Miholjdan 2014 – Indian summer

svece

svece za zadusnice

Today was October 12th. It’s been exactly a month without dad around. Am I doing better? No, not really. Has it started sounding real? No, it hasn’t, it still makes no sense at all. It’s as if somebody pressed the permanent pause at the end of that accelerated horror story movie of the battle for dad’s life and now time flows in some badly directed nightmare that I still wish could end any time. Have I moved on? No, I haven’t, I still catch myself begging him in my mind to come back even though I know very well that he never will.

I almost decided to quit blogging for good. Because you know, somehow I think that I shouldn’t complain that much or all time. Everybody lost somebody. Everybody will lose somebody extra special and handle it better than I do I suppose. On the other hand, I am who I am and my grieving process is uniquely shaped in my own way, I can’t be here talking about good and cheerful things right now. I’m well aware that it pushes people away and that all this long lasting “rant” is the best way to lose even that couple of tiny friendly bonds I managed to create (which I’m afraid has already happened). But I can’t pretend. I’m tired of pretending, I’ve been doing it for years and years, for almost as long as I remember, faking that my days are the same as the days of the majority of people out there who live without anxiety issues. Call it the fear of stigma, desperate desire to fit in, struggle not to lose the last good standpoints I badly need if I want to survive any longer. Whatever it is, one thing is certain – I’m not crazy or delusional or any sort of threat to anybody, I just have anxiety issues which have filled my soul with lots of pain and solitude for so long. That pain is there, the same as always, it is just multiplied many times and worsened by the grief that’s been haunting my days for weeks and weeks in a row. When I wanted to quit, I remembered the title I gave to this unfortunate blog of mine – “Thinking diaries”. Even though it was created with quite a different idea, and even though it should have been a place for interesting contemplations on various issues, it took a completely unpredictable turn… but it was still meant to be a diary of some sort. Diary entries aren’t always cheerful or fun. Diary writers are not all and always bursting with optimism. This is my life, and such should be my diary as well. I almost opted for writing it back on paper again in order not to choke or bother other people out there any more, but it would be hard to fit in things like images or sounds into a palpable version. So, all in all – if the negativity is too much for you guys out there, what can I say – there are plenty of other places where sun shines brighter than on my pages. As for those who will still stick with me “in sickness and in health”, one big thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Back to October 12th – in the Christian Orthodox religion to which I belong, this is a special, festive day called Miholjdan, dedicated to the Saint Kirjak, who among other things spent his life healing the sick and unfortunate people. This day is also dear to many Serbian people, marking the period of Miholjsko summer, equivalent for the North American Indian summer. It is typical that around this date summer briefly returns for the final goodbye, even though the autumn has officially started three weeks ago. It’s no different this year as well, daily temperatures are around 80 degrees and will stay that way for the next couple of days. This year Miholjdan came immediately after the day dedicated to the dead – in the Orthodox religion, there are four such days in the year, they are called Zadušnice (za dušu – for the soul) and they are always on Saturdays – the first day of the dead in autumn this year was October 11th, and the second one will be on November 1st. You are supposed to visit the graves of your deceased family members on these dates, light candles, bring flowers, take care of the grave, remember the ones who have left us. I was at the cemetery yesterday. I somehow always feel that wherever I go, my father will appear somewhere out of blue and tell me that none of this was real, that he is well and that he’ll be happy in his garden as he has always been. I went to the cemetery, my mom went to the garden to take care of some of the last fruits of dad’s this year’s labor. His last labor as it turned out. It’s horribly sad to find all his stuff there as he left it and the ground slowly succumbing to neglect, weeds and silent abandonment. Each and every thing there was made by his hand or placed where he decided things to be. It requires lots of work and the kind of strength me and my mom don’t have to keep that garden living. Yet it is still unimaginable to me to let someone else take over that little piece of land, destroy everything he made and turn 30 years of dad’s work into dust. It’s still too early to decide. She “looked for” him in the garden, I “looked for” him at the cemetery. He was nowhere to be found, there were just evidences that he once walked on this Earth and shaped some of its parts in a certain way. We ordered his picture for the tombstone and arranged for the letters to be carved in, his name and years of birth and death, right under my grandma’s picture and name. I arrived yesterday afternoon and there it was, almost completely done. It made me cry in some good way. It was beautiful, if such things can be called beautiful. He smiles from that picture the same way he does from the photo I hanged here previously, as if he were about to open his mouth and say something at that very instant you look at him. I lit the candles and as I was moving away, that light in the dusk accompanied by the light of other candles all over that nowadays huge cemetery made some very special effect on me. It was almost some kind of blessing, some special peace that was spreading all over that huge, flat, open space. Mom brought home some potatoes, parsley, carrots, a couple of pears and some of dad’s favorites quinces. They have that special, one of a kind smell of their village childhood when old women traditionally kept quinces on the cupboards in autumn and winter which filled the air with the last breaths of that year’s fruits of the nature. I remember my grandma and later my mom making that extra special quince jelly with nuts that we called kitnikez, word distorted from German Quittenkase whose tradition of making these sweets we inherited and adapted back in the times of the military occupation. Having been a diabetic for many years, dad turned over time to the stewed mixture of quinces and sour apples (compote) with no added sugar, but this imposed change in habits didn’t changed his love for his extra special quince trees. There are almost no apples this year, but he lived to see last year’s apple outburst – he gave out kilos and kilos of apples as presents to everybody we knew, that was his last goodbye with giving out healthy fruits he produced with so much love and care. He never sold one thing he made in that garden, he never knew how to make money. If the state hadn’t given him salary for his job as a doctor, he would have cured people for free. It was all about love and giving out to the world with a smile in his life. He was quite a unique person, and I am not saying this because he was my dad. It still feels weird to use past tense when I speak about him.

As for the candles at the beginning of this post – all those who can’t visit the graves of their loved ones, either because of illness, distance, or simply being busy are more than welcome to light candles for the dead in any nearby church, both on Saturday and Sunday. Even though I was at the cemetery yesterday, I felt the need to go to the church today, especially because it was both Miholjdan and a month after dad passed away. I always used to light one candle for the grandma and another one for “all the rest”, other people usually light just one candle for all those who are missing from their lives. Now I lit one for the grandma, one for the dad, and one for everybody else, dad’s candle is the one in the middle of that photo dominantly depicting three candles. Then something strange happened, there was this very old lady that came with a handful of candles, stood right next to us and started lighting them one by one, while as we say “attributing” each one of them to a certain person. My mom said – my goodness, look at that flame… and I said – mom, my goodness how many dead people though… Then I remembered what my grandma’s best Belgrade’s friend who is 95 and still alive said – I don’t know what’s worse, to die early or to live long – if you live for a very long time, everybody you’ve ever known will be gone and you’ll be still there to be aware of that. I’m sure that the old lady that lit these candles would agree with her. We stood in silence, watching the flames and it was again a moment of piece in all this storm. May all that people remembered this way rest in piece and may these candles light their path, till we all meet again some day.

I wanted to add just one more thing, as I said Miholjdan made me think of the term Indian summer, which brought back in my memory that famous old French song by Joe Dassin, “L’été indien”. When I learned French well enough I memorized these words by heart and I still know them – here is a youtube link with the text in French for those of you who understand it:

It speaks of how things used to be beautiful and nice, of one past love… and how now everything is gone. Places are still there, waves, the beach, but she is gone for good. It somehow perfectly fits in my present mood. Here is the translation:

Indian summer

You know, I have never been as happy as I was that morning
We were walking along the beach a bit like this one
It was autumn, an autumn when weather was nice
A season that exists only in the North America
Down there they call it Indian Summer
But this one was simply ours
With your long dress you resembled a watercolor by Marie Laurencin
And I remember, I remember very well
What I told you that morning
A year, a century, an eternity ago

We will be going, where you want to go, whenever you want to
We will be loving each other still even when love will be dead
And all of life will be like the shades of the Indian Summer

Today I’m far away from this morning of autumn
But it’s like I was there
I’m thinking of you
Where are you?
Do I still exist for you?
I’m watching this wave that will never reach the dune
You see, like the wave I’m lying down on the sand
And I’m remembering the rising tide flowing in, the sun and happiness drifting away into the sea
An eternity, a century, a year ago

We will be going, where you want to go whenever you want to
We will be loving each other still even when love will be dead
And all of life will be like the shades of the Indian Summer

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2 thoughts on “Miholjdan 2014 – Indian summer

    1. Yes, it’s a nice part of our cultural tradition. I am really glad you liked the photos, it was hard to take them with the phone in such a dark environment, but they turned out well enough. Thank you above all for your friendship and for always being there for me. All the best to you my friend, Tanja

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