2012- The One About Loss- Again.
You know how they sometimes say you need to take a leap of faith? To just jump, and see what happens?
Well, at this point in my young barely adult life, I lived by those words.
To me, life was, and still is, meant to be lived as an adventure whenever possible. Though, back then, I was young, and also a bit reckless.
I had been working various jobs since I was thirteen to save for my first travels around Europe; from cutting lawns, to that dreaded period I worked for McDonald’s at sixteen.
Let me just tell you I wasn’t loving it, not at all.
I had known for years I would find myself walking the streets of Paris, sipping wine in view of the Eiffel Tower, taking in the sights of great cities like Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, and London- to name a few.
Now, this eager guy was ready to take it all by storm. I was even ready to do it entirely solo; because the few friends I did have were still in classes and you know, tuition makes going to Europe a nonstarter.
Thankfully, I found a middle ground.
Somehow I stumbled on a company called Contiki Tours.
Contiki offers tours around locations all across the globe for travellers eighteen to thirty-five. The best part was being able to travel solo, with the promise I’d meet roughly fifty people from different countries.
We would take in the sights, and definitely, certainly, make glorious mistakes after drinking far too much.
I mean, who counts glasses of wine when you’re busy basking in the glory of the Roman Forum?
Nobody I want to know, that’s for sure.
So here I was, at the edge of a cliff, unsure if I would meet calm waters, or jagged rocks upon jumping.
Would she have a great time in Europe?
Or would she end up a gay version of the Liam Neeson movie 'Taken' where I get kidnapped and my father doesn't come to rescue me because he's actually a piece of shit?
Either way, I knew It would be something that would be inspiring. Either in a Lizzie McGuire way, or tack action thriller with the plot twist that I die in the end. Nineteen year old me was fucking here for it.
Anyway, I took my first truly big leap of faith and booked the tour. I would be wandering through the United Kingdom, France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands over a twenty-day period. I. Was. Fucking. Ready. Only six months to go.
Those five months breezed past; but, over time we began to notice my now twelve year old dog Chloe had begun to show signs of discomfort. Her hips had arthritis and her eyesight had been going steadily for about a year. She was still happy, so we had kept her around, knowing that the moment she stopped eating for more than a day would be the moment we had to say our good-byes. I was as ready as I could be.
What I wasn’t read for at all, was the death of my uncle- my mothers brother- just over one month before I was set to depart. We weren’t ready because there was no warning. He wasn’t sick. There wasn’t a warning sign. It was as simple as him going to bed one night- just two weeks after a routine wrist surgery- and not waking up the next morning.
I will never forget the day we lost him, after all, he died the same day he was born. June 1st was the day my mom texted him happy birthday, and he didn’t respond.
The thing about my uncle was that he was close, but also distant with us. He was around, but he only showed his over-confident, toxic-masculine, Charlie Sheen type vibes. He was lovable, but also the stereotype of your foul mouthed uncle.
We did know he had been a bit sad since my aunt had died in 2010; but, he never let us in (and stopped letting us into his house literally) after my aunt had passed. The thing was, my mom knew that no matter how distant he was, he always responded on his birthday.
That was why, with a lump in her chest, my mom broke in to his house that same day- the house she had grown up in, the one he bought her out of after their parents had both passed. She could hear his four dogs barking madly from behind the closed bedroom door. She opened it, only to find her brother, lifeless on the bed.
To this day, I will never forget answering her phone call, and her breaking down as she told me in haste that her brother, my uncle, was dead.
In that moment, it felt like the whole universe shattered in to a million tiny pieces around me. The only family I had outside of my mom and brother, was gone. The rest, is nothing but a blur.
I still had a non-refundable trip coming up in less than five weeks. I was completely unable to full process what was going on because I felt I was being pulled in a hundred different directions at the same time. My excitement for Europe had turned in to sadness over the loss of my uncle, and anger at a cousin I barely knew; but frankly never quite liked from what I saw.
We managed to stay strong and pull through as a family, as we always had. We now also had one new family member, my uncles eldest dog, Baxter. Baxter was about ten when he came to live with us, and we were ecstatic because he was also my aunts baby boy. And so, in mourning the loss of one, we solemnly rejoiced in the addition of a grumpy old fat boy.
Sadly, it was just a few weeks later- on the day before I was due to head to London, that we also had to put Chloe to rest. We had decided about four days before that she was in too much discomfort to make her suffer. The few days leading up to this i felt a mixture of anger, sadness, acceptance, and outright denial that my little baby girl wasn’t going to be by my side any longer.
It was too much to bear. And so denial won over. It wasn’t until we brought her in to the vet that I lost my fucking mind. I tried so hard to keep the tears in, to make her feel comfortable. To talk to her. To tell her how much she meant to me and how she was my everything as the vet gave her a sedative. To thank her for being the best friend a little boy could have. I told her I knew she would stay longer because she knew I needed her, even at nineteen; but, that it was time for her to rest. To look in her beautiful big brown eyes and kiss her as the vet gave her the second injection- the one that would take my baby away from me forever.
It was in that moment that I saw in her eyes, she knew this was good-bye. And so, with all she had left, Chloe gave me one last big wet kiss before falling limp in my arms. Of all the losses I had felt before, this one hit the hardest. I know some people would say that’s crazy and that she was just a dog; but to me, she was more than I could ever describe justly, even to this very day.
All those years of memories replayed over and over in my head as we went home without my little girl, as I held her collar in my hands. The tears had stopped. The numbness had set in.
All I knew at that moment, was that I had lost almost everyone and everything I cared about over the last two years, and that tomorrow, I was supposed to be off on a whirlwind adventure around Europe with a bunch of people I had never met before, and that I would be the person on the trip coming fresh from two funerals and a mental fucking breakdown.
I also knew, I had never been more ready in my life to get away from a place I had experienced so much sadness.
I had no idea how this trip would go for me- seeing as I was a completely depressed mess that was pulling the most privileged shit ever and fucking off to another country when things got hard.
Don’t get me wrong. I almost didn’t go; but my mom was livid at the idea of me even canceling.
The other thing was, I had spent my whole life needing to face fear, sadness, and uncertainty. Because of that, I had to tell myself that in that moment it was ok to run away for a short while, and to get lost.
I figured fuck it, if I’m going to cry I may as well do it over a bottle of wine in Paris.
Or get in a fight with someone over gelato after too many drinks in Florence.
Whatever it was, I was ready for that future I had been told was waiting for me for years.
London was calling, and I had a plane to catch.