Thursday, March 11, 2010

two of Each

Two mothers. Two fathers.

But you can't make up for three plus decades. And yet you can't erase biology.

I am realizing more and more, at least at this point, that I will never have the relationship with my Omma that I have with my Mom, and perhaps vice versa.

I made mention in a previous post, All is Well, that "I also seem to have found my Mom and Dad here in the States in a new and more appreciated way."

In reuniting with my Korean parents, I have only realized more than before that my Mom and Dad are truly my Mom and Dad.

I know that every adoptee's experience is their own, and that there are adoptees who do not necessarily feel this way about their "adoptive parents." It is important that we always acknowledge and respect the diversity of experiences among adoptees. So, please, do not use my personal experiences to take away or judge the experiences of other adoptees, but also don't conclude that my experiences are invalid if they differ from your own.

Honestly, though, reuniting with my Korean parents has in many ways drawn me back to the comfort and familiarity of my Mom and Dad.

When I am sick, I long for my Mom. When I have something I want to talk about, I want to tell my Mom. When my husband and I need advice on buying a car, I go to my Dad. They are who is familiar--we speak the same language, we know the in's and out's of the same culture.

It is not that I do not wish that I could just pick up the phone and speak with my Omma or ask a question of my Appa. It's that I CAN'T. The obvious reason is that we don't speak the same language, but more subtly, it's that my Appa could never give me advice on how to buy a car in the States because what he knows is Korea. My Mom and I have 30+ years of history, and so when I call her up to tell her something I don't have to give any kind of back story. With my Omma, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

So you see, it's easy for me to drift away and unintentionally avoid "dealing" with the post-reunion aspects of cultivating relationships with my Korean parents. With my Omma and Appa on the other side of the world living in a place where the language and culture are foreign to me, it's easy to allow the distance to take over.

It's easy to retreat to what is comfortable and familiar.

I almost feel guilty as though I am taking for granted or growing complacent toward those for whom I waited all of my life to find. Yet, as my husband corrected me, it's not that I am taking my Omma and Appa for granted nor is it not that I feel complacent about our relationship, it is more that I feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Trying to cultivate relationships with each of them is a constant reminder of all that has been lost and can never be retrieved.

There is of course always hope, I believe.

But each letter I attempt to write, each gesture of reaching out simultaneously brings to light how great is the distance, how deep is the chasm of the past three decades.

As I alluded to in the post "All is Well," trying to manage post-reunion and the relationships involved (with both my American and my Korean parents), feels as though I am staring down into the Grand Canyon. It's breathtaking and complex in both its beauty and terror. And lest I lose my footing and tumble into its perilous depths uncontrollably, I find myself timid and apprehensive to begin the careful and delicate descent into the natural wonder.

No doubt, a journey into it will reveal both danger and awe, joy and grief, disruption and redemption, but it will require patience, caution, wisdom, courage, and most significantly, perseverance.

Lately, however, I have found myself gazing across the canyon from an agreeable distance, focused on the insurmountable, seemingly impossible goal of getting to the other side, overcome with exhaustion and uncertainty at simply the thought of such a task.

And so, I walk away. I return to the warmth of the home I know with it's king-size bed and stocked refrigerator, heat or cold easily remedied by the push of a button.

Yet something feels different and not quite right. Something feels neglected and longing even amidst the coziness and familiarity.

And I realize that the home to which I have returned has changed irrevocably, and that in fact it is not my home any longer. Rather home is now on the other side. For now, I must be itinerant. For now, I am a nomad.

And the truth is that I always have been.

It is not that I have never had a home, but rather that my home was never easily defined or confined within clean, crisp boundaries. My home has always been wild and undiscovered. My home is more than a place. And it is more than just one person or one people. America will always feel like a home, because it is what I know and who I know.

But my home stretches not only into but also across that natural wonder, over the vast seas and oceans, to another place and another people.

That which is familiar to me will always comfort me. I will always return to those whom I know and know me. But I will also continue to stretch myself across to those who knew me if only for a brief moment and now have returned to try to know me once again, for the very first time.


5 comments:

sherinala said...

i am teary-eyed at how perfectly you can verbalize things that i have longed to say, but did not not know how.

"It is not that I do not wish that I could just pick up the phone and speak with my Omma or ask a question of my Appa. It's that I CAN'T."
--> this was one of my first issues i had when i found my umma. so many things i wanted to say, but just could NOT. language is such a huge barrier; and the intonations and context used with korean language...

"I almost feel guilty as though I am taking for granted or growing complacent toward those for whom I waited all of my life to find."

"Trying to cultivate relationships with each of them is a constant reminder of all that has been lost and can never be retrieved."
--> this is how i feel with my mother, *and* my obba and his family in korea. it is as if - we are blood, and there is no denying it, but there are still those formalities that we adhere to simply because we do not have the intimacy we have with our respective siblings. trying to forge those relationships and get to that comfort level is a daunting, tiring, and emotionally draining task. and it may not be achieve in this life time is what i'm thinking?

"And I realize that the home to which I have returned has changed irrevocably, and that in fact it is not my home any longer. Rather home is now on the other side. For now, I must be itinerant. For now, I am a nomad.

And the truth is that I always have been.

It is not that I have never had a home, but rather that my home was never easily defined or confined within clean, crisp boundaries. My home has always been wild and undiscovered. My home is more than a place. And it is more than just one person or one people. America will always feel like a home, because it is what I know and who I know.

But my home stretches not only into but also across that natural wonder, over the vast seas and oceans, to another place and another people."
--> i too have always felt like a nomad! moving from place to place (literally), never wanting to settle down in one spot, because i hadn't found what i was looking for. however, i didn't know what i was looking for; i only knew that i would know when i found it. so so true Melissa!

*i hope you are doing well, and taking care of yourself. remember - it's a long journey, and we have so much left to endure!!

hugs!
Sheri.

Melissa said...

Sheri, hey there, so nice to "see" you ;)...Thank you for your comment, and I am grateful that you and I can relate to one another. I've been thinking of you as I try to navigate "post-reunion." It's complicated stuff!

There have been several times I've wanted to call you, but just got distracted and busy with daily life.

But man, this stuff, as much as it is what I wanted, is so deep and profound and as you stated, "it's a long journey and we have so much left to endure." I'm just grateful we're not alone, even though it can feel that way at times...

Hugs back atcha!

Mei Ling said...

"It is not that I do not wish that I could just pick up the phone and speak with my Omma or ask a question of my Appa. It's that I CAN'T."

Me too. I realized that near the end of my reunion, I was probably never going to have the same relationship with my mother that I have with my mom unless I became fluent in the language.

And obtaining fluency could take the rest of my life. My mother doesn't have a lifetime left.

However, that is not to say it doesn't hurt - the reality (for me) is that it does hurt to know I can't have this type of relationship with them as well.

And also... I can't forget so easily.

Mia_h_n said...

Still pre-reunion some might say I can't possibly know what you're talking about - and they're probably right! I still feel like I can relate though. Perhaps it's just your eloquence ;)

It'll be a struggle, no doubt, but worth it. Why else would we push on?

I believe pacing yourself is important. If you need to withdraw for a while, so be it. Like Sheri said, still much left to endure so you'll need all the strength you can muster. I think you're doing great.

Melissa said...

Mei-Ling, I can very much relate to you on the emotion elicited in having to deal with the language barrier. It is completely overwhelming, and without actually living in Korea, (and additionally, living in a small Deep South town) attaining fluency is daunting and often seems impossible.

It is a pain that runs so deeply and is so profound, there are times that I think it has simply become a way of life for me.

The hurt seems always to linger, while at certain points, it surfaces with an intensity that can no longer be sequestered or avoided.

I never forget. I simply ebb and flow, like the waves along a shore. One second, I am reaching and roaring toward the shore, stretching to touch it, to grasp it. The next, I am retreating and shrinking back into the endless vastness of what seems a force of emotion, confusion, and hurt that feels so much greater than am I.

Always a process. For the rest of our lives...