My mind goes to the best memories, to the beautiful beaches of St. Thomas, USVI. Kids are little, we are eating home cooked Croatian meal and in the distance we can see great ol’ cruse ships leaving the harbor. Aunt Ana would always come up with some theatrical entertainment for the kids, and I have to say, us adults were equally entertained. She would bring a big bowl of M&M’s, with her voice high and loud, she would exclaim: Surprise! Surprise! Get them while you can! Then she would spill the large bowl of candy all over the table and the white tiled floor. Kids would be ecstatic with joy while picking up small colorful candy from everywhere. Aunt Ana is loved by all of us, she is one of those angels on earth that makes you smile, makes you laugh and she will go deep into her creative genius to come up with these wonderful theatricals that we all remember for the rest of our lives as some of the first class events, all in the name of love and family joy. I fell so lucky to have my aunt. Everyone should have someone like this in their family.
Aunt Ana and Capt. Z (real name Zdravko, but no one could pronounce it so it became just Z) lived on a hill overlooking the ocean in St Thomas for 30 years. Recently they made a full circle to return to their beloved Croatia, country they love, their birthplace. When they immigrated to the US, they settled in Chicago. After working “for the man”, my uncle retired early, built his sail boat “Hazana” and followed his dream, taking his wife Ana down Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico. They lived on the boat and traveled every island all the way to Grenada for eight years. Then they settled in St. Thomas where they started they charter business with Hazana. While they were traveling, my uncle wrote a wonderful boat diary which was published in Croatia under the title: KARIBI, JEDRILICARSKI RAJ.(Caribbean, the sailors heaven) I was in high school, I remember, when the book came to us. I realize now that this book was an inspiration to me in a big way. The brave man from Slatina, not even born by the sea, with a dream to sail the world with his beloved wife: it had adventure, it had romance, it had exotic beautiful places never heard of, and he described life in the islands in such a way that I could almost feel the sand, the sun, the rasta men and the palm trees.
You could read just one subtitle for about two to three pages, and you would feel the Caribbean sun. I love books like that, with subtitles you can read one or two then come back later, without feeling the pressure that you have to read the whole book in one breath. Capt. Z was a thoughtful, wonderful man. More introverted, opposite of Ana, but also very creative, active, talented. His father was a carpenter, so he was very handy, he built his own boat and he built his own house in St. Thomas. A large hurricane that whipped out half of the island’s houses left his house intact, because he built it “Croatian way” with concrete, super sturdy. House was beautiful, modern, white, with a palm tree next to the Jacuzzi on the balcony and mango trees on the right. We loved it all, from the mangos and the sailing lessons that my uncle enrolled our kids in, to my aunt’s Croatian food, all in all it was paradise. My aunt would greet us when we came to visit: Welcome to Paradise. And it was true. It was real paradise.
So, when you’re hurting, your mind tries to find that paradise. For me it’s easy, I just go to my aunt and uncle’s house in St. Thomas. I feel instant relaxation. I feel healing.On my wall in my living room-bedroom- recovery room I can see Mother Mary, and I pray to her. This mother Mary was given to me by Capt. Z. She was on “Hazana”, traveling with them and protecting them on the sea. I love this wooden statue of her, her face is so beautiful, and her eyes seem to follow me. She is watching over me. My little dog Oreo sometimes walks into the room with a big shadow of a sacred satin lady. You might think that this is a pain-killer induced hallucination, and I agree, it could be, but I take it as a healing sign.
My car accident was three weeks ago. I was entering another lane on the highway recklessly when I got hit at a very high-speed in the passenger rear door on my side. My son Johnny was sitting up front to my right on the passenger seat. He was not hurt at all. And that is the first huge blessing. Johnny said that Capt. Z was watching over him. Capt. Z died about a year after they came back to Croatia, almost two years ago. Aunt Ana is making it through the pain of her loss and one of the helpful thoughts is the fact that Capt. Z always told us that he would have to go first, because he himself would not be able to cope with the loss of Ana. And aunt Ana really knows that this is true. Also, aunt Ana knows that they will reunite in heaven later. All of us are Catholic, like most Croatians, so our faith is on our side in situations like this. Capt. Z and Ana, the most romantic relationship I have ever seen. On the first page of the book, Capt. Z writes: Sa Anom je sve moguce! With Ana everything is possible! I have to say that I feel the same way about aunt Ana. She is so positive, so wonderful, she lifts you up, she makes you feel like you can do it all. I talk to her almost every day. I love her so much.
Two days ago my great husband Joe took me to my first doctor’s appointment. My pelvis is broken in three places so bumps on the road bring the tick tock of the pain clock. Somehow I don’t care so much for pain, I am taken by the colors of Houston, my hometown, looking different now, more beautiful, more alive.
Sweet surprises are hidden in the eyes of so many friends bringing gifts of home-made food and other gifts from around the world ( Many of my friends are international: French, Croatian, Bosnian, Austrian, etc). I can hear my heart beating in orbit with astronaut Mary, and this is my daydream, but in reality I get a huge bouquet of flowers from our NASA community friends. My great hubby Joe works for NASA, he is passionate about every mission, every space flight program.
People are bringing in coffee from my favorite coffee shop with the “Slag” melting, I got gumbo from John, lamb from Carla, tabbouli and falafel from Souad, prune juice and cookies from Anni, the list goes on. Our neighbors Jamie and Chenoa even made up a website for us, where neighbors can sign up to bring food every day. Joe had to stop it because our fridge was too full to take any more gifts. This was hard to do, says Joe, because he is really going to miss that shrimp etufee scheduled for Tuesday….
When my accident happened, my husband Joe was in Japan. When I woke up in the emergency room, I gave them the correct phone number of my best friend Sejla. She and her husband Damir came to take Johnny to their house. This was another big blessing. To have a friend like Sejla. They helped Johnny deal with the initial trauma of seeing his mother unconscious. He thought that I was dead. I am so sorry that Johnny had to experience this and I hope he will be strong in dealing with it.
Great doctor Routt operated my pelvis, installed three extremely large screws in it, and my healing time is programmed for 6 to 7 weeks of allowing my pelvis to heal, no pressure on the legs, just laying on my back or sitting in a wheel chair. I get to the wheel chair by pivoting on my left foot. No pressure is allowed to put on my right foot. After this time is over, I will start physical therapy, making my first baby steps to recovery. It will take about 6 months or longer to come back to “normal”. I also have 8 broken ribs and collapsed lung, but this does not bother me so far too much. I am a high risk for blood cloths because of the type of blood that I have and also because I have to be immobile for so long. I am now almost an expert in giving myself injections of Lovanox, the blood thinning drug. So that’s my little situation. And let’s face it, everyone has some kind of situation, little to a big problem they have to deal with.
It’s time for healing, but not for crying, it’s time for feeling and time for smiling.
I got my second chance from the angel up above, I received a gift of love. Thank you Capt. Z my angel, thank you for all your gifts, thank you Joe, my beautiful husband, thank you Sejla my wonderful friend, thank you all my fun friends, thank you Houston for great surgeons and great people, thank you my sweet aunt Ana for your everyday cheer, thank you my great children for helping every day, thank you aunt Kerry, Joe’s great sister, nurse Rachet, the one that came from New Jersey to rescue me and help me every day, thank you dog Oreo and Mother Mary for watching over me, thank you mother Imelda for coming soon from Croatia to help me here…to life!