We are renting a car and driving to Slovakia Thursday, driving back Sunday.
8 9 hours each way; half that time is on 2-lane mountain roads getting out of Bosnia. Once into Croatia it’s autobahn. Couldn’t get tickets; standby only. Couldn’t be late either going or coming back.
In the meantime I found this, from 2001:
We showed up and grandfather (starý otec or just otec...pronounced oh-chetz) was asleep, so first we only surprised grandmother. I don't think she shows much drama anyway, so it was hard to gauge her shock level at seeing us show up at her door. But we helped her with drying the dishes and dumping outside the dirty dishwater (major old school, heat the water on the stove and then dump it outside-gotta love it!). And as I came inside, there was otec standing at the top of the stairs (this is a short flight of about three stairs that go down to the kitchen). He looks at me (I'm assuming he didn't see Miriam and grandmother walk by just a few seconds before me) with this look of shock and I say, "Ahoy!" And he goes "You're a miracle!" It is hard to describe the subtle sensitivities of otec's humor but suffice it to say that it was very, very funny. Soon we were sitting again in the kitchen with both otec and grandmother, and he was asking us, "Are you on your way to heaven?" Again there was a subtle element of humor to his comment, but at the same time he had a point (or two). He is old, finds it very hard to breathe an increasing majority of the time; he gets fluid in his lungs and has to take a diuretic medication every day to prevent them from completely filling up and suffocating...however this is apparently the way which his body will finally fail him, and the apparent imminence of this event is the reason for our visit this fall. Indeed, he said "It is so great for us to see each other again while we are still alive." (Remember I'm writing all this from Miriam's translations to me on the fly, so you have to imagine him speaking in Slovak to us.) So he's asking us "Are you on your way to heaven," I think, partly because he is old and thinks about death a lot himself, and because of our surprise thinks maybe it really is just a miracle that we're appearing in his kitchen. However he's much more lucid than that. He had a more powerful message to deliver. He says that the Bible says that it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to gain the kingdom of heaven. He said that it is good that we came to Slovakia because it will be easier now for us to get to heaven now that we're with the poor people, so to speak... He told us this joke about two priests in Slovakia. One was named Hlinka and the other Tiso. Hlinka died somewhat earlier than Tiso. He arrived at the gates of heaven, and was denied entry. As he stood there at the gates of heaven wondering what to do, a dirty beggar came to the gates. He knocked at the gates and they asked, "Who's there?" The beggar said, "A beggar," and they let him right in. A next begger came before the gate. Before he went inside, however, priest Hlinka told him, "You can't go into heaven in those clothes! Here, we'll exchange clothes," and proceeded to switch his nice clothes for the beggar's rags. Hlinka knocked once more at the gates. From inside came, "Who's there?" He said, "A beggar," and they let him right in. As soon as he got inside, Hlinka looked frantically for a telephone. As soon as he found one, he called down to Bratislava to his friend Tiso and said, "Make sure no-one in Slovakia has any money--only beggars get into heaven!"
from here. (remember all images on that page are © not creative commons.)
Mostly I’m happy that otec is with the One that he has so pursued for his entire life. But part of me is angry at God for putting us, finally, so close, and then taking him from us. We were looking forward to more time there, eating, drinking, talking, listening, laughing.
Mostly I’m mad at myself for not asking more questions, for not listening more intently, for not grasping each moment last spent with him.