When visiting Croatia, a must do, is visit the islands that you see from the the shore. There are so many to choose from with ferry rides that can bring you to most of them from May-September. When I was planning my trip, I was fortunate enough to have someone I know that is familiar with the country. Her and her parents own a winery in the town of Orebic. She was able to direct me on the different islands and what the attractions of each island had to offer.
This lady, (Katharine) happened to be a client that I had done some painting for in my previous painting career. Katharine and I had talked briefly each day I showed up to paint for her. A few times it was about Croatia, but one particular time stands out, and I will think of Christy, my older sister, every time I am reminded of this winery and Katharine.
I was working at Katharine’s home when I was given the news that my older sister had been driving on a morning in August 2005 and had ran a red light. She had hit and killed a young mother, whom had just graduated from college and was about to embark on her first job as a teacher. I honestly do not remember all the details of how I was informed of this accident. I remember Christy calling me from jail, but I am vague on it… I remember being at Katharine’s and telling her the story and that I was going to have to finish the work on her home after I got back from Colorado. I remember my first thought was my dad! Oh man, my dad!! How was he going to handle this? Did he know yet? He had a car accident a few years prior to this that had haunted him. Was he going to be ok?
I jumped on a plane that evening and headed out to Colorado. Rented my car, and then checked in with my friend Eric while I was in Denver. He pulled up the article that had ran in the newspaper about the accident and the charges. The mug shot! The article! I sat frozen, then the tears overtook me. This was horrible. That poor young mom and her children! How could this have happened? Well,it was all written in the paper for all to see! Christy had opioids and a trace of cocaine in her system. I was devastated. She was entering the phase of Huntington’s where she had finally started seeking help and admitting she was having some neurological changes. But why on earth was she taking opioids? I wasn’t aware of this being a drug to help with this disease. Cocaine? I wasn’t aware people even still did this drug! Seriously, it is 2005! Who does this stuff anymore? Why was she driving with this in her system? Even if she didn’t take it that morning, it is still in your system. What was she doing driving? Huntington’s is a neurological disorder and you are unable to properly function and have uncontrollable motor skills. Why hasn’t the Dr told her she is not suppose to be driving, especially if she is taking opioids.
Well, that was something I had to dig into!
So, I left Denver and headed out to Rifle to see my family. When I pulled up to the front of the house, all three of my nephews were out on the front lawn waiting for me. I remember my oldest nephew leaning on the tree, or standing near the tree and asking me if I heard about Christy? He told me that it was posted in the paper and on the news. He told me my dad had been crying and was in the house a mess. I headed in to see my dad and he was crushed. It broke my heart to see my dad in such sadness again! His life was full of one tragic accident or devastation after another. Was he going to be able to pull through another horrific family event? I didn’t know!
I needed to talk to Christy and hear her side of the accident. I was able to call my sister and speak with her in the jail. She didn’t want me to come visit her. Anyone that has dealt with this disease knows how hard it is to be going through this disease and have people judge and make comments about something that you have no control over( I am talking about the disease, not her actions). Best if you avoid everyone, so judgement and pity can not bestow you. Here is the story she had given me…She had been living with her birth father,(we have the same mother, different dads, but my dad adopted her and my older brother before I was born, and my father raised them both) and she was in his kitchen the night before the accident and noticed he had a small white piece of paper with cocaine in it and it was left out, but I don’t remember where he had left it in the house. She had been in such a depression and isolated for months, and decided that she was going to take it. Maybe it would make her feel better, even if it was short lived. She had mentioned nothing more about any alcohol or other drugs. To my recollection, I don’t remember reading anything additional that she may have had in her system. I don’t live there and only read information through the local newspaper. Huntington’s is a disease that most people do not understand. It is a slowly deteriorating disease. Even though I may have noticed symptoms in my sister, most of the general public would just think she was drunk when walking and talking, because your gate begins to be off and you can not speak clearly(only a few of the beginning symptom). Therefore, this leaves people with this disease feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed to be around other people. It leaves most feeling isolated,lonely and depression is normal. Most doctors have not treated people with this disease and have limited resources for anything to help them. There is no cure and at that time there was nothing to help with the symptoms. So, I assume the Doctor she was seeing was treating her with opioids due to limited options. These drugs were not as regulated at that time and were written freely to patients.
The next morning she got up and took her fathers car without talking to him about it and went to run an errand. She said as she was coming to the stop light, the sun was in her eyes and she hadn’t noticed the light had changed.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe! I know she didn’t ever mean to harm anyone, let alone take a life. I also understand her isolation and depression drove her to take the cocaine and the opioids became something she had probably become addicted to. Huntington’s destroys your normal functions of walking, talking, writing, thinking…everything! I know she had already tried to take her own life years before this. Who wants to go through life knowing you will soon have all your faculties, strength, functions,etc taken from you and have no quality of life? When I was in my early 20’s and researching this disease, the percentage of suicides were very high for people with Huntington’s. But, she took the cocaine along with her opioids and the next day she hit that beautiful young mom and took her life. She didn’t set out to do that, but she took the risk. She will now go through a trial and stay in jail for a year until her sentencing. It was a long year for everyone involved, and in the end, she ended up in a mental institute in Pueblo where she should have gone from the beginning. the jail was unequipped to handle her.
The people that suffer from Huntington’s try hard to put up a front on how normal they are and not show the changes they are going through. They even talk themselves into believing that they are not that bad yet. They take chances with their own life and others, to feel like they still have some control over their life and to feel like they are still able to function like everyone else. Those that are close to these people struggle to give them the reality of their condition, because they don’t want to hear it, are unable to accept it and in the cases I have been exposed to, they become irrational, angry and hostile. This is part of the disease. It is hard to watch, and especially if you are a caregiver or close family member. Their anger most of the time is directed at you. So it is hard for the family members to confront them on what they physically can and can not do any longer. It is like telling an elderly man or woman who has driven their whole life, that they can no longer drive due to their poor eyesight and slow reflexes. It is hard to accept and hard to be the person telling them this news.
I am not making excuses for her actions. I just know the depth to this disease is unrelenting, complicated and horrific. Her intent was never to harm, and her mind was not in control to make the right choices,even without these drugs in her system. This is my personal plea if you know someone going through this disease or any disease or age related problem, to please have these hard conversations with them and have Doctors involved. Have them give these conversations to everyone involved, to help keep these type of incidents avoided at all costs. It was a terrible experience for everyone that knew that young mom, her kids, family and our family. My heart is saddened for all of us.
Christy on her 50th birthday, with myself, nephew Zach and her exhusband
So when I talk about how wonderful the trip to Croatia was and how glad I was to have someone help direct me in places to see and visit, I will always be reminded of this story, because of my connection of the story to Katharine.
SO…onto my travel of the islands…
We decided to fly into Dubrovnik and experience the Gated City that has been portrayed in the Game of Thrones as Kings Landing. It is the most famous of the gated city’s and from our experience, we wanted to see the best gated city first, so we were not disappointed or, just plain over them if we chose to go there last. Every town in this country seemed to have a gated/walled off city. In the past we have saved the best for last, in ruins, etc and then were not that excited when we got to the superior ones because we had seen so many already.
We decided to then move up the coast line of Croatia, starting in Dubrovnik and stop on some of the islands as we made our way up to Split. I booked our ferry tickets in advance from https://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/ferry-croatia. These ferries are full, so that is something you will want to do before you go on your trip. When you get to the docking area of all the boats, there are no signs anywhere on times or which boat is yours. It was a little confusing every time we showed up for our ferry, but somehow we managed to always get on the right one. Lots of patience and talking to the locals go a long way! We had a couple stand in line with us for over an hour in the hot sun, to find out they were waiting in the wrong line. So definitely ask!! And be there in plenty of time, so you have time to figure out where to wait for your ferry.
This is where the winery of Korta Katarina is located. Along the beautiful Adriatic Sea in the Southern portion of Croatia. This was one of our highlights on the trip. I had been looking forward to seeing this winery for 10 or more years. The Villa was just added on this past summer and is in the perfect location for a wonderful vacation.
We chose to have the VIP tour, and a young man native to Croatia, Goran, gave us us a wonderful experience! We sampled all their sparkling wines, white and red wines, and the Reserve wine, paired with a tapas platter. A tour of the winery and production, and the story of the owners. A wonderful way to spend the day!
This island brought much excitement, as we were told it was the St Tropez of Croatia. Full of yachts and vessels in the small marina, surrounded by an Old Town and a walled off fortress. We loved the energy and vibe this town offered. The ferry drops you right off in the heart of all the action and the whole town ascends up a hill from the Adriatic Sea.