well, it's nearly a year since my dear dad died. this is an awful photo - so much head room, ugg - but it is the last one i took of him while he was alive. part of me feels kind of self-conscious writing this, as if it is unseemly to discuss these things in such a format, but that is probably just me being what my cousin, mirijana, would call 'middle class' or what my dad would call 'anglo saxon'. and who wants to be that? i'll tell ya: nobody. anyway, i never spoke at my dads funeral and, man, it burnt me up after. i didn't speak partly because i was, you know, upset, but mostly, if i'm honest, because i didn't want to speak in front of everyone. which is funny right, because at these times you are meant to rise above petty things like caring about what people think and differences with your siblings to some kind of special place where you realise the true worth of things and people, what's really import, but as it turns out death and dying, probably the grandest thing you will ever do, is filled with just as much banality and pettiness as, i dunno, waiting for the bus, as well as all the other stuff.
you know, the day we 'chose' for my dad to die, when we switched off the machines, they tell you that it could take, like, days for them to actually die. as you can imagine, it is totally surreal. you wake up in the morning and you are choosing what to wear (what do you choose?), and putting your legs into your pants like you do everyday, and bitching at each other about taking too long in the shower and having something to eat and going like, 'shit!' when you burn the toast or something. but also going to the bathroom and heaving into the sink every few minutes because it is just so sickening, what is about to happen. so when we go into the room, we are all really focused because you know, they switch it off and its like 'ok, we're on'. and everyone is quiet and holding his hand or patting his leg, but then the minutes roll by and he is still just lying there like he was before, and the mood shifts. someone takes off their coat and says 'i can't work out if i'm hot or cold, ha'. and someone else rattles a tin of mints and prods you in the back 'want a mint?'. and then a nurse comes in with sandwiches and tea and everyone goes and has a sandwich and passes little plates and napkins around. and meanwhile our dad, the leader of our family, is just lying on the bed, dying. can you believe it? but then, he starts gasping, and you know that he is dying, and fucking tears roll down his face. can you believe it? tears. and we had been drinking tea. my big beautiful dad looking like a wounded bear, crying, in the last moments of his life. and so we all huddle around him, touching him, and saying it's ok, its ok, and stroking the tears away, but of course you would be crying because you do all these things life, and then as you die, they don't mean anything. you still just end up on a bed dying. so we are standing there watching him and he stops breathing and thats it. my sister for some reason goes 'oh dads dead!' and i wish my hand would burst into flames so i can punch her in the face with it. i'm not sure why. oh dying! i really can't believe it, with all the tea drinking and crying and flaming fists.
when he was in intensive care they tell you to talk to them because they might be able to hear you. so, of course, you have this impulse to say all these intimate things like, 'i love you', 'i forgive you for being a bit of bastard a lot', 'you were a great dad'. but the funny thing is, he was totally deaf so you felt like you had YELL all this shit at him in middle of the intensive care unit. and we had never even said i love you to him in our lives. so it's meant to be this lovely, private, closure giving moment, but it is kind of more this awkward, public, comedic moment, even though it is lovely and it does give you closure.
i loved my dad so much. i was kind of ferocious about it. when we would walk around together i would get this protective feeling like someone might make fun of him and if they did i would cave their head in with a rock! he had the most force out of anyone i have ever met. i mean i know he has this kind of folkloric, mythical status in our family, but im tellin' ya, the guy had force. he did all these great things. you know when he was about 15 he was declared an enemy of the state for writing 'communism' 'capitalism' 'socialism' etc on the toilet doors at his school. as in whatever system of thought you like, its all shit. how punk! and when he was about 8 years old, he ran away to join the partizans in the forrest, but he was to skinny and they didn't want him. these are the dudes who were fighting the government who collaborated with the nazi's. he snuck out of his country in the middle of the night on foot with his best friend, not telling a soul, and came to australia with nothing, not even english. can you imagine that? he was moody as hell, and mean too. sexist. he was impossible to manage. he was always going on hunger strikes in restaurants if he thought it to expensive, or the waiter rude, or was angry at my mum or something. he was a bully too. aggressive. he fucking choked my sister one night. threw my brother through a wall. but i think that sort of thing happened more in the 70's.
after he died i felt this urge one night to look for him on the internet, like i might find him on there. i ended up on strange websites about croatian war memorabilia, and racist anti-croatian bs, but i started reading some croatian history about the time he lived there (during and post ww2). it was horrific. i kept bursting into tears. they had this concentration camp just outside zagreb, and they told the nazi's it was for jews but actually was more used to intern/torture/ethnically clense serbs and communists. this is where he grew up. and he ended up in chifley. how surreal that must have been for him. what must he have thought of us? he saw people executed in the street. as in shot through the head. what blackness he grew up in!
but you could never disentangle his bad points from the rest of him. they fed each other. his dark broodyness, his turbulent inner life (thats a nauseating expression, isn't it? sorry) was part of how politicised, generous, creative, meticulous, but most of all, feeling he was. you could nearly cry looking at him sometimes, you could see how much he was feeling something. he was a kook. quirky. darkly funny. absurd. passionate. he would leave me little bits of egg every morning, sometimes bacon. he would take me to the markets and buy me popcorn. slice me little bits of salami and pass them to me on the end of knife. i would hold his hand and sit in his lap because i knew he wouldn't ask, but he liked it. he would let me squeeze his blackheads and wouldn't yelp or squirm. he was an amazing cook. i asked my mum to save me the last thing of his in the freezer. its a soup. can you believe the assholes were just defrosting it and eating after they came home from the hospital? i had to get mum to save me one. i can't even think of it. what am i going to do, eat it? i love how strong he was, he could crack walnuts in his teeth, kill a tiger with his bear hands. i love his hands, too, so clever, and his beautiful green eyes. they were damn well soulful!
after he died, at night i would pretend he was in bed with me and i would cuddle up to him, but now, a year latter, i have this strange impulse, when i go into shops i feel like acting like him. as in, his accent and mannersims. i just feel like it. anyway, i feel i have crapped on in the most inadiquet way. i feel kind of embarrassed, like it was too personal and too long. but i just miss my dad and wanted to write about him. and anyway, one day i will be lying on a bed dying and crying and it won't even matter!