When my father died, we found his diaries from the years of WWII and the cold war, a time very harsh for him.
We thought that the diaries would be full of his adventures as a prisoner and fugitive, which were really exciting. And yes, he wrote about that, but in the background. The main subject of the 24 notebooks he had filled with his tiny handwriting was how he loved my mom each day of his life. When they were together when he was alone as a prisoner about to die when they were forcefully separated during twelve years: in every circumstance. It was like a long love letter to my mom, which lasted more than 28 years. He started when they were about to be engaged and stopped writing when my older sister got married.
He was a writer and a poet and the text is full of jewels of prose and poetry in Croatian, chanting to his great love every day in a different way. Is really impressive.
They were like a just-married couple for 56 years. A paradigm of love in marriage. He would do everything for her.
I remember that he helped at home when we were small in times that in Spain, to see a man doing chores was inconceivable. I remember we had an old kitchen with a balcony to a neighbors patio. The pantry was on the other side of the balcony. Once, my dad, who was wearing an apron, cooking, went to the pantry to take something he needed, and when the women who were in the balconies saw him with the apron, they exclaimed in disbelief
-Professor! What happened to your wife? They assumed she was dying.
Mom once told me that dad always managed to get up earlier and shave and comb his air to be always looking good in front of her. He gave her small gifts for no reason (we were pretty poor as immigrants and a large family of an intellectual) just to surprise her. And never miss any significant date on the calendar.
When he was old and sick and almost couldn’t move from his armchair, I took care of him. One day he told me, let’s go out. I helped him to the wheelchair, and we went out. He told me then let’s go by car. I helped him to my tiny car, folded the wheelchair, and followed his directions, intrigued. We stopped downtown in front of a perfumery my mom liked a lot. Again I helped him out, unfolded the chair, pushed him to the store, and when we were inside, he told the clerk
-Give me the best you have for my wife
-Oh, how cute! exclaimed the clerk
It was one of that secret anniversary they celebrated, and he wanted to go himself to buy her a gift. He could easily send me to buy it, but no. He had to do it.
One day he had a stroke, and he was taken to the hospital. Because he began to speak in Croatian and the doctors didn’t understand him, they asked my mom to enter to help them explore him. I went with her to support her. He was in great pain, unrestful.
He seemed to understand the questions in Spanish but answered in Croatian. They asked which year was, and he was living in 1945 in Zagreb, completely disoriented. He didn’t recognize me. At one point, a doctor pointed my mom and asked him if he knew that woman. Suddenly he calmed and said
-Who is she?
-The best woman in the world.