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February 23, 2024:
Today, I had a surprise coming—my family and their Lithuanian friends decided to visit me in NZ! They were planning on staying a week longer and my flight was coming up so we were only going to cross paths for a day. Regardless, it felt like the greatest gift knowing I was going to connect with them in person.
Angus made me some french toast, the American version. Then, we went out for ice cream and lastly, he spoiled me with my favorite pizza while we watched the last series of hiker videos. He helped me take a few buses to get to the hotel my family had booked and I waited about an hour for their arrival.
I went outside on the balcony when I overheard them struggling to find the room. I helped them up, then we all hugged each other with teary eyes and sweet welcoming.
They poured themselves a drink, then my parents pulled me into the couch. My mom held me close and started telling me a story.
“Goda, you vill not believe it. I got in trouble for trying to take picture of some sheep! Can you believe it?”
My Dad shook his head and goes, “Goda, she opened up gate on private property and almost let all ze cows out.”
“Mom you’re not allowed to do that!” I exclaimed.
“Yes I can,” she said stubbornly as she looked away. “I can do vat I vant.”
It was clear where the stubbornness in my personality came from.
Tadas and his wife Ingrida were the ones who hosted Voodoo and I at their place in NJ. Memories infiltrated my mind of when things were still good with him, but when I was beginning to question the status of our relationship.
My family partially filled them in about Orange Man and how our paths parted.
Tadas looked at me disapprovingly and said, “I noticed there has been trend going on here of you breaking hearts every year on trail.”
I laughed uncomfortably for him attempting to have this conversation in front of my parents for I had never told them about having any sort of relationship with Voodoo. They would be distraught if they even knew part of it. I didn’t want them to worry anymore than they already had been. My parents claimed they had tough skin and could take a lot of shit, but I felt the history V and I shared wouldn’t be a perception they could hold lightly.
My mom went to the bathroom to wash her face and get ready for bed. She came out wearing a matching pajama set with her hair up in a messy bun. Strands of spiky hair came out from around the elastic band.
“You look vedy Hawaiian right now,” Asta said, “like pineapple.”
Their European accents were like live entertainment for me.
My Dad asked me to stay up late with them, pulling me into his arms, asking me to share more of my travel stories with him. I leaned my head on his shoulder as he held my hand in his. Tadas and Ingrida smiled at us fondly.
“Your Dad talks to you in a vay no one else does,” Ray said, “he is so soft spoken vith you and makes his voice higher pitched, as if he still talking to his little girl.”
It was true. There was this gentleness my father met me with and I was highly aware of it. It was the standard I held every other man to.
It was now midnight, my family and their friends reminded me of teenagers. So often, it felt as if our roles were reversed. It seemed they were the party people who stayed up late and did inappropriate things while I was the one who rolled my eyes and told them it was time to go to bed and simmer down.
I laid in bed, nearly falling asleep. I made sure to leave the door open for I loved to listen to the TV and the sound of their voices. It felt like a cozy lullaby numbing the endless noise in my mind. My father walked over to my side of the bed and smiled at the sight of me.
“You happy?” he asked as he did that playful pinch on my nose.
“Yeah,” I said honestly.
I had so many memories of my father coming to my bedside like that, making sure I wasn’t going to bed with too much on my mind and that my heart wasn’t hurting too much.
“It’s time to come home vith us,” he whispered.
Why does he love me so much? I’m no good, I thought to myself.
Eventually both of my parents came to join me in the bed and smushed me close on either side. I cuddled my mom to sleep, smiling. I could sense her gratitude for me being alive and safe. She tells me there’s no greater feeling than that—to know her kids are alive and well.
A feeling of euphoria came over me. I felt so grateful for being able to receive this sort of affection in my home life. I saw how blessed I really was, to be loved like this by my blood family, to have them visit me and hold me close. Even if only for one day.
Through my travels I had met hundreds of people that didn’t receive shit from their families or had the perception of experiencing a very abusive childhood.
As I laid there, with them slowly suffocating me with their love, I thought to myself, Where along the way did I turn into such a bitch?
I never had it so terrible that it would give me a reason to turn into the person I am now. Of course I still apparently had family drama and a past that was hard to look at with soft eyes, yet did I really have to buy into the story that it had anything to do with the way I turned out? I was growing tired of following past memories, looking for answers through the chaos, only leaving me spinning in confusion.