We Were a Team

For ten years I’ve been coming to Bosnia to improve on being a good granddaughter because she deserved it. She raised me, my brothers, and so many others. Then she stayed alone. She didn’t want to go with us. And when I’d return to America, rare were the nights I just fell asleep without crying…I knew one day I may not be able to visit her anymore.

“But when this happens, I don’t want you to cry. You have paid your dues to me,” she’d say.

But thinking she might be gone was more scary than thinking of my own death.

Last year I packed and came to Bosnia. I worked on a project. I look at every picture I took then and I see her in it. I see the day I had to leave early to be back in time to see grandma’s doctor. Or the day I didn’t tell her I was leaving so she wouldn’t worry. Or the day I simply had to come back, because there was this little gentle face and most loving spirit waiting to see me.

When I’d cook for her, she’d look at me from her couch like she’d see me for the very first time. And she had no one else but me, and I had no one but her. So we were like a team.

“And we are really enjoying it.”

When others told me to go on with my life and do what I love and put grandma in a nursing home, I couldn’t quite understand them. It almost made me want to ask them: ”Have you ever loved…anything, anyone…?”

She was in my heart before any camera came into my hands. So after extending my stay few times, I left for my exhibition in the US Congress. But I had a return ticket to come see her again.

She was not just a grandmother to me. She was the reason I was born. And she didn’t just give me the existence by making her own daughter, my Mom, give birth, who for a second didn’t want to. She gave me a meaning and left lots of love in the deepest depth of my heart. As much as she was happy watching me leave, telling me I deserved it, I knew better. Oh we were so much alike.

One morning I made food, and there wasn’t enough. So I told her I wasn’t hungry, thinking I’d eat outside, but she’d leave a half for me and would pretend she wasn’t hungry. Oh sometimes it drove me crazy.

She was the reason I came, the inspiration for the project, an inspiration for life.

“Forgive me for going so soon to Bosnia again, but I have to. “ I told my family.
“I have to make sure she gets the good nursing home…”

But I never really wanted to put her in one. Three weeks in the states, I gathered more energy and I was ready for another year with her at home. For many years I had hoped.

And I was on my way to the airport.

But somehow I felt that even if I left a week earlier when I wanted to, the same would await me…Oh god. I just about lost my conscious while driving to the airport. I sensed something, so I had to call Bosnia to check. Then my mind went somewhere where it had never been, but I had to be strong, my brother was with me, he hasn’t seen her in years…

I thought coming back into the house she raised me in, would be hard. The house was filled mostly with everything that was left behind of me and my brothers. She kept it to relive the memories she had with us. And all her holy pictures were there. Sometimes when she’d pray, she’d wake me up and I’d be screaming in the other room…Oh how I will never be as kind and loving as she was.

She’d allow everyone to be the way they were. Friends from the states would visit Bosnia and refuse to stay with their own family, they’d stay with grandma.

There were three generations of people at her funeral. And these were not just people she knew. They were all the people she raised, watched, helped…These were the people that she loved and I just wonder how she found a place for every person in her heart…