Minnesota – Days 8-11: Adventures in Love – More Family Bonding and Hard Goodbyes

Brittany Swanson   April 21, 2016   Comments Off on Minnesota – Days 8-11: Adventures in Love – More Family Bonding and Hard Goodbyes

When Alex and I woke up and were making breakfast Monday morning I saw that our Airbnb had Scattergories. Still reveling in how much fun our weekend of board games had been I insisted we play a few rounds while we ate breakfast. What a wonderful way to start the day.

After breakfast we headed over to my Uncle Jeremiah and Aunt Calie’s house. We were going to have lunch with them and then go with their family to the Minnesota Zoo to see the new baby farm animals. My mom and her boyfriend Neil were also going to be at Jeremiah and Calie’s to hang out and have lunch before heading to the airport to go home to Florida.

The night before, when Alex and I were at the grocery store getting popcorn for our movie night, I had remembered my mom had said she’d make chocolate peanut butter Rice Krispy treats when we were at Mike and Brenda’s and she hadn’t. I texted her that night and was like, “Hey, Rice Krispy treats tomorrow…?” She responded by asking me to pick up some sugar. Huzzah!

When we arrived at Jeremiah and Calie’s house we played some little kiddy games with Cooper (5) and Vivian (2). One of the games was kind of like musical chairs except it was teaching kids about colors and shapes and animals and things. The other game was one where you pulled boogers out of this plastic head until someone grabbed one that was stuck and made the guy sneeze is brain out. That was hilarious. Disgusting, but hilarious. Meanwhile, armed with the sugar we had brought my mom was in the kitchen making chocolate peanut butter Rice Krispy treats for dessert. Yum! Eventually we sat down and ate pizza for lunch and got our Rice Krispy treats for dessert. So good.

Alex decided to eat his chocolate peanut butter Rice Krispy bar with a fork which I found adorable.

Alex decided to eat his chocolate peanut butter Rice Krispy bar with a fork which I found adorable.

My mom and Neil had to catch their flight home, so we said goodbye to them and the rest of us got ready to head to the zoo. That’s when Calie busted out the Flying Turtles, which Alex and I proceeded to race around the cul-de-sac. Neither Alex nor I had ever heard of Flying Turtles before, but both of us found them incredibly fun. Flying Turtles are kind of like tricycles, except they have four wheels, and no peddles. Two of the wheels are at the base of super low handlebars and the seat is also super low to the ground. To move you twist the handlebars side to side. It’s a crazy oblique workout.

Racing Flying Turtles in the cul-de-sac, Minnetonka, MN.

Racing Flying Turtles in the cul-de-sac, Minnetonka, MN.

By the time we finally made it to the zoo we only had an hour before they closed. Who knew the zoo closed so early?! Seriously though, why would the zoo close at 4 p.m.? That’s so early! Oh well. We still managed to see a few animals before they closed and even got a real up close view of the camels as they were heading in for the night:

Camels heading in for the night at the Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, MN.

Camels heading in for the night at the Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, MN.

Unfortunately, we were at the zoo when Megz called to tell me that Olie (pronounced Oh-Lee), the dog we’d adopted together in Arkansas, was having a massive seizure and might not make it. That definitely put a damper on the day. I tried to put on a happy face and continue to have fun with my cousins. We raced around on bales of hay and played tag and ran around on playgrounds and slid down slides. I had a lot of fun, even though I was also really sad.

Running around playing tag on hay bales at the Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, MN.

Running around playing tag on hay bales at the Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, MN.

In the car on the way home I was getting ready to call Meghan to see how Olie was doing when I got a text from her boyfriend Stanley saying to call her as soon as I could. My heart dropped into my stomach. That couldn’t be good. I called Megz and she answered crying and immediately I started crying too. A massive seizure had killed half of Olie’s brain. He didn’t make it. My dog died.

Olie at his handsomest for our Christmas card the first year we got him, Crossett, AR.

Olie at his handsomest for our Christmas card the first year we got him, Crossett, AR.

Olie was our best friend and had completed our little Arkansas family. He cheered us up on long/rough days, and made us laugh by being the derpiest derp of them all. He was the cutest guy ever and though I’ve been living without him for a while now I still find it nearly impossible to believe that the next time I see Megz I won’t also see Olie. It’s just freaking heartbreaking.

I started crying in the van on the way back to Jeremiah and Calie’s. I tried not to. I didn’t want to upset my little cousins, but I couldn’t help it. Cooper saw me and asked his mom why I was crying. Somehow that made me even sadder because he’s so young; he shouldn’t have to be even remotely associated with death yet. While I’m thinking this I remember that Meghan’s little brother Aiden, who’s only a little older than Cooper, lived with and freaking loved Olie and is going to be absolutely destroyed by this loss, so I lose it and start sobbing.

We get back to Jeremiah and Calie’s and I’m in sort of a daze. They ask if I want to go take a nap and I say yeah, that’d be great. Alex and I go downstairs and take a nap in the spare room. When I wake up I’m no longer crying, but I just want to go home and put on my pajamas and distract myself. So we say good bye to Miah and Calie and the kids and go home. I put my pjs on and we had planned to watch Frozen that night, but now it’s just making me too sad, so we go to bed instead.

The thought of watching Frozen was making me sad because we named Olie after Olaf, the snowman, in Frozen. I love Olaf because he is such a hysterical character. When we first saw Olie his light fur reminded me of a snowman. I told Meghan we could name him Olaf, but she gave me a weird look and I agree Olaf seemed like a kind of strange name for a dog so I told her we could call him Olie for short. And we did among many other nicknames like Cholie, Cholz, Olie-monster, and Oliephant.

Cholz and his Momz excited about getting a car wash, Little Rock, AR.

Cholz and his Momz excited about getting a car wash, Little Rock, AR.

Tuesday morning I had to be productive. I did my taxes and paid my bills and did other responsible adult things. Then Alex dropped me off for dinner with my dad at this Thai place called Swatadee Thai. Now this dinner was kind of a big deal since I hadn’t seen or really talked to my dad since I was, I don’t know, ten maybe? I’m twenty-six now, so it’d been a long time.

Long story short, my dad didn’t know I existed or meet me until I was eight. We went on, for lack of a better term, “dad dates” where he took me on little outings occasionally for a year or two. Then they just sort of petered out. I kept sending holiday cards for maybe a year or two after I stopped seeing him, but at some point I realized I wasn’t getting any in return anymore, so I stopped sending them. Middle school ended and high school began and I was crazy busy with all sorts of extracurriculars and my dad just sort of became something I didn’t talk about. I had my mom and I was happy and healthy. I didn’t know what it was like to have a dad, because I’d never really had one, so I wasn’t really missing anything. Life just continued on, as it always had.

When the time came for me to graduate high school my grandma, my mom’s mom, asked me if we should invite Karl, my dad, to graduation. Having, at some point, seen some movie where a similar question gets posed to this young guy and he responds with something snarky like, “Why? He hasn’t shown an interest up to this point; why should he get to share in my success now?” I stole that line and fed it back to my grandma. Teenage me really liked that quip. Fortunately, being a wiser and nicer person than I was at the time, my grandma invited him anyway.

I didn’t know until after the fact, but he ended up showing up to graduation. He got to watch me make my speech and walk across stage and become an adult or whatever. He didn’t say anything to me that day, and I’m glad he didn’t. I hadn’t seen him in at least seven or so years at that point and that would’ve been crazy awkward. Especially in the midst of celebrating with my entire family, my mom, brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and all. He sent me a note later, which is how I know he was there. Despite the fact that I didn’t invite him, I’m really glad he came and got to be there for that.

Anyway, after that I got ahold of his email address and wrote him this big long email about myself. I told him where I was going to college and what I planned to study and caught him up on all that had happened in my life over the last years. I told him my dreams and ambitions and figured maybe now that I was an adult we could try to be friends or something. He responded to my novel of an email with, “Thanks for the update. – Karl.” I was seventeen. I was like, ok dude, if you’re not going to make an effort, neither am I; my life has been just fine without you, so whatever. And I never spoke to him again.

My life plan was to finish this trip and then leave the U.S. to explore the rest of the world indefinitely. When I decided I might not be returning to the U.S. I figured it was kind of now or never if I wanted to talk to Karl and ask him any/all the questions I had.

My sophomore year of college Karl’s mom, Donna, friended me on Facebook and through that I learned I had a half-sister named Emma who was six at the time. I was understandably annoyed. I don’t know…I just thought it was a little rude not to tell someone they have a sibling they know nothing about, even if you’re not really on the greatest speaking terms. It just seems like something you’d share with a person.

When I started this trip Donna had reached out and asked if we could meet when I came through California. I said yes and meeting her was nice, so I decided if the time was now or never to sit down and chat with my dad what the hell? What did I have to lose? If it was awkward it wasn’t like I’d ever have to see him again if I didn’t want to. I’m a grown person and I don’t even live in Minnesota anymore. Plus, since Alex would be in town I figured it be nice to have some extra emotional support available in case I needed it. So, I got Karl’s email address from his mother and wrote him to ask if he’d be free to meet up with me and have a chat and he said yes.

I guess that wasn’t so short, sorry. So Karl and I met up for dinner. It was awkward, but at least we both acknowledged that it was awkward. I literally have been meeting new people and making new friends pretty much daily for the last seven months, but even that didn’t prepare me for this. We were both clearly uncomfortable, and didn’t really know how to be around each other. Thankfully I thrive in awkward and am quite funny, so I just kept cracking jokes about how awkward it was and we’d both laugh and eventually it didn’t feel quite so awkward anymore. Though, the awkwardness definitely still had its moments.

Karl asked me about my trip and life and I asked him about his and our interactions during my childhood. I asked about my sister and where we go from here. I actually pulled out a list of questions and managed to get answers for all of them. Afterward I felt much better even though I hadn’t realized not knowing the answers to those questions had made me feel anything at all. Karl said he’d like to stay in touch if that was what I wanted and I said sure, we could try that. I’m still not really sure how that works since I’m an adult and he’s virtually a stranger and we live nowhere near each other, but perhaps we’ll just keep getting dinner or something whenever I’m in town; its better than nothing I suppose.

After dinner I asked him if he’d like to meet Alex since Alex would be picking me up and he said sure we could all go get a drink together. So we did and thankfully having Alex around made it even less awkward which was nice.

That night Alex and I curled up on the couch and watched Frozen in honor of Olie. Eventually we fell asleep watching it, so we had to finish it the next morning. We had a pretty chill day that next day. Alex wasn’t feeling well in the afternoon so he took a nap while I made dinner and started packing. I woke him up when dinner was ready and we had dinner and then both of us finished packing.

The next morning Alex had to catch his flight back to Austin. :(. We went to the New Uptown Diner again for breakfast. We both had veggie burgers, even though it was 9 a.m. Then we went for a little walk to the Lake of the Isles, but it was freezing and we had to go, so we reluctantly went back to the Airbnb to finish loading up the car and head to the airport.

A stroll by the Lake of the Isles before Alex has to fly home, Minneapolis, MN.

A stroll by the Lake of the Isles before Alex has to fly home, Minneapolis, MN.

To be honest I’m impressed/surprised I brought him to the airport at all. So. Sad. We said goodbye and I cried. Then I headed on my way to Iowa to continue my adventures and make the long way back to him once again.