" She found herself trying to steal a peek in the bag as she questioned him, but, as he had with the children, Luka was being equally secretive with her.

"No peeking." The chiding came with one of his quiet laughs and it was only after he'd secured payment of a kiss from her that he revealed the chocolate bar that was her surprise.

"Luka, where did you find it?" Danijela's smile grew as broad as those of the children's when she saw what he'd found. After so many weeks of sacrifice, to have found something like this, she didn't even want to think about what it might have cost him.

"Did you get something for yourself? Take part of this." She'd already begun to section the bar off when her husband stopped her.

"We'll talk about what I want tonight, after the kids are asleep, you just enjoy it, I'm fine." It wasn't until he said them aloud that he realized how much truth the words held, despite all the sacrifices they were living with, in this moment, they were truly happy, and they couldn't ask for more than that.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Prompt 29.3: How do you feel during the holiday season?/On The Couch

Ever since I lost my family I've dreaded the approach of the holidays. I'd see the decorations and the displays starting to appear and all they would do was remind me of what I no longer had. How was I supposed to celebrate anything when my children and my wife were gone? Once I left Croatia I made sure that the few times I went back were never close to the holidays because of all the memories I had of my family, those were the most painful to remember.

Just about three years ago all that changed...first with the news that Abby was pregnant and then our marriage. It's funny how much things change when you have a child, a family to share the holidays with. I see everything through different eyes now, maybe because I'm not just seeing them through my own. I watch Joe's face light up as he sees the houses with their twinkling lights, I listen to his laugh as we look at the holiday displays in the store windows. Sometimes if I listen carefully enough I think I can hear two other voices laughing with him, and if I close my eyes, just for an instant I think I can see Jasna and Marko's faces as if they were seeing through his eyes.

I don't dread the holidays anymore, though I admit that there are moments of sadness in them for those who are no longer with me. I don't doubt that this year there might be more of those than with the last, if only because it'll be the first year without Tata. I'll get through it though and I know with each year that passes it'll get easier. I never want to reach the point though that I forget, for those that are gone are as much a part of me as those still here, and I never want to completely lose them.

43.4. Discuss something unexpected that happened in your relationship/Couples Therapy

I wish I could say that Abby and I have been able to plan for all of the things we've been forced to face, but, I can't. I'd be surprised to learn if anyone could. From the first time we were faced with something like that, to the most recent, we can only accept that they've happened and find a way to learn from them, and hope our relationship is strong enough to survive them. It isn't even that some are welcome surprises, which is what I would have considered the news of Abby's pregnancy. We see things so differently though, and as much as I wanted that child, there were several days when I wasn't sure if Abby was going to keep him. At the time I'd told Abby that I would accept whatever decision she made, but, after having him in my life, I wonder now if I would have stayed had she chosen to abort him, and then I realize it's best not to go there.

We're facing the challenges of something completely different now, and I can only hope that we'll survive it as we did Joe's birth. I want to believe it's possible, I know we're doing everything in our powers to make that happen, and that includes both moving and changing jobs. I'm not sure that either of us thought something like this would happen to us, but, who does? Who wakes up and says today I'm going to cheat on my husband? That's what Abby did though, and we can't undo her mistake, all we can do is accept that it happened and try to move forward. We're hoping Boston will allow us to do that. Away from the people and places that offer constant reminders, we're determined to give our marriage another chance, I can only hope that it's not too late.