Revisiting the past and settling the score

My dad, my brother David, my brother Morten and me.

Having flipped the mental coin north of Zagreb and decided to go West instead of heading towards Istanbul, I knew I had to open a somewhat salty childhood chapter. Going through pictures, looking at smiling people and joyful moments has helped me construct a memory of pure bliss (on the picture above it even looks like the ever fighting brothers are helping each other steering the boat). But just like this ‘sharing’ probably was a part of a bigger compromise after a fight, I know that our holiday photos from 1988 have been covering a dark side for all those years.

So I had to drive back to the little Croatian island Rab. Not that we didn’t have fun on that island back then, because we sure did, but because that one chapter from my childhood needed to be opened in order to be closed for eternity. To heal the wound. Straighten my back. And so forth.

As a kid, Rab leaves you with an impression of something close to a paradise. The buffet with eternal spaghetti bolognese and cevapcici, the beach with warm water and cheap ice cream, and the tiny tuf-tuf-tuf boat taking you too a place with banana split at night.

Going back I realized that Rab is an island where German is so much king that you can hear – if you’re as lucky as me – an old Italian man ask the waiter “Haben Sie Bloody Mary?” (a linguistic highlight on my trip so far), the big road signs advertising for hotels or restaurants says ‘Am Meer’ instead of ‘At the sea’, and I never found a magazine or newspaper in English. It’s a place where the owner of a pizzeria told me, he has been working every day since early May, and where the waiters don’t like loners to occupy a table that could serve four or five people.

And just like now, back in 1989 they offered a ton of different activities to satisfy even the most particular needs. One of them was parasailing, and all three brothers were going up!

For a set of brothers that had never been to something as exotic as a McDonald’s, who had to built their own guns and say the dai-dai-dai sound themselves, and who never was allowed to buy the pre-made Batman costume for Danish Halloween, this surely was a very special moment.

Anyways. First went my oldest brother Morten.

I remember him being up there looking like a paratrooper. And god, look at that pose. I wanted to be that.

Then David.

Not quite a paratrooper – actually more like a man clinging to his life. But he was up there and that was what mattered.

And then me. The guy in the black speedos told my parents (it’s my mother next me), I was too light for the kite to go up in the air. But I wouldn’t have any of that, and though I have no idea how I convinced them, you here get the evidence of a stubborn kid.

But that very picture is where the happiness ends. A few seconds later I was dragged out in the water, swallowing a good portion of the salty Adriatic, before being dragged up to the shore by my mother, filling that same ocean with my equally salty tears. Yes, I had tried my best. But I also failed. A few points here and there might keep you from getting relegated but it won’t give you any trophies.

So obviously, 25 years later I had to go back. And up.

On Rab I went to the same camp site as back then, got a space for my tent in the same section and told the receptionist and my German neighbors about my mission. They all smiled and nodded the way you do, when you meet a stranger and you’re not quite sure if he’s suddenly gonna snap.

To my great disappointment, they didn’t offer parasailing in the town Rab anymore. “But maybe in Lopear”, a young Croatian guy told me and shrug his shoulders. So I got back to the camp site to get my bicycle and went 12 kilometer north to the tourist office in Lopar. The woman in charge had never heard about parasailing. “But maybe here”, a young Croat told me and pointed at the very end of a beach on a map.

And finally some luck. A boat full of tourists oblivious of my struggles was about to head out on open waters and go up. I paid 400 kuna, was handed a life jacket and put my life in the hands of these guys.

The first thing I saw was the bald guy cutting rope with this kitchen knife (later, when the prettiest of the girls on board was up in the air, he made a gesture with the knife like he was going to cut the rope. She, though, was too far away to see the knife so she responded with thumbs up. A joke died).

And then, after having seen the kite in the air with two people for whom this was probably just another trivial piece of SPORT&FUN activity on their three weeks of careless holiday, it was finally my time to shine.

I smiled. I took off. I did it. Went into the sky and said goodbye to a troublesome past.

And if you made it all the way here, you should brush off your shoulders and straighten your back. Because that was indeed a long journey.

Thanks to my parents for letting me learn this the hard way, and big thanks to my mom for helping me with the pictures, which still reminds me of a glory past.