Thursday, January 1, 2009
Prompt 31.2: I am... /On the Couch
I am a husband.
I am a father.
I am a son, or am I? Do I cease to be a son when I lay my father to rest? I wonder sometimes what kind of son my father thought I was. It wasn't something we ever spoke about. Was he ashamed of how I lived my life, or proud of the choices I'd made? Though I wasn't with my father when he died, I had spent most of the last six months with him, it wasn't an easy time for either of us. We talked a lot of how things used to be, what life was like when my mother was alive, when Niko and I were young, when our family was whole and we had our whole lives ahead of us. My father had always been a proud man, strong, and independent, his illness robbed him of that and I think of all that he lost, it was that which he missed the most. In those final weeks of his life, the cancer stole more than his ability to walk from him, it stole the very essence of who he was.
I left my father's home, and my Country, in the early nineties. After I did my time in the military, five years of marriage, and a stay in a displaced person's camp after the fall of Vukovar, I'd returned to the safety I thought I would find within it's walls. At the time, I was a shell of the man I had once been. I was grieving for the losses of my wife and children, and still healing from mental and physical injuries of the war. In a way, I think I hoped that by returning to the comfort of my father's house, I'd find the safety that I'd always found there as a child, but, nothing was the same, and as difficult as the decision was, I knew I had to find my way alone. My reasons for leaving were ones my brother couldn't understand and proved to be a constant source of argument between us, and by the time I left we were barely on speaking terms.
As difficult as it was for my father to see me go, he knew if I was to have any hope for moving forward with my life I had to do it, and to this day I still remember his words to me before he placed me on the plane that day. He clasped my hand as if he could channel his strength through that connection, and then with tears in his eyes he met my gaze.
"We only part to meet again." As he finished he pulled me into his embrace, kissing both my cheeks, and then it was time for me to go. I remember watching him through the window of the plane, until I couldn't see him anymore, and I found myself wondering if he had done the same.
In the fifteen years since I left, I'd only returned two other times before he got ill, it's a mistake too late for me to correct, maybe that's why I stayed as long as I did, but, it was too late to undo the pain my absence had caused him. Tata will never meet my wife, he'll never know his grandson, never hold him, never sing to him, or read him a bedtime story, those are things I have to live with. Joe and Abby will know my father though, they'll know of his strength, his humor, his love of family. They'll know how much he would have loved to have shared his life with them, I'll make sure of it, and that's a promise I can keep for him.
I am a husband.
I am a father.
And I will always be my Father's son.