I have this recurring dream, and it's a sepia-tinted, rose-coloured-glasses kinda dream wherein I'm walking barefoot through fields of wheat and barley, through a meadow of long strands of swaying grass that tickle my bare legs, and it's just nice, you know? Life-affirming stuff, even. Eva Cassidy's "Fields of Gold" plays like some mellifluous musical narration. ("You'll remember me when the west wind moves among the fields of barley.")
It's a late summer afternoon, it's warm and balmy. It's pretty damn near perfect, is what it is. I'm being pulled in a direction that's all too familiar to me, but I've no map. Completely and utterly mapless. (But not hapless! Har-dee har-har.) It's weird but I know exactly where I'm going mostly because I'm being led there. I've been there so many times in dreams. ("In dreams I walk with you, in dreams I talk to you.") There's a breeze and I feel it on the nape of my neck as it lifts my hair, and OOF - it feels so good. And you know how, when you wake up and it's sunny out, you get butterflies fluttering madly in your stomach? (Or maybe that's just me.) In my dream, the butterflies are out in full force, in my stomach and all around; anticipation coiling in the pit of my belly. I know something is coming yet I can't pinpoint it.
And then, lo and behold, there he is. My father. MY father. We reunite and I crumble into a hysterical heap in his arms, I'm grown but I'm a child, and I weep in his embrace for what feels like hours as he holds me, makes comforting sounds, and strokes my hair like he used to do when we lived in Karlovac. And then he slings his shoulder around me and we stroll about, and take a drive down the coast. He asks me about my life and what I've been doing, he wants to hear everything even though he knows, and I regale him with tales as he listens intently and laughs at my sardonic humour, and after hours of togetherness it's time for him to leave. I give him a panicked look with tears pooled in my eyes and spilling over, cling to him desperately, and tell him how I don't want him to leave, it's not enough, can't he stay just a little while longer, pretty-please, PRETTY-PLEASE DADDY?
* * *
When I was a little girl, from "0" to almost 9 years old, he was my true north, the truest of true norths, and the needle on my inner compass always moved erratically, seeking him out, and pointing towards him, my everlasting north. Being near him made everything right, made everything light- and love-filled, along with my mama and brother. We were an awesome foursome, a true team, and we kicked ass.
* * *
1st November 1993 - 1st November 2013
I think of my father every day, and have thought of him every day since he passed away twenty years ago.
I think of him in the morning when I wash my face and splash cold water into my eyes to reluctantly shock myself into wakefulness, remembering him telling me that one should always wash one's face with cold water for many reasons.
I think of him when I dive into the sea or the pool, remembering our last family summer holiday in Crikvenica (Aug 1993) when he painstakingly taught me to dive for about an hour, showing me how to curve my body, how to hit the water, and laughing good-naturedly every time I'd stuff up because of course I stuffed up repeatedly, DUH.
I think of him when I listen to songs we used to sing together with great enthusiasm - songs that became "our" songs.
I think of him whenever I hear a particularly beautiful song that was released after 1st November 1993 and I wonder how many good songs he's missed out on and hasn't heard, or maybe it's all relative and he heard the best ones in his time, you know? I mean, HELLO: the golden age of the 60s and 70s!
I think of him whenever I see or travel on trains given his railway job and how often the perks of free train travel punctuated our lives. Because of dad, I love trains; their look, the overwhelming din as they clomp along the railway tracks.
I've always associated trains with my father - what a beautiful association, I think.
I think of him when I towel-dry my hair or pull my hair up into a ponytail, remembering our holiday on the island of Mali Losinj in 1989 when he'd wash my hair, laboriously dry it, then try to do a side ponytail like mama did it, asking if it was good enough.
* * *
|Why, yes, that IS me on the couch next to dad.|
1988, three years old. Brother and dad's cousin next to us.
Big pic: dad circa 1977, 20 years old.
Dad hugging brother: late 1980 / early 1981.
It's an unnerving sucker-punch feeling being bereft of a father for two decades - unnerving, a little frightening and, yeah, there are still the "It's so unfair" moments...like today. And, damn it, it's not fair. I'm so envious of people who have fathers in their adulthood. 98% happy for them, 2% envious. (Ha!) Especially, I guess, because I know how wonderful a relationship we would have continued to have, based on how we were from 1985 to late 1993 and how close mama and I are. So, yeah, sometimes I'm still a little pissed off at "the universe" for shortchanging me and my brother the experience of a father throughout the decades of adulthood. I think of my mother being shortchanged on growing old with her soulmate, of continuing to enjoy the wonderful marriage they had created and honed through the years. (What a nigh-on-perfect blueprint for marriage they left me with - what a legacy!)
I think of how much I want to talk to him, tell him things, joke with him and make him laugh. I think of how much I want to share a meal like we used to every day. I think of how much I miss his hearty breakfasts. I think of how he was a one-of-a-kind man filled with love and respect for all people, and how he taught me, along with mama, to love all people, that we are all worthy; he led by example with the things he said and did, especially during the war when he never let circumstance dictate he turn into an abnormal version of himself like many people on all three sides did. There was no way he could or would be poisoned by laughable inter-ethnic hatred. He taught me to quietly and humbly love my own ethnicity but never at the expense of another, to never stoop so low as to denigrate or hate another, and to love PEOPLE (a no-brainer) - he was like that, my mother was and is, and my brother and I follow in their footsteps.
The older I get, the more I need him.
Isn't it funny how that works?
Throughout my life with my father, the first almost nine years of my life, I've been gifted with a tapestry of memories so achingly beautiful that I feel I can almost reach out and touch them they seem so tangible. I wish I could have had more, I wish we were still extending the tapestry length right now, embroidering more pictures and designs onto it. I'll hang onto the tapestry I have, keep it locked in a safe place. Clutch it and hang onto it, kung fu grip and all.
"You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Among the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We will walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold..."