He, Asi Milavic, passed away almost eight years ago leaving this world for probably some better place where angels are singing and welcoming those who suffered here on the Earth. As years are passing by I miss him more and more, I need his advices, his passion and compassion but also his strength, humour, laugh, and that great friendship which we build over the years. Today when we celebrate our fathers and their role in our lives I’m thinking about great memories which I cherish from few years in early childhood and post-war decade when he was more a friend and partner rather than a father. Beside his dark moments in last years he was still the great one, probably the only person in the world who never lost his faith in me and was always there for his “Little guy”.
Early memories and loves
My earliest memories of him are related to his love to of my mother and me his only kid at the time. He worked hard in an airplane factory making those flying giants, every time prouder with the work done by his team. I would stand beside the door and wait for him to come home and laugh, tickling me and setting me on for my favourite place, his shoulders to watch around the house and the neighbourhood. Everyday he would come and tell her “I Love you Mom!”, giving her kiss and big hug grateful for the food on the table and care which she would gave to us.
He tried and succeed in teaching me how to be a men and how to be a good person. The biggest lessons in my life come from him and saved me of judging people by their name, religion or ethnic differences what was really needed in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the last Balkan wars. He thought me that persons true nature is in their hearts and their actions not in their words. Dad was a person who always brought together a friends and colleagues, tons of them, always around him laughing and joking while sharing that pitcher of beer or good wine, playing cards or watching sports. Today while I’m doing a same the things I’m keeping him close to my heart, always remembering him and cherishing memories of him.
Dear God how I liked to lay beside him on the couch in those years and watch TV while he’s reading countless book or listening to the best music of those times. Each song or LP had some great memories or stories related to his life before mom and me come into it. Tina Turner would usually bring out his memories of traveling to Germany or England for the concerts in his early 20’s, Clapton or Santana would bring back his desire to learn how to play a guitar (which never happened). If he was not holding a book, or listening to the music, he was usually sitting in front of the TV watching movies like James Bond series, The Bourne Identity, The Bodyguard, In The Name of The Rose or Misery.
Every weekend he would go to the newsstand bringing home “Mickey’s Almanac” along with his newspapers giving it to me to start learning how to read and write even before I started going to school. Dad would sit there with me and mom helping with that task which would later set the path for my never ending passions for writing and reading. Today I’m probably one of the rare persons in my generation whole still use the fountain pen for writing the notes for my articles or while preparing for the meetings, and that’s agains thanks to my mother and him because they always kept several of them around the house as probably only writing and drawing instrument. The love for writing brought to my life numerous friends, one in particular who is still one of my best friends.
Sports were his biggest passion ever, even bigger than music, books or movies. For years he played soccer, tennis, water polo and he could spend a days without getting of the couch because some of his favourite teams or players was playing the match that day. In a days like this when the whole world is celebrating soccer passion and excellence on during the European Championship I remember how he broke his hand while celebrating the goal scored by former Yugoslavia on some competition.
When I was six or seven years old, I got very very sick. I had the third tonsil which put me to the bed for more than a year, causing numerous problems with eating, hearing, weak immune system and weight loss. He never ever went with my mother and me to the doctors to learn what’s wrong with me because he was terribly afraid of doctors, hospitals and that as he would say “terrible smell”. However when I came back home he was always be there to take a care of me especially after the surgery, I did not know that just few years later we would switch the roles.
Years that came brought several things to our lives – the war, the concentration camp, the injuries, surgeries, my two brothers, partnership and competition.
Exactly twenty years ago war broke in our hometown of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he immediately stood up and joined the neighbourhood watch keeping everybody safe and sound from those evils who attacked the citizens from the mountains overseeing the city. Those days, April of 1992, were the days which started his transformation and change forever and final result will be known just after his death in August of 2004. I remember how he would hug me and ask me to take care of my mom and be his big “LIttle guy” while he would be gone with his friends of which some lost their lives in those days.
Just a years after those dark and troubling events, a new phase of the war started, and this was the last phase of his life. It was 45 years after his two uncles walked the same path. My father ended up imprisoned in a concentration camp known as the Mostar Heliodrom. For seven long months he was forced to do heavy work and was subjected to almost daily tortures. We were all lucky that he survived. Two of my father’s uncles were in their early twenties in 1940’s when they didn’t have that luck to survive as some monsters killed them in other concentration camp well known in the Balkans and all over the world, just mention Jasenovac. Dad was released on January 22th, 1994, everybody in the house jumped over him to hug him, kiss him and welcome him, I just sit there watching them not being able to move. My mother came and asked me: “Why don’t you hug him and brace him after so many months of not seeing him?”, my response was: “I’ll do that when we stay alone and when I have him just for myself.” That wouldn’t last too long. Just two days after that he would be badly injured by a sniper bullet causing an irreversible damage to his body and his mental state. On his birthday he lost a kidney, survived one of the longest and hardest operations of many which would come in the future, started last battle which will last for ten years instead of ten days as doctors had predicted. This was also the best time in our relationship.
As I grew past my 10th birthday I got a brother, and my father got another son continuing family genetic tradition of male domination, and fulfilling the first part of his wish to have more than one kid after he saw suffering during the war. He never ever spoke about events in the camp because he wanted to keep us far away from those memories keeping them buried deep inside and fighting with his demons every night and day when he would fall asleep. I would love to know those details and be able to pass them on to everybody but I respect his wish and his love for us. That was the time when he become a father to my brother, to me he was something more than that, he was a friend and a teacher, we had our good and bad times, both were welcome in our lives and they helped us building stronger bond on my path from being just a kid to becoming his successor and the head of family at age of 20.
At 13 we got the fourth and final member of our inner family gang, not so “great” news to my mother, once again she got even more outnumbered with males in the house. My youngest brother, Mirza, come into our lives and become family little sweet monster which was always there to make us laugh and play with him.
Over the next seven years dad and I would often got together after my school or trips to have a coffee or enjoy mountain size coups of ice-cream. At least three or four times during the week verbal “fights” would break in the house between two of us while watching soccer games on TV because I was always on the objective side and he would always stand on the players side because he was one of them.He actually played amateur soccer.
Every day, every night, and on every occasion dad delivered some of his bits and pieces of wisdom trying to tell me something important related to everyday life but through the facts and data of the events passing by us. I don’t remember that dad ever forbid me something, he would just say this is good, this is not, and you choose what’s the best for you and carry the responsibility for your actions. As I celebrated my 18th birthday he took me for a walk and coffee when he said: “You’re bright and smart kid, you know what happened over the last years, but also you have a broad knowledge of politics so don’t waste your time. Go get registered yourself and vote on the next elections. Take part of the responsibility for what will happen in the future.” And I’m following that advice today when I’m exercising my rights despite the fact that I don’t live in Bosnia but across the world in one of the worlds largest democracies, Canada. He also urged me to read in foreign languages so I could be prepared for what life would bring in front of me, almost as he knew that I would live my life far and away from my original homeland.
Suddenly just months after my 20th birthday I would lost him, God would decide that he love him more and that dad would be at the better place after whole decade of fighting with his health and mental problems. I would lose my friend, my companion, and the best teacher in my life. In a first days of August of 2004 in the hot summer afternoon brain aneurism strike him with such impact that he was not able to move a whole right side of his body, I took him to the hospital to that building which he hate so much but in which he also spent so much time in his last few years. I asked my mother not to force me to go to the hospital, because I felt he’ll die soon so I can remember him strong and powerful as he was always during his 45+ years of his life. Dad felt a same and on the day in which he would departure this world he asked mom to bring him home because he knew that hospital would not gave him back what he was before the stroke. Memories on that day are so hard and painful but also so important because he delivered his last message and life wisdom which will always stay with me. Knowing that one day I would get married and I would start my family, the most important part of his life, dad said:
“When you get involved with a girl be a men of respect and love to her. From that moment on your only duty is to put her above you and your needs there’s nothing more important than her in your life, when you get your own kids put them and their mother above everything and especially above yourself. Treat them as your biggest treasures and only loves. Keep your mother and brothers close, love them, protect and take care for them, never forget that you only have them and they only have you in the world. Love your friends and your enemies.Keeping learning and teaching others never forget what happen, have compassion and forgiveness.”
Father would died just a foot away from me, I was his last sight and last memory on this world, I still remember the love in his eyes. As days are passing by I miss him more and more, and every day is harder and harder without him as I’m looking at myself and seeing him in front of me. I’m still trying to be a men like he was and I will always try but I’m not sure that I would ever be such a good person. I just hope he can see where I’m today and what I achieved across the world in foreign country without anybody of my blood related family but with my new family those few people which changed my life in some many ways that today I can’t live without them. On this Father’s Day I’m celebrating him, his life and his legacy. I’m singing his songs, I watched soccer and felt him beside me, and while I’m writing this words I’m crying of sadness and happiness because he was my father, my friend and he’s beacon of my life.
Dad I love you! I will always love you!
Thank you for everything! You will always stay in my heart and my life! May God bless your soul and place you in the best place.
I’m proud son of Asi Milavic (1956 – 2004).
Rest in peace Dad.