My mother used to say my father and I thought in the same circles. I never understood it until I watched us later, in memories—when we were gazing at the sky (and we often were) we could unconsciously turn in the same direction and extract the same face from the clouds.
Father's Day is hard for me. While I gratefully celebrate the man who is the center of my kids' worlds, my heart aches from missing the man who was the center of mine. Nothing prepares you for losing a parent. And nothing is ever the same again. Every joyful moment or milestone is tinged with a lingering wistfulness, a sense that something—or rather, someone—is missing.
At first glance, Girl at War's Ana Jurić and I could not be more different. She's a ten-year-old Croatian girl, caught in the middle of a civil war, whose life changes forever in a brutal instant. She's seen things I hope to never see in my lifetime, lived through the unimaginable, and come out on the other side of it, bruised and beaten, but alive. Fiction can bring other worlds to our doorstep, remind us that the people we see in news snippets nations away are more like us than they are not. They're mothers and fathers whose first thoughts in the morning and last at night are of their children—children who once played soccer in fields where sniper fire rains. Who once played with toys and now carry guns.
Fiction does have its limits though, and without living the story myself, I cannot know what it feels like to be a girl at war. But I know precisely what it feels like to have a father I adore. One who, like Ana's, makes me feel better just talking with him, no matter the conversation. One who would do anything to shield me from harm. And I know loss. The deep kind that separates the person you were before from the one you are after. So Ana and I aren't that different after all. Not where it counts. We've both learned the lesson her father taught her, that "sometimes hard things are worth the trouble" and looking back, we still prefer our own lives, "even with [their] sorrows, over all the ease and happiness in the world."
*Girl at War was our book club selection for April. For further discussion that may include spoilers, see my comment below and feel free to let us know your thoughts on the book there as well.