When I write in my blog I always try to incorporate something about me, or something that has an impact on me when I was younger or even now. A book, a picture, a trip a piece of my life when I was young or grown up and so on.
Today I want to write about a dearest person in my life: my dad. There is not a single day I don't think of him.
He was a one of a kind person especially when you consider where he grew up and where he lived. He was an excellent student who wanted to be an engineer, but he was never able to be one. Not because he couldn't do it, but at that time, the regime decided for you what you were going to study and what job you will have. Controlling and dictating was the motto of the Communist regime at that time.
So, he was forced to become a chemistry teacher. How much he liked it, I do not know and I never was allowed to ask. As a kid I would see him at home correcting his students exams and I remember saying to him: Dad, please don’t fail this student. At least he has tried. Sometimes, he would listen to me and grade the student 4+ instead of 4 (which was the failing grade). I am not sure he did it because of me or because he really thought that he deserved the 4+. At that time, I thought he did it because of me.
I remember as a kid he had a book where he would keep a record of all the grades of all the students he had since he started teaching chemistry. I took some pictures so to share it with you. This is the book, which Greg will frame with some other memorabilia of him.
I remember one day I asked him; I want to see how you teach and see the class and the school. He took me on the back of his bicycle called “Ylli” that my brother and I were not even allowed to look at it, never mind using it. The bike was the only means of transportation at that time in Albania, and if it was broken, it meant not being able to go to work.
Being in the same class where my father was teaching gave me a special feeling but at the same time, a very strange feeling. I remember I sat next to a girl who asked me “How your father is at home”, I said there is no difference in his behavior between the class or home. My father was a very strict man and he required respect. Respect of his time, of his teaching, of his persona. He required from the class to study and be prepared and to behave properly. I remember, him entering in the class, and all the class would stand up. This is what we also did at home as well. I remember my brother and myself, always standing up when he came home. This was one of the ways to show him respect. He also was a very fair person, fair to people who were poor or poorer than the masses and tried to help them to succeed in their life.
Besides being a chemist he also was the first international referee in volleyball for Albania. I am not sure how much it means now to have that title, but a that time it was a big deal. It meant that he could go abroad, leave the country and see the outside world. Only few people were allowed to do that and of course they were always followed by Albanian spies in case they were talking with strangers. I remember when in one of his trips in Sri Lanka he bought a cassette player for us and a Michael Jackson and Madonna cassette tape. The customs in Albania took them and deleted the songs because that was considered inappropriate. We were devastated.
I remember my mom being worried when he was abroad, thinking that something may happen to him, but he was always ok. I remember that I would ask him as a kid to buy me roller skates or bubble gum. Instead he would always bring me spearmint or other gums that I could not blow bubbles with. He would say that he tried but could not find them. I know now that he did not have the time or was not allowed to. He also would say: Do not chew the gum in front of your friends, if you do, you have to share it with them. We Albanians, were so poor that the idea of sharing gum was painful. When you think about it now, it sounds so absurd.
One time I asked him as a kid, to take me with him in ones of his trips. You can put me in your luggage and I promise I wont say a word. He would say: Ok I will take you with me, but now go to sleep. The next morning he was gone and I was so disappointed and sad that I was not the last one to say goodbye to him.
I know that everything he spent his money on, was for us. He would buy us chocolates, gifts and we were the happiest kids in the world. One time he bought me a pair of boots, beautiful ones in Hungary. I came home from school to try them on and they did not fit. I was crushed and disappointed. He said: Do not worry, I have a friend in the Hungarian embassy and he can change them. He did manage to change them for a pair of red boots. I was so excited to have them, that I wore them during the entire summer. I had my red boots on and my red short pans that he bought for me in Greece. I was in heaven.
He not only had many friends that still talk about him with much respect but is also remembered by many. He was so passionate about volleyball, making sure that the new generation would follow it with the same passion as he did. When I always mention my last name everybody would say: What’s your relationship with Andrea Xhori and when I say that he is my dad, they would say: I still remember his chemistry formulas or he was a great volleyball referee.
I remember as a kid in our old house, we had a vineyard, that cast a shadow in our garden. We also had trees with oranges, mandarins, lemons, peaches and figs. During the month of September, our garden would bloom and the smell of all the trees was just amazing. He did this all by himself. He would wake up at 5 am in the morning, have his Turkish coffee and work in the garden taking care of his flowers to make sure that the garden was impeccable. As kids, my brother and I never valued it, but looking back I have to say that he was a hard worker. My father never stopped working up to the last minute of his life.
Three years ago I got the horrifying news that he was diagnosed with cancer. I didn't want to believe it and I never got used with the idea that he was seriously sick. It happened when I was in NYC and I did what every daughter would do for their dad. I brought him here to try to find the cure. People say that they go through many difficult times in their life, but what Greg and I went through was beyond imagining. My father and mother, luckily were able to come to NY in our one bedroom apartment and stayed with us for almost 3 months. I do not remember how we made it, trying to find out how he can get treatment and so on, but we did it. Fighting with the system and the doctors who most of the time were neglecting him, it was a real nightmare. There is no cure, is all I heard from them. Determined and angry as I was I would scream at them: Do not talk to me like this ever. He needs something now and you need to save him. All the doctors in the hospital were really surprised about me and mom that would be there with him from 7 am in the morning till 8 pm, when the visit time was over. By the end of the first month I was friends with all the doctors and nurses. One day the doctor, who gave him the chemo, invited me in his office and telling that his days are numbered and he has to go back to Albania. I felt so alone that day, hiding my facial expression from my dad and mom, I felt like I had the weight of the Empire State building on my shoulders. I could feel my heartbeat slowly increasing and my my vision was getting blurred. I collapsed crying, trying to making sure that my parents did not hear me. At the same time I was thinking that I had to take him home to Albania and I would have to pay for a first class ticket because of his deteriorated condition. I only had $300 in my bank account and I asked my friend in Spain to help us to buy a first class ticket for him and he did. I stayed with him in Albanian for 10 more days but I had to leave because I was about to start a new job. Saying the last goodbye to him was the hardest one. My stomach was burning from stress and my head was so heavy. I will never forget his eyes telling me the last goodbye.
This was my dad who I love and adore, who had been there for us always and I was there for him. I am so glad that at least I had the opportunity to stay with him and take care of him as he deserved it to be taken care.
I took these pictures thinking of him.
I know and I feel that you are with me, Always.