Friday, May 14, 2010

Did you ever get to see your [Korean] parents' residences? (I feel like a hypocrite)

I have never written much about the actual details of my two trips to Korea last year. So, I thought I would share some small details that recently came to mind after a fellow adoptee asked me a couple of questions:

...where did you stay during your visits? Did you ever get to see your parents' residence?

The short answer to the first question is that I did not stay at my Korean parents' homes during either visit.

The simple answer to the second question is yes and no. Yes, I did set foot inside my Omma's residence. No, I never got anywhere close to seeing where my Appa lives.

In short, although my Omma's two other daughters know about me, they have no desire to meet me. My Omma and her youngest daughter happen to live together. I think you can figure out the implications on your own.

[But for those who would prefer for me to spell it out: My Omma brought me to her home only when her daughter was at work. According to my Omma, my Omma did at one point present the idea of me spending the night, but apparently that suggestion did not go over well.]

My Appa's wife and children know nothing about me--I'm a secret. Again, I think you can deduct, then, why I never saw where my Appa lives, and even more so why I did not stay with him during my two trips to Korea.

* * *

So, where did I stay?

During the first trip, since we traveled through a "Birthland Tour," all of our accommodations had been pre-arranged for us. Our time was divided between staying at hotels and at the Eastern Social Welfare Society Guesthouse.

The second trip, ironically enough, I stayed at the home of someone else's (a dear friend and fellow Korean adoptee who had reunited with her birth mother several years prior) birth family, while I also stayed for a couple of nights with a good friend of mine, a Korean adoptee living and teaching English in Korea.

It's a strange thing to be in the same city as my Korean parents yet to be unable to stay with either one of them in their homes.

* * *
But for the sake of full disclosure and honesty on my part, it's more complicated than that.

At one point, my Omma had wanted to pay for a hotel room for a couple of nights so that she and I could spend the night together like mother and daughter. She had walked me to the hotel she had picked out and showed me the rooms the hotel offered. I let her make the reservation.

But eventually, I choked like a chicken. I backed out. I could not bear the thought of sharing the same bed with my Omma, which is what would have been required had we stayed at the hotel. I felt simultaneously sick yet relieved when I asked the social worker to explain to my Omma that I needed some rest and a few days to take a break.

* * *

So, who's the hypocrite now? In a way, I felt as though I was rejecting her efforts to connect with and reach out to me. I felt as though I was the one not reciprocating her affection and desire to be together.

As much as I have blogged recently about how guilty and traitorous I feel for being hurt that my American family has not made attempts to reciprocate my Korean family's gestures and gifts of outreach, I feel just as guilty and traitorous for not yet feeling comfortable with my Omma in the way that I feel comfortable with my Mom.

I know in many ways, it is perhaps natural to feel this way. I have spent every day of my life knowing my Mom for almost 35 years. She is indubitably and indelibly familiar to me.

My Omma, on the other hand--even though we share unquestionable and evident biological and genetic ties--is practically a stranger to me. Although there are ways in which I feel connected to her that are irrevocable and inexplicable, there are also ways in which I feel distinctly detached and distant from her.

So as much as I may rant and rave about the lack of effort on my American family's part to reciprocate my Korean family's outreach, it is not as though I have not done the same.

There are times I don't want to write a letter to my Omma. There are times I feel so overwhelmed and exhausted emotionally that I don't want to spend another minute having to think about or deal with it all. There have been times I have thought unspeakable thoughts and pondered unmentionable possibilities as a response to all the guilt, conflict, and turmoil I feel over the Pandora's box I have opened. There are times, I ask myself, what the crazy have I gotten myself and my family(ies) into? What was I thinking?

* * *

But then, I remember that I didn't get myself into this tangle of heartache and joy, grief and hope. I was practically born into it, and certainly without my choice or my control.

I was thinking that it was only natural for someone to want to know from whom and from where she came, and why and how she ended up here.

It's true. I did choose to search. But I did not choose to be relinquished by my original parents and adopted by a family from a foreign country on the other side of the world. I did not choose to spend my life knowing nothing of my origins or of how I lost my original family.

How can it be wrong for me to want to know the most fundamental truths about how I came to be and who I am--the truths of which those who have had the luxury of knowing take for granted and dare to accuse someone like me of something like treason or treachery.

It is a misperception to view me as such. It is a misconception to view me as an ungrateful, angry daughter who had to go and selfishly rock the boat.

It is neither selfish nor angry, ungrateful nor treacherous to want to explore one's beginnings, for they help define and explain one's past, present, and future. And there is nothing selfish or ungrateful about wanting to keep with you all those whom you love and who love you.

As I have noted before: No, despite what you may believe, I am not rocking the boat. I am simply attempting to steady it.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, this post is really, really intriguing to me as an adoptee toying with the idea of looking for my birth family. Especially the line where you "choked like a chicken." It reminds me of a time when I was a child, my birth aunt (who stayed in touch only for a time), a stranger, visited on a layover during a business trip. How she slept on the floor of my bedroom and I stared at her with a mix of wonder and repulsion and fear. How weird that our first families are strangers to us, yet we have such a strong biological connection to them.

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts, Sona. I felt like such an odd, awkward person that I "choked like a chicken." It really is such a strange feeling to feel, as you stated, "a mix of wonder and repulsion and fear" toward our biological families...