Tag Archives: diary

Bad vs. good news

I was always inclined to first perceive the bad picture when I summarized the event of the day, month or year. Quite sadly for a long time that was actually the only picture I perceived, unable to confront it with its opposite counterpart which always exists, no matter how dark is the darkness we sometimes found ourselves in. Flaw of the character or simply the consequence of my mental health issues which colored my days with the gray filter of depression even long before the tragic loss of my father, that was who I was and still am to a certain point. It just took a completely new shape in this last year or so because even when things are funny or I begin to smile, it is never again that relaxed bubbly laughter I used to enjoy in the past. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how independent you are at the time when you lose your parents, it’s only then that you truly become that mature grown up adult, one of all those other adults at that given moment world has now to rely on. Those who shaped that world before slowly leave the scene and you find yourself more and more alone in front of the big audience to show all you can and cannot do. Till then you always had somebody who could in case of necessity watch your back, give you advice, replace you for a moment or two. Perhaps you didn’t use that backup option at all, but still you knew it was there, like a comforting emergency button you could push at any given instant, a person or persons who would never betray you and always be there at least to give you warm two cents of their own. When you lose that, again no matter at what age, you lose the unconditional ground under your feet and your time comes to shape some tiny piece of this planet in your own way. It was easy to criticize or watch from a safe distance the previous generation at every possible work you could imagine and say that you would do it better if only they let you – when your time comes you see how hard that task is. How easy it is to make mistakes. How many insecurities and unknown things lie even in some seemingly simple everyday tasks you weren’t involved in. You realize that it’s not easy at all to shape the world. That this is new time frame but that people are still people, that your generation isn’t much better or worse than all the previous generations. That you missed so many important lessons, but that you have to do something, without creative and not so creative blocks inside that just serve as an excuse for – oh that’s too difficult, strenuous or tiresome, I’ll leave it for tomorrow. You can’t leave it, because there are not so many tomorrows out there any more. It’s scary and requires responsibility. But that’s how it is. This realization leaves you with some sort of mature scar on your soul, a scar that makes adults adults and alienates them from the carefree strength of a happy childhood.

I used to be extremely sad in this past year, now life is somewhat more frozen in several shades of gray the mature realization that I’m alone to fight now consists of. Life is hard. Literally. Things around you weigh a whole ton when you try to lift them and there is nobody else to do it for you any more. I have 57-58 kilos now and I probably shouldn’t lift anything heavier that 10-15 kilos but I have to. Nobody asks if I can. And anyhow I was never used to transferring the weight from my shoulders to other people’s backs. This heaviness of life serves as a burning fuel for depression which in turn continues to force me to see mainly just the negativity in the world around me. I’m aware of that. I see that others are aware of that too – people don’t like simple reality, they strive for inspirational heroes even if they are just a myth because people in general are much less brave than they pretend to be in front of others. What counts is what you think and how you feel when you stay alone with yourself in front of your bathroom mirror and honestly face your true reality, and there are not many of those who would sincerely share such moments with others. Nevertheless, if you’re honest, people flee. They run away from you, they don’t call you, they leave you on your own to “pull yourself together”. They can’t listen to negativism, they search for inspiration. People are just – people.

When I used to actively fight against panic disorder I read all sorts of psychological texts from the field of self-help and I tried out all sorts of techniques to simply survive a day. One of them which was dedicated more to the fight against depression than with panic was to write down your negative thoughts, at least several a day and then find as many good things in that day to confront the negativism with. At first that is extremely challenging because you simply can’t see anything good in horrible days. They you do somehow squeeze out good moments onto that paper, but they seem totally insignificant. With time and practice it gets easier, actually they say that if you practice this long enough it can become your second nature to first see the good and only later the bad in your days. I was never patient enough to give it a decent try so I don’t know if it works on the long run to improve the thinking patterns, but I know that it was a helpful tool on some pretty rainy days.

Today my soul is pretty heavy, as if somebody were sitting on my chest. Let’s try to chase some fog away by a short bad vs. good list:

1. Remember kitten Maconi from the photo post? Well, it’s not at the cottage house any more nor it will ever be. There are two people who live there in the immediate surroundings all the time, but they both refused to take care of it during the winter by saying that they don’t have the food for a cat??! My uncle wants to spend a carefree wonderful winter abroad so he won’t be here for at least 3 months. For that reason the kitten was sent away to some distant yard, it’s quite unclear if it will be taken care of or abandoned to search for food by itself during winter.

2. The first neighbor at the cottage house who was ill this last year and a half died today. My father would be very sad if he were here to hear the news, I remember their adventures when they walked for miles in good and bad weather when the buses would break down and there was no other means for them to reach their cottage houses in the past when the village wasn’t well connected with the town.

3. I have strong back and muscle pains due to heavy duty work at the cottage house yesterday – the place doesn’t look small at all when you have to collect leaves and heavy rotten apples to carry them away, there were 100 kilos of rotten apples to be collected in order to prevent trees to catch illnesses. Then I went up and down the ladder for like 50 times, quinces are finally ripe – the wind was blowing like crazy, branches were hitting me in the face and I was losing balance and almost falling down from some crazy heights.

4. I was following this year the life of one very special Serbian female writer, Isidora Bjelica. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 3 years ago and went into two remissions, but the disease stroke back again in April-May this year for the third time. She tried vast number of expensive therapies, there were big humanitarian concerts as people gathered to collect money so that she could be treated in Switzerland, she promised to fight the best she could with lots of love for her fans and every single person who gave her a friendly word of support on her Facebook page. She posted that the imaging tests done today showed that her cancer spread very much and very aggressively. I felt the blow of heavy sorrow and those same mixed emotions I wrote about that haunt me for a very long time now.

The list could go on for quite a while, but I want to stop here with the negativism. Let’s search for the positive face of things:

1.In spite of pains I managed to bake a bread. And it turned out really excellent and tasty, I hope that I finally nailed the recipe that I should stick to.

2. Quinces are hard to collect and they have very unique taste, but they are also such a pretty site to look at, plus their smell is amazing. There are beautiful songs about quinces on cupboards during winter in our tradition.

3. It is hard for me to go to the cottage house, but I’m giving my best to convince myself that it is nothing and that I can do that. I’m fighting agoraphobia the best I can.

4. It is hard, but I’m somehow managing to post 2-3 times a week. I always say to myself – it won’t take long, I’ll write a shorter post this time… then I end up writing a “novel” as always. Maybe I should put a word limit and see what I manage to come up with that way. 🙂

Have a nice weekend!

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Daddy, your peaches blossomed again

peach tree blossoms
peach tree blossoms

Many things happened since I could last come actively here. I did try to blog from the phone, but that proved very challenging due to troubles with touch screen displacing and erasing things I wrote. It somehow didn’t seem meant to be, me and the WordPress. My mom was severely bitten by probably some spiders and developed a horrific reaction, we had a totally crazy tour of the clinics which would make a great story by itself. Now, almost 4 weeks later her leg seems a bit better, but it will obviously take a very long time to heal completely. My dog got bitten by two very mean dogs, the second time this year. My mom overdid with Easter preparations, but she wanted to do it as if dad were still here. It was somehow solemnly good, yummy and special, yet extremely sad. And on the top of it, tired like hell, I managed to cover half of the road to my dad’s garden by bus. Yep, I actually ENTERED the out of the city bus somehow. I don’t think I would have dared if my uncle who was spending Easter in the area didn’t mention that he would go half the way towards the city to by some fertilizers and that we could get of the bus and cut the road much shorter by his car. Having that as a chance to “escape” in case I panicked, I agreed – under sedation, there is no question about it. Every time I get there, my mind badly needs to pull my dad out of somewhere – out of his little wooden house, garden, from behind the trees… I watch and watch, but he’s nowhere to be found. Getting on the bus was hard also because my heart sinks when I see those little half broken buses, because in the last years my dad gave his best to use exclusively them to get to the garden and not the car in order to save. It was hard and strenuous, it is even for a much younger person, and I was nowhere to be found to help. And he had cancer, who knows for how long in these last years previous to the diagnose. Now I’m punished, he’s nowhere to be found. I constantly live in pain and have nightmares. I wouldn’t ask for any sort of help from him, just for his mere presence, to see him glad that I’m in the garden. That won’t happen, ever again, I’m punished for life. It’s been 7 months, and now I know – it will never stop hurting, as long as I live. It will just take many faces, that bundle of grief, some days will be a bit better, some much worse, but I will never be the person I was even just last July. We all change I know, even when nothing so extremely bad happens and we can never be who we used to be before, but my change is drastic. It affected so many areas of my life that I feel that I literally became somebody else, that I don’t belong to any of the places or among the people I once knew. I keep going in circles in the dark, searching for an answer who I am today and where and how to go from here. I so desperately want to understand, as if I could do something nobody alive ever managed to do – understand death.

There are many hurdles along this road and one of them is that nobody in my immediate surroundings want to talk about the dad or even just mention him. They feel that it is a wrong thing to do and that “distracting” me and my mom completely will help. Well, it doesn’t. It takes just one look in the mirror to remember, I am the infallible living proof that he existed. I want to talk, talking about him helps, it is all the part of the grieving process. Maybe some people feel better if they pretend nothing happened, keep it all inside and just go on minding their business when someone dies, but that’s not me. I need to verbalize emotions, to bring back old times, to remember things he said and did. People resist, I still say what is on my mind. Maybe they mean well after all, but they just don’t know how to talk about this kind of things. I know that they want an affirmative answer when they ask how I’m doing, but I’m not ok. Not even close. It’s all problems and pain. Saying that I’m ok won’t change that, but that’s all people accept to hear.

My aunt and uncle preferred to focus on the digital disaster part of the disastrous story, and as I explained that everything failed on me – computer, printer, scanner, phone charger etc. they remembered that they have an old laptop nobody uses which should still be in working state.

So we got this old, long asleep device going again, which caused many mixed emotions. I got used to not having a computer any more, so it both made me happy and sad somehow. It’s very old and half broken, but still it’s one of the nicest gestures towards me in months. I should have been happy when I got it going because that meant that I could blog again among other things and I accumulated ideas to talk about over time, but I was just blocked. Almost didn’t feel like coming back. Didn’t know what to say. If anybody would be interested. Also so much happens that I never have time for myself to properly concentrate on verbalizing thoughts. Then I came here and let the words flow, that was the best I could do. Also, I’m still getting used to this laptop, I can’t explain it, but things don’t seem the same from here, everything feels awkward, typing included. It has quite a bad screen, colors are very unreal which is not photo-friendly thing at all, but I still hung up a picture. Feels like having some form of color and contrast blindness, but who knows, maybe somebody out there will like it. It’s one of my dad’s peaches, I cried when I saw the bloom. He would love it. I wish I could know if he can see it.

Dad, they blossomed again, see how beautiful they are. It’s spring again, nature goes on as usual. Everything’s as it used to be, everything’s there where you left it, we just can’t find you… and we miss you so much, we would have so much to tell you. I hope you’re well, I wish I could just know you are. Love, Tanja

There is time

I wish somebody told me long ago that there wasn’t and isn’t time to waste in this life. I know that all the people I was surrounded by meant the best for me and wanted to protect me, creating the illusion that I have “whole life” in front of me, that if I fail or miss an opportunity I’ll make up for it tomorrow, or next week, month or even a year. I believed in that illusion and “took it easy”, procrastinated, searched and researched mainly the things I liked and that appealed to me, without considering if they had any true practical application in this world. When panic disorder did its best to halt me in every possible way, so many times I retreated in order to suffer less, exchanging freedom for tiny insignificant moments of instant relief. I thought that I was still young and had time to recover to a certain extent and do something more in life.

There is time, I repeated over and over again, till my world tumbled down full force onto my obviously pretty immature head last September when my dad died. I started realizing how many life trains I missed and how many important skills I didn’t learn, foolishly assuming that “dad would do that” or that some things would somehow resolve on their own with time. I subconsciously trusted that opportunities would find me when I need them, and that I wouldn’t have to go searching for them instead. I stopped counting mistakes as their astonishing number fills my soul with tremendous pain.

There wasn’t time, I just didn’t realize it. Now that I do realize it, it completely elapsed. It’s too late. I should have chosen a completely different profession and focused on making some living and something of my life. I should have searched better for a soulmate and created some sort of home of my own on my own or with somebody else. I should have led a better fight against my demons and at least accomplished last spring what I can do today. I should have continued driving after I got the licence almost 15 years ago. What did I do instead? I closed myself in my room, waiting most of the time for panic disorder to pass. Unfortunately, it’s not a virus and it doesn’t last 7 days. My dad passed away sad and disappointed with me. I’m not very sure that he loved me much towards the end the way he used to years ago, and if I’m right I can’t blame him. I’m supposed to know myself best, and even I can’t define myself well any more. I mean well, I would like to help and do some good, but nobody is willing to hire me at 38 for some extra work, I’m “too old”. I can’t help mom much with the bills or drive her somewhere. Procrastion led me to the point at which I don’t only mourn my dad’s death, but also question the sense of my existence. The more time passes, the more I am convinced that it would have been much more fair and just if I died and my dad stayed to live. I feel completely useless, I’m just a burden with all my incompetence and health issues. I can’t even afford to fix the computer that broke down again, so I can’t be consistent even with just blogging. Everything seems to be against me, yet I still defy it – I’m blogging from the phone. Hopefully it won’t break down as well.

So to whomever reads this – don’t procrastinate. Whatever needs to be done, do it now. It’s ok to be sorry when you lose someone, but you don’t need to be sorry for all the wrong choices and missed opportunities as well at those sad moments. No matter what fairytales or other say, don’t believe them – there is no time. No time to lose.

Childhood memories

As I was going to let the dogs out this evening, I discovered a little girl’s hair ornament imitating a string of multicolored pearls with Hello Kitty decoration lying in the corner of the corridor between our and the neighboring apartment. It must have been the neighbor’s little daughter who lost it, so I picked it up and secured it on the wall right in front of their door so that they could see it first thing tomorrow morning.

Maybe she has already forgotten about it, or maybe she was complaining all evening how she lost it and how much she missed it, children get attached to things which you would never believe they could care for that much. Then when they grow up and search for some favorite special memory from the old days, it often happens that if they find it they end up being disappointed with it, because they remembered it as something extra beautiful or very extra special and charming, only to discover that that long sought charm vanished for good.

This hair ornament triggered one similar memory from my childhood – it was a sunny day and I was playing with a tennis ball on our terrace while my dad and my grandmother took care of me. You surely know how nasty tennis balls are when they bounce really high and mine was no exception – it hit the terrace ceiling and jumped all the way down into the terrace of the neighbors living at the ground floor. I stared in disbelief and some strange misery possessed me as I saw the old lady come into her terrace, take the ball, say something bad about how my intention was to throw things at her head after which she came back inside, slamming the door and shouting that I wouldn’t see that ball ever again. Ok, one simple tennis ball, that should be something easily replaceable, right? That wasn’t the case back then in my country, tennis had been the sport of the noble and rich and it only started having its first appearances in front of the massive audience with the success of few older sportsmen, Monica Seles being the most famous among them in the times when I was growing up. We had only that one tennis ball in the house, and I received it as a present, along with one of those ancient wooden heavy racquets I literally adored. First my grandma and then my dad went down there to ask for the ball and to explain that I was just a little child who surely didn’t mean any harm to anybody, but she insisted that this small ball could have meant the end of her days. I sadly pondered over my little loss for several days and I was promised to receive another ball soon, when the old lady for some reason changed her mind. She sad she felt pity for me, but that she was still suspicious that the dad or granny could drop down something much heavier and more dangerous on purpose… 🙂 I could have never imagined the two of them being capable of anything similar, but the neighbor trusted no one.

I was out of my mind with happiness when the ball returned and I never used it on the terrace ever again, scared that she could definitely not return it any more. Later I got or bought those nice three ball packs of all sorts of famous brands, there was even one period in which I very happily tried to play tennis almost every day and it made me contented even though I never had any sort of true talent for it, but I always remember that one particular ball from my childhood. On one of those little “training” sessions I was hitting balls right next to the court where a tennis coach held a proper class for some young couple, and I noticed that she had dozens and dozens of balls that she intended to leave behind and dispose of. I approached her and saw that all the balls had the “US open” print on them, so I asked her about them. She said that she coached some juniors who participated even in Grand slams and that these balls were definitely from New York – balls get replaced quite often during matches, especially because they “break” or simply soften from hard hits, so when the event ends they should all end up in waste, but coaches often collect them for the first beginners’ practices. The softer the ball is, the easier it gets to make it bounce over the net – you surely can’t get the precision out of those shots, but you can practice the technique. What I saw in those balls was primarily US open souvenirs, so I asked her if I could have some, knowing that it was highly improbable that I’ll even attend any Grand slam tennis match. She packed an entire bag of balls and handed it over to me, telling me that she really liked my determination and love for the game.

That bag is still in one corner of the living room, behind the door. There is an open space there left after the big wall closet occupied the place intended for it, so what was left served us for many years to keep there bulky memories of various sorts. I don’t know what happened to that first, precious ball. It could be easily there in that bag of Grand slam memories, balls hit maybe even by some old important players as well. If I find it, no matter how long it remained there temporarily forgotten, it will still carry the weight of the past times and bring back the memories of that afternoon and voices of those three people who are no longer among us. The neighbor passed away several years ago, my granny and my dad are together now at that far away cemetery out of the town.

The old lady wanted to destroy that yellow-greenish object, failing to see anything good or important in it. Yes it was just a ball, but that ball makes her as well live even today in my thoughts and in these lines. It also reminds me how much my granny and my dad cared for me and tried to make me happy by helping out to restore happiness in my life in any possible way.

I wish I could talk to them both, even just only one more time. I miss you guys so very much.

The most important thing in life is to – stay alive

Yes, it’s all about good health, overcoming illnesses and staying eventually alive, it’s not a trite phrase by any means. Because when you’re very sick, you can’t do anything. You can’t even just think clearly or grieve as you lie in bed, everything disappears in some surreal painful haze in which you reach the point where you beg to get a bit better so that you could at least suffer properly again.

What brought me to these thoughts? I got sick, again. It was some sort of respiratory infection gone wild probably because of my weakened immune response due to everything that happened in the last 3 months or so. One of the last useful medical tips my dad shared with me shortly before he died was that when your system lacks something and you start running on your body stores of the elements essential for its functioning, you have more or less three months left, unless you replenish your stores. It’s like a car without enough gasoline, reminding you to visit the nearest station and refill your tank. If you fail to do so, you can still cover some decent number of miles till the engine shuts completely down. It’s been almost exactly 3 months since this whole horror started, months of running, carrying, lifting, fetching, fighting, discussing, agonizing, taking care, witnessing the end, arranging funeral, taking care of the grave, respecting memorial dates, facing the places I haven’t seen in more than 7 years, grieving and crying and not sleeping, not eating properly, not stopping at any “gas station” along that mad road. I think that I was anyhow on the verge of collapsing, even without virus / bacteria that dance in the air at this time of the year.

First, there were some horrible chills and fever rising and falling in some desperate attempt of my body to resist the attack. 48 hours later I was in the bed in the middle of the night dreaming while I felt widely awake, I “saw” the “admittance ward” of the realm of the dead and some very nice and helpful deceased people who gathered to welcome me… I saw an entire river of those who passed away moving slowly down some hill, searching for their place. There were some strange ball-like constructions where as they said the most intelligent among them work on various cures and preserving options for the mother Earth, ball shaped rooms filled with some grayish substance necessary for our planet to keep on spinning for many more years. Spooky? Quite right.

Then I somehow semi-consciously snapped out of those melting images and made some effort to move in the bed, which was extremely painful. Next thing I realized was that the place I occupied previously in that bed was so hot that it could start steaming in any minute. I made some further effort to grab the thermometer and it took me a while to grasp that it showed something over 102. Wow. I had such fever only twice before, when I almost died of measles at the age of 7 and once when I was talking nonsense due to some very bad bacterial infection. Admittance ward and preserving mother Earth. That didn’t sound good. No way. Then I snapped back into that strange world, right where I stopped. I went to search for the dad, but they informed me that he was no longer on that “first level”, that he moved further or higher above. I remember that I was unhappy because I wasn’t able to see him, then I snapped back to the reality of my room again, my head seemed even hotter than before.

Next 48 hours were quite delirious, I was moaning, crying, taking pain / fever meds every 6 hours but that was hardly doing anything as I was in terrible pain, every muscle and nerve ending gave its best to produce the strongest pain possible that at some points it seemed that dying would be quite a merciful solution. When I would get very close to dialing ambulance to beg for some painkilling injections, things would get better from meds and so on, till the dawn came out and I dragged myself to bathroom… I opened my mouth, then I reopened it just harder and stared in total disbelief. Tonsils and everything else covered with thick layer of white substance, painful as if I were swallowing knives. And it was Sunday. Doctors covered by insurance don’t work on Sundays, hospitals don’t admit patients with sore throats. There are private labs and private medical care. Money. Ok, let’s apply dad’s teachings and my experience… I took out penicillin based antibiotics once again, broad spectrum, swallowed two pills, there was no time to lose. I could have hit the bacteria, but I could have missed. Equal chances, although it usually works for the infections of the throat. By the evening I mustered strength to drag myself to the lab and pay for the swabs of my throat, just to be sure. If I got it, swabs would be clean, as the antibiotic already got into the system. If not, we would at least see which antibiotic to take. No doctor could do better. I also ordered some blood work, just in case.

It takes some time for the culture from swabs to start growing, so I went on with my antibiotic, feeling totally off and partially on on alternative basis. There was some nasty bleeding from the inflamed nose and throat as well, so yes, ebola came into my mind’s picture as well, but nobody I know went to Africa… can I be sure? Stop being paranoid…
Then I got the result. Swabs clear. Totally perfect. Bloodwork? Iron depleted. Totally depleted. I was running on depleted stores for quite some time as it seems. Did I check the dad’s tumor marker? Oh yes I did. Scared as hell till I saw the result. Totally normal.

Conclusion? Three months of bad eating and nutritional neglect destroyed my immune response and turned a quite usual infection into a life threatening condition. What seemed “just a sore throat” should have been treated in hospital conditions as it had such a dramatic appearance, but in terms of medication, I did a great job. Dad would be proud. I’m sure he would. Hopefully, iron values will rise as well with supplements and hopefully life will continue as always…

Is it bad luck again, halting me one more time this year after I tried to do something productive and meaningful? Is this a permanent state or will this bad period finish ever again? No answer as usual. I just know that health matters very much. You can have everything else in this life, but it loses every meaning and purpose if you lose life. Because if you are not alive and healthy, you can’t even be sad and miserable. It feels as though there is a gap of all these past days in my grief, gap that consists of shock, loss of strength and switched priorities. From being extremely sad and depressed you turn to preserving your own life, no matter how much invaluable it seemed to you in depression.

You simply realize that your life is the only thing you really (though temporarily) HAVE in this world. Nothing else can matter that much.

Hang in there

There is one good, middle aged man in my neighborhood who was born with a certain degree of disability due to which he has numerous health problems. I didn’t even know he existed, nor that he lived just several hundred meters away from me, because only in the block of adjacent buildings where I stay there are more or less 1,000 souls, not to mention that this whole area of the town with these same buildings consists of 13-14 such identical blocks. In reality, we are one entire little town by itself, condensed in not that much vast land area, there are so many people living literally ones on the top of others packed in apartments with mostly insufficient number of square meters yet you rarely know the person living next door, not to mention somebody from a different floor or in a different building within the same block. It wasn’t like that in the past, not even in that not very distant past when we moved in here a bit more than 30 years ago. People cared more about other people and life wasn’t so much about material possession and personal vanity as it is now, I sincerely and dearly miss that country called Yugoslavia I was born in. If I were still living in Yugoslavia (and I’m not, even though I haven’t moved an inch away in these last nearly 4 decades), the man from the beginning of this story would be in much better shape today. He would have completely free health care, some personal income due to his very legitimate disability issues, access to daily meals for people with income problems. He would have some dignity in this life and more people on the block would know he existed and offered some help, because social services would work on his integration in the community.

In his twenties, he used to live in Yugoslavia as well, and his father’s company helped him the best they could by letting him work in the company’s kitchen for their workers. He carried things around and peeled some vegetables, he had some little income and full insurance – those were the best days in his little unfortunate life, days before the world slowly but definitely started tumbling down on him.
Yugoslavia got torn up in pieces, swallowed by its own inhabitants who turned against each others, failing to understand that the consequences of these actions would harm only themselves and no one else. His dad’s company first suffered the beginning of a bad economical crisis. Then his dad passed away, failing to buy off their living space from the state in the midst of that crazy stellar inflation, as we all did and thus literally saved ourselves. His dad’s company eventually had to be restructured in the process of privatization, obligatory in the transition towards capitalism, but nothing prevented bankruptcy from happening. He lost his little job and remained with his mom who inherited his dad’s retirement money, as she didn’t have any income of her own. Life went on while his mom could take care of their lives in every possible sense, but in the end she passed away too several years ago. And this is when life stopped. He remained completely alone, lost, in Serbia now, with no means to live this life and expired ID, hidden among us with no electricity, with unpaid bills and no food for days in a row. He can do some things, but he needs to be told exactly what to do and he has to be partially supervised, which makes it almost impossible for him to find some kind of stable work position in this country. I found about him for the first time when an old lady involved in an organization for saving stray dogs moved in with him to help him out in exchange for the accommodation for her and the dogs she took care of. Things got better for a while, bills got payed again, there was some food on the table every day… but the lady’s age is such that she progressively needed more and more help for herself, and somewhere by the time my dad declined she left the man’s place as it seems for good. Dogs were took over by the organization, the lady was accepted by some relatives and he is alone again, growing older himself and becoming more and more helpless as time goes by. My mom helps him with food as always in these last years as much as she can, but life has hanged for us as well. I remember that in the middle of my worst panic ridden despair when I didn’t go anywhere, I secretly and deeply feared that I would end up like him and it scared me to death. Those fears returned all right with income problems and the shock my dad’s passing away caused in my little life.

I saw him today. I turned round the corner as he was emptying some huge bag of high class garbage into a container, obviously a chore he was asked to do for someone in exchange for an equivalent of a dollar or two, or a sandwich for that day. It was a sad contrast to see him, a man in a clearly very neglected state and torn clothes, throwing away very expensive waste items. My heart sank as I said hello to him, he wouldn’t notice me otherwise as his vision deteriorates heavily as well. He knows about my dad from my mom, so he asked how we were doing. We were standing in front of that container, the sky was heavy and black as the depths of my soul, and this person who’s lived genuine hardships asked me if I was coping, when the right question would be if and how he is coping. I said I was managing, somehow. He looked firmly at me and smiled, saying: “Hey, hang in there. You have to. Got it? HANG IN THERE.” Then he waved goodbye and wandered away as I stood in disbelief. Honestly speaking, what does he have to hope for in this world? He is doomed to soon lose even the bed he’s sleeping in when bills accumulate again, this time to the point of no return. He would have all the right to totally give up. This person who has sometimes hard time getting simple things wanted to make sure I got it that I had to hang in there. Ashamed, sad, amazed, humbled, shaken… that’s how I felt returning to my realistically really modest home, I have no idea how it feels to be wealthy or even just well off. I looked around me and thought… what would he give to exchange places with me and have my life, with all its hardships? Probably everything. It would be for him as if somebody had taken stars of the sky and spread them in front of his feet. Or it would equal touching that distant sky above us. He would be extremely happy. And I’m so miserable.

How is it possible for people to differ so much in the same circumstances? No matter what, if somebody like him tells you to hang in there, then you really have to do it. Such messages can’t be ignored.

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