***The following story —”The Mystery Man” by Flurim Aliu— is not an official Albanian Voices article. It was written for Dr. Georgie Gordon-Smith at Georgia Gwinnett College and submitted on 14 September 2013. The views expressed in this story are entirely those of its author and do not represent the views of the Albanian Voices or any of its partner organizations.***
The Mystery Man
The noise of the car door woke me up as my Grandpa opened it. “We are finally here,” he said.
“Get up lazy boy, it’s time to see your parents,” said my Grandma. I stood up and got out of the car without saying anything. I held my Grandpa’s hand as we moved towards my parents’ house. I stood frozen when I looked at the house and the yard. It was different from what I saw in Germany. The house wasn’t really big; it had two floors and a basement. It didn’t have a roof and it only had one room with real windows, while in the other windows, thin sheets of plastic covered the holes where glass once was. The house’s color was black, not because my parents chose that color but because it was burned during the war. Also, the yard was full of half-charred furniture, some building material and firewood. Even the trees looked poor and run down; autumn did one part of the job, fire the other part. I looked at my Grandpa with an expression on my face that said, “Why did you bring me here?” He looked back at me and tried to force a smile, but couldn’t. He was as shocked at this sight as I was.
My Grandpa is a wise, strong, and gentle man who worked hard to give his children and grandchildren a better life and future. It was his idea, actually, to make me live with them during the times of unrest. My parents didn’t like this plan at the beginning, but when the situation in my country became worse every day and the war was starting to break out, they made the hardest decision in their lives: they chose to send their two-year-old son to live in Germany, a thousand miles away from home.
During the three years that I lived in Germany, I got to see my mom once, but I never saw my dad. As a child, I didn’t really understand the function of having parents, but I remember that when my mom came to visit us, I felt like I had found another piece of myself. However, that piece quickly vanished when she had to leave.
Finally, the war ended and peace was born in Kosovo, so it was time for my grandparents to send their little grandchild back home to his real parents. This was especially hard for my Grandpa who was very close to me by that time. Even though it was very hard for him, he knew that this was the best for me and that’s what he always wanted, the very best for his family.
I was still holding his hand when we walked inside the house and went in a bright room with white walls that smelled of fresh paint. There was a small, old and scratchy television standing in the middle of the room, a shporet i drureve (typical stove used in Kosovo to cook and heat the home), two couches in front of the TV, and three men sitting on the couches. I thought back to the pictures of my father that my Grandma had shown me. He was a good-looking, well-built, elegant man. As I looked at the men on the couches, I saw skinny, weak and ragged people. “Could one of these really be my father?” I asked myself. My Grandpa greeted the men that were there and asked them how they were doing and if they had had it hard during the war. Then he came to me and said something that made me feel excited and anxious at the same time:
“Go hug your father, little boy!” he said.
I was numb, my lips were trembling and tears started to fall from my eyes. I didn’t know which of them was my father! I looked at the three men and thought, “How could I not recognize my own father?” I started to panic and thoughts were flying through my mind, “Will he be upset with me on the very first day? Will he think that I don’t love him and I don’t care about him? Can someone help me? PLEASE!” Suddenly someone started speaking; his voice was just like my Grandpa’s. At that moment, I knew it was my dad!
“Come here my son,” he said and opened his arms.
I ran towards him and hugged him with all my might. He held me in his arms and said:
“You are all grown up son; you are a real man now.”
“Thank you Daddy!” I replied, and a big smile came over my face and my soul.
I was still in my father’s arms when my mom came back from the neighbors’ house. She was very happy to see me and so was I. After the reunion, the two men who were with my father, his cousin and his friend, went back home. Time was ticking faster while I was having a good time with my parents. Finally, happiness and joy was restored back to the house, where it was greatly missed for a long time. My grandparents were very glad that their son’s small family was finally together but also heartbroken that their “little boy” wouldn’t live with them anymore.
Years passed and I got to know my dad more and more, discovering new and amazing parts of him each day. Sometimes I think if it would have been better for me to spend those three years with my parents, but I know that without this absence of mine, I would not have had that wonderful time with my grandparents and may not have appreciated that special relationship with my Dad. Plus then, he wouldn’t be the “Mystery Man,” would he?