Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy–“King of pain”–thank you, Police

OK, so I’m nursing an intense pain in my neck (insert joke). For some reason, I developed severe pain near my shoulder blade that shoots down to my elbow. Immediately, I began to panic. Nearly two years ago I suffered a pinched nerve, the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced in my life. This pain was very similar, especially in its intensity. I was fearful the pain would morph into a pinched nerve like last time. Hence the panic.

I was house sitting for a close friend of mine who happened to be a chiropractor. When I picked him up at the airport, we went to his office where he adjusted me which helped tremendously. Today I saw my personal chiropractor and he helped me even more. I left his office practically pain-free, although he told me that the pain would be coming back. Nevertheless, I did find out that I don’t have the beginning of a pinched nerve. The pain has been ameliorated by meds that friends gave me. I’m praying that it improves. I will be seeing my chiro again tomorrow. My primary concern is traveling on three flights through four airports over the course of twenty-four hours. I don’t want to be screaming in pain.

Once I arrive at my apartment in Italy, I will probably take it easy for the weekend to make sure my body relaxes and heals. My buddy, Barry said this is probably from the stress I’ve been feeling over this relocation–getting everything done, receiving my visa, etc. And it’s possible. I can’t figure out what else it could be.

But the pain doesn’t stop there. My buddy Mike and his wife and stepdaughter took me out to our favorite El Salvadoran restaurant in Keizer, a suburb of Salem. We’ve been frequenting this place for probably ten years so it was only appropriate that my going away meal was there. The proprietor is a friend who was sorry to see me go.

We yakked and ate for over two hours. Then it was time to go. And for the first time during this elongated going away, I broke down. I hugged Mike’s wife tightly while the tears came. then I hugged Mike, the big brother I never had. As I drove away, the pain finally hit, two days before I leave.

I realize what I’m leaving and the faces I won’t see for a long time. I am trying to imprint on my memory little things that will remind me of my home–a favorite old oak tree down the street. The cool architecture of downtown Oregon City. The changing colors along the Willamette River. Despite the wonders of Italy, I will be missing the wonders of Oregon.

And the majority of those wonders are the people I love who made me what I am. People who have been by my side for years if not decades. People who have supported me throughout this journey with the book and now this move to Italy. People who have loved me and made me feel loved and are excited for me and trumpet my accomplishments, no matter how minuscule. Even with social media and the internet, it will be hard knowing that I can’t reach out and feel their embrace.

Laughter, jokes, silly behaviors. All will be left behind. Tuesday morning coffees, tastings in the wine country, checking out new restaurants. My companions for these activities will be enjoying them without me.

I have to admit that deep down I fear I will be forgotten. Even with social media, life will go on but I will not be on the receiving end of invites. Of course not. I’ll be in Italy. But even with social media, if I remain in Europe for an extended period will I become a foreign object? Will we grow apart?

So many emotions. So many loved ones saying goodbye. So much to ponder. I won’t dwell on what might happen but I’m going to feel a tug when I leave. For awhile I will definitely be the king of pain.

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